Does your dream wedding look like hiking to a beautiful location in the mountains to a stunning location no wedding venue could hope to compare to, where you share your vows with only the birds and ground squirrels as your witnesses? 

A hiking elopement can provide you with a beautiful and intimate setting for your wedding experience while creating a day that feels like you.

How to plan a hiking elopement:

  1. Choose a suitable trail for your elopement
  2. Research and obtain any necessary permits
  3. Hire vendors that specialize in adventure elopements
  4. Pack the right gear for your adventure

This guide will walk you through everything you need to plan an adventurous elopement day from hiking wedding dresses to how to choose a suitable trail to what to pack for your elopement day.

What is a Hiking Elopement?

A hiking elopement is simply getting married in a location that requires some hiking to get to. It can be in a National Park or a National Forest and can include guests or be an intimate affair with no guests present. It’s a wonderful way for couples to begin their marriage in a way that reflects their adventurous personalities.

A hiking elopement might be for you if…

  1. You want seclusion and intimacy on your wedding day.
  2. You want to be surrounded by gorgeous mountains or nature views.
  3. You love adventure and spending time in nature
  4. Your dream wedding was never going to fit the mold of tradition (you want freedom!)

You can include traditional elements in your hiking elopement if you’d like, or you can completely customize the day to the two of you. There aren’t any rules, it’s all up to you!

Read the full modern definition of “elope” here.

Adventurous elopements are a wonderful option for couples seeking a more unique wedding experience because the day is completely customized to you. 

How to Plan a Hiking Elopement

Work with an Adventure Elopement Photographer

One of the first things I recommend figuring out is finding your photographer and choosing someone who specializes in adventurous elopements. Many elopement photographers, such as myself, will also help you with your planning process in addition to photographing your day. 

A few ways I can help in your planning process is by helping research trials and locations to send you a customized list of recommendations for your day, helping you research and obtain permits for your locations, send you vendor recommendations, provide you with support to answer questions that come up along the way, and so much more in addition to photographing your wedding experience!

If you’d like someone to help you plan your elopement day, please contact me to work together!

Choose a Suitable Trail for Your Hiking Elopement

You don’t have to be an expert hiker to have a hiking elopement (though some previous hiking experience is helpful). Make sure to choose a hiking trail that suits your experience. If you’re new to hiking, I’ve included a few things to consider when choosing your trail.

Trail Mileage

When deciding on a trail for your hiking elopement, you’ll want to keep in mind how much time and energy you want to spend hiking.

Do you want to dedicate a large portion of your day to hiking to beautiful viewpoints? Or would you prefer to spend a shorter amount of time hiking during your day? Will you be bringing any guests with you? If so, do they have any limitations?

These are questions that you should ask yourself when choosing a trail and deciding on what length would be idea for your experience.

Trail Elevation Gain

Just because a trail is a short in distance doesn’t mean it’s an easy trail. The shortest trails can sometimes be the most challenging if they gain a lot of elevation. When choosing a trail, remember to take into account both the distance and the elevation gain for planning.

Also take into consideration the starting elevation if you’re not used to the elevation you’ll be eloping in. Starting a hike with 600 ft. of elevation gain at 2,000 ft. is a whole different experience than starting at 6,000 ft.

Trail Terrain

Not all trails are created equal. Difficult terrain such as shale or scrambling over boulders will make a trail much more difficult than a well defined path in the woods. Make sure to research how technical the trail is to make sure it’s suitable for your skill level and is an appropriate choice for your day.

Get the Right Gear for Your Hiking Elopement

Because you’ll be out in nature for your hiking elopement, there’s a few unique items you’ll want to make sure you have with you.

  • Backpack to carry all of your gear
  • A good pair of hiking boots
  • Proper hiking socks
  • A puffy jacket
  • A rain jacket
  • Sunglasses
  • Water bottle
  • Sunscreen and bug spray
  • Bear spray (if in an area with bears or cougars)
  • Lots of snacks
  • The 10 Essentials – more on that below!

The 10 Essentials

These are things that you should have with you anytime you recreate outdoors. They’re items that are easy to obtain and carry with you that will help you stay safe while outdoors. They should all fit in your backpack and are easy to carry with you.

