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September 16, 2022

Your Ultimate North Cascades National Park Elopement Guide 

North Cascades National Park is one of the least visited national parks in the country – but it’s not because the glacier capped peaks and the glistening alpine lakes won’t take your breath away! The park is a little off the beaten path, further away from major cities than Washington’s other national parks, but there are plenty of adventures to be found on the rugged trails and gorgeous lakes. If you’re dreaming of a wedding day that’s one of a kind and full of new experiences, this guide will tell you everything you need to know to plan your North Cascades National Park elopement.

Here’s what’s in this North Cascades National Park Elopement Guide:

  • The Best Places to Elope in North Cascades National Park
  • When to Elope in the North Cascades
  • North Cascades National Park Wedding Permits
  • Getting Legally Married When You Elope in the North Cascades 
  • North Cascades National Park Elopement Timelines & Things to Do
  • North Cascades National Park Elopement Packages

The Best Places to Elope in North Cascades National Park

The North Cascades offer breathtaking views around every turn – so no matter where you decide to say your vows, it’s a pretty epic place to begin your marriage! 

Part of my job as an elopement photographer is location scouting, which means after I get to know you (and figure out if you want to hike, if you’re bringing guests, what you want to do, that sort of thing), I’ll give you a personalized, custom list of location options to make choosing your dream location easy! But, until then, here are a few ideas for the best places to elope in North Cascades National Park.

The Best Hikes for a North Cascades National Park Elopement

If you’re dreaming of an adventurous elopement where you climb to the summit and say your vows on a mountaintop, North Cascades National Park has some incredible trails! 

A couple walking through the meadow during their North Cascades National Park elopement.

Heather-Maple Pass Loop

The Heather-Maple Pass Loop is one of the most stunning trails in the North Cascades. The 7.2 mile loop gains 2,000 feet of elevation, so while it’s a challenge, it’s not overly strenuous and offers an amazing hike for your elopement day! You’ll walk through the forest, ascending to views of alpine lakes, with absolutely jaw dropping ridges surrounding you at the top. This is one of the only dog friendly hikes in all of Washington’s national park, which is an added bonus if you want to bring your pup!

Sourdough Lookout Trail

This hike is pretty brutal – with 3.8 miles each way and an elevation gain of over 4,000 feet! But, it’s so worth it if you’re prepared, and if you’re looking for a challenging trail for your elopement day, the mountain views are so worth it. You can also turn this into a multi day adventure, and camp amongst the wildflowers!

Stetattle Trail

The Stetattle Trail is less popular than some of the other hikes in the North Cascades, so it can be a really great option for avoiding crowds! The hike is 6.6 miles long, with 1,574 feet of elevation gain, so it offers a nice adventure without being too difficult. You’ll wander along the river and see several waterfalls.

The Best Easily Accessible Places to Elope in North Cascades National Park

Some couples aren’t looking for a strenuous hike – whether you’re eloping with a few guests or just don’t want to break a sweat on your wedding day, there are still plenty of absolutely stunning options for places to elope in North Cascades National Park!

A couple standing on a rock, with mountains behind them during their North Cascades National Park elopement

Artist Point

Artist Point isn’t technically in the park, but it’s too beautiful to leave off the list! Just outside of North Cascades National Park, you’ll find the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, which offers very similar views to the national park. Artist Point is one of the most incredible places – with unbelievable views right in the parking lot, you’ll be surrounded by mountain peaks in every direction! You can take a short walk away from the parking lot and find yourself in a more secluded spot at Artist Point, and there are also several hiking trails that begin here, if you want to head out for an adventure after the ceremony.

Gorge Creek Falls Trail

This trail in North Cascades National Park is paved, and just half a mile long, so it’s an easy spot for couples who want to tie the knot in front of a waterfall! The falls cascade down a rocky cliff, and you’ll also have some views of the forest and the turquoise blue lake.

Washington Pass Overlook

For a stunning view that’s also ADA accessible, this is the best place to elope in North Cascades National Park! The Washington Pass Overlook is a quarter mile off the road, with incredible views of the mountain peaks.

