YOUR GUIDE TO
PLANNING YOUR OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK ENGAGEMENT PHOTOS | RIALTO BEACH
Hi! I'm Natasha! Your elopement photographer, dog petter and donut eater. While photography is my first love, connecting with people is my love language. You'll find me lovin' on the big moments, the quiet moments, the silly moments – but especially the in between moments. The moments that are unadulterated and unfiltered. The ones where you are the real you. Here on the blog you'll find all of my favorite tips, tricks and resources for planning an elopement that's all about those moments.
So you're looking for some inspiration for your Olympic National Park engagement photos? Woohoo! You've come to the right place.
You've chosen an amazing destination, that's truly one of those places that takes your break away. Olympic National Park is the perfect combination of everything that Washington state has to offer. With everything from moody beaches, to dramatic rocky sea stacks, massive spruce and cedar forests that come right up to the ocean, a freaking temperate rainforest (!!!), misty sunsets, gigantic (we're talking mini-van size or bigger) pieces of drift wood. It's one of the most biodiverse places on the planet and home to some of the largest trees in the world and some of the most beautiful creatures...I could go on and on. It's overwhelming grandeur is a beautiful reminder of just how amazing nature really is.
And if you're thinking of visiting Rialto Beach for your Olympic National Park, you're in for a special adventure.
So let's dive right in to how to make it the best experience ever!
HOW TO GET THERE
Rialto Beach is located on one of Washington's remote coastlines just about as far west as you can go! If you're driving from Seattle there's two different ways you can go.
North through Port Angeles - This is my personal favorite way to go and it takes just a bit over 4 hours from Seattle. You'll drive through the town of Port Angeles that's the hub for all things Olympic National Park! On this route you'll drive past the beautiful Lake Crescent with it's crystal clear Gatorade-blue water. It's a lovely stop off to dip your feet in the water and take a little hike if you're wanting to stretch your legs.
South through Olympia/Quinault - a bit of a longer drive, this way takes about 4 hours and 30 minutes and you'll make your way through Washington's capital, Olympia, and be ultra close to the World's Largest Sitka Spruce! If you're taking this route, it's definitely worth a stop!
WHAT'S THE BEST TIME OF YEAR TO VISIT?
While known for it's wet weather, the Olympic Coast has pretty mild weather compared to most areas!
- Spring: Temperatures are cool to mild, and weather can be unpredictable this time of year, but it can make for some spectacular photos! It's the second most popular time of year to visit. Plus everything is nice and green in the rainforest much earlier than most other places still.
- Summer: The most popular time to visit and the weather is often warm and mild. Rain and thunderstorms are a possibility and fog might show up on the coast, even on sunny days. But this is the best time of year to visit for the best chance of nice weather.
- Fall: We are in the PNW after all, so Fall on the coast is often rainy and chilly. Don't let that discourage you though! It's the perfect time to avoid crowds.
- Winter: This is when Olympic NP experiences the highest amount of rain, but if you're willing to brave some wet weather it can be great for moody and dramatic photos.
DO I NEED A PERMIT FOR OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK ENGAGEMENT PHOTOS?
While you don't need a permit to shoot at Rialto Beach, you will need an America the Beautiful pass for your Olympic National Park engagement photos. It costs $30 per vehicle for a day pass, or $80 for the annual pass (well worth the investment if you plan on visiting any one of Washington's beautiful national parks again this year!). However, you'll need to buy the pass ahead of time since there isn't any park service gate or visitors center here. You can buy them at any national park visitors center, entrance gate, or online here!
There is one parking lot right off Mora Road, but it's pretty small and during the busy season it can fill up pretty quick, so make sure to get there early if you're visiting on a weekend! On a fun side note, one of the first time's I visited we saw a pair of sea otters scurrying through the parking lot and I just about cried. They're the cutest!
CAN I BRING MY DOG?
Yes! One of the perks of being on the Washington coast is that this section of the park is dog friendly! You'll have to stay north of the Ellen Creek area, keep your dog leashed and pick up after them. But as long as they're not disturbing the wildlife they're welcome to explore Rialto Beach with you.
HOW TO PREP FOR YOUR OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK ENGAGEMENT PHOTOS: YOUR GETTING READY CHECKLIST
- Let your photographer (me!) know that you're ready to schedule your session
- Check the tides for the date you're interested in!
- You'll want to pick a day/time where the tide is lowest so you get to enjoy the beautiful beach, check out the tide pools, and go to Hole-in-the-Wall rock!
- I'll let you know what the best time of day to visit is for the season
- Book your stay (we'll cover accommodation options later in this blog)
- Choose your outfits (you can find my guide for engagement session outfits here!)
- Know where to meet
- There is often no cell service in Olympic National Park so I'll drop a Google Maps pin for you so you know exactly where to meet me!
- Pack your bags
- Take some amazing engagement photos!
Don't forget to check the National Park website for updates on trail and road closures:
WHAT TO BRING FOR YOUR OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK ENGAGEMENT PHOTOS:
- America The Beautiful: National Park Pass
- Comfortable shoes
- A change of clothes to wear after your session (there's a good chance you'll get wet)
- Extra socks
- Rain jacket
- Layers (t-shirt, sweat, jacket)
- Thinking about bringing your dog? Bring poop bags, water, and treats
- Plenty of water
- Snacks! (Don't expect to be able to just hop over to a restaurant for dinner. Rialto Beach is remote)
WHERE TO STAY
Not sure where to stay when you're done with your Olympic National Park engagement photo?
Camping: Thinking of camping? Amazing! There are numerous campsites between Ellen Creek and Hole-In-The-Wall near Split Rock (a big famous rock formation!) and Wilderness Camping Permits are required for any overnight hikes in the area.
Bathrooms: There are pit toilets located in the park lot for Rialto Beach
Water Sources: Ellen Creek is your closest natural fresh water source that's located about .8 miles from the parking lot. But don't forget to filter or boil any water from the creek (or any natural water source)!
Lodging: There's not many options this far out on the coast, but you can find some great ones below!
- 3 Rivers Resort and Guide Services, Forks, WA
- Quillayute River Resort - only 4.5 miles to Rialto Beach
- Miller Tree Inn Bed And Breakfast, Forks, WA
- Mora Campground - located in a beautiful coastal forest right on the Quillayute River and just 2 miles from Rialto Beach, the Mora Campground is one of the NPS campgrounds for Olympic National Park
- You can make an online reservation here!
- There are 94 sites, $20 per site, $10 dump station fee for RVs
- RVs: up to 21 feet
- ADA Accessible: Yes
- Season: Year Round
- Your other option is to obtain a backcountry camping permit and camp at the primitive sites right on the beach! Unfortunately camping with pets isn't allowed, but if you're going solo you'll have access to fire rings, and a pit toilet maaaaay be available in the Rialto Beach parking lot, but it's subject to closure. Make sure you bring a bear canister and pitch your tent above the high tide line! You definitely don't want to wake up soggy.
If you want to do something extra romantic and cute, you can stay at one of these adorable Airbnbs too!