Post Summary: I freaking love exploring any and EVERY type of landscape with my couples (and in my own life), but the mountains just have a special place in my heart. There’s truly no feeling like hiking through a quiet mountain range, surrounded by nothing but the beauty of nature, jagged mountain peaks, and wildlife! I’ve put together this mountain elopement guide for any couples who are dreaming of eloping in the mountains, and trust me – it is a GOOD one. From the best U.S. & international mountain elopement locations to my top planning + safety tips, I’ve included everything you’ll need to plan an epic day.
Sure, I may be biased since I live in an area with some of the most stunning mountains in the world (PNW for the win!), but I will NEVER, ever get tired of exploring the mountains – both in my personal life, and with my incredible couples. Want to take a quick hike to a gorgeous viewpoint overlooking alpine valleys? Let’s do it! Dreaming of an overnight backpacking trip to get to a mountaintop spot where you can say your vows? Count me in! There’s something so magical and honestly healing about spending time in the mountains, which makes it a perfect type of environment for adventure elopements. Let’s start this guide off with all the reasons why you should elope in the mountains!
Why Elope in the Mountains?
Wondering if a mountain elopement is right for you? I’ve put together two quick lists to help you decide whether you should elope in the mountains, or whether a different landscape might be better for what you’re envisioning.
A mountain elopement might be right for you if. . .
- You feel most at home in the mountains, or the mountains bring you a sense of peace
- You want to have under 10 guests
- You want to elope in the summer
- You’re ready to adjust your plans if necessary, due to weather, unexpected snow, etc.
- You want to hike to get to a beautiful viewpoint
- You & your partner are super adventurous
- You’re ready to follow LNT principles & respect the environment
- You want access to a variety of outdoor activities
A mountain elopement might NOT be right for you if. . .
- You want to have more than 10 guests
- You want to elope in the early spring, late fall, or winter
- You really, really want a sunny day & warm weather, and will be disappointed if you don’t get it
- You get easily stressed out by plan changes/last-minute adjustments
- You have guests with mobility limitations who need an accessible location
- You know you really want photos at a certain spot and will do whatever it take to get them, even if the spot is off-trail/goes against LNT principles
- You’d rather keep your outfits clean & avoid sweating in your makeup/with your hair done
Best Time of Year to Elope in the Mountains
What’s the best time of year to elope in the mountains?
The accessibility window for mountains, especially locations at higher elevations, is usually pretty small. Because of the higher altitude, there’s only a brief window of time where the mountains won’t have snow covering them, and snow can also fall earlier or melt later than expected. For mountains in the U.S. the best time to elope is typically between late July - early September, as that’s when most of the snow will be melted at all elevations and temperatures will be warmest!
However, keep in mind that we can’t predict the weather in the mountains, as much as I wish we could! Even if snow typically melts by early June at the location you’re looking at, it’s totally possible that one year, the snow might not melt until mid-July. Or if snow usually starts falling at higher elevations in October, it could fall early in September if it’s a colder season! This is why it’s SUPER important to be flexible if you want to elope in the mountains, and to have backup locations in place (which I’ll talk a little more about later).
A few other things to keep in mind when picking a time of year for your mountain elopement:
- Peak wildflower bloom
- Extreme weather – e.g. storms, floods, wildfires
- Rainy/muddy conditions
- Sunrise/sunset time
Top 21 U.S. Mountain Elopement Locations
Before I dive into how to plan your mountain elopement, how about we look at some potential locations?! One of the most fun parts of planning your elopement is picking a location, because the options are freaking ENDLESS. This is your day and it can look however you want, which means you can go anywhere that fits your vision + your budget! Below is a list of the top U.S. mountain elopement locations, ranging from my fave places in the PNW all the way to Texas, and even up to the tropical mountains of Hawaii.
1. Mt. Rainier National Park | Washington
2. Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie Forest | Washington
3. North Cascades National Park | Washington
4. Olympic National Park | Washington
5. Glacier National Park | Montana
6. Denali National Park | Alaska
7. Kenai Fjords National Park | Alaska
8. San Juan Mountains | Colorado
9. Breckenridge | Colorado
10. Telluride | Colorado
11. Aspen | Colorado
12. Yosemite National Park | California
13. Mammoth Lakes | California
14. Lake Tahoe | California
15. Blue Ridge Mountains | North Carolina
16. Crater Lake National Park | Oregon
17. Smith Rock State Park | Oregon
18. Big Bend National Park | Texas
19. Kauai | Hawaii
20. Haleakalā National Park | Hawaii
21. Grand Teton National Park | Wyoming
Top 10 International Mountain Elopement Locations
If you’d like to elope abroad instead, here are the top international mountain elopement locations, outside of the U.S.!
