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THE BLOG

photo of a deer on a trail in mt rainier national park

the ultimate guide to your

mt. rainier elopement

HOW TO ELOPE IN MT. RAINIER

NATIONAL PARK in 2024: PERMITS, CHECKLISTS, LOCATIONS, VENDORS + MORE

seattle wedding photographer

Hi! I'm Natasha! Your Washington 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.

NATASHA CARDINAL

Mount Rainier National Park is one of the most iconic places not just in the PNW, but in the whole US! With stunning glacial views, some of the most spectacular wildflower hikes, adorable squeaking marmots and pikas, alpine lakes, cascading waterfalls, it's no wonder it's one of the most popular elopement locations in Washington. But now that you've decided you want to elope here, I'm sure you have more than a few questions about just how to make it all work. But that's what I'm here for! As a Washington elopement photographer I specialize in planning elopements at places like Mt. Rainier, so let's dive right in to everything you need to know about eloping in Mt. Rainier National Park.

IN THIS GUIDE

How to Elope at Mt. Rainier
The Best Time of Year for Your Mt. Rainier Elopement
The Best Mt. Rainier Elopement Locations
Where to Stay for Your Mt. Rainier Elopement
How to Get Your National Park Wedding Permit
How to Get Your Washington Marriage License
Packing Checklist: What to Bring to Your Elopement
The Best Vendors for Your Mt. Rainier Elopement
Frequently Asked Questions
Mt. Rainier Elopement Packages

photo of couple dancing on a trail at dusk with the moon and northern cascades behind them for a blog about how to elope in washington

HOW TO ELOPE AT MT. RAINIER

  1. Choose the time of year you want to elope
  2. Hire your Washington elopement photographer
  3. Choose your elopement location
  4. Book your badass vendor team
  5. Book your lodging
  6. Apply for your Special Use Permit
  7. Apply for a Washington marriage license
  8. Get married! Woohoo!

THE BEST TIME OF YEAR FOR YOUR MT. RAINIER ELOPEMENT

While every season is breathtaking here, there are a few things to take into consideration when planning what time of year is perfect for your Mt. Rainier elopement.

SUMMER
Summer is by far the best time of year to get married here to see the mountain in all of her glory. Known for some of the most spectacular views in the country, you'll have access to glacier views, wildflower meadows, gushing waterfalls, alpine lakes and meadows, and snow capped mountains in the summer. If you want that quintessential fairytale feeling, then summer is for you. July and August are by far the best months to visit.

**With that said though, July and August is when you'll be battling the crowds. It's the busiest time of the year in the park and you'll definitely see plenty of people on the popular trails. If you plan on getting married here I highly recommend a sunrise elopement and eloping on a weekday to beat the worst of the crowds.**

SEE A SUMMER MT. RAINIER

NATIONAL PARK ENGAGEMENT SESSION HERE

FALL
Fall is hands down the second best season to get married here! Stunning fall colors light the mountain ablaze and with foggy days and moody skies it's truly spectacular. Carpets of red blanket the mountains as the berry bushes turn colors and the cool air sets in. If cozy nights by the fire, hot tea, and crispy air is your vibe then Fall might be the best fit for you. Still a busy time to visit (seriously, the fall colors attract people from around the country), you won't be fighting quite as many people as you would midsummer. I would still recommend a weekday and sunrise elopement for this time of year too!

WINTER
Winter is the most unpredictable time of year when it comes to getting mountain views. For most of the winter, the mountain is getting consistent snow and cloudy whether and the likelihood that you'll get a view of the mountain herself is slim. But if a winter wonderland elopement is the dream then a winter elopement is for you! Skiing and sledding is unmatched here, with plenty of soft powder to play in, you'll have massive evergreens laden with heavy snow, moody clouds, ice crystals glittering. As most of the park's roads close seasonally, you'll only be able to take the road up to the Paradise area from November to June and will be limited to just a few trails, but they're some of the most beautiful!


SPRING
Spring at Mt. Rainier is equally stunning in it's own right. You'll usually find snow on the trails until July, and weather can be unpredictable this time of year. But you'll most likely have some beautiful moody skies, and potentially some mountain views if you're lucky enough to have a clear day! Snowshoes or microspikes are often required to comfortably get around and make sure you dress warm. Temperatures range in the 20-40 degree range until June.

