The 15 Best Places to Elope in Washington State - Solar Rose Co

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The 15 Best Places to Elope in Washington State

I'm Rachel, your PNW elopement photographer. I say "yes" when other people have told you "no," for the most you wedding day.

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When it comes to the best places to elope in general, Washington is pretty high up on the list. The variety in the evergreen state is wild: mountains, coastline, old-growth forests, lakes (both at sea level and the alpine variety), waterfalls, meadows, glaciers, a desert, and even a rainforest.

We’re spoiled for choice here with endless, stunning elopement locations. The only downside is that it can be a wee bit overwhelming when it comes time to decide where you want to get married. There are (almost) too many choices.

I’ve got you covered.

For starters, every couple who books with me gets a custom location list made just for you, based on your preferences. These include specific trails with info like hiking distance, elevation gain, leave no trace considerations, spoon rating, accessibility, and photo examples.

But to help narrow things down–and get to the point of all this–I’ve compiled a list of the 15 best places to elope in Washington. Each location has some standard info like the distance from Seattle (I know you’re not all living there, it just makes things easier to standardize from the major airport, ok?), entry fee, weather, and some other notes from me.

Ok. Get yourself a snack and let’s go.

Mount Rainier rising above a forest in the background. A lake in the foreground shows a reflection of the mountain.

Best Places to Elope in Washington: National Parks

It should come as no surprise that a “best places to elope in Washington” list has to start with the National Parks. Washington has three of them, and they’ve all got their own thing going on. Let’s figure out which is best for you:

North Cascades National Park

This is one of Washington’s best-kept secrets. Kind of. It’s not like no one knows it exists, but it’s both the largest and least visited park in the state. Which is part of why it’s my favourite National Park here.

If you’re looking for jagged peaks, glaciers (over 300 to choose from), forested valleys, and alpine lakes, this is absolutely the place for you. Honestly, if all my couples wanted to elope here, I wouldn’t complain. It’s not called the “Alps of America” for nothing.

Think about it: where better to exchange your vows than in this pristine, mountainous wilderness without an audience of several hundred people?

This National Park has hikes of all skill levels, kayaking, camping, horseback riding, and truly breathtaking views. You can also take a boat or floatplane to historic Stehekin, which isn’t accessible by car.

Distance from Seattle: ~100 miles

Entry fee: $0! Some trails start outside the park and wind into it; these require a Northwest Forest Pass at the trailhead ($5 daily, $30 annually).

Weather: The best weather is typically mid-June to mid-September, although take that with a grain of salt because Washington does what she wants. Autumn and spring have beautiful colours, and there are wildflowers aplenty if you know when to look.

Things to note:

  • State Route 20 closes for the winter season, typically around November.
  • Snow may be present at some elevations into July.
  • Prepare for all kinds of weather and pack layers.
  • No wifi anywhere, and the cell data is…sporadic. Download maps ahead of time.
  • Dogs are not allowed within the park, except for the Ross Lake and Lake Chelan National Recreation Areas, and then only on a leash. They are also allowed on the Pacific Crest Trail (on leash).
  • You will need a wedding permit.

Olympic National Park

If you want a lot of variety without a lot of travel, Olympic National Park is your girl. It’s one of the most diverse areas in Washington state.

In this 922,000 acre park, you’ve got mountain ridges, alpine lakes, old-growth forests, rivers, rainforests (four of them!), and a rugged coastline with rocks, sand, and tidepools. Pretty much everything except a desert, and hundreds of animal and plant species.

Also, there’s a spooky story associated with an area of this park, but I won’t write it out here–most people thinking about their wedding day aren’t here to read crime stories. …I’ll totally tell you about it if you ask, though. I know there are other true crime nerds out there.

Distance from Seattle: ~110 miles to the south entrance

Entry fee: $30 for a single vehicle, or you can use an Olympic National Park Annual Pass ($55 annually) or an America the Beautiful Pass ($80 annually).

