There are few places in the U.S. as beautiful as America’s National Parks, and Mount Rainier is one that is close to my heart. Living in its shadow and adventuring there often, I am familiar with the challenges that come with planning a wedding at Rainier. Here are my best tips to make your Rainier National Park wedding come to life.
1. Avoid the crowds
Mount Rainier is a very popular park, seeing nearly half a million visitors every year. To avoid having to wait for the hoards of hikers to move out of your photo backgrounds, get married at daybreak, or closer to sunset.
2. Limit your guest list
Your guest list will play a large part in determining where you can hold a ceremony or reception at Rainier. If you have a group of 12 or less, you’ll have the ability to use any trail in the park. If your group size is larger than 12, you’ll have to keep to appointed overlooks, or the park’s amphitheaters.
3. Apply for a permit
Check here (under the “weddings in the park” headline) to view permit information and the different guest limitations. Do keep your guests’ needs in mind while choosing a location, as not everywhere in the park has ADA accommodations. Once you decide on your guest list and ideal location, apply for a permit. Give the park at least two weeks before the requested date.
3. Plan transportation
Make sure your guests aren't caught off guard by park entrance fees. It's $30 per vehicle (good for seven consecutive days), $55 for the annual pass to Rainier, or $80 for the interagency pass, which is good for all U.S. National Parks. Better yet — arrange for a shuttle to bring them into the park.
Be aware of road conditions as well. There is often snow at higher elevations, like the Paradise and Sunrise visitor, centers through mid-July. To check the status of the roads, click here, and if you'll be traveling in the park between November and March, carrying chains in your car is a requirement. It's also strongly advised to have all wheel drive during those months.
Backups getting into the park can be anywhere from 15-75 minutes during peak seasons, so plan accordingly. Also, be sure your guests know to fill up their gas tanks before entering the park and plan bathroom stops appropriately (Longmire, Paradise, and Sunrise all have restrooms).
4. Be prepared for rain
Rainier's weather can change rapidly, so it's wise to bring a raincoat no matter the season. The climate is typically cool and rainy, with summer highs in the 60s and 70s. July and August are the driest months, but it's not unlikely to have rain every day in spring, fall and winter.
5. Book accommodations early
Campgrounds and lodging tend to fill up very quickly around Rainier, so make sure you and your guests book well in advance. If you're interested in staying in the park, consider booking a group campsite for your party, or booking rooms at Paradise Inn if that’s more your style.
6. Limit decor
Simply put, you won't need much. Mount Rainier's site says, "modest decorations are allowed", but if you have questions, contact the permit coordinator. Preserving the natural environment is a top priority, so you will not be allowed to dig holes, remove any vegetation, or throw confetti (yes, even the biodegradable kind).
7. Set expectations
You’ll need to educate your guests on the differences between your wedding and most others they have been to. If you’ll be hiking to your ceremony location, let them know not to arrive in heels and to be prepared for unpredictable weather. The last thing you want is someone hobbling down a rocky path in stilettos.
If tying the knot inside the Rainier National Park isn’t a viable option for you, don’t worry, there are plenty of great alternatives just outside the park boundaries. If you’re interested in eloping on a hike outside the park, but still would like the iconic Rainier view, consider hiking to High Rock Lookout. If a traditional wedding venue is more your style, then take a look at this list of Washington mountain wedding venues or Washington forest wedding venues for more ideas.