1. Navigation

This can be a paper map, a digital map, GPS device, or satellite messenger. Always bring a backup to your phone in case your battery dies or you don’t have cell service.

2. Headlamp

Whether you plan on being out in the dark or not, it’s best to carry a light source that isn’t your phone, for just in case (and don’t forget the extra batteries!)

3. Sun Protection

This can include sunglasses, sun-protective clothes, sunscreen, and a hat.

4. First Aid

Bring some bandages, ointment for just in case. Don’t forget to include foot care (such as moleskin to prevent blisters) and insect repellent if needed.

5. Knife

A lightweight knife, nothing too big or heavy is necessary.

6. Fire

You need some way to create heat. This can include waterproof matches, a lighter, and tinder. I personally love to carry cotton balls and a ferro rod.

7. Shelter

This can be an emergency bivy  or at the very least, an emergency blanket.

8. Extra Food

It’s always best to bring more food than you plan on needing, for just in case.

9. Extra Water

Always bring more water than you think you’ll need. Even better, bring a water filter if you’ll be in an area with access to water (I like the Sawyer Squeeze with a Smart Water bottle)

10. Extra Clothes

Again, bring extra layers beyond what you think you’ll need.

If you will be in bear country, you should also carry bear spray if it’s legal where you’re going. You will also want to make sure you know how to use it.

Obtain Permits for Your Hiking Elopement

After you’ve decided on a ceremony location, you’ll need to find out if you’ll need to apply for a permit. This is another area that your elopement photographer should be able to help in if you have no idea where to start.

Most National Parks have designated ceremony locations and will require a permit, which typically costs between $50-$250. Some National Forests and State Parks require a permit, but vary. Make sure to check with the requirements for any locations you include in your elopement day.

What to Pack for Your Hiking Elopement

  • Your wedding attire
  • Wedding accessories (rings, jewelry, hair pins, tie, etc.)
  • A printed copy of your vows
  • Your marriage license (if your officiant doesn’t have it) and pen to sign it
  • Hiking gear
  • A printed copy of your permit (if needed)
  • Snacks or food for your day

Check out my adventure elopement packing list for a complete packing list!

Wedding Hiking Boots

Whether you’re already a hiker with a favorite pair of boots or you’re brand new and looking for your first pair, I’ve compiled a list of the best hiking wedding boots for both men and women!

Wedding Hiking Boots for Her:

Wedding Hiking Boots for Him:

Hiking Wedding Dresses

When choosing a wedding dress for your hiking elopement, keep in mind how much hiking you’ll be doing during your day. Wedding dresses with intricate beading and a full skirt can be really heavy, and if you’re doing a strenuous hike, you may want to opt for a dress of a light weight fabric.

Take into account the type of fabric and steer clear of fabrics that wrinkle easily like chiffon and linen. Tulle is a great choice because not only does it not wrinkle as easily, it’s also lightweight!

Hiking Elopement Wedding Dresses

Lillian West – Style 66315

A light, flowy wedding dress with pleated tulle and a small train. This dress comes with separate sleeves to change up the look.

Image credit: Lillian West

Azazie – Style Florentina

Floral lace A-line dress with a structured bodice and exposed boning, this dress is dreamy and beautiful!

Image credit: Azazie Bridal

Adrianna Papell – Style 31258

This flowy tulle dress with a bodice covered in lace is a stunning wedding dress!

Image credit: Adrianna Papell

Maggie Sottero – Style Sydney

A fit and flare style dress with tulle and lace, this dress is elegant and romantic.

Image credit: Maggie Sottero

On a budget? Check out these wedding dresses for under $300!

Hiking Wedding Suits

Michael Kors Classic-Fit

A classic fit 3-piece suit in a variety of colors from navy to grey to black.

Image credit: Michael Kors

Jos. A. Bank Travel Collection

Specifically made for travel, this suit offers a tailored fit in a plaid, grey color.

Image credit: Jos. A. Bank

Allure Bridals Mens Cobalt

A slim cut, modern suite. This is the perfect blend of style and comfort.

