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So you’ve decided that you want to get married somewhere with jaw-dropping beauty and epic scenery? Well you’ve come to the right place. That’s pretty much Washington state in a nutshell, but having an Olympic National Park wedding is next level.
What’s so amazing about the Olympic National Park (and how does it differ from the other incredible locations in Washington, such as Mount Rainier or the North Cascades National Park)?
The answer is incredible diversity. The Olympic Peninsula has incredible scenic diversity with various ecosystems living altogether in one relatively small place. It literally has all of the things: waterfalls, snow-capped mountains, rugged coastlines with epic sea stacks, glacier lakes, and lush temperate forests. It is iconic PNW – so no wonder it has made it on your wedding and elopement location short-list.
You’ve decided you wanna get married on the Olympic Peninsula and I’m here to guide you through every step and help you make that happen!!
Why me? I’m an elopement and intimate wedding photographer, but more importantly, I’m a Washington local and guide. I spend my time exploring all the nooks and crannies of this incredible state and the Olympic Peninsula is my absolute favorite (and it’s also my home!) I’ve got loads of ideas, locations, and tips and I will be walking you through everything you need to consider to plan your dream Olympic National Park wedding.
The best locations for an Olympic National Park wedding / elopement
You’ve got options – The Olympic peninsula has it all! In this section, I’m going to break down my favorite general locations/regions and share a bit about what makes each one special. This post will give you a great jumping off point and help you start to choose a direction. That said, these general regions will just scratch the surface of what’s possible in the Olympic National Park. I’ve done extensive scouting and research, and upon booking, I provide an extensive and detailed location list, to help my couples narrow in on the best trail, mountain top, beach, or neck of the woods, for their dream Olympic National Park wedding experience.
The rainforests of Washington are like something out of a fairytale. Green moss hangs from the trees and carpets the ground. There are ferns and lush green as far as the eye can see. If perfect weather conditions and a bright and sunny day is important to you, then this is definitely not your place. But if you’re all for a magical forest with mystical and moody vibes, and you don’t mind some rain and fog, a dirty dress and a bit of adventure, then a Washington Rainforest is for you!
You’ll probably want to avoid this place in the winter, as the rainforests of Washington receive 14 inches a month on average during the wet season. There are loads of trails that lead through the rainforest, and loads of magical nooks and crannies hiding all over the place. Pretty much everywhere you roam here will find yourself under a canopy worthy of your wedding alter.
If you’re heading into the Olympic National Park from Seattle, Crescent Lake will be one of the first stops once you enter the park. Just a short drive from Port Angeles, Crescent Lake is a deep glacially carved lake. It is often strikingly still and reflects the wild Washington sky. This area offers a ton – loads of walking trails, a beautiful inn, and wedding venue (Crescent Lodge) with a long pier, a nearby waterfall hike, and hot springs. In the warmer months, you can get out on the water and canoe, kayak or paddle board! Feeling uber adventurous, hike King Storm for an incredible bird’s eye view of the lake and say your vows on top of the world.
You’ll find hiking trails, lots of campgrounds, the world’s largest Sitka Spruce, and the historic and rustically charming Quinault Lodge on the banks of this glacially carved lake. This is a beautiful inland area on the southeast side of the Olympic National Park.
Wanna get married on top of the world? Hurricane Ridge is the literal top of the Olympic National Park. Sitting above 5000 feet, Hurricane Ridge is incredibly popular because it is the most easily accessible alpine destination on the peninsula. Summers are incredibly busy, so if you decide to get married in the summer on hurricane Ridge, opt for sunrise or don’t expect to be alone. The shoulder seasons are a great time to visit, Fall especially. But keep in mind – one minute you’ll have wide open skies and incredible mountain views, and then the fog will roll and the mountains will completely disappear. Head up to Hurricane Ridge with an open mind and an attitude for adventure, and enjoy whatever beauty mother nature decides to serve up that day.
