your guide to planning an elopement or micro wedding at olympic national park
Okay, so you’re thinking about declaring your love for one another at arguably the coolest national park in the country? Woohoo! I am so stoked for you and want to help you figure out everything you need to know about planning your elopement or dream adventure wedding at Olympic National Park in Washington State. From picking out the location(s) that best suit your vision, to obtaining permits, to finding a cozy cabin to stay in, this guide is all about helping you curate the adventurous wedding day you have been daydreaming about, and will walk you through everything you need to know about how to elope in Olympic National Park.
Why have your elopement or adventure wedding at olympic national park?
Before getting into the nitty gritty, let’s talk about WHY OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK? As I said above, this is arguably one of the coolest national parks in the country. That’s right. I would personally argue that all day long! Although Washington alone has some seriously EPIC national parks, the diversity in scenery and overarching unique nature of the Olympic Peninsula puts it above the rest. What are you hoping to see around you as you share your vows with your loved one? Are you envisioning evergreen forests with fog rolling over the tree-lined hills behind you? A moody, rocky beach littered with driftwood? Epic mountain ridge lines? Waterfalls? All of the above? Well, you’re in luck! Because not only does the park offer all of those options for your adventurous wedding day, but you don’t have to pick just one! You can see so many different terrains and views within one single day at Olympic National Park. So, the only question is: What do you want your epic wedding day to look like?
HOW TO ELOPE IN OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK: STEP-BY-STEP
Step 1: CHOOSE YOUR Olympic national park elopement LOCATION(S)
Like I said, you have total creative control when it comes to choosing the perfect ceremony location, hikes, newlywed portrait spots, and so much more depending on what you want your day to encompass. Something I always tell my couples to help them best decide on different locations to spend their elopement day is this: focus on your senses. Shut your eyes, relax, and imagine it is your special day. What do you see? What do you hear? Is there a certain smell or taste wafting through the air? This, in my opinion, is the best way to nail down not only what you want your day to LOOK like, but what you want your wedding day to FEEL like.
With that being said, I’d like to give you some examples of good spots inside the park that are great for ceremonies, portraits, or other activities for your wedding day!
Lake Crescent is a large lake about an hour from Port Angeles, WA. There are a couple different options for where to go at the lake for reading vows/portraits/etc. You can go towards the Marymere Falls and Mt. Storm King trailhead access areas near the Storm King Ranger Station. Or, you can head to the Lake Crescent Lodge area, which is also a great place to stay or rent out for a small wedding. I’ll be honest, though - this destination gets BUSY, especially when the weather is nice and even more so if it’s a weekend. So, plan accordingly!
-Wanna see an example of what your elopement could look like at Lake Crescent? See more here!
Lake Cushman is located closer to the Hood Canal, and therefore can be easier to get to if you’re coming from the Seattle area. It is another gorgeous lake with a few hiking trails, camping options, and waterfalls! This can also be a popular destination, but if you come in the off season or closer to sunrise or sunset, you should have more privacy and can share your vows surrounded by the incredible scenery that Washington has to offer.
If you are hoping for some epic, hard-to-believe-it’s-real mountain views, this is an AWESOME location for you. Hurricane Ridge is also very accessible and easy to drive to – unless the road is closed for construction or winter conditions. However, once you are up on the ridge, if you’re still feeling adventurous there are hiking trails to explore as well! Whether you want to rent a picnic area for a micro wedding, or simply find a pull-off with jaw-dropping views, there are plenty of options up here. Of course, just like everywhere in the park, it can be busy, so incorporate date and time into your thinking when planning your day!
If you are imagining a less-traveled area full of moss, ferns, fog, and tree-lined roads – this is for you. Although still a popular destination, the Hoh Rainforest tends to be far more calm than other parts of the park. And with so many hiking trails and pull-offs, you are pretty much guaranteed to find a private place to exchange vows and say your “I do’s”amongst the misty green forest.
If you are envisioning more beach vibes for your PNW elopement, these are for you! Driftwood, rocky beaches, forests, these areas on the coast have it all! Also check out Kalaloch and Ruby Beach for similar scenery.
If you wanna tell your friends “We got married in the most northwestern part of the continental United States” then this is the spot for you! It is a longer, but gorgeous drive to get out to this point. And although it’s not a beach, there are hiking trails and a beautiful forest you can explore.
