The Pacific Northwest is magical. Moody fog, rocky beaches, lush forests, waterfalls, and even towering mountains. Anyone who has visited the area falls in love with its unique beauty. With all that beauty, how do you even decide what location?!
Thankfully, you’ll find that some areas will fit you better than others. Even if you enjoy visiting somewhere, it doesn’t mean it’s your perfect elopement location. For example, if you want a lot of privacy, some locations will be better than others. If you opt for guests, more isolated areas may not be ideal. Don’t worry though, you’re sure to find a place with both great scenery and elements that fit the day you have envisioned.
– It actually doesn’t rain THAT much. I get this a lot from people who haven’t been around a climate like we have. You see all those moody fog images and expect that rain is inevitable. We get very little rain in the summer though! We do get rain in the wintertime since many places get all their precipitation in the form of rain (usually no snow).
– Consider hiring an elopement photographer local to the Pacific Northwest! They’ll be able to help you find great locations and they’ll be prepared for the typical PNW weather, trail conditions, and permitting rules.
– You’re probably going to be dealing with a coastal climate to some extent. The ocean has this fun affect on the weather and it’s especially obvious in the Pacific Northwest. The temperatures frequently hang out at 60-70 degrees even in the summer. Inland areas can heat up quite a bit more but the majority of the epic places you can pick from are heavily impacted by coastal weather patterns.
– There are a LOT of options and a LOT of hidden gems. The West is much less developed than the East Coast. There are more natural areas and less towns/cities. This gives you lots of space to spread out and avoid crowds however much you wish.
– Sometimes the iconic picture isn’t worth the crowds it takes to get it. Social media is great at showing you how beautiful a place is but neglects to show the crowds involved in capturing the image. Some places are best for scoping out on a tourist day but not on your elopement day.
Locations Covered in this Blog:
The Oregon Coast is a tough place to beat. There’s a special peace about the crashing waves and endless miles of coastline to explore from Seaside to Cannon Beach to Cape Kiwanda to Newport. And that doesn’t even start on the incredible, mild weather! No stress about having your elopement in a heat wave. The northern stretches of the Oregon Coast are easier to travel to due to their proximity to Interstates and airports, and you’ll have more vendor options (especially for things like officiant, florists, hair and makeup, etc.).
Crowds: The northern stretches of the Oregon Coast are a popular tourist destination. Thankfully, there’s a LOT of coastline to work with and this definitely doesn’t mean there’s not ways to avoid the other tourists! The Oregon Coast is very expansive and has a lot of location options. I usually recommend my clients avoid the main hotspots (Cannon Beach and Cape Kiwanda) so that they can get a more private experience.
Location Variety: This stretch has classic Oregon forests and ocean coastline (duh). This stretch is less rocky than further south but you’re still able to track down some beautiful stretches with the giant boulders.
Amenities: This part of the Oregon Coast is much closer to the I-5 corridor cities and has more large towns on the actual coastline. There’s lots of vendor options, from the Portland area especially. Many of these towns have multiple grocery options and lots of restaurants. If you happen to stay in one of the smaller towns on the northern half of the Oregon Coast, you will likely be 30 minutes or less away from a bigger town with more options.
Options for Guests: The Northern Oregon Coast is packed with vacation rentals, hotels, and camping options. It’s a popular tourist area and has lots of amenities for that. You’ll find a handful of venue options but you’ll probably have your ceremony on the beach. Many ceremonies don’t even need a permit if you’re having a smaller wedding (less than 50 guests) and not setting anything up (like an arch or rented chairs). You’ll find a bit of information and a contact for beach wedding permits on the Oregon State Park website. I’d recommend checking in if you’re unsure if your elopement requires a permit or not!
Forest Fire Season: Like the rest of the coast, you will also largely avoid fire season because of wind patterns off the ocean. This isn’t to say that you’re guaranteed to avoid smoke but you have a good chance of avoiding it.
Travel Accessibility: You will likely fly into the Portland airport for your Oregon Coast elopement. It takes around 1.5 hours to get to the coast from the I-5 corridor depending on where exactly you pick. You’ll have plenty of flight and rental options from the Portland airport.
