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March 15, 2023

How to Elope in Olympic National Park Elopement – Washington Elopement Photographer

Everything you need to know about planning your elopement in Olympic National Park from an elopement photographer

Olympic National Park Elopement in the mountains

Olympic National Park in Washington State is unreal. There’s so many options for different scenery within such a small area. Most places only have one or two, while the Olympic Peninsula offers any kind of landmark you could want. Somehow, these things packed in a small enough area that you can see all of them on your elopement day. Even better, many people haven’t even heard of Olympic National Park which means fewer crowds than other Washington national parks.

Planning an elopement can be overwhelming, especially when most people you know went the traditional wedding route. This blog will get you started on the right path to planning your unconventional, true-to-you wedding day in Olympic National Park.

What’s Covered in this Blog:

Where to Elope in Olympic National Park

How to Legally Get Married in Washington State

When to Elope in Olympic National Park

Eloping with Your Dog in Olympic National Park

Elopement Permits for Olympic National Park

Where to Elope in Olympic National Park

Olympic is the most scenically diverse place in the Pacific Northwest. If you’re struggling to pick just one kind of scenery, this is the park for you. There’s multiple options for all these types of scenery!

1. Beaches (Ruby Beach, Kalaloch Beach, and more)

Olympic National Park elopement on Ruby Beach

Olympic National Park boasts two main kinds of beaches: the rocky western side and the classic beach look on the northern side (facing Canada). The western side has crashing waves, raging wind, and rocky beaches – the kinds of beaches people come to the Pacific Northwest to find. The scenery is epic, if you don’t mind some wind and moderate crowds. It also sits on the rainy side of the mountain range so you’re more likely to hit inclement weather. These sections are typically more isolated. There are fewer towns, and the towns that are there are much smaller. 

The second kind of beach is the northern edge of the Peninsula. This is the coast along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which is the stretch of water between Washington and Canada. This sheltered section makes the waves far more mellow and beaches less windy. While the beaches are still beautiful, they don’t have the same epic scope of the western coast beaches. Some stretches have a view of the Olympic Mountains, and some conglomerate rock cliffs. The northern coast of the peninsula has larger towns and more town amenities. 

As with all beach locations, make sure to check the tides! Some locations aren’t accessible at high tide and others can feel crowded when the tide is high. You can check the Port Angeles tides here and the La Push/Forks area tides here. An elopement photographer experienced with the coast can help you plan for tides.

Both stretches of beach are great depending on the rest of your timeline. The park is very large so I often recommend whichever beach is closest to the location most important to you. An experienced elopement photographer can help you piece together your options based on drive time and favorite spots.

2. Mountains (Hurricane Ridge)

Olympic National Park elopement at Hurricane Ridge

Mountains are awesome… but how about mountains you can easily view from a parking lot? Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park has just that. The Olympic Peninsula has some of the most beautiful mountains you can view from your car. There’s some great trails of all lengths to get you away from the parking lot for some beautiful views and smaller crowds. The hillsides overlooking the Olympic Mountains fill with wildflowers in July/August and add some extra magic to the stunning mountains (you can learn more about visiting during wildflower season here).

This stunning location is accessible year round. In the winter though, it is only open Friday through Sunday. All vehicles are required to have chains for their winter visit. Check out the National Park Service’s site for updated info for your visit. Accessibility is much easier in the summer months but is also much busier. There’s one main parking lot and it is often full in the summer. Make sure you work around the crowds to make sure you get a parking spot and a more private elopement experience. 

As of May 2023, the visitor center at Hurricane Ridge burned down. Because of this, entrance has been limited and parking areas reduced. The situation continues to evolve so make sure to check the NPS website for current information.

3.  Rainforest (Hoh Rainforest and beyond)

Olympic National Park Elopement - Hoh Rainforest

It’s tough to beat the Hoh Rainforest. Dense green forest, moss covered trees, fern-covered forest floor, and a variety of a plant life like you’ve never seen. While it does get a lot of rain (as the name implies), summer is a great time to catch the rainforest in drier conditions and explore the incredible biodiversity of the forest. Fellow science nerds, there’s no way you’ll want to miss this spot.

Beyond the Hoh Rainforest, there’s all sorts of forest trails to explore. Since the Hoh Rainforest is iconic, it can get busy and the parking lot does regularly fill in the summer with waits up to 1 hour to get a spot. Thankfully the climate creates lots of amazing spots to explore the moss covered forests.

4. Waterfalls (Marymere Falls, Sol Duc Falls, and Beyond)

Olympic National Park waterfall elopement

There’s a waterfall around every corner. All the rainforest rain creates tons of waterfalls. With so many waterfall options, it’s not hard to find one with minimal crowds. You don’t have to look far to find a hidden falls that misses most of the tourist traffic.

I’d recommend some looking around on AllTrails (or talking with your elopement photographer) to find a waterfall closest to whatever other location you’re working with. There really is some kind of falls everywhere and it comes down to what level of hike you want and the location you want.

5. Lakes (Lake Crescent and Lake Quinault)

Olympic National Park Elopement - Lake Crescent

As a born-and-raised North Idahoan, I’m a snob when it comes to lakes. Lake Crescent and Lake Quinault are two of the only lakes I’ve found that can top the North Idaho lakes I was raised on. Towering mountains surround both lakes. Both have extensive beaches you can visit to get away from the crowds. 