Perhaps what most people think of when they think of the Olympic National Park, and for good reason. The beaches here are unlike any other. You don’t come here to swim or sunbath, but rather to take in the majesty of a truly rugged coastline. Rocky and windswept, covered in driftwood, the beaches of the Olympic Peninsula are dramatic. They are moody and romantic – and for that reason, the perfect place for an Olympic National Park elopement.
Some of my favorite spots include:
- Kalaloch Beach
- Ruby Beach (check out this Ruby Beach Elopement)
- Rialto Beach
Seasons in the Olympic National Park - The best time of year for an Olympic National Park wedding
Here’s a breakdown of the weather patterns and considerations for getting married in the Olympic National Park.
July and August hover in the 60’s and 70’s. Rain is much more sparse but still occurs occasionally (average of about two inches/month). Summers on the coast sometimes means foggy/low visibility conditions. Weather-wise, this is a very pleasant time to visit the Olympic National Park (the high in the dead of summer hovers around 75°) but good weather means crowds. This is by far the busiest time of year at the Olympic National Park.
Although the temperatures are starting to rise, there is still a large amount of rainfall. Temperatures hover in the 50’s and low 60’s during the day. Rain is plentiful and then drops off dramatically as you move later into the Spring (May and June).
Fall is short, but wonderful here. Crowds begin the thin out as the temperatures begin to drop. But ultimately, in September and October, we are still looking at mild temperatures. Rain begins to pick up in October, but temperatures are still mild. October begins to see freezing temperatures in higher elevations as well as some road and campground closures.
For all practical purposes, winter runs from November through April. Rain dramatically picks up, with November and December recorded as the wettest months of the year (14 to 15 inches each month on average). In the lower elevations, highs hover in the 40’s during the day throughout the winter.
So when should you get married?
Choosing to get married on the Olympic peninsula (and in most beautiful places), involves finding the best possible weather with the lowest possible crowds. Based on this logic, the shoulder seasons tend to be ideal – specifically Fall. The crowds thin out as the temperatures begin to drop, but all in all, the weather is still rather mild. And there is the added bonus of some extra color and magic that fall-time brings.
Summer might be a good time to get married if:
- You plan in advance, and plan to utilize a private venue or Airbnb for the main base of your activities.
- Are open to less popular beaches, trails, or lakes.
Winter is probably not a good idea unless:
- You love rain and cold, and you want it to rain on your wedding day. If you choose a date in the winter, you should plan for rain.
There are some other important factors to consider when you are choosing your elopement date and time. I covered in depth in my post – How to Plan your dream Washington Elopement – Check it out HERE
The best venues for an elopement or wedding in the Olympic National Park
Located in the town of Forks, on 5 acres of naturally forested land. It’s an absolutely dreamy location if you are looking to host more guests. This place has all the perks of a traditional venue, but in a fully natural forested location with all of the charm of the Olympic National Park.
Check out the LINK HERE
An actual partner of the Olympic National Park with loads of options for a memorable wedding. This expensive venue sits on the shores of the crystal blue Crescent Lake, and surrounded by the dense Olympic National Forest. You can say your vows beach-front, or on the lawn in front of the historic Rosemary Inn. This is a great option if you are looking to invite guests for a more traditional gathering, but still want to marvel in the beauty of the Olympic National Park. Hit the lake in a canoe or on paddleboards. Hike to a nearby waterfall, or up the Storm King trail for expansive (from the clouds) views of the lake.
Check out the LINK HERE
A simple but charming lodge on the shore of Lake Crescent. Built in 1914, there’s a simple elegance and turn of the century warmth and charm. Say your vows lakefront under a canopy of ancient firs and hemlock trees. Currently available May through September, weather permitting for groups up to 40. Explore the lake via canoe, kayak or paddleboard. Hike nearby trails and waterfalls. Wander down the long pier and take in the grandeur of the lake and surrounding mountains.
Check out the LINK HERE
This is a classic PNW lakefront lodge with all of its historic and rustic charm. An expensive lawn sits tucked under Old Spruce and Cedars in between the lodge and Lake Quinault. It’s idyllic to say the least. Loads of beautiful guest rooms, nearby hiking trails, waterfalls, and a rainforest. Head out onto the lake, or play games in front of a roaring fire. This place is rich in classic PNW Charm.