The Best Time for a North Cascades National Park Elopement

Like any mountainous region, the weather in North Cascades National Park gets pretty dramatic – and different times of year will bring a completely different experience to your elopement day. 

Summer

For most couples, summer is going to be the best time to elope in the North Cascades, especially if you want to hike. Snow sticks around for a while in the mountains, so the hiking season usually begins in mid-July, though some lower elevation areas can be snow free sooner! Wildflower meadows bloom, wildlife comes out, and the hikes are just breathtaking. This is also the most popular time to visit North Cascades National Park, so to avoid the crowds, be sure to plan your elopement for a weekday.

A couple walking hand in hand as the sun sets behind them during their North Cascades National Park elopement.

Fall

Fall is incredible in the North Cascades. The park is famous for the larches, whose golden needles in late September make the landscape even more incredible! Visitors love hiking here in early fall to catch a glimpse of the larches, but weather can be somewhat unpredictable. Snow usually starts falling in October, but some years bring early snowstorms.

Winter

Winters, though not everyone’s cup of tea, can be amazing for those who love the snow! The mountains are usually covered in snow from late October to June, so if you want to plan your North Cascades National Park elopement for this time of year, you’ll get the winter wonderland mostly to yourself. Bundle up and bring some hot chocolate, and book a cozy cabin to hang out in!

Spring

Spring is short in North Cascades National Park, and often very unpredictable! Lower elevation areas can start to warm up in May, while snow sticks around into the summer on the mountain peaks. This can be a great time to elope if you want to avoid the summer crowds, and it’s also the best time to see waterfalls, as they’ll be in full force as the snow starts to melt!

Avoiding Crowds When You Elope in North Cascades National Park

Along with gorgeous location and ideal weather, crowds should be another consideration for your elopement day! You likely don’t want an audience as you exchange vows, but it can be difficult to get some privacy. Luckily, there are a few things you can do!

First, consider eloping during shoulder season. Peak season in the North Cascades is July through September, so shoulder season is the time right before and right after this – June and October. These times of year give you a better chance at good weather, but they aren’t as crowded as the summer!

I also recommend planning your ceremony for a weekday, since it’ll always be at least a little less busy than the weekend. Just make sure to avoid holidays, and once you have your elopement date picked, schedule your ceremony for sunrise or sunset. Sunrise is extra private, but sunsets will usually still be less busy than the middle of the day.

But, the number one best way to avoid crowds is to find an elopement location that isn’t as well known! This can be a little difficult, but that’s where I come in. I’ll give you a personalized list of location recommendations, which will include hidden gems and off the beaten spots, where you can have stunning views, without all the people.

A couple standing on a rock, with mountains behind them during their North Cascades National Park elopement.

North Cascades National Park Wedding Permit

All weddings and elopements in North Cascades National Park require a wedding permit – even if it’s just the two of you! A special use permit ensures that you can tie the knot legally, and that the park is aware of the plan – for bigger elopements, there can be some restrictions and rules about where you can have your ceremony, but I’ll help you contact the park and figure out these details!

To get a North Cascades National Park wedding permit, there’s an application fee of $50, and you need to contact the park for an application. I recommend applying for your permit as early as you can, to ensure that there’s plenty of time to process the application and issue the permit!

A couple exchanging vows during their North Cascades National Park elopement.

Getting Legally Married When You Elope in the North Cascades

Along with the permit to elope, there’s some more paperwork to be done to ensure that you get legally married. You don’t need to live in Washington to get a marriage license, but your marriage license does need to be from this state to get married in the North Cascades. 

You can get a marriage license at any county clerk’s office in the state – if you’re a local, choose an office that’s close to you! For couples who are traveling to tie the knot in North Cascades National Park, you can get your marriage license by mail, which is usually the easiest option. You can apply online at the King County office, located in Seattle, and then get your marriage license mailed to you! You’ll need a photo ID for both of you, and there’s an application fee. The fee in King County is $89, but it can be different if you apply at a different office.