This is my favorite national park ever and with good reason. This is the place to go if you’re struggling to pick one kind of scenery as your backdrop. This is the most diverse location on this list. It boasts epic mountains, rainforest, waterfalls everywhere, giant lakes, and rocky coastline.
This park is SO diverse. Unlike many national parks, the park is small sections of land all over the Olympic Peninsula. This helps with dispersing the crowds in a wider area. You won’t be running into crowds like Yosemite or Zion in Olympic. This place has a fun rain shadow effect so you can avoid rain with some strategic location selection. It gets similarly affected by the ocean climate so you often don’t have to deal with high temperatures in the summer.
Crowds: This park covers a wide area which allows visitors to spread out. There’s some locations with heavier traffic but you’ll find similar alternatives with less traffic or ways to get off the beaten path. There’s also an abundance of hidden gems in the area especially if you explore beyond the national park.
Location Variety: Hands down, Olympic National Park has the most location variety of any of these locations. It has the best of the Pacific Northwest in one small area. It has multiple large lake options, some creek/river bodies of water, lots of coastline, more waterfalls than you can imagine, literal rainforest, and towering mountains with very easy access. You can easily hit one of each during one elopement day.
Amenities: Depending on where you’re at, there’s some good town amenities close to the best attractions. On the northern end of the Olympic Peninsula, you’ll find Sequim and Port Angeles. Both are good sized towns with lodging, restaurants, and chain stores. They have just about anything you can need! You’ll also fly into Seattle if you opt to fly to the area so any other items you need, you can grab there. You can also stay on the western edge of the Olympic Peninsula and stay near Forks, WA. This will give you more of a small town experience (and all the Twilight vibes). This area’s proximity to Seattle also makes it easier to either pick up your florals in Seattle or bring in vendors to the area.
Options for Guests: While vacation rentals on AirBNB are limited in Port Angeles, you’ll find other hotel options and plenty of camping. There are more limited options in terms of venues that are a good fit for small weddings and elopements. You can try venues like Fern Acres in Forks (the Twilight wedding venue of your dreams). You can also look into a ceremony in the national park itself. You may need a permit to do so, so make sure to check with them first!
Forest Fire Season: The Olympic Peninsula largely avoids wildfire season due to the ocean’s affect on its weather. Forest fires frequently occur east of the park so there is a chance you’ll get some smoke. This is still a good shot though for avoiding smoke during peak fire season.
Travel Accessibility: The nearest airport to Port Angeles is the Seattle airport! This is a big airport with a lot of flight options. You’ll also have a lot of options for rental cars to get you to the area. It’s around 2.5 hours to get from the airport to Port Angeles.
This area is quintessential Pacific Northwest. Mossy, green forests and waterfalls pack this section of Oregon. If you’re lucky or pick a nice summer day, you might even get to look at Mt. Hood.
A huge asset of this area is its proximity to Portland. This makes it easy to bring in vendors and find exactly who you’re looking for. This is especially helpful if you have a very specific floral vision or want lots of options for hair and makeup artists. If you’re bringing guests along, it will be easier to get them to the location than some other areas. One downside to this is crowds. Some areas are popular and are prone to crowding. This place is a good fit for early mornings and weekdays!
Crowds: The crowds largely depend on where you opt to go and when. You’ll find lots of good spots off the beaten path (especially Mt. Hood). There are some spots that are very popular. Some are so popular that the Columbia Gorge has started experimenting with timed entry passes as of summer 2022. You can learn more about this here. There are a LOT of waterfalls in the Gorge though! Some take more work to get to than others which helps filter the crowds. For this especially, I’d recommend a photographer with experience in the area. The best way to know crowds and best locations is to explore the area yourself!
Location Variety: This location is mainly going to offer you iconic PNW views. Waterfalls, some bodies of water, and green forests. Mt. Hood sometimes makes an appearance for a bit of a mountain view!
Amenities: Depending on specific locations you pick, you’re looking at staying in Hood River or Rhododendron. Hood River is a good size town with basic stores and restaurants! Rhododendron is much smaller but still has some restaurants and small grocery store options. You’re looking at 45-90 minutes to drive from Portland to most locations in this area. This would be especially beneficial if you’re bringing guests along (though I’d recommend you as the couple stay closer to the locations you’re exploring). Portland is packed with potential vendors and you won’t have to spend a lot on travel fees since it’s a short trip.