Find a pull-off, a less-traveled hike or waterfall - you name it! If you are more introverted (like me, I feel you) and would rather find a more secluded place to spend with your loved one as opposed to getting married at one of the more popular Olympic National Park destinations, do that! The Olympic Peninsula is straight up MAGICAL. There are thousands of waterfalls, hiking trails, mountains to climb, lakes to kayak, the list goes on! Go back to the sensory exercise and brainstorm with your partner about how you want your adventurous wedding experience to look and feel. Let that be your guide! (but, of course, you won’t be alone in the process either!)
step 2: book YOUR Olympic National park elopement PHOTOGRAPHEr & VIDEOGRAPHER - LET THEM HELP GUIDE YOU
Like I said, YOU SHOULD NOT FEEL ALONE in the planning process of your elopement experience. And a great place to start is finding your photographer and videographer. Not only can they help you figure out the timeline of your day, they can help you with all sorts of logistics- activities for your wedding day, best time of day for your ceremony, best locations to visit based on your vision, and so much more.
When I work with a couple, I am with them every step of the way! Yes, you are going to receive incredible photos and/or video documenting your epic wedding day, but I am also your new adventure buddy and resource for figuring out all the details along the way! If you are looking for someone to not only capture your day, but help guide you through the process - let’s connect and start planning your adventure!
step 3: APPLY FOR A washington state MARRIAGE LICENSE
Since Olympic National Park resides in the beautiful state of Washington, you will need to obtain a Washington Marriage License in order to get married in the park.
If you are a Washington resident, you will need to fill out the application, head to the county clerk’s office, and pick up that lovely piece of paper! (probably in exchange for ~$70 depending on the county, and some ID form). Find more information here.
If you are not a resident of Washington, you can fill out the application online, have it notarised, and then send it back with a check.
Note - the marriage license has a 3 day waiting period, so you have to wait at least 3 days after picking up the license to make things official. Also, you can only apply for a license within 60 days of your wedding day. You can get your license in any county, and do not need one for the county in which you get married!
Check out more information about applying for a marriage license HERE.
step 4: APPLY FOR A PERMIT TO GET MARRIED INSIDE OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK
To get married inside of the national park, you will need to apply for a Special Use Permit. Do this well in advance so they have plenty of time to review your application and go over any questions either party may have. You want to ensure you have proper permits before getting too ahead of yourself with other planning items! Find more information about permits and applications HERE.
step 5: book YOUR olympic national park LODGING
Before making reservations, it’s time to sit down and brainstorm again. (My tip? Sit down with some wine or coffee and make it a fun date! Planning your wedding should be FUN!) Think about some questions to help you decide what the best lodging option is for you two:
How long are you planning to stay there? 1-2 nights? A week?
Do you want to stay in the more popular spots of the park or closer to a nearby town?
What kind of accommodation would make your adventurous wedding experience truly memorable? A treehouse in the forest? A lodge on one of the park’s most popular lakes?
Once you have a better idea of what and where you want to stay, here are some possible options:
If you want to stay closer to Forks on the coast, this is a great option. They have rooms or cabins to choose from, some with insane ocean views!
If you’d prefer more of a hotel experience and want to be footsteps away from the lake, this is the place. They have some great amenities, and you could spend all day on the lake without having to worry about parking or driving back and forth to a different place – you’d be right there!
Holy WOW! If you want a truly unique accommodation along with your already out-of-the-ordinary wedding experience, this is the place! This isn’t the only option, though. There are tons of unique tiny cabins, treehouses and off-grid cottages scattered around the peninsula. Just gotta do some digging!
I am ALL ABOUT CABINS – so here is another option that just screams PNW vibes. And a hot tub? Idk about you but I’m sold.
Whether you are full-time van-lifers or you’re just craving to be closer to nature, camping is an awesome option! I love camping around the peninsula, and there’s all sorts of different campgrounds and national forest land. Pro Tip: If you have the Discover Pass, there are multiple campgrounds around the peninsula you can stay for free!
Basically, there’s a wide variety of options when it comes to finding the accommodation that fits your vision. Whether you’re only staying 1-2 nights to have your elopement and head out, or if you want to turn your wedding experience into an adventurous honeymoon, you can stay on the Olympic Peninsula in any fashion that best fits your personality & budget!
STEP 6: HAVE THE BEST DAY EVER!!
Alright picture this: you decided you want to elope in Olympic National Park. You book a kick-ass photographer and videographer. They help you plan everything else along the way. You obtain all the permits and licenses required. You decide on your ceremony location. You have the cutest bungalow booked for you and your boo to chill at after your adventure-filled day. And then, the day comes. You have the most epic wedding experience you’ve been dreaming about for months. And the best part? It’s all FUN & STRESS-FREE! Sound good? Cool. Now, go make it a reality!