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Easy 7 Step Guide to Elope in North Cascades

Also known as the North American Alps, North Cascades National Park is a mountain lovers paradise! Located in Northern Washington outside of Seattle, this park is a must see, and it's a perfect location for any adventure elopement. I photographed an elopement here near Mt. Baker this last summer so I decided to write this easy 7 step guide to plan your elopement in North Cascades because it was beyond beautiful and it's such an amazing place to elope! After reading this guide, you'll be all set to go elope in one the prettiest places in the United States!

  1. Pick the right photographer for you.

  2. Choose the time of year to elope in the park.

  3. Apply for a marriage license after you've picked a date.

  4. Obtain a special use permit to get married in the park.

  5. Book a place to stay and book your vendors.

  6. Pick out hikes and activities.

  7. Enjoy your epic elopement day!

first dance by the river in north cascades national park

1. Pick The Right Photographer For You.

This step is number one on this checklist because it's the most important! Find a photographer who fits all your needs and one that you can't wait to work with! This will make this process that much more fun and exciting. Hire an elopement specific photographer that will help you plan your day out so you can get the most out of your elopement and make your dreams come true!

2. Choosing The Best Time of Year to Elope in the Park.

After you pick your photographer, you'll want to pick a date (if you haven't already). It's important to book your favorite photographer while they are available (especially in the summer months when it's best to visit North Cascades), and they can help you pick a date based on the scenery you wish to see for your day and what activities you want to do.

It is best to visit North Cascades in mid to late summer (July-September). Because the park has such a high elevation in the mountains, many of the popular trails will still have a decent amount of snow. Usually most of the snow is melted by late July into August.

It is known to be windy in the park, especially on the lakes. Also because of the elevation, the weather is known to change quickly. So be prepared and bring a rain jacket, wind breaker, or puffy jacket.

3. Apply For A Marriage License After You've Picked Your Elopement Date.

After you've picked out your photographer and booked your date with them, you'll want to make sure you get your marriage license in time for your elopement.

Washington marriage license laws: If you want to have a ceremony and get legally married in the park, you will need to acquire a marriage license.

  • Reach out to the nearest office in the county of the place your elopement is taking place.

  • There is a 3 day waiting period that cannot be waived, so you'll have to come into town early.

  • Washington state does require two witnesses as well. If you aren't eloping with any guests, I can sign as one, or we can flag down some nearby hikers in the area!

You can also have a commitment ceremony! That way you can still say your vows and include what's special and important to you for your commitment ceremony, without an officiant. This is a great option if you're craving a "just us" experience.

This route also lets you get legally married in your home state with family and friends present, and then this makes the process easier for the out of state commitment ceremony (you won't need to get an out of state marriage license this way).

waterfall ceremony in north cascades national park

4. Obtain A Special Use Permit To Get Married in the Park.

This step also goes along with step three! You'll want to apply for a special use permit as soon as the park allows you so you can get a spot to get married in the park. Luckily, the process to attain the special use permit for North Cascades is nice and easy! The steps are listed below.

Permit Info For North Cascades

- How to Obtain a Special Use Permit

Step 1: Send an email through their contact form to get the application.

Step 2: Pay a non-refundable $50 application fee online through the link on the NPS website.

Step 3: After 4-6 weeks, they will send you back a copy of your application for you to sign. Bring this with you to the elopement!

It’s that easy!

If you are getting married near the park and not quite in the park, be sure to check if you need any permits (special use or photography) for Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest or Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

5. Book An Airbnb Or A Place To Stay Near The Park, Along With Vendors

This is the fun part, you get to pick a place to stay! Your photographer will likely provide a list of places to stay in the area (that includes me, I can also provide custom lists if you are looking for something specific).

forest airbnb in north cascades national park washington

I love it when my couples book awesome Airbnb's for their elopement! They're perfect for adorable getting ready photos, and it's also great for storytelling. Some towns in the park where some Airbnb's are at is Deming, Marblemount, Concrete, and Rockport. If you want to stay closer to Seattle area, towns like Bellingham and Mt. Vernon/Skagit Valley are other options if you want to be closer to city amenities and activities.

If you want to be closer to Mt. Baker, the little town of Glacier is an option too!

Here's my saved list of epic Airbnb's for North Cascades for some ideas for places to stay!

- Other Lodging Options

If you don't want to stay in an Airbnb, check out some of these popular resorts in the park!

Ross Lake Resort - Ross Lake Resort is stunning, but it books out fast. If you want to stay there, be sure to get on their waitlist!

Lodge at Stehekin - This lodge is near Leavenworth, located on the other side of Lake Chelan. It's only accessible by hiking, seaplane, or taking a ferry.

- Vendors for Your Elopement

Another step you'll want to do earlier in the planning process is pick out your vendors besides your photographer. Vendors like florists, bakers, and hair/makeup artists book out fast as well. Luckily Seattle is nearby so there are plenty of vendors to choose from in the area! Here's a few to get you started (I provide custom vendor lists to you depending on what you need)!

