We are so excited to share our Olympic National Park elopement guide!
We have put tons of useful information together in one place to help you get started on your next big adventure. Olympic National Park has the most diversity in landscapes you can explore for your elopement. You can watch the sunrise at 5,000 feet in the Olympic Mountains, explore lush rainforests and beautiful lakes in the afternoon, and catch the sunset on the rugged Washington Coast. It’s also one of the greenest places in the United States (besides Kauai). It truly is the paradise of the Pacific Northwest! We have a wide range of trails here too. So you can go on easy hikes, challenging hikes, or even go backpacking for your Olympic National Park elopement.
Local Olympic National Park Photographers
After traveling nomadically all over the West, we moved to Port Angeles, Washington right outside Olympic National Park. Jaclyn is in love with the ocean and lush forests while Ryan loves being in the mountains. So when we found Port Angeles, we felt right at home! This truly is our backyard and our paradise all in one! We love getting to share our favorite locations and help couples enjoy the place we call home. That being said, we have established a treaty with the Cullen family and you won’t have to worry about vampires when exploring the trails with us. Jacob has always been less reliable, so we’re not sure where he stands with us as a business.
Where is Olympic National Park?
Olympic National Park is located on the Olympic Peninsula far away from the busy metro of Seattle. On a clear day, you can see Mt. Baker, Vancouver Island, and our own Olympic mountains! Olympic National Park is huge though. You can access trails as far east as Hoodsport, Washington, or as far West as Forks, Washington. It’s a vast, lush wilderness area perfect for any adventure elopement. Typically, couples explore the National Park near Port Angeles or Forks, Washington. So either of those towns will be a good hub (although Port Angeles has a lot more food and lodging options).
Best Locations for Your Olympic National Park Elopement
There are stunning trails at Hurricane Ridge you can explore for your Olympic National Park elopement! You will climb 5,000 feet from downtown Port Angeles into the rugged Olympic mountains in just a short 40-minute drive. There is a visitor center, bathrooms, and several trailheads once you reach Hurricane Ridge. On a clear day, you can see Mt. Baker, the Salish Sea, and Vancouver Island from one of the many trails. This is also a popular snowshoeing destination in the winter months. We love seeing the dramatic difference in the scenery each season.
Access to Hurricane Ridge is based on a queue system during the busier hours of the day (8 am – 5 pm). However, we almost always go up to Hurricane Ridge for sunrise to avoid having to wait in line and avoid the crowds. You can expect to wait in line in the summer season as early as 8 am. It can be stressful trying to take groups up here and caravan through the line. So we recommend couples to go up to Hurricane Ridge for a first look, private vows, or just for photos to keep things intimate and stress-free! There are other locations more suitable and stress-free for bringing groups. We can walk you through the process of finding the right locations for you!
Leave No Trace Information
This area has a very fragile ecosystem and it is incredibly damaging to go off-trail. While a lot of the environment “looks” like a regular field of grass that you can walk across, there are signs everywhere reminding you to stay on the trail. All of our couples are on the trail in our photos. We use different angles to hide the trail for photos occasionally. Be sure to work with an elopement photographer who can help you plan a sustainable elopement so we can keep these places wild for future generations!
Lake Crescent is one of our favorite lakes to explore with our couples! It’s a beautiful lake with pristine blue water surrounded by forests and mountains. Does it get any better than that? This is an easy-access location with flat trails that wind through the rainforest or take you along the lakeshore. It’s a great place for a picnic, ceremonies with officiants, bringing guests, or any other elopement activity that you want to feel easygoing. If you’re already heading out to the Washington Coast, Lake Crescent is an easy stop along the way!
Ruby Beach is one of the most iconic beaches in Olympic National Park. We have spent many sunsets out here and have seen Ruby Beach in just about every weather imaginable! It’s a stunning place to visit for an Olympic National Park elopement regardless of what the weather brings. Our elopement couples love exploring the tidepools at low tide, checking out the rock formations, and hiking down the beach to get more privacy. This is a great location for a first dance, ending your elopement day at sunset, and is one of the only dog-friendly locations in Olympic National Park (you can take your dog as far north as the creek a half mile down the beach, but can’t go beyond the creek).
Elopement Location Tip
There is a semi-steep 1/4-mile trail from the parking lot to access Ruby Beach. It’s a wide trail that is easy to follow and isn’t technical at all. But while it’s considered family-friendly, just be aware of the steep descent to access the beach. It’s worth mentioning that Rialto or Kalaloch Beaches are much flatter to access if you need a beach without a steep trail.