Options for Guests: There’s a good number of vacation rentals throughout the area but having guests stay on the east side of Portland will give you the most options. There are a handful of venue options in the area. Many of the waterfall type areas are small and wouldn’t accommodate more than 2-5 guests. There are some vacation rentals in the area that are a good fit for groups of 15 or less that allow small events. Always make sure to clearly communicate your plans with your host before you book!
Forest Fire Season: This location is moderately prone to forest fire season. If you want to include a view of Mt. Hood, you’ll want to avoid fire season. Most waterfalls of the high moisture Columbia Gorge avoid annual wildfires though recent years have seen more fires in the area. If you want awesome waterfalls, early summer is a great time, especially for water flow!
Travel Accessibility: This area is easy to travel to! You’re approximately an hour to an hour and a half away from Portland Airport. This is a large airport with lots of flight and rental car options.
This is the park for you if you love massive mountains and wildflowers. The park is iconic and with good reason. Mt. Rainier towering above you is inspiring. The flowers are like a rainbow on the hillside. There’s even some fun waterfalls and lakes to explore.
Mt. Rainier has limited seasons for elopements. The high elevation park has snow most of the year. Low elevation locations are available during the spring and fall but you’ll want to visit in July or August for ideal conditions close to the mountain.
Crowds: Its proximity to Seattle makes it convenient…but also busy. This is a hotspot for tourists during the summertime. Many easy access areas are well developed and tend to have a lot of daily traffic. There’s some off the beaten path options that can help you avoid some crowds. My top advice is to use the park at sunrise! You’ll even get some of the most popular spots mostly to yourself. Sunset also tends to have less crowds after everyone has gone back for dinner. I usually recommend my couples use the park during optimum light and lowest crowding before moving onto a vacation rental or venue for the rest of the day where you can be sure to have the space to yourself.
Location Variety: Mt. Rainier mostly offers an incredible view of the mountain, some nearby mountains, a bit of forest, a handful of waterfalls and a handful of lakes. The locations for photos here are more limited than other areas on this list but the spots it does have are amazing!
Amenities: The area immediately surrounding the park is quite small. It is approximately 2 hours from Seattle though which gives you more options! This is great if you want to bring in vendors from Seattle area. Many elopement vendors based in Seattle frequently travel to Rainier. The small towns surrounding the park mainly offer small grocery stores and a few dining options (my personal favorites are breakfast at The Mountain Goat and lunch or dinner at White Pass Taqueria and Taproom, dog friendly).
Options for Guests: The lodging near Mt. Rainier is limited so I recommend your guests stay closer to Seattle area or get their reservations early. If they’re up for more of an adventure, there’s some good camping around Rainier. Seattle Airport is large and offers plenty of flight and rental car options. You will need a permit for a ceremony with guests in the park (or any ceremony actually). There are not a lot of areas that would be accessible for more than 5 or so guests. You’ll likely have better luck finding one of the cute A-frames nearby that allow elopement type events (always ask permission before booking and be honest about what you’re using the host’s property for). MRNP is a busy park and you’re not allowed to barricade off an area for your ceremony. Where you can have your ceremony will be limited by your number of guests. Check out the National Park Service’s website for more information on this.
Forest Fire Season: This area is prone to being impacted by forest fires. Fires to the east of the park frequently fill the park with smoke. This leaves a narrow window between the snow finally melting and fire season beginning. You can definitely still have a great experience there! Someone familiar with the PNW will be able to help you pick a date that will work best with all conditions and the places you want to visit.
Travel Accessibility: To reach Mt. Rainier National Park, you’ll fly to the Seattle airport. This is a large airport with lots of flights and rental car options. You can also stay in the Seattle area until closer to your elopement day since Mt. Rainier lodging can be limited.