THE BEST MT. RAINIER ELOPEMENT LOCATIONS

Nisqually Vista Trail
Length: 1.1 miles
A very popular trail with some of the most stunning view points of Mt. Rainer herself! Just a short walk from the parking lot, this trail is paved too. As soon as you hop on the trail you'll be greeted with the most beautiful wildflowers in the summertime too.

Tipsoo Lake
Length: 0.7 miles
A stunning alpine lake surrounded by a short loop trail. In the summer you'll have views of Mt. Rainier, in the fall the lake is surrounded by the most gorgeous fall colors, and no matter what time of year you visit it's beautiful! Because it's such a short trail with such beautiful views it's extremely popular (a theme you'll see with a lot of these locations) but visiting at sunrise or during blue hour (the time right after sunset) will help avoid some of the crowds.

Reflection Lakes
Length: 2.75 miles
If you've ever looked up photos of Mt. Rainier National Park you've probably seen this spot, because Reflection Lakes has one of the most iconic and most photographed views in the whole park! A 2.75 mile loop with about 850 ft of elevation gain makes it one of the best lakes in the area. On a clear day you'll have Mt. Rainier reflecting in the water (hence the name), with tons of wildflowers in the summer, and the fall colors dancing on the lake surface in Autumn.

Naches Peak Loop
Length: 3.2 miles
This hike begins at Tipsoo Lake and traverses alpine meadows, and if you hike it counterclockwise you'll have views of Mt. Rainier while you hike! If you feel like hopping in a mini alpine lake along the way you'll have the opportunity on this trail too. It's also one of the best wildflower hikes in the whole park with carpets of lupine, magenta paintbrush, and white bistort flowers. There's even some wild huckleberries if you're there in late summer!

Alta Vista Trail
Length 1.8 miles
Sweeping panoramic valley views, wildflowers, and the most adorable little marmots are what make this trail so amazing. One of the more popular trails in the Paradise area, you'll have to contend with crowds, but it's worth it! You'll have views of Mt. Rainier on the way up, and St. Helens, Adams, and the Tatoosh Range on the way down.

Skyline Loop Trail
Length: 5.5 miles for the whole loop, with plenty of places to stop along the way
Easily THE most popular trail in the park, the Skyline Loop Trail has one of the grandest views in the whole country (yeah, I said it). This trail has literally everything the park has to offer from glacier views, wildflower meadows, some of the most spectacular views of the mountain, marmots everywhere, alpine meadows, cascading waterfalls. There is absolutely no shortage of gorgeous places to say your vows.

*I would only recommend a sunrise weekday elopement here during the summer and fall. The parking lot often fills up by 8-9am, so make sure to arrive early. If you wake up early enough you can catch sunrise at Panorama Point here for some of the most breath taking glacier views too!*


Tolmie Peak Trail
Length: 6.5 miles
A beautiful fire tower nestled in the mountains with panoramic views that will absolutely blow you away! Your hike starts off in the forest at Mowich Lake, and you slowly ascend into subalpine meadows and make your way to the fire tower for 360 degree views.

Myrtle Falls Viewpoint
Length: 0.7 miles
Myrtle Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls one of the most photographed places in the whole park! The falls itself is 72 feet high, with Mt. Rainier looming in the background, surrounded by lush alpine wildflowers and lush evergreens, and a walking bridge that crosses the falls. It's absolutely iconic (I know I keep saying this, but c'mon, it's truly insane). While I don't recommend saying your vows here since it's such a busy trail, I do recommend stopping here for some photos since it's such a short walk!


Pinnacle Peak Trail
Length: 2.9 miles
If you're up for a challenge on your elopement day and still want to have views of Mt. Rainier, that's slightly less busy than the Paradise area of the park, this ones for you. You'll have views of Mt. Adams, the Goat Rocks, the Tatoosh range, and Mt. Hood, plenty of wildflowers, you'll get to watch pikas and marmots. While this is a popular trail, even when it's busy it doesn't feel too crowded.

Dead Horse Creek Trail
Length: 2.3 miles
A moderately challenging trail that's worth the uphill hike to get up to the view points. One of the best places to see wildflowers, with a small stone foot bridge, sweeping views of Mt. Rainier, and a beautiful place to say your vows right on the side of the trail.