Image credit: Allure Bridals

How to Pack your Wedding Attire for Hiking

As someone who worked in a bridal shop and as a Costume Designer, trust me when I say I know a thing or two about wedding dresses. If you’re worried about wrinkles on your wedding dress or tux, I have a few tips to keep your wedding attire pristine during your adventures!

How to Keep Your Hiking Wedding Dress Wrinkle-Free

There are a few different ways to prevent wrinkles when getting your wedding dress to the top of that mountain. 

1. Choose a Dress with the Right Fabric

Avoiding wrinkles is easier with some fabrics than others. Tulle and english net are great fabrics because it’s lightweight, flowy, and doesn’t wrinkle easily. Another great option is lace! It doesn’t wrinkle and is gorgeous!

When shopping for your wedding dress, I highly recommend shopping at a local boutique and telling them about your elopement plans. They’ll be able to provide you with the best fabric and dress recommendations. 

2. Roll it, Don’t Fold it

When packing your wedding dress, opt to roll it up instead of folding it to avoid harsh creases. This is my favorite tip for preventing wrinkles!

3. Bring Wrinkle Ease or a Cordless Steamer

Although these add some extra weight to your pack, if you’re really worried about wrinkles in your attire, bring some wrinkle ease spray, or even a small cordless steamer, to spray on your dress once you’re at your destination. Spray or steam your garment, let it hang for a few minutes to work out the wrinkles, then put on your wrinkle free attire!

4. Hang it Outside of Your Pack

The last option is to hang your dress in a garment bag on the outside of your pack. This keeps the dress wrinkle free, but can be a little awkward to hike in.

How to Hike in Your Wedding Attire

If you only need to hike a short bit to reach your ceremony location, you can absolutely hike in your wedding attire! If you have more than a few miles, or if it’s a strenuous hike, I would recommend carrying your wedding attire instead.

Hiking in formal clothing isn’t ideal because it can slow you down, you may experience some chafing, and you’ll more than likely work up a sweat on your hike. That’s why I would recommend changing into your wedding attire at the end of your hike if you can.

If you do decide to hike in your wedding attire, make sure you’re prepared that your clothes will more than likely get dirty. For brides wearing a dress, keep at least one hand free to hold your skirt up so you don’t trip.

How to Change into Your Wedding Attire on Top of a Mountain

Some options for changing into your wedding attire at the end of your hike are:

  • Bring a changing tent to change in
  • Have your partner hold up a blanket to give you some privacy
  • Find a secluded spot in the woods

Hiking Wedding Accessories

Here are some accessories with an adventurous flair to consider for your hiking elopement.

Tips for Your Hiking Elopement

Choose the right trail for you

It’s important that you choose the right trail for you and your abilities. Even if you’ve never hiked before, there are so many amazing trails with stunning views that are easy to access! When choosing your location, go with a trail that fits your abilities to keep the experience fun.

Work with elopement vendors that specialize in hiking elopements

When looking for your elopement vendors, whether that’s your photographer, makeup artist, florist, or planner, make sure they have experience in the type of weddings that you want to have. They’ll be able to provide you with the best experience and expertise for your day!

Test out your gear before your elopement day

Go on a few short hikes with your gear to break it in, find out what works, and make any changes if needed. The last thing you want on your wedding day is for your boots to hurt your feet or your pack to not fit everything you need. Practice makes perfect, and you’ll be glad you took the time to test everything out beforehand!

Don’t be afraid of what others might think, this is your day!

In the end, all that matters is that the two of you get the experience that you want. Forget what others are saying and do what makes you happy!

Leave No Trace for Your Hiking Elopement

In order to protect the wilderness you’re in, as well as yourselves, it’s important that you are aware and follow Leave No Trace. These principles are guidelines for recreating outdoors and help protect wildlife, the landscape, and the people visiting them.

Check out my full guide to implementing Leave No Trace in your elopement

There you have it, my full guide to planning a hiking elopement! I hope this guide was helpful for your planning process.

If you’re looking for an adventurous photographer that’s ready and willing to climb literal mountains, I would love to work with you! Contact me about your hiking elopement plans and let’s work together!

Happy Eloping!

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