1. The Dolomites | Italy
2. Torres Del Paine National Park | Patagonia
3. Picos de Europa | Spain
4. Rainbow Mountain | Peru
5. Kerlingarfjöll | Iceland
6. The Alps | France, Italy, Switzerland
7. Banff National Park | Canada
8. Zermatt | Switzerland
9. Gásadalur | Faroe Islands
10. Hardanger | Norway
How to Plan your Mountain Elopement
I know how overwhelming the planning process can be, trust me – but hopefully since you’ve chosen to elope, it’ll become a little simpler for you than if you were to have a traditional wedding! Here are 5 important steps to follow when planning your mountain elopement.
1. Choose your hiking level
Before you choose your location, you need to figure out what level of hiking you want to do! Do you want a paved path & accessible views with less than a 0.5-mile walk? Would you rather hike 2-3 miles through alpine meadows to get to a beautiful viewpoint? Or are you envisioning more of a full hiking adventure of 5+ miles? No option is right or wrong – it’s totally up to you what you’re comfortable with, and what level of challenge you’re looking for!
Different mountains have different levels of accessibility. Some have a wide range of trails with options for everyone (even wheelchair-accessible trails!), while some only offer longer, more difficult treks. Be realistic with your hiking experience: if you haven’t ever hiked more than 1-2 moderate miles, trying to tackle a strenuous, 8-mile hike just for the views won’t be a very fun experience for you on your elopement day!
Keep in mind the accessibility levels of your guests, too. If you really want to have your best friend present at your ceremony, but maybe they can’t complete a 3-mile hike, opt for a shorter hike for your ceremony. Then you can always do a longer hike just the two of you later on for some portraits/private vows, or vice-versa – have your ceremony by yourselves at the freaking mountain top that takes 5 miles to get to, then take an easier walk to a beautiful view the next day with your guests.
2. Choose your views
Once you’ve considered your hiking level, choose what type of views you’re envisioning! Not all mountains are created equal: when you think of eloping in the mountains, what does that mean to you? Do you want mountains in the background? Or do you want to be standing up on the dang peak?! If there’s a bright blue, beautiful alpine lake you’re dreaming of eloping at, do you want to be standing at the base of it or at a vista overlooking it?
Alpine landscapes are truly one-of-a-kind and are freaking unbeatable when it comes to natural beauty, thanks to the wide array of scenery + views they offer. Some couples dream of eloping in front of an alpine lake with reflections of the mountains, while some want to be at a super high elevation with breathtaking 360-degree mountain range views.
Here are some options to consider when choosing your location, and when you’re picturing what you want your elopement to look like:
- Mountains in the background vs. on top of the peak
- At the base of vs. above an alpine lake
- 360-degree mountain range views
- Fall colors
- Lush forests vs. open meadows
- Rolling hills vs. jagged mountain peaks
3. Apply for permits + marriage license
Next, you need to apply for any necessary permits and get your marriage license.
If you’re getting married in the U.S., you’ll need to get a marriage license in the state you’re eloping in! Fees & processes typically vary by county, so go ahead and start by looking up “[insert state] marriage license,” and you’ll find the info you need.
If you’re U.S. citizens and you want to elope abroad, you have a couple options:
- Get your marriage license in the country you’re eloping in, and legally get married in that country (typically a long process that requires you to go through the embassy)
- Get your marriage license in your home state in the U.S., and have a symbolic ceremony abroad (no need to go through the legal stuff – just get your license in the U.S. before or after your trip!)
In addition to getting your marriage license, you’ll need to get any permits required by your locations. For national parks in the U.S. you will need a Special Use Permit (find info on the NPS website), which allows you to have a legal ceremony in the park. Rules, regulations, & fees vary by park, but usually require you to apply at least a few weeks or months in advance!
For U.S. state parks, you may need to get a Special Use Permit, but many states only require this if you have a large group. Be sure to also look into any city/local permitting regulations for public parks, etc. too!
4. Choose your activities
Another one of the most fun parts of dreaming up your ideal elopement is thinking about what activities you want to incorporate! Because you’ve chosen to elope instead of have a traditional wedding, the options are ENDLESS as far as what you can add to your timeline. There are no limitations or restrictions put on you by a venue/family members/expectations, so you can literally put together a timeline filled with all of your favorite things + experiences you will never forget!