Bench and Snow Lakes
Length: 2.5 miles
Just a short walk from the parking lot, you'll be greeted with two blue green alpine lakes with views that rival the popular Reflection Lakes, and far fewer people than some of the busier trails in the park! You'll be able to go right down to the shores of the lake, dip your feet in, and maybe even go for a dip on your elopement day. And if you can score the permit, there's two beautiful campsites super close to the lake shore too.


photo of a deer on a trail in mt rainier national park

THE BEST MT. RAINIER ELOPEMENT VENDORS

OFFICIANTS
Officiant Jimmie

PLANNERS (with officiant services also!)
Tapestry Events
Altar Micro-Weddings

ELOPEMENT FLORISTS
Goldenrod Floral (Carlee even did my own elopement flowers!)
Bugs Flowers
Flora Pacifica
Kylie Hale

ELOPEMENT HAIR + MAKEUP ARTISTS
Pacific Brides
Blossom and Beauty

HOW TO GET YOUR SPECIAL USE PERMIT

No matter what size your elopement is, to get married a Mt. Rainier you'll need two things: a Mt. Rainier Entrance Pass or America the Beautiful annual pass and a Special Use permit. The NPS recommends submitting your application for your special use permit at least 4 weeks before your elopement day, however they do have an option to request expedited approval. The permit cost is $175 and you'll need to make your payment when you submit your application. If you're just having 1-12 guests (including your photographer and officiant!) you'll have accessible to pretty much all locations in the park, but with 12+ guests you'll be limited to some specific areas within the park so it doesn't effect the flow of crowds on the trails.

This is where you can find the application and instructions for how to apply!

If you need help getting and filling out your permit just shoot me an email and I'll help ya out: hello@thecardinals.co

WHERE TO STAY FOR YOUR MT. RAINIER ELOPEMENT

As soon as you pick your elopement date, the next thing on your agenda should be to lock in where you're going to stay when you elope. Because Mt. Rainier National Park is such a popular location, lodging gets booked up quick! Here are some of my favorite picks for places to stay near the park:

Photos from Solara Tiny Home Airbnb

Solara Tiny Home
Rainier, Washington
3 beds, 1 bath, can accomodate 5 guests
Right on the Deschutes River, you'll be listening to the river run by, and wake up to be greeted by goats! The host even provides fresh eggs and goat milk so you can peacefully sip your coffee riverside. This place has amazing light also thanks to the giant window that would be fantastic for some getting ready photos!

Hebe's Hideout Wooded Paradise
1 bedroom, 1 bath, can accommodate 2 guests
The cutest. little. A-frame. EVER. A very popular choice for those eloping in the park since it's so close! Secluded and private, you'll have this place all to yourself to cozy up next to the wood stove. They do require that you let them know that you plan on using the cabin for your elopement, but that just means they have experience accommodating this sort of thing!

Hot Tub | EV Charger | At Mt. Rainier & White Pass
3 bedrooms, 6 beds, 2 baths, can accommodate 8 guests
If you want a home base to chill with all of your people around a campfire, a place to unwind in the hot tub after a long day of hiking, or a place to host your elopement dinner, this is it. A cozy cabin in a prime spot right outside of the national park, it has all of the comforts of a big house while still being tucked in the woods.

CLICK HERE TO SEE MY FULL LIST OF ALL THE BEST AIRBNBS NEAR MT RAINIER

FAQ

How far is Mt. Rainier NP from Seattle?
If you're coming from SeaTac airport, it takes about 1 hour 45 mins to get to the Nisqually Entrance of the park to get to most of the main trails. However, with that said, there's often quite a bit of traffic leaving Seattle and then more near the park if you're arriving during peak season, so be prepared for some extra time to be tacked on there.

Can we bring our dog to our Mt. Rainier elopement?
Unfortunately pets are not allowed in the national park unless they're a registered service animal.

Is there a way to see if the mountain is out or what the weather is like before we get there?
Yes! There are webcams all over the national park that allow you to see a live view of what the weather is like, how full the parking lots are, and if the mountain is out! How cool, right?! You can find all of the webcams here on the NPS page.

HOW TO GET YOUR WASHINGTON MARRIAGE LICENSE

So now that you've gotten all of big stuff out of the way, you've only got one thing left to do before you get married, and that's to get your marriage license!