*Note on having real flowers: In some parts of the national forests, live flowers are not allowed. Please check with the permit officer to see if you are able to have a real flower bouquet.

elopement cake dessert with flowers

flower bouquet for adventure elopement

6. Pick Out Some Hikes And Activities.

This is where picking an elopement specific photographer comes in handy! We get to know you and we learn what things are important to you that you want to include for your elopement. I also provide custom activity lists in this step based off of your interests and hiking ability! So you get the fun part, you get to choose what to include in your timeline!

- Amazing Hiking Trails in North Cascades:

North Cascades National Park has some of the most stunning trails in the country! Did you know that North Cascades is one of the least visited National Parks? This might help you find more seclusion if you crave that for your elopement! Here are some awesome trails located in the park.

*For Diablo Lake Overlook: Weddings can take place behind the railing at the Diablo Lake Overlook, but the meadow area next to it and behind the restrooms is not open to the public, where you typically see those elopement photos at Diablo Lake. But there are tons of other amazing spots that you can walk up to and get just as amazing views!

hiking trail in north cascades national park with ferns and moss

- Best Activities to do in North Cascades:

Besides all the amazing hiking the park has to offer, there are plenty of other activities to do as well! You can:

  • Rent motor boats, canoes, kayaks, and fishing rods at Ross Lake Resort.

  • You can ride horses with Stehekin Outfitters.

  • You can ride bikes through the amazing forests in the area.

  • If you want a more relaxed setting, rent an Airbnb and enjoy the hot tub under the stars, or roast smores with a fire.

  • Pack a hammock and relax by the river.

There are endless activities for everyone! Here's some more adventurous ideas for your timeline!

hammock in the forest of north cascades national park

7. Enjoy Your Epic Elopement Day!

Once you've decided on what things to include for your day, and once you've applied for all the proper permits, you're basically set! I write out your final timeline and then we just wait for your day to arrive! Listed below is some extra info about eloping in the park for your convenience!

north cascades national park adventure elopement with van

- Additional Info:

  • There are no fees to enter the park!

  • You might have to pay for parking in some areas. Check out Washington Trails Association to see what passes you might need for the trailheads.

  • Dogs are allowed in some areas of the park.

  • There are several trails with easy access for your guests along with wheelchair accessible spots! So this is great if you want to have some family with you.

  • Always be sure to follow Leave No Trace principles! Here's a blog about how to LNT on your elopement day.

  • There is little to no cell service within the park.

North Cascades Elopement Photographer

Hey, I'm Karlie, your North Cascades elopement photographer! When I visited North Cascades National Park last year, I found so many hidden gems perfect for any elopement. The variety in this park always amazes me, between the lookout towers, alpine lakes, stunning hikes, and powder blue rivers, there's so much beauty to explore here!

Read the review my North Cascades couple left me below:

"We would recommend Karlie to any friend or family member. From the planning phase until the day of our elopement, Karlie was so incredibly dedicated to helping us create our perfect day. We both felt an instant connection to her when we spoke via zoom in the beginning phases… she’s kind, thoughtful, professional, punctual, sincere, and curious. She asked so many questions about us as a couple and proposed many ideas that fell inline with those qualities and values. Throughout the whole process, she was so on top of researching locations, permits and responding to us in a timely manner always. We felt so grateful that we had chose her to shoot our wedding for many reasons, but one being that she put genuine

love, focus, and energy into our elopement. It was so clear to both of us. The day was so meaningful in every way. It felt so calm and easy, which is what we wanted and why we chose to elope. Karlie worked so hard to make things easy and calm for us and we felt completely comfortable sharing this special day with her. The photos that Karlie sent us have truly exceeded our expectations and blew us away. Working with Karlie was the best investment that we made in our elopement process. Hands down. We can’t thank you enough Karlie and we wish you the best!!"

- L & M

-What's Included in my North Cascades Elopement Package:

-Booking Gift -72 Hour Turn-Around Time for Sneak Peek Images ​-Day of Elopement Gift

-Full Resolution Final Images -Access to High Quality Print Products -Free Phone Consultation or Zoom Call​ -Timeline Creation -Leave No Trace Guide -30+ Page Planning Guide -Vendor Recommendations -Unlimited Planning and Assistance -6 Week Turnaround Time for Full Elopement Gallery -Travel & Accommodations are Covered for Photographer

Visit my pricing page for more info!

North Cascades Elopement Packing List

I provide my couples a packing checklist as well as a day of checklist that they can reference as soon as they book with me! Here's a few things from that list that would be a good idea to bring with you to North Cascades for your elopement there!

  • Hiking backpack

  • Wool socks

  • Snacks and water

  • Good hiking boots

  • Extra layers

  • Bug spray

  • Bridal emergency kit

  • Headlamps

  • First aid kit

  • Download an offline version of the hiking trail

waterfall elopement ceremony and vows in north cascades national park

I hope that this easy 7 step guide to plan your elopement in North Cascades will make it as convenient as possible for you to plan the elopement of your dreams in one of the prettiest places in the United States! North Cascades National Park and Mt. Baker have some of the prettiest mountains, alpine lakes, and scenery in the entire United States. You just can't go wrong if you choose to elope here. Feel free to contact me so we can start planning your mountain elopement in North Cascades National Park together!

If you're still searching for the perfect place to say "I do", check out these other awesome elopement resources:

7 easy steps to plan your elopement in north cascades national park


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