Check out the LINK HERE
With a small guest count and a bit of research, you may just be able to find a perfect Airbnb that could serve the base of all of your wedding week fun (and may just be the perfect spot for your ceremony). I wrote a whole blog all about How to Plan a unique and cozy Airbnb Elopement. It’s a step-by-step guide with loads of actionable tips and Olympic peninsula Airbnb locations. Check it out HERE
Choosing your dream team of vendors for an Olympic National Park wedding or elopement
OK you’ve dreamt a big dream, you’ve narrowed down Who, What, When, and Where, and now you need vendors to answer How. Your team of vendors will bring your dream wedding day to life!
My number one piece of advice is to choose a wedding photographer who is also a guide and will help you choose an amazing team of vendors to help you execute your vision.
As you start to explore, here are just a few of my favorite vendors that serve the Olympic National Park area:
Looking to keep the ceremony very simple and private? I am also an ordained officiant and can sign the marriage license. This is the service I offer all of my clients.
Sometimes your vision may call for extra special vendors such as a private chef, an off-road guide or picnic designer. As a photographer and a guide, these are additional options that I share with my clients. I also provide additional research as needed to help my couples find all kinds of amazing high-quality vendors. Learn more about the in-depth guide services I offer to all my clients HERE.
Unique activities for your Olympic National Park wedding or elopement experience
If you’re dreaming of getting married in the Olympic National Park, chances are you are my kinda couple! You are looking for a way to have a wedding experience that is intimate, unique, and true to who you are together. Your wedding doesn’t need to have a prescribed list of traditional activities. It should be a reflection of you, your wild life adventure and the things you love to do together.
Here’s some fun activities unique to the Olympic National Park:
And here are some ideas to make it intimate and cozy:
Some of my favorite accommodations in the Olympic National Park area
Some of my other favorites include:
- Fairholme Campground – Seasonal – First come, first serve
- Staircase Rapids Campground – Year-round, first come, first serve
- Hoh Rainforest Campground – Year round, reservations in summer only
Elwha River House near Olympic National Park
Port Angeles, WA
Sleeps 7 – Huge Riverfront Property
Thompson Point Retreat
Port Angeles, WA
Sleeps 10 – Lakefront + Large Deck + Dock on Lake Cresent
Port Angeles, WA
Sleeps 10 – Beachfront + Fire Pit + Stunning Outdoor Space
How to secure a marriage license in Washington state
You can get your Washington state marriage license from any county in Washington and use it to be married in any part of the state. The King County Marriage Licensing Office is a great option as it can be completed online.
What if we are eloping just the two of us, and we want to keep things simple - no guests or officiant?
You have a few great options – I actually wrote a whole blog post on HOW to Plan your dream Washington Elopement – and I shared some of my favorite tips for how to handle the legal logistics! Check it out HERE.
How to secure an Olympic National Park wedding permit
To get married in the Olympic National Park, you will need a ‘special parks’ permit. The permit cost is $50 and is done online. Submit your permit at least four weeks in advance (via email) to be sure and allow ample time for processing. Once your permit is received and approved, the park office will send you a link to complete your payment.
You can find all the official information HERE (Download on this page)
If you have trouble, your photographer can often help. Permits are sometimes tough to navigate. As both a photographer, and a guide, this is something I am happy to help all of my couples access and complete, as needed.
What passes will I need?
Unlike other National Parks such as Mt. Rainier, The Olympic National Park does not have an entrance location or fee required. That said it is recommended that you purchase the Discover Pass for a one-time fee of $30. This pass is commonly required at state parks recreation lands, and you will find is required at many trailheads.
Can I bring my dog?