Rialto Beach is right outside of La Push, Washington, and another popular beach to visit for elopements in Olympic National Park. It is a shorter drive from Forks or Port Angeles compared to Ruby Beach (which is farther south of Forks). You can walk the pebble-covered beach for sunset, or opt to hike farther down the beach to explore more unique rock formations. It’s a beautiful beach and we love coming here with our couples!
Other Olympic National Park Elopement Locations
Being locals to the area, we have our fair share of favorite spots off the beaten path too! We love visiting the more popular beaches and trails because they are incredibly stunning. But we also help our couples find quieter spots that are just as beautiful! If you’re looking for a more intimate experience and want to go “off the beaten path,” we’ll talk about other trails and locations in the planning process to find the right trails for your elopement!
Hoh Rainforest is a magical forest that feels completely removed from the rest of the world. This is probably why it has “one square inch of silence” that’s reportedly the quietest place in the United States. This is one of the most popular tourist spots to visit in Olympic National Park as well. It’s a family-friendly loop through a beautiful rainforest and totally worth visiting! On the other hand, this location is often too busy to explore for an elopement these days. The good news is that the whole peninsula is one giant rainforest. In fact, we have many other rainforest trails outside of Hoh Rainforest to explore for your elopement for more privacy. Can you tell which photos below were taken in Hoh Rainforest? Probably not! Most of the photos are in completely different areas of Olympic!
Waterfalls in Olympic National Park
A place as green as Olympic National Park definitely has its share of incredible waterfalls to explore. There are a few different waterfalls we can explore depending on the other locations you explore for your day. There’s even an Olympic Peninsula Waterfall Trail you can do to explore more than 20 different waterfalls out here! The Spring and early Summer are the best time to experience the waterfalls since we have all the snowmelt from the winter. The waterfalls are absolutely roaring in the early season!
Some of our couples have had a sentimental attachment to rivers in their relationship. So we’re happy to go to a location along the Hoh River (or one of the rivers out near Forks) if that sounds like you! Whether you just want a “quick stop” for photos, go fishing, or want to have a picnic! We will mention that a lot of the rivers have not been open to recreational fishing to help conservation efforts. However, it looks like they’ll be opening up again in June 2023. If you want to fish in Olympic National Park for your elopement or during your trip, you can access update to date information here.
Olympic National Park Elopement FAQs
- Do I need a special-use permit for my elopement? If you have a group size of 5 or more, you will need to secure a permit. Compared to other National Parks, there are no designated ceremony sites listed by NPS. We will walk you through the permit process and talk to you about approved locations in Olympic National Park for your ceremony! If it’s just the two of you, you won’t need a permit. So we can go wherever we want as long as we stay on the trail.
- Dog friendly? Ruby Beach is one of the only dog-friendly locations in Olympic National Park! And we have a blog post all about bringing your dog to your elopement. You cannot bring your dog up to Hurricane Ridge or on most trails in the National Park, though.
- Cell service? You’ll probably have cell service in Port Angles, Sequim, and possibly on some trails at Hurricane Ridge. However, most locations west of Port Angeles will not have much phone signal at all. We always recommend having offline maps downloaded before your trip!
Best Time of Year to Elope In Olympic National Park
You can visit Olympic National Park year round! Most of the rainforest and beach trails stay open throughout the winter season. However, the mountain trails will be covered in snow until sometime in mid-June typically. Visiting in May or Early June usually requires hiking with spikes or snowshoes in the mountains. We do love snowshoeing up at Hurricane Ridge in the winter season too if you want a winter wonderland experience!
Moody Weather in Olympic
As one of the greenest places in the country, it’s also one of the rainiest. So you can expect a chance of rain or moody weather any time of year. We love the moody weather though and our couples are usually excited to see such a beautiful and moody landscape! It’s usually the sunniest in August which is a popular time for couples to elope with us in Washington. We recommend couples bring rain jackets and umbrellas and be ready to go with the flow! Usually, we’ll move plans around or explore the rainforest (to use nature’s umbrellas) if we have consistent rain.
Dates to Avoid: Free National Park days, major holidays, and weekends (for elopements).
What to Pack for Your Elopement?
- Elopement Details: Wedding attire, cultural outfits, vow books, rings, florals/boutonnieres, letters, and gifts for each other.
- Food + Drinks: Snacks, desserts, water, coffee/tea + mugs, summit beers/champagne (not for spraying photo though), charcuterie board, and cake.
- Hiking Gear: Hiking boots, sandals for the beach (or go barefoot!), warm puffy jacket, rain jacket, day pack, bug spray, and sunscreen.
- Extra: Umbrella, blanket, bungee cord to help strap dress/suit/flowers on backpack
- Papers: Marriage license and special-use permit (screenshot on your phone)
Leave No Trace (LNT) Tips for Your Elopement:
- Pick up any flower petals that fall off while hiking. One of us usually stays behind you to ensure we pick up any petals that fall.