Both lakes are similar. One is closer to the western side’s rain forest and rocky coast. The other is closer to the bigger towns and Hurricane Ridge. This is another option you can’t go wrong with. Both are amazing and you can picked based on convenience. 

Olympic National Park wedding ceremony in La Push, WA

Most Olympic National Park elopement spots are in Clallam County, and in Washington, you get your marriage license through the county level. You can pick up your license in any county and get married in another county as long as you’re still in the state of Washington. You do not have to live in Washington or the county to be able to obtain a marriage license there. 

To pick up your marriage license, you both must be present and have valid photo IDs. As of March 2023, you do not need an appointment to get your license.

When picking the county you want to pick up your license in, consider your plans. If you live in WA, it will be easiest to get it through the county you live in. If you’re traveling from out of town, make sure you pick a county seat along the route that you’ll be driving through during normal business hours during the week.

There is a 3 day waiting period for your marriage license to be valid. The license expires 60 days after the 3 day waiting period is over. You must mail or drop off your signed documents to the original county within 30 days of your ceremony.

The ceremony must be performed by a judge, ordained minister, or priest. Finding someone ordained can be as easy as having your friend go online and get ordained for your ceremony (just make sure WA recognizes the ordination). You can also hire someone to do a more formal ceremony (check out this resource on why you should consider hiring a professional officiant). The officiant does not need to be a resident of the state of WA to perform the ceremony. Two witnesses are required for your wedding ceremony. 

Here’s a resource from specifically Clallam County. Here’s a more detailed resource for King County. Make sure you use information from the actual county you will be getting your license from. If you have any questions, make sure to give them a call! They’re great at walking you through the process.

When to Elope in Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park elopement on the Washington Coast

The best time of year to elope in Olympic National Park is June-September. These months are least likely to have rain and will have the best temperatures. Unlike many other Washington national parks, it doesn’t have as many issues with snow. If you’re up for some rain (and possibly a Hurricane Ridge snow closure), you can elope in any season!

The Olympic Peninsula has unique weather. We have the mountains to blame for this. On one side of the Peninsula, there’s a rainforest where most of the rain drops. On the opposite side of the mountains, rain is far less frequent. The tall mountains force the rain out of the clouds so by the time the clouds move east, they’ve dropped most of their rain. So even if there’s rain in the forecast on one side of the mountains, it may not rain on the other side. This gives you flexibility to shuffle your location if a rainstorm is in the forecast.

Thanks to the coastal location, there’s not much change in the weather. The temperatures drop in the winter but very rarely hit freezing. The temperatures are largely similar on both sides of the mountain’s rain shadow. 

The main seasonal change is the rain. The rainy side of the mountain (Forks area) sees a huge spike in rain in the winter. You have a high chance of running into rain if you pick winter and much lower chance in the summer months. You can see more data on weather in Forks, the rainy side of the Peninsula here

On the rain shadow side, you’ll have better luck year round. The temperatures get lower there, but you’re significantly less likely to run into rain in the winter. We’re talking 300 mm of rainfall difference in comparison to the rainy side! If you want to elope in the winter, you’ll probably want to stick to the Port Angeles side. Here’s more data on the rain shadow side of the Peninsula (Port Angeles). 

Eloping with Your Dog in Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park elopement with dogs

Unlike most national parks, Olympic National Park has lots of dog friendly options. The whole park is not dog friendly but it has significantly more options than most national parks. You can find the most up-to-date dog friendly spots on the National Park Service website.

When looking at dog friendly options, you’ll find options for beach, lake, forest, and waterfall locations. The main mountain view at Hurricane Ridge does not have dog friendly hikes but dogs are allowed in parking areas. Hurricane Ridge has stunning views from the parking lot so it’s even feasible to enjoy with your pup there as well.

Even though your dog is welcome in the park, make sure to be respectful of other visitors and wildlife. This is why many parks have strict limits on pets. In some spots, wildlife will get very close. Make sure your dog is either non-reactive to wildlife or check the surrounding area before getting your dog out of the car.

The beauty of the area is not confined exclusively in the national park borders. The entire Olympic Peninsula is packed with National Forest, Department of Natural Resources, and Washington State Park lands with more stunning views and hikes. If you’re not finding the right fit in the park, you’re sure to find another location just beyond the park borders.

Elopement Permits for Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park elopement at Lake Crescent

Permits are a very important part of using public land for weddings. Make sure you are getting the appropriate permits from the park. Not having the appropriate permits can lead to all sorts of issues on your elopement day including being asked to leave the park. To help with the effort to keep parks open for elopements, make sure you are hiring a photographer that respects the park system and helps you obtain the proper permits.

The best advice I can give you for getting a permit: get on the phone with an actual person or email the appropriate park worker (or ask your photographer for help). The wording on the permit website can be confusing and explaining your specific plans to a worker will clear it up. While your photographer can help you get this information and contact people, you will be responsible for applying for the permit. Each park has its own policy and permit costs. Make sure to contact all land jurisdictions (national park vs. national forest vs. state park) you’ll be visiting as they all operate separately.

The national park website has more information on permits and people to contact.

If you’re looking for a place with variety and epic views, the Olympic National Park just might be your elopement location. Check out these other blogs if you want to dive into more eloping information!

Best Places to Elope in the Pacific Northwest

How to Tell Your Friends and Family You’re Eloping – Oregon Coast Elopement Photographer