There’s a three day waiting period in Washington, which means that after you get your marriage license, you need to wait three days to have your ceremony. But it expired after 60 days, so don’t wait too long! 

During the ceremony, you’ll need an officiant and two witnesses to sign the marriage license. You can hire a professional elopement officiant to perform your ceremony, or even ask a friend or family member to get ordained. It’s super easy to do at ULC.org!

But, don’t worry – if you aren’t planning on inviting any guests, and you want a private, “just us” elopement day, you have options! As your elopement photographer, I also double as an ordained officiant, and can sign the paperwork to legally marry you. Witnesses just need to be over the age of eighteen, so if you don’t have guests, you can ask any of your other vendors to sign, or you can find two people on the trail or at your elopement location!

Elopement Timelines and Things to Do When You Elope in the North Cascades

Your elopement day should be an adventure – one that really reflects who you are, and one that you truly love. Think about how you want to get married, without getting caught up in limitations, rules, or “shoulds” about your wedding day. Anything you can imagine, whether it’s a hike, a kayaking trip, a helicopter tour, or a picnic, is possible!

To give you an idea of what a North Cascades National Park elopement can look like, here are a few sample elopement timelines.

North Cascades Elopement With Family

9:00 Your dad makes pancakes at the cabin, and you have coffee and breakfast with the family.

10:30 You and your partner sneak away for a little nature walk around the Airbnb, spending some quiet time together before the day gets into full swing.

11:30 Your hair and makeup begins, and you and your partner split up to get ready.

1:30 You both get dressed, putting on your elopement attire.

2:00 You do a first look outside the cabin, seeing each other all dressed up!

2:30 After a few photos, you and your family pile into the car and drive to your ceremony location at Artist Point

4:00 You arrive at Artist Point, and after taking in the view from the parking lot, you have a quick snack before beginning the ceremony.

4:30 You all take a walk to your ceremony spot with epic views of the mountains, then you and your partner exchange vows with a ceremony officiated by a family member.

5:00 You’re married! After lots of hugs and some happy tears, you take photos with your family.

5:30 You and your family head back to the parking lot, where you sign your marriage license, then celebrate by popping some sparkling water.

6:00 Your family goes back to the Airbnb to get dinner ready, and the two of you explore a little, taking some couples photos as the sun begins to set.

7:30 You drive back to the cabin for dinner and cake!

“Just Us” Hiking Elopement 

8:00 You wake up and have coffee and breakfast on the porch of your cabin, starting the day slow.

10:00 Hair and makeup begins, and the two of you get ready together.

12:00 Hair and makeup is done, so you pack your things and load them into the car, then take off for the trailhead!

2:00 You arrive at the trailhead for the Heather-Maple Pass Loop, lace up your hiking boots, and start hiking through the forest, taking in the views along the way.

4:00 You take the half mile long detour to Lake Ann, where you change into your elopement attire and do your first look!

4:30 After some photos next to the alpine lake, you stop for a lunch break.

5:30 We continue to the summit.

6:30 At the top of the hike, you take in the jaw dropping views of the ridgeline before beginning your ceremony and exchanging vows!

7:00 After the ceremony, we take some photos and explore, then start heading back to the trailhead

9:00 At the car, you sign your marriage license and cut your cake as the sun is setting!

A couple standing in front of a mountain peak during their North Cascades National Park elopement.

Washington Elopement Packages

Your elopement day should be perfect for you – which means it’ll be a day that’s unique, one of a kind, and created just for the two of you! My job as an elopement photographer is to make your dream wedding come to life, and to help you plan the adventure of a lifetime. I’ll be there with personalized location lists, recommendations for vendors, places to stay, things to do, and more, and I’ll make a custom timeline for the day. You’ll have a stress free wedding day, where you have the adventure of a lifetime and marry your best friend!

If you’re ready to tie the knot, or want to know more about North Cascades National Park elopement packages, contact me!

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