Here are some of my favorite mountain elopement activities and ideas that I’ve seen couples incorporate into their timeline:
- Mountain top picnic
- S’mores around a campfire
- Hot tubbing at your Airbnb
- Hiring a private chef
5. Create your guest list
Finally, decide who you want to invite to your elopement. I recommend keeping your guest list under 10 people, since you need to make sure your location (especially if it’s a small viewpoint/overlook or a spot on a trail) can fit your entire group, and so you’re not overwhelmed by trying to handle a ton of people. Remember to keep the accessibility needs of your guests in mind when deciding who to invite (especially if you’re dead-set on a challenging hike), as well as their ability to travel + budget. Can they only take certain days off of work? Are they able to travel to your location? Etc.!
Check out one of my favorite blog posts, How to Include Your Loved Ones On Your Elopement Day, for some fun ideas of how to have an incredible day with your friends + fam beside you!
Important Things to Consider When Eloping in the Mountains
When you elope in the mountains, there are a variety of factors you need to keep in mind that might not be applicable if you were to elope in the desert, in the forest, etc. Here are the top most important things to consider for your mountain elopements to ensure you have the smoothest, most enjoyable experience possible!
- The sun will rise later + set sooner in the mountains than it will at a wide-open, flat landscape: Plan your ceremony and portraits accordingly! I’ll help you out with this, don’t worry.
- The weather in the mountains is unpredictable: Keeping an open mind and setting proper expectations beforehand is key. Make sure you read my guide to How to Handle Bad Weather on Your Wedding Day to get my best tips for embracing any type of weather that you might get hit with!
- Have backup plans in place: Because the weather can be so unpredictable, and in case of unexpected road closures, traffic, construction, etc., it’s important to have backup plans + locations on hand in advance. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst – and don’t miss my blog post about Why You NEED to Have Backup Plans for Your Elopement for my best advice!
- Cell service is almost always non-existent: If you’re planning to meet somewhere in the mountains, have a set plan + location in place beforehand. To make it easier, meet somewhere in town with service and carpool to your location together.
- Be mindful of altitude sickness: If you’re hiking to a high elevation or eloping somewhere at a high altitude, be mindful of the possibility of altitude sickness. Your body will need time to adjust, and could react poorly if you’re not used to it – so maybe don’t pick a crazy long or intense hike that’ll be hard on your body/breath!
- Plan your elopement with Leave No Trace principles in mind: Eloping in the mountains means you’ll be exploring natural areas that are super susceptible to damage. Read up on LNT before you elope so that you can minimize your impact on the land, and make sure to leave it as beautiful as you found it.
Mountain Elopement Safety Tips
Lastly, I wanted to give you a few safety tips to make sure you & your guests can have a safe, incredible mountain elopement experience!
- Bring layers: You never know how chilly the weather will get while you’re hiking!
- Bring water: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate – even if it’s cold out.
- Bring bear spray: If you’ll be in an area with bears, make sure you can protect yourself.
- Wear proper hiking footwear: I know it can be tempting to only pack cute shoes that go with your outfit, but trust me – safety comes first! Wear proper hiking boots, and change into more stylish shoes for your ceremony, if you want to.
- Bring a headlamp: Even if you aren’t planning on hiking in the dark. It’s best to be prepared!
- Download offline maps: For any roads you’ll be driving on, back roads/potential detours, and trails/park maps.
And that wraps up this mountain elopement guide! I hope you’re feeling so ready + confident in your ability to plan your DREAM mountain elopement now, and that you’re getting excited about all the possibilities you have in front of you! I would freaking love to help bring your dream day to life, tag along with you, and document it all – I would consider myself a pretty badass mountain elopement photographer thanks to the countless couples I’ve worked with who have eloped in the mountains.
You can take a look at my mountain elopement packages + pricing below and reach out to me here if you feel like we’d be a great fit – I can’t wait to chat!
Mountain Elopement & Intimate Wedding Packages
- Full day of elopement photography coverage
- Your own personal elopement guide & consultant
- Unique and personalized location scouting
- Vendor recommendations
- Permit and marriage license assistance
- Hand-crafted elopement timeline
- Created just-for-you activity list
- Unlimited guides and resources
- 100+ page How to Elope Guidebook
- Optional complimentary officiant service
- Digital online gallery with full resolution image and printing rights
- Sneak peek images within 1 week
- Photographer travel fees covered
Starting at $6,500 for U.S. elopements & $10,000 for international elopements
PIN FOR LATER
In order to make your dream elopement day happen, it's super important that we connect and that you feel comfortable with me! The best way to do this is to reach out and schedule a call so you can learn more about me and I can learn about you two so i can document what's real + the most important to you.