- When laying out your bags to get dressed, find an area that won’t be in the way of other hikers and keep all of your bags together.
- Bring a Nalgene bottle to pour any drinks you might not finish. We want to avoid pouring out any beverages on the ground.
- Layout a blanket for a picnic so you can keep all your crumbs on the blanket instead of being left behind.
- Bring plastic baggie/stasher bag to carry/pack out any trash.
- Stay on trails (keep dogs leashed on trail with us too).
- Leave what you find and don’t take anything from nature like pebbles, rocks, or flowers (just take home memories and photos instead).
- Check to see if there is a fire ban before making a fire. This is common out West during the summer season.
- Be respectful of wildlife and keep a safe distance from them. Do not feed wildlife either.
- Be respectful of other hikers by keeping down noise, don’t play loud music, make space for hikers to pass by on the trail, and being extra quiet around sunrise/sunset when other hikers are especially hiking for peace and quiet.
Olympic National Park Elopement Activity Ideas
A lot of couples ask us what activities they should do on their day. We usually recommend 1-3 total extra activities to make sure you have a relaxed and easygoing day with us! Between a few activities, your ceremony, and taking photos, we’ll have plenty of things to do to celebrate! These are some ideas we’ve seen from past couples!
- 1st Dance
- Celebratory Drink (sparkling water)
- Read letters
- Exchange Gifts
- Board games
Washington Marriage License (Do we need an officiant?)
You will need an ordained officiant and two witnesses to legally get married in the state of Washington. Ryan is an ordained officiant and will happily sign your marriage license. However, if you’re looking for someone to be more involved and guide you through a ceremony, we have officiant recommendations down below! So there’s no need to worry about making it official and getting a marriage license with us!
Washington Marriage License Info:
- Requires an ordained officiant.
- Requires two witnesses.
- Marriage license is valid for 60 days.
- There is a 3-day waiting period before the marriage license is valid.
- The application fee is $69.
- You can get a marriage license from any county and it will be valid anywhere in Washington. So you don’t have to pick up your marriage license from the same county where you elope.
How to Apply for Your Marriage License
You can apply for your marriage license online at the King County Recorder’s Office. We recommend King County in Seattle since most couples will be visiting Seattle at some point. As we mentioned above, you can get a license from King County and use it anywhere in Washington. It’s not county-specific. The website is intuitive and will answer just about any question you might have. They even have a calculator tool to figure out when you need to apply.
Pro tip: Don’t forget to fill out the back side of the marriage license (social security section). It’s easy to forget! Also, Olympic National Park is located in Clallam County (you’ll need to know the county name).
Want to split your day between the great outdoors and cozy cabin vibes? We’re here for it! Sometimes after a sunrise hike and exchanging vows, you might want to head back to your cabin for more relaxing activities!
- 1st Dance
- Cake/Pizza/Charcuterie Board
- Make tea for family members
- Hot tub
- Read letters
- Snuggle and watch a movie
- Play board games/put together a puzzle
- Hair & Makeup
- The Greatest Adventure (Erika, planning too)
- Tapestry Event (Kate, planning too)
- Another One Ties The Knot (Cherise)
Meet your Olympic National Park Photographer/Videographer
Hey there! We’re Ryan and Jaclyn Baer! We’ve been documenting elopements for the past 6 years, spending a lot of our time working in Olympic National Park. We used to live right outside of Olympic in Port Angeles, Washington! We are based in Washington and Colorado and enjoy sharing these mountains with our couples! In our free time, you’ll find us out on these trails backpacking, fly-fishing, painting, and enjoying the beauty of the summer season in Washington. We’d love to show you our favorite spots and help you plan an amazing wedding day that truly celebrates your relationship.
Where to visit after your Olympic National Park Elopement?
Nearby locations to explore for your honeymoon or PNW Road-trip:
- Forks, Washington: If you’re staying in Port Angeles for your elopement, you can always extend your trip to Olympic National Park and explore the coast. We recommend staying in Forks or in La Push. Best for those who want a quieter time exploring beaches and remote rainforests.
- Port Townsend, Washington: Easily our favorite town on the Olympic Peninsula. It’s a cute town right on the water with lots to do in their small downtown. You can easily take the ferry over to Fort Casey and drive up to Coupeville to explore Whidbey Island or take a ferry to the San Juan Islands too.
- Vancouver Island, Canada: Take the ferry directly from downtown Port Angeles to Victoria (the capital of British Columbia). Yes, it’s THAT easy to visit Canada from Olympic National Park. We highly recommend couples at least take a day trip since it’s so easy to visit Canada. Try catching the sunset ferry on your way back to Port Angles to get a majestic view of Mt. Baker across the Salish sea.