Idaho is on the edge of the PNW classification but it packs some gems you don’t want to miss. This area is lesser known in the elopement world and offers locations with far fewer crowds. This spot is especially good for adventurous couples! There’s so many options for camping, fishing, swimming in hot springs, kayaking/canoeing, and longer hikes for extra epic adventures. This place is totally different than the others on this list.
Crowds: There’s a small number of spots that can get busy but overall, crowds are minimal in this area. There’s a lot of great hikes to get you away from crowds and plenty of places to spread out even from parking lots. An even better way to avoid crowds here is getting on the water! Jump in a kayak or canoe to give you all the space you could want.
Location Variety: This location will give you bodies of water (river and lakes), forest, and mountain views. This forest looks different than those along the Pacific Coast, still beautiful.
Amenities: Stanley is a very small town. It has one gas station, a few restaurants, and one grocery store. It’s around an hour from Ketchum, ID which has a lot more store and restaurant options. This may be a good place to stay if you want to extend your visit but don’t want to stay in too small of a town! It’s also a beautiful area. Stanley has a lot of great camping options but limited vacation rentals and hotels. Another way that Ketchum may be helpful!
Options for Guests: This place has some good options for ceremonies with guests! Having a lake shore helps you find spaces for your group without encroaching on other tourists. It is challenging to find a lot of lodging unless your guests are up for some camping.
Forest Fire Season: This location is prone to forest fires. It’d be best to pick dates in June and July to avoid the bulk of fire season. Even if fires roll through, you do get the lake and river views though the mountains will get covered. You also need to give Stanley time to defrost after winter and snow sticks around for a long time.
Travel Accessibility: Stanley is around 3 hours from Boise, ID. Boise is a moderate size airport with rental car options.
I’m definitely biased as I used to live in Brookings, OR on the Southern Oregon Coast. You’ll find giant boulders on most of our beaches, sandstone cliffs, and lush forest. The cherry on top? It’s 30 minutes from Redwood National Park in California. You can get the unique features of the rockiest stretch of coastline AND one of the most epic trees in the world.
Since Brookings is the southernmost town on the Oregon Coast, it has the best weather. It experiences the least rain days of any other coast towns. You’re more likely to catch a sunny day and have a very good chance of sun in the summer months. If you’re here in the summer, you’re looking at 65 degree temperatures. The ocean keeps the temperature cool even while the inland area spikes in heat. This isolated section of coastline will get you epic views without the crowds.
Crowds: This area is great when it comes to crowds. You’ll find some groups of people in big places like the Redwoods or the iconic beach spots but overall, there’s minimal crowds. There’s so many location options that you can opt for places that will help you avoid almost all crowds. There’s enough beautiful options that you can pick places with similar views but less people to deal with. Less people without sacrificing the view!
Location Variety: This place is one of the most diverse areas in terms of scenery. The rocky coastline plus the proximity to the Redwoods are just the start. You’ll also find coastal forests, the typical lush Oregon forests, sandstone cliffs, rivers, and waterfalls.
Amenities: Brookings area is pretty isolated and has a relatively small population. You’ll find a handful of local vendors, one big grocery store chain (Fred Meyer), and very little shopping options. We have a handful of good restaurants and some chain places. You’ll want to bring most of the things you need along with you.
Options for Guests: You do have some great options when it comes to venues you can host your guests at. Crook Point is packed with both vacation rental options (you can even coordinate so all your lodging is on the same road) and venues specifically for eloping couples. You’ll also find this low cost venue owned by the city featured in this couple’s vow renewal. Despite its small size, this town sees a lot of weddings and elopements so you’ll find good options for places to host guests.
Forest Fire Season: The ocean’s impact on the weather also helps us avoid forest fire smoke. We rarely have smoke roll in and there’s rarely forest fires nearby. Usually we get our wind off the ocean and rarely off of land. The wind does occasionally switch and even when it does, it switches within around a week. This means if we do get smoke, it doesn’t stay for long.
Travel Accessibility: The nearest moderate size airport is in Medford, OR. It’s around 2.5 hours away from Brookings. Car rentals are available at the airport to get you to Brookings from the airport. You can learn more about how to fly to Brookings in this blog about how to elope in Brookings. Many of my clients need to get vacation rentals in Gold Beach or Port Orford due to limited options in Brookings itself.