One of the top destinations for couples to get married in Washington State is Olympic National Park! Spanning across Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, Olympic National Park covers a huge variety of ecosystems. With dramatic peaks, serene lakes, rocky beaches, and even a temperate rainforest, an Olympic National Park Elopement or Wedding is perfect for any couple who’s looking for a wedding on the adventurous side!
The term elopement has picked up in popularity quite a bit since 2020, and a lot of couples are confused about what an elopement even is anymore. It used to mean a couple running away to Vegas to get married, but now it means something completely different! These days couples are adventuring all around the world to elope in the great outdoors. Sometimes including guests, the term “elopement” is a bit more of a grey area now.
While the definition and use of the term “elopement” is nuanced, what actually matters is if you’re having guests or not. If you are having guests, you will need to plan accordingly. If you’re not having guests, planning will be a bit easier.
Planning an Olympic National Park Wedding or Elopement can be pretty overwhelming, and that’s what this guide and I are here for!
Here’s what you’ll find in this Olympic National Park elopement guide:
Elopements in National Parks tend to max out at 20-30 guests (dependent on National Park Service rules and regulations), otherwise you might need to look into a private wedding venue. Keep in mind, the more guests you have, the more expensive & complicated planning can become!
Due to Washington’s reputation for rainy weather, the most popular time of year to visit and get married in Olympic National Park, is June through October. But, you can get married there year round, and there’s still plenty to see and do!
Spring in Olympic National Park is generally mild, with temperatures ranging from the 40s and 50s on a cold day, to the 60s and 70s on a warm day. The rainforests start to bloom with lush foliage and the coastal locations really start to show off. March – May is a beautiful time in Olympic National Park, and with far less crownds than peak season. If you’re lucky – there might be enough snow melt to visit the lower elevation mountains as well!
June-September is peak visiting season for Olympic National Park. The weather typically stays above 60, with a few weeks in the 80s and 90s. In June and September, there are more days with rain or cloud coverage, but these days are typically mild and are a nice break from the summer heat. All locations are accessible, including the mountains. July & August are best spent in the mountains since the snowmelt will have cleared by then. Wildflowers in the mountains bloom around this time, and the days are long, warm and pretty.
Summer is the most popular time to get married in Olympic National Park. Summer in the northwest can’t be beat!
As we approach mid September into October, the days get a little cooler and shorter. The further into fall you get, the chance of rain or cold weather increases, lowering park popularity. September and October are fantastic times to get married in Olympic National Park. Peak season is ending, kids are going back to school, and the weather can still be beautiful. Fall colors in Olympic National Park are beautiful, especially in forested areas like the Hoh Rainforest or Lake Crescent.
The highlights of Winter in Olympic National Park include minimal park visitors (more privacy!) and snow in the mountains! Hurricane Ridge is known for snowshoeing, and on a clear day the views are astounding. Lower elevation locations like the rainforest and the coast are much less crowded this time of year. You must be prepared for the possibility of rain, though!
Overall, you’ll get the best weather in Olympic National Park during July & August, with late Spring and early fall being a close second.
Because most people want to avoid the rainy season, summer is very popular in Olympic National Park, so the best way to avoid them is to elope in the off season! Though rain is possible, the biggest advantage is that there will be much fewer people around – and the rain can actually make the greenery look even more lush. In spring and fall, the rain is usually a light drizzle, so if you don’t mind cooler temperatures or the PNW mood, it can be a great time to elope and get some privacy.
Now that you have a better idea of what months are the best for your elopement, it’s time to pick the date. At this point, you probably have a few dates or a time of year in mind! If you have your date set, then you can move on in the process.
If you have a few dates or a general time of year that you’re interested in, you can remain flexible based on your favorite wedding vendors availability. Most wedding vendors in Washington book out for the year by March or April, so keep that in mind when planning!
In Olympic National Park, you can see mountains, forests, and beaches – all within a few hours of each other! There are countless amazing places to tie the knot, and as an Olympic National Park elopement photographer, I’m all about helping couples find the right one. I create a custom location list for every couple, with lesser known spots tailored to your needs and your vision for the day!
Here are some ideas, and the best places to elope in Olympic National Park.
The towering peaks of the Olympic range offer some of the most incredible views in the park. For mountain views, Hurricane Ridge is one of the best places to elope in Olympic National Park – you can see jaw dropping scenery right from the parking lot, and you can tie the knot in one of the easily accessible picnic areas, or hike one of the trails that begins here. Or, do both – have your ceremony with your guests before taking off for an adventure!
Another great place to elope in Olympic National Park is Lake Crescent – a serene lake surrounded by mountains. There’s a lodge, several hiking trails, and amazing views. You can have your ceremony on the shore, then take a kayak out to explore the water!
All the way to the west of Washington, you’ll find the ocean – with dramatic, rugged coastlines, sea stacks poking through the water, and amazing beach trails! These beaches are remote and incredibly scenic, perfect for couples who want to elope with ocean views.
Some of the best beaches in Olympic National Park include Ruby Beach, Kalaloch Beach, and Rialto Beach – but there are plenty more driftwood covered, sandy beaches.
Now that Ruby Beach has a more accessible overlook, it’s an even more appealing location for elopements. A couple could have their ceremony with family and friends, then head down to the beach for portraits!
No, not the tropical, jungle kind – a lot of people don’t know that Washington has rainforests of its own! The Hoh Rainforest is one of my favorite places in the world. The temperate rainforest is full of hanging moss, lush ferns, and tree lined trails – so it feels incredibly remote and serene, despite the easily accessible location.
The Quinault Rainforest is a lesser known temperate rainforest in Olympic National Park, with some secluded places to exchange vows. It’s directly across the lake from Lake Quinault Lodge, which makes for very convenient (and gorgeous) lodging!