There's two way to get your WA Marriage License:
1. You can apply online here
2. pick it up in person at any county clerk's office

If you're having your elopement at Mt. Rainier and want to pick up in person locally, you'll be in Pierce County. But you can get a marriage license from any county in Washington and it will be valid.

Requirements to Get A Washington Marriage License

  • Application fee is $62.00
  • Waiting Period: There’s a 3 day waiting period.
  • License Validity Time: You'll have 60 days from the day you get the license until you have to return it to the clerks office either by mail or in person.
  • Residency: You do not need to be a Washington resident to apply for a license or be married in the state.
  • Witnesses: Witnesses are not necessary to apply for a license, but state law requires that at least two witnesses and an officiant be present at the ceremony. Witnesses should be at least 12 years of age.
  • Can my dog be a witness?: Unfortunately WA does not allow dogs to be witness (although some states like Colorado do!) However Brian and I are more than happy to be your witnesses!

CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT MY BLOG

"HOW TO GET MARRIED IN WASHINGTON STATE"

FOR MORE INFO

how to get married in washington state a guide by washington elopement photographer the cardinals elopement photography

YOUR MT. RAINIER ELOPEMENT PACKING LIST

Elopement Day Essentials

  • Your printed Special Use Permit
  • America the Beautiful pass or park day-pass
  • Your vows
  • Rings
  • Florals (bouquet, boutonnière, flower crown, etc.)
  • Shoes you'll wear for photos or ceremony if not your boots
  • Your wedding attire (if you aren't hiking in it)

Hiking Essentials

  • Hiking boots
  • Layers (weather can change in an instant, so be prepared for any weather)
  • Rain jacket
  • Puffy jacket
  • Flashlight
  • Headlamp
  • Snacks
  • Plenty of water
  • Tissues or hankie (for all of those happy tears)
  • Toilet paper (if you're planning on being at a location away from facilities)
  • Blister pads + first aid

MEET YOUR MT. RAINIER ELOPEMENT PHOTOGRAPHERS

WASHINGTON ELOPEMENT photographers the cardinals


We're Natasha and Brian! Your Mt. Rainier elopement photographers, dog petters, and donut eaters focused on creating the dreamiest and intentional photos of your elopement. But we're so much more than just photographers. When you work with us, you get built in Mt. Rainier elopement planning experts, guides for all of the parks most beautiful trails, snack holders, dress fluffers, tissue providers, and friends.

We know exactly what it's like to elope, because that's what we did too! We eloped on a misty August day on Mt. Baker with our sweet dog Fern, 7 of our closest friends, and it couldn't have been more us. Creating an experience that's undeniably you and honors your relationship is what we know best.

MT. RAINIER NATIONAL PARK ELOPEMENT PACKAGES

01

02

03

SUNRISE/SUNSET

HALF DAY

FULL DAY

For that couple that's ready to pack in every experience they can from sun up to sun down. This package is perfect if you want sunrise and sunset coverage so you get the best of both worlds! This time can be split however you'd like throughout the day, so we don't miss a thing.

Short and sweet for the couple that's all about keeping it simple. We'll cover your I do's, go on a short hike or visit your favorite local spots, and take some damn sweet photos along the way.

The sweet spot for all of the essentials. We'll cover your getting ready photos, head to your ceremony location, go for a hike, eat-drink-and-be-merry, visit the most beautiful locations for photos, have a romantic dinner.

~ 8 hours of coverage

~ premium bespoke wedding album

~ timeline + location planning

~ guides, questionnaires + resources

to inspire the best adventure ever

~ sneak peek gallery

~ travel + tax included within the PNW

~10 hours split between sunrise and sunset

~ premium bespoke wedding album

~ timeline + location planning

~ guides, questionnaires + resources

to inspire the best adventure ever

~ sneak peek gallery

~ travel + tax included within the PNW

~ 4 hours of coverage

~ timeline planning + location planning

~ guides, questionnaires + resources

to inspire the best adventure ever

~ sneak peek gallery

~ travel + tax included within the PNW

$6,000

$4,800

$7,400

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LET'S CHAT

LET'S CHAT

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THINK WE'RE A GOOD FIT? SAME HERE!

You only do this once, so use the contact form below to reach and let's make this the most intentional, most you Mt. Rainier elopement out there.