Weather: July-September is the most popular time of year to visit because of the more temperate, pleasant weather, but you can expect rain the other months of the year. …You don’t get temperate rainforests without lots and lots of rain, about 12-14 feet per year. Winter is fairly mild at lower elevations (thanks, Pacific ocean), with heavier snowfall at higher elevations. Much like the different landscapes, you can expect different weather in different areas of the park.

Things to note:

  • Only a handful of trails allow dogs (more than the other National Parks), and they must be on a leash 6 ft or less.
  • October-May, you may have to navigate closures (roads, campgrounds, facilities).
  • The peninsula can be susceptible to wildfires.
  • You will need a wedding permit.

Mount Rainier National Park

This is Washington’s most popular National Park, for several good reasons.

Firstly: The Mountain. Yes in title case, on purpose. Anyone who spends any time in Washington knows that Mount Rainier is fondly referred to as The Mountain. We have so many of them, but she gets the title, and no one is mad about it. I have to say really quick: the original Puyallup name for The Mountain is Tacoma or Tahoma, and I’m all for changing it back. So much of the “outdoor space” in Washington was native land, and it’s something we can’t gloss over.

The park is less than 80 miles from SeaTac, which makes it incredibly accessible. You can see the volcano from Seattle, which is an experience for the first time. And the second time. And the third… She stands 14,410 feet above sea level; as the most topographically prominent mountain in the lower 48, she’s kind of hard to miss. Rainier is also the most glaciated peak in the contiguous U.S., which means a lot of rivers and meadows.

If you don’t mind a little less solitude, or if you’re looking for miles and miles of accessible trails, Mount Rainier National Park is for you. It’s got glaciers, meadows, The Mountain (duh), climbing, camping, biking, and pretty much anything you want to do.

There are multiple entrances and five distinct “areas,” ranging from hotels to campgrounds.

Distance from Seattle: ~90 miles

Entry fee: $30 for a single vehicle, or you can use a Mount Rainier Annual Pass ($55 annually) or an America the Beautiful Pass ($80 annually).

Weather: Again, Washington has all kinds of weather, but The Mountain is so big she kind of…makes her own weather. (I know, right?) July and August are the sunniest months of the year, but rain is still possible; bring a jacket.

Things to note:

  • Snow will likely be present down to 5,000 ft into July.
  • This park is busy, ok? Weekdays and “off hours” (sunrise and sunset) are your best bets for privacy. Wait times at the entrances can be hours long at busy times.
  • Check for road closures due to weather, flooding, etc.
  • Info centers close for the winter season.
  • No dogs, anywhere, except the PCT on the eastern border (on a leash, 6 ft or less).
  • You will need a wedding permit.

Want to elope in a National Park? Contact me to start planning your elopement!

Moss-covered rocks in the foreground line a trail leading out of sight. A mountain rises in the background, partially covered by a cloud.

Best Places to Elope in Washington: National Forests

Next on our tour through the evergreen state are the National Forests. These are easily some of the best places to elope in Washington: forests are beautiful, they cover huge areas (hello variety), and they’re often less strict than their National Park neighbours.

National Forests also differ from the parks in that they are multi-use. The land can be used for recreation, logging, grazing, preservation, etc., whereas the National Parks are recreation and preservation only.

Olympic National Forest

Ringing the Olympic National Park is the Olympic National Forest. With saltwater on three sides, this forest has so many opportunities for expansive, 360-degree views.

It’s similar to the National Park in that you’re spoiled for choice: forests, mountains, rivers, lakes, coastline, a saltwater fjord… With 633,000 acres and 270 miles of trails, I promise there’s an elopement location for you.

Distance from Seattle: ~110 miles

Entry fee: Most (if not all) day-use areas require a parking pass. You can purchase a day-use NF pass ($5 daily), a yearly NF pass ($30 annually), or an America the Beautiful pass ($80 annually).

Weather:

Things to note:

  • If you’re eloping etiher alone or with a very small group, you likely won’t need a permit.
  • Certain campgrounds close for the winter season.
  • Dogs are permitted in most forest service areas!