Choosing where to elope in Olympic National Park can be difficult, especially with all of the incredible scenery! It’s popular for couples to include multiple locations, like Lake Crescent in the afternoon and Hurricane Ridge for sunset. Molly & Ryan did that, and added a day after session – so they were able to include Rialto Beach as well!
There’s a lot to consider when picking out your Olympic National Park wedding & elopement vendors! In addition to the normal criteria a wedding vendor is subject to, it’s important they know the area. The northern & western sides of the park are a couple of hours’ drive away from each other, and there’s only a couple of major highways in and out of the surrounding towns. The nearest major city is Seattle, which is usually 3 or 4 hours away. Vendors that are local to the Pacific Northwest or have spent their time and energy exploring it are your best bet.
What’s up – my name’s Emett, and I’m an Olympic National Park wedding and elopement photographer! I was born and raised in Washington state and grew up just outside of Olympic National Park. As an adventure elopement and wedding photographer, I get to combine my passions for art, nature and life’s best relationships. The first elopement I photographed in Olympic was at Ruby Beach, and it’s always an honor to go back!
Okay so I’m not actually judging them or releasing an award here, but I do have some favorite vendors that I’ve worked with in the past! These vendors are my favorite because they’re talented, professional, and fun to work with.
Pacific Brides is a hair and makeup artist for adventurous brides all over! She’s based out of the Pacific Northwest, and we’ve worked together countless times.
Another One Ties The Knot is an officiant based just outside of Olympic National Park. She’s professional, personal, and has an incredible personality. Overall an amazing person to be around.
Oly Blooms always delivers gorgeous boquets, boutonnieres, and ceremony set ups. Their style is unique, timeless and modern and I’m always happy to photograph their work!
Miere Catering provides a private chef experience with phenomenal food & decor rentals. Their food is unmatched, and they can provide tables, string lights, and a phenomenal experience!
Your elopement should be all about the experience – so my Olympic National Park elopement packages have everything you need to plan a one of a kind wedding day! As your Olympic National Park elopement photographer, my job is to be your planning assistant, and your hype man as you navigate this new adventure.
Elopement packages start at $5,000, and include:
This is a fairly rough estimate, but this is the range that you can expect to pay for an elopement. A lot of couples double their elopement as their honeymoon, or extend their trip, so travel & accommodations and other expenses will go up along with that. According to The Knot, the average cost of a wedding in 2021 was $28,000-$34,000. The majority of the cost difference is in venue, entertainment and catering.
To have a ceremony at Olympic National Park, you may need a wedding permit – and to get legally married, you’ll need a marriage license.
For an Olympic National Park elopement, you will need a permit if your ceremony includes 10 or more people (including guests, vendors, and the two of you) you will need a wedding permit, also called a special use permit, and you’ll have a pre-approved list of locations to choose from for the ceremony. You can find the application here, and a permit costs $50.
For ceremonies with less than 10 people, you don’t need a permit, and you can elope anywhere in the park – as long as you aren’t blocking trails or setting up chairs or decorations.
To get legally married during your Olympic National Park elopement, you’ll need to get a marriage license. You can go to any county clerk’s office in Washington – Clallam County is closest, but King County is usually easier because you can apply online and receive your marriage license in the mail!
Washington marriage licenses have a 3 day waiting period, and they expire after 60 days. The fee depends on the county, but is $69 in King County. An officiant and two witnesses are required to sign the marriage license, and once the office gets it back, you’re married!
Your day should be stress free – so I create a timeline for every one of my couples! This outlines the day, so you can relax knowing that there’s a plan. An elopement timeline should leave room for flexibility and spontaneity, so that you aren’t stressing about following it to the minute – and it should include some activities and adventures to make your day truly unique!
Here are some examples of Olympic National Park elopement timelines, to get you inspired.
10:00 Hair and makeup begins at Lake Crescent Lodge
10:30 I arrive at the Lodge – detail photos of rings, accessories, etc
11:00 Getting ready photos
12:00 Put on wedding attire
12:30 First look outside the lodge, a few couple’s photos after
1:30 Ceremony at Lake Crescent
2:00 Family photos
2:30 Picnic with family
3:30 Start Mount Storm King hike
6:00 Snacks at summit
6:30 Sunset photos
8:00 Hike down
9:00 Pancake breakfast
11:00 Hair and makeup begins at Sol Duc Lodge
11:30 I arrive at the Lodge – detail photos of rings, accessories, etc
12:00 Getting ready photos
1:00 Drive to Sol Duc falls trailhead
1:30 Change into wedding attire
2:00 First look
2:30 Hike to Sol Duc Falls
3:30 Ceremony & couple’s photos
5:30 Hike back to trailhead
6:00 Drive to Lodge
6:30 Sunset soak in hot springs
For anyone coming from out of state, the major airport in Washington is the Seattle Tacoma International Airport, often referred to as SeaTac (pronounced sea-tack). It’s a little south of Seattle, and just north of Tacoma, two of the largest cities in Washington.
When eloping in Olympic National Park, you’ll likely be staying on either the northern side of the park near Port Angeles, or the western side of the park by Forks and Ocean Shores. The northern side near Port Angeles is better known for alpine lakes and mountains, whereas the western side is known for its rainforests and dramatic coastline.
Port Angeles is also a major city, providing lots of restaurants, lodging options, food, etc.
The three AirBnB’s linked below are just a few that stood out to me, especially the treehouse! It’d make for a fantastic experience.
The main tips I give couples when looking at photogenic places to stay are scenic/natural backdrops, and lots of natural light! If there’s big, open windows that’s a huge plus. Try to look for something you’d be genuinely excited to stay at!
If things get stressful while planning, just remember that what matters most is that you’re marrying your life partner. That’s pretty incredible, and everything else will fall into place.