Yes – with proper planning, you can bring your fur-baby! But the places within the park where your dog is allowed are limited. You need to either 1) utilize state land and recreation lands outside of the parks bounds, or 2) Specifically utilize the following areas where dogs are permitted:
Pets are allowed on the following trails:
- Peabody Creek Trail (Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles)
- Rialto Beach parking lot to Ellen Creek (1/2 mile)
- The beaches between the Hoh and Quinault Reservations (Kalaloch area)
- Madison Falls Trail (Elwha)
- Spruce Railroad Trail (North shore of Lake Crescent)
- July Creek Loop Trail (North shore of Lake Quinault)
Additionally, bringing your dog means following the BARK principles:
- Bag poop
- Always wear a leash
- Respect wildlife
- Know where you can go
Cute acronym and easy enough to follow if you ask me. Totally doable with a bit of planning!
How many guests can I bring to my Olympic National Park wedding?
It depends. The Olympic National park is a major elopement destination. It’s the perfect spot for a ‘just us’ elopement adventure. The allure is the beauty of the rugged coastlines and rainforests. If it is just you and say five or fewer guests, you can get married literally anyway – on the beach, under a mossy canopy in the rainforest, or on a mountaintop. If this is the kind of experience you’re looking for, then few guests is best.
But more is definitely possible – it will just dictate the experience and require specific locations. If you wish to have a larger wedding – say 20, 30, 40+ people, then you will need to look at a more traditional venue which can accommodate – such as Fern Acres, Nature Bridges, Crescent Lodge, or Quinault Lodge. Or maybe you’re looking for a small gathering somewhere in between, say 10 people, an Airbnb (upon approval) may be the perfect cozy and intimate setting, and a great base for other nearby adventures.
How much driving will I need to do for my Olympic National Park wedding?
The park is large and there is a fair bit of distance between major destinations within the park. If you’re heading into the park from Seattle, you will drive about 2 1/2 hours to reach the entrance to the park (Port Angeles). From there you’re about 25 minutes out from the first main destination – Crescent Lake. If you have certain sites in mind that don’t happen to be right next to each other, be prepared to drive.
For example Crescent Lake is an hour and a half from Ruby Beach. It’s then another 45 minutes further to Quinault Lake. To drive the entire Olympic Peninsula loop, it would take about eight hours, but fortunately many amazing destinations are all within an hour or two of each other. Your photographer and guide can help you create an itinerary that makes the most of this amazing region and keeps it accessible.
How far advance should I start planning my Olympic National Park wedding?
More time is always better, but an Olympic National Park wedding could be planned in just over one month. The permitting process for the ‘special use’ permit is up to four weeks, so any amount of time less than that would be stressful and not recommended. More time means you can locate and book the perfect Airbnb or other accommodations. If you’re planning a larger event with more people, and you are booking a venue/site, then starting to plan and book one year out is recommended.
Can I have my wedding or elopement ceremony at my Airbnb?
Whether you are planning a ‘Just Us’ elopement or want to incorporate friends and family, an Airbnb can be an amazing way to create a dream wedding experience. But you must get permission! When a house can accommodate a fair few guests, and you’re keeping your gathering under that number of guests, and you get special permission, and you follow all of the rules and are respectful of the house and community guidelines, the answer is often times – YES! I actually wrote a whole blog post on this topic – A step-by-step guide to plan a unique and cozy Airbnb elopement. Check it out HERE.
When should I hire my photographer?
As early in the planning process as possible! I’ve given a whole lot of advice in this post, but the most valuable thing I could share would be this – find the right photographer and hire them early in the planning process.
Look for a photographer who is more than a photographer! Trust me, this is important.
You want a photographer:
- Who is also a guide and elopement expert – who will take the time to get to know you, who will give custom locations and vendor suggestions, take the time to scout, educate you about permits and how to prepare, talk you through the legalese. Hire early and you get so much more than photography! You’ll get a guide through the whole process! Yes – I offer all of the above! Check out my full offerings HERE
- Whose values you align with.
- Whose images you can feel and whose artistic vision you are really drawn to.
- Who is awesome, genuine, whose energy you match, who you could grab a beer with, and who you seamlessly connect with (This is important with traditional weddings, and it’s 100X more important at an elopement. Sometimes your elopement photographer is the only other human that will, not only be present for your elopement, but that will adventure by your side and capture your whole beautiful wedding story as it unfolds.