Gifford Pinchot National Forest

This swath of forest swings south to Oregon and covers 1,312,000 acres, one of the oldest national forests in the United States.

Mount Saint Helens lives here! And most of Mount Adams. Side note: did you know Washington has five volcanoes? Baker, Saint Helens, Glacier Peak, Adams, and Rainier are all fickle ladies, and we love them.

If you’ve never been to the Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument, I highly recommend a visit. It’s like…Mars. Truly.

Distance from Seattle: ~140 miles

Entry fee: Most (if not all) day-use areas require a parking pass. You can purchase a day-use NF pass ($5 daily), a yearly NF pass ($30 annually), or an America the Beautiful pass ($80 annually).

Weather: Things can get pretty toasty in the summer out near Mount Saint Helens. The area is more open than other parts of the forest, after the eruption in 1980. But overall, you won’t see temperatures creep much higher than 70 F in the forest. Winters can be very cold, below freezing.

Things to note:

  • Various campgrounds and forest service roads close for the winter season.
  • If you’re eloping either alone or with a very small group, you likely won’t need a permit.
  • Dogs are permitted in most forest service areas! Restrictions are a wee bit tighter in the Mount Saint Helens Volcanic Monument area.

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

This gorgeous area cozies up to the North Cascades National Park on the west side of the mountains, right in my backyard. Some trails start in the forest and wind into the National Park, which is something to keep an eye on when it comes to parking, permits, etc.

The forest stretches from the Canadian border all the way down toward Mount Rainier. It’s got glaciers, meadows, waterfalls, and old-growth forests for days, over 1.725 million acres.

Half of the forest is designated as Wilderness areas, and these have their own regulations. Some of those regulations that may pertain to your elopement include a ban on pretty much anything with wheels (bikes, carts, etc.), a limit on group sizes to 12 people, and a campfire ban.

Distance from Seattle: ~120 miles

Entry fee: Most (if not all) day-use areas require a parking pass. You can purchase a day-use NF pass ($5 daily), a yearly NF pass ($30 annually), or an America the Beautiful pass ($80 annually).

Weather: Being farther north and close to the Cascade mountain range, this forest area doesn’t typically get super hot. Summer highs often stay below 80 F, which, if you’re worn out by heat like me, makes this area an ideal place to go hiking. Things can get pretty cloudy near Mt. Baker, depending on the time of year. Most of the rain falls from November to March. (Don’t look at me that way, it is Washington after all.)

Things to note:

  • Wilderness areas carry their own regulations separate from the National Forest.
  • Dogs are permitted in most forest service areas!
  • Various roads close for the winter season, including SR 542 up to Artist Point near the ski area.
  • Wildfire smoke is a consideration due to proximity to the Cascade range.

Colville National Forest

This national forest encompasses 1.5 million acres east of the Cascade Range. Eastern Washington isn’t all flat desert, friends. This forest is out near the borders with Canada and Idaho and was first shaped by Ice Age glaciers that carved three major river valleys 10,000 years ago. Its three mountain ranges (Okanogan, Kettle River, and Selkirk) are considered “the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.”

There’s a lot to do out here! 486 miles of hiking trails, biking, camping, horseback riding, and berry picking, to name a few. You’ll also find some local wildlife, and by “find,” I mean “may encounter but I hope you keep a safe distance from.” Because that wildlife includes grizzly and black bears, deer, bald eagles, cougars, badgers, moose, grey wolves, and, apparently, the last herd of caribou in the United States. There’s even a wildlife refuge.

Distance from Seattle: ~340 miles

Entry fee: Most (if not all) day-use areas require a parking pass. You can purchase a day-use NF pass ($5 daily), a yearly NF pass ($30 annually), or an America the Beautiful pass ($80 annually).

Weather: This area is more temperate than some of the more open areas of eastern Washington. July and August are the warmest months of the year, with highs approaching 80 F, and you can expect about 20 inches of rain per year.

Things to note:

  • Wildfire season is something to be very aware of in this part of the state.
  • Various trails and roads may close due to fire or snow.
  • Dogs are permitted in most forest service areas! Dogs must be leashed in recreation sites and are not allowed in swimming areas.

Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest

The Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest covers 3.8 million freaking acres on the eastern slopes of the Cascades, from Canada to the Goat Rocks Wilderness just south of Mt. Rainier.

One of the most beautiful places in Washington lives here: the Enchantments. If you want to see the larches in all their autumn glory, this is the place to do it. The Enchantment Area Wilderness is so popular that there is a permit system set up to avoid overcrowding and damage. Plan way ahead if this is something that you’re interested in doing.

This national forest has more to offer than just the Enchantments, though. There are several other Wilderness areas, hiking trails, campgrounds, and several wheelchair-accessible trails.

Distance from Seattle: ~50-80 miles, depending on whether you head out I-90 or US-2.

Entry fee: Most (if not all) day-use areas require a parking pass. You can purchase a day-use NF pass ($5 daily), a yearly NF pass ($30 annually), or an America the Beautiful pass ($80 annually).

Weather: Once again, July and August are the warmest months of the year, averaging in the high 70s. December is usually below freezing. Rainwise, it depends on where you are: 70 inches closer to the mountain tops, 10 inches out on the eastern border of the forest.

Things to note:

  • “Larch Madness” is alive and well–late September into October is prime Larch season. The trees turn beautiful shades of yellow and orange on the eastern side of the Cascade range. Not to be missed!
  • Bears like it here, so behave yourselves if you’re camping/backpacking/etc.
  • Various trails and roads may close due to fire or snow.
  • Dogs are permitted in most forest service areas, except The Enchantments and several lakes in the Alpine Wilderness.

Want to elope in a National Forest? Contact me to start planning your elopement!

A small bay surrounded by rocky bluffs. A rocky, grey beach winds through the bluffs to the water.

Best Places to Elope in Washington: State Parks

Washington has 124 state parks, so I’m very obviously not going to list them all, but just know that there are a lot, and I’m pretty sure at least one of them will have what you’re looking for. Our state park system is one of the oldest in the country–we love to “recreate” here. The state parks range from marine to steppe shrub to mountainous to old-growth forest, and probably most places in between.

Ever wanted to go to an astronomical observatory? Stay in a cabin or yurt? Visit a lighthouse? Explore unique geological features? State parks. That’s where I’m going with this: state parks are rad.

Deception Pass State Park

Let’s start with Washington’s most visited state park, because why on earth wouldn’t we?

Normally, my favourite places are where the crowds aren’t, but folks…this place is stunning. If you’ve ever been to the central coast in California (think Big Sur, Carmel, Point Lobos), Deception Pass State Park is like that. But bigger. And I’d argue…better.

Spread over almost 4,000 acres, Deception Pass has miles of trails and some stunning coastline. Ocean, tidepools, lakes, and colours you’ll have to see to believe. There are some good spots to go kayaking here, too.

Distance from Seattle: ~85 miles

Entry fee: A Discover Pass is required for all parking. Your other passes won’t apply here! $10/day or $30 annually.

Weather: August is the warmest month at Deception Pass, with temperatures averaging in the 60s. December is the coldest, averaging closer to 40 F. The park gets about 10″ of rain per year, with November claiming the prize for the highest monthly rainfall.

Things to note:

  • Like I said, this park can get busy. Your best bet is to visit for sunrise or sunset on a weekday, and just mentally prepare yourself for not being 100% alone all day.
  • Unlike the National Parks, this park isn’t open 24 hours a day. Hours are 6:30 am – dusk in the summer, and 8:00 am – dusk in the winter.
  • Pets are allowed in most state parks but must be on a leash.
  • You may need a permit for your wedding.

Cape Disappointment State Park

Cape Disappointment is out on the far southwest corner of the state. Apparently, it was named by Captain John Meares when he failed to find the nearby Columbia River.

The Cape has lighthouses, overgrown ruins, old-growth forests, lakes, and a beautiful coastline. There’s a large area for camping, with yurts, cabins, and vacation homes; 20 picnic tables; and 8 miles of hiking trails. There are also some additional natural areas nearby for you to extend your adventure.

Distance from Seattle: ~170 miles

Entry fee: A Discover Pass is required for all parking. Your other passes won’t apply here! $10/day or $30 annually.

Weather: Because of its proximity to the sea, Cape Disappointment doesn’t get very warm. Temperatures stay fairly consistent year-round, which is nice. You can see high 60s throughout the summer, dipping down to highs in the low 50s in the winter. Nights from December into March can dip below freezing. June-September are the dryest months of the year, but bring a raincoat!

Things to note:

  • Lighthouse tours are not currently available (2021) due to the pandemic.
  • You may need a permit for your wedding.
  • Unlike the National Parks, this park isn’t open 24 hours a day. Hours are 6:30 am – dusk, year-round.
  • Leashed dogs are allowed on the trails and beaches.

Moran State Park

Moran State Park is located on Orcas Island, one of the San Juan islands between Washington and Canada.

The park has over 5,000 acres to explore, including 151 campsites, 5 freshwater lakes, and 38 miles of hiking trails. There’s even a waterfall. You can drive or hike to the top of Mt. Constitution, go kayaking, take a swim, and then settle in for an evening of stargazing.

Distance from Seattle: ~115 miles. Requires a ferry ride.

Entry fee: A Discover Pass is required for all parking. Your other passes won’t apply here! $10/day or $30 annually.

Weather: Much like Cape Disappointment, the weather at Moran State Park doesn’t vary too wildly. You can expect warmer days July-September, and colder, rainier days from November into March or April.

Things to note:

  • Dogs are allowed in the park but must remain on a leash.
  • You may need a permit for your wedding.
  • Unlike the National Parks, this park isn’t open 24 hours a day. Hours are 6:30 am – dusk in the summer, and 8:00 am – dusk in the winter.

Want to elope in a State Park? Contact me to start planning your elopement!

A couple walks away in the distance toward Rattlesnake Lake. A forested mountain rises up in front of them.

Best Places to Elope in Washington: “Bonus” Locations

I could have just added on some more state parks, but I know you want variety, and I’m here for you. These next four places don’t technically fit into any of the categories above, but they’re delightful, so they have a place on the list. Are we on board? Great.

Leavenworth

Leavenworth is a charming, Bavarian-styled village. And before you write it off as “not belonging on this list,” hear me out. Leavenworth is one of the best places to elope in Washington if you’re looking for a hybrid experience.

What I mean by that is this: not everyone who elopes wants to get up at 2 am and spend their entire day hiking in the mountains. I’m here for that, but I also know that it’s not the default experience. Some people want to get ready at a cute hotel, experience The Outdoors and exchange their vows in a beautiful place, and then have dinner at a restaurant nearby with their loved ones.

Leavenworth is one of the easiest places to do that. You’ve got both the proximity to stunning locations and a cute town that won’t stress you out like downtown Seattle.

Plus it’s really cute.

Distance from Seattle: ~120 miles

Entry fee: This is not a park. I just put this here for continuity. …But also Leavenworth is in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest near the Enchantments, so scroll up for that info.

Weather: This may be the toastiest location on this list! The hottest months of the year are June-September, creeping into the 90s, so most people tend to visit just before, in April and May. November-March can dip down below zero and rarely hit 50 F. Not too much rain out here.

Things to note:

  • More than 2.5 million people visit Leavenworth every year. If you want privacy, I wouldn’t recommend getting married in town, but it’s a great starting point to drive/hike to some gorgeous places.
  • There are some interesting events, mostly later in the year, like Bavarian IceFest, an Autumn Leaf Festival, Oktoberfest, Christkindlmarkt, and a Christmas Lighting Festival.

San Juan Islands

We’ve got an archipelago!

There are 172 islands and reefs of various sizes, just east of Anacortes. Four of them are linked up in the ferry system: Orcas, San Juan, Lopez, and Shaw. They have the most people/lodging/dining/activities (except Shaw, that’s a wee bit smaller).

We obviously can’t go through all of them here, but do investigate the islands if you’re looking for something out of the ordinary! There’s so much to do. You can go whale watching, biking, kayaking, hiking, or experience one of the many events going on throughout the year.

Distance from Seattle: ~80 miles to Anacortes, then a trip out to the islands.

Entry fee: Again, I could take this out, but I’m committed now.

Weather: Summers hover around 70 F, and winters will be about 40 F. Coastal life.

Things to note:

  • The islands are pet friendly!
  • You can take a ferry, a seaplane, or a private boat from the mainland.
  • Different islands have different amenities, activities, and events. I can help you find the right island for you if you want to elope here!

Alpine Lakes High Camp

Technically, I could talk about the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area, but that’s expected, so we’re going a bit cooler than that. And by “cool” I mean rad, not cold.

Alpine Lakes High Camp is a collection of backcountry cabins in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area, about 15 miles east of Steven’s Pass. Each cabin is uniquely adorable, and I don’t use the word “adorable” lightly. There’s also a lodge and a sauna, making this one of the best places to elope in Washington if you want to celebrate with your people without having to stay close to a city.

You’ve also got incredible access to outdoor recreation. Trails and lakes that you either have to hike all day or backpack to get to are right on your backcountry doorstep. Hello scenery, hello privacy, hello amazing elopement experience.

Distance from Seattle: ~120 miles

Entry fee: Depends on the cabin you rent, time of year, and length of stay.

Weather: High Camp is at 5,000 ft, so bring a jacket. July and August can get up into the 70s, and December and January rarely get above freezing. Snow for days.

Things to note:

  • There’s a private road leading up to Alpine Lakes High Camp. They’ll meet you at the bottom and drive you up in one of their vehicles (depending on the weather).
  • This area is completely off the grid. No electricity in the cabins, and outhouses rather than private plumbing. The water on site comes from a local mountain spring!
  • Dogs are allowed for $30/night. Max 2 dogs per cabin and max 6 total dogs on site at once.

Snoqualmie Pass

Snoqualmie Pass is a mountain pass through the middle of the Cascade Range for I-90. It’s super close to (and directly east of) Seattle, which makes the whole area pretty popular. The PCT crosses through here, as well as many other hiking trails, viewpoints, and ski areas.

When I put this on the list, what I really meant was “this entire area in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National forest between I-90 and WA-410 is one of the best places to elope in Washington.”

There’s so much variety here, and most of it is incredibly accessible. The only downside is the general popularity, which means you’ll have to aim for early morning on a weekday if you want privacy at some of the busier places.

Distance from Seattle: ~55 miles

Entry fee: Depends on whether you’re on a forest trail or at a park.

Weather: Once again, June-September are the calmest/warm months, usually hanging out in the 70s but sometimes bouncing up over 100 F. November-March can very easily be below zero.

Things to note:

  • The proximity to Seattle makes this area one of the busiest ones on the list.
  • There are several places in this general region that don’t require permits for small weddings.


Would you believe me if I said that this is only the tip of the iceberg…?

Washington has so much variety to offer you that I guarantee we can find something that matches up with what you and your partner are looking for. If you’re wondering why I didn’t add a bunch of places out in eastern Washington, it’s because I don’t live there and I’m obsessed with the western side of the state. BUT there are beautiful places out there too, and several are in my database.

Because I have a location database that helps me pick out exactly what you’re looking for. With this many options, sometimes the nerd approach is the best approach.

Anyway, if you want to elope, and you want Washington to witness it, I’d love to help you dream up your day and find the best places possible for you. As you can tell by the length of this article, location scouting is one of my very favourite things to do.

Head over to my contact page to send me a message and get the ball rolling!

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