You’ve made the decision to ditch tradition and elope instead – congrats! Eloping is a wonderful way to create a beautiful wedding wedding experience that is personalized to you and your partner.

The only problem is, you have no idea where you should have your adventure elopement. With so many beautiful places to choose from, it can be difficult to narrow it down. Especially if you want to venture beyond to an area that you haven’t explored yet.

This guide will provide you with the help you need decide on the perfect location for your elopement, whether that’s high in the mountains or deep in the forest.

Start with These Questions

What do you want your day to feel like?

Do you want a big adventure filled with lots of exciting moments or a relaxed day with a focus on connecting and enjoying each other? Knowing the vibe you want for your day will help decide what kind of venue or location to have for your elopement.

Do you want to include any guests or will it be just you and your partner?

In case you didn’t already know, you can still bring guests with you when you elope. Whether that’s your immediate family or your closest friends, it’s up to you on who you want to include (if anyone) in your day. Knowing how many guests you plan to have alongside you is an important step in choosing an elopement location.

Read this blog post on how to include family in your elopement

What is your ideal weather?

Knowing what kind of weather you want will play a big roll in choosing a location. If you’re looking for a beautiful and moody location, the PNW is full of beautiful places! However, the weather can be unpredictable. Even in the middle of summer there’s a chance of getting rained on. But if that doesn’t matter to you, then go for it!

On the other end, if you’re wanting a predictable warm and dry climate, choosing a location further South such as California or Arizona would be a better choice. 

Take a moment to think about what kind of weather, mood, and atmosphere you want for your day and if you’re willing to venture on even if the weather decides to change at the last minute.

Will you be bringing any pets with you?

Many couples want to bring their dogs with them on their elopement day. If that’s you, you’ll need to choose a location that is pet friendly. National Parks are known for not being pet friendly and wouldn’t be a good option for couples wanting to bring their furry friends along with them.

Most State Parks and National Forests are more accessible for couples with pets. Deciding if you will bring any animals with you will help you narrow down your location.

Coeur d'Alene Idaho Elopement Photographer

Do you want a spot that you hike to or is accessibility important to you?

Are you looking for a ceremony location with the best views that can only be found by hiking 3+ miles deep in the mountains? Or are you hoping to find a location that is easily accessed but will still provide a beautiful backdrop?

Do you want a location with lots of privacy or is it okay if other people are nearby?

Would having other visitors in the surrounding area while you take photos or during your ceremony make you uncomfortable? Would you rather be alone where there’s likely to be few or no other visitors around? Then a secluded trail in a less popular location would be a better fit vs. getting married in a National Park where there’s more likely to be other visitors in the area.

How important is having a restroom accessible to you?

This might sound a little TMI, but this is actually really important. What are your preferences when it comes to restrooms? Are you comfortable with a rugged situation or even no toilet at all? Or is having facilities nearby a must-have to make your wedding day experiences?

What kind of activities would you like to include in your day?

Elopements are great because they allow couples to fully embrace their adventurous sides. You can include anything you want in your wedding day. Start thinking of the kinds of activities you love the most and want to include in your day, such as hiking, camping, off-roading, rock climbing, a picnic, horseback riding, time at the beach, or having a personal chef cook your dinner. 

Check out this blog post on activities you can include in your elopement day

What kind of scenery do you want?

This might be the most obvious question, but it’s a really important one. Do you want mountain views, lakes, a spectacular sunrise location, or maybe a spot that has minimal light pollution for stargazing at the end of the day? What kind of scenery do you picture when you picture your elopement day?

Choose a Region

Now that you have a better idea of what your priorities are for your elopement day, start putting together a list of all of your must-haves and see what comes up. The next step in this process is going to be taking that list and finding a region that fits all of your must-haves for your day.

Since I’m based out of the Western US and know this region the best, I’m going to focus on this area to help you narrow down. However, if you are searching for a location on the East Coast or anywhere else, use this information and your own knowledge of the area to work on narrowing down your location.

The Pacific Northwest (Washington, Oregon, Northern California & Alaska)

magical forest of ferns and moss covered tree's in the Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park

Terrain: Mountain ranges, coastline, dense forests

Weather: Mild with cool wet winters, warm summers, high precipitation.

National Parks: Washington is home to Mt. Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park, and North Cascades National Park. Oregon is Home to Crater Lake National Park. Northern California is home to Redwoods National Park and Lassen Volcanic National Park. Alaska is home to 8 National Parks, including Denali National Park, Glacier Bay National Park, and Kenai Fjords National Park.

Crowds: Areas around the major cities such as Seattle and Portland are very popular and busy during peak seasons (June through the first week of September). The National Parks in Washington and California are very popular, especially during the summer. There are plenty of beautiful locations off the beaten path that offer more privacy, especially if you are willing to hike a few miles each way and avoid holiday weekends.

Unique Locations: The NW Washington Coast is unlike anywhere else in the US with beautiful blue waters and cliffs. Oregon is home to moody forests and beautiful ocean beaches. Northern California is home to the famous Redwoods and is home to the tallest trees on earth.

Check out my guide on how to elope in Washington State.

Couple leaning in for a kiss while holding lanterns on their wedding day
Styled Elopement Shoot in Spokane Washington

The Mountain West (Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, & South Dakota)

couple embracing on their wedding day
Idaho Elopement at Farragut State Park

Terrain: Mountain ranges, deserts, forests, badlands, and alpine at higher elevations.

Weather: Cold winters with lots of snow in some areas, Summers are dry with low precipitation.

National Parks: Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Badlands National Park, Wind Cave National Park.

Crowds: The Mountain West Region is far less populated than the other regions discussed in this guide, however, it is home to some of the most visited National Parks in the world. Yellowstone and Glacier are both very popular areas and draw in crowds of 3 million+ visitors each year.

But don’t let that scare you away, even if you wanted to elope in one of these stunning National Parks you can still avoid crowds by choosing a date outside of the peak season, getting married on a weekday instead of a weekend, or choose a location that you hike to. Generally speaking, hiking 5 miles will usually get you away from the crowds.

Alternatively, this region is filled with virtually endless National Forests, which offer plenty of stunning scenery but without the crowds.

Unique Locations: The Rocky Mountains, Yellowstone’s geysers and pools, Hells Canyon, the Badlands in South Dakota.

Check out my guide on how to elope in Idaho.

Old Faithful Geyser erupting under a star filled sky in Yellowstone National Park
Old Faithful in Yellowstone National park

The South West (Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico)

Terrain: Mountains, canyons, mesas, plateaus, desert lands, and some plains.

View of Lake Tahoe in Nevada
Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Weather: Arid and dry, alpine and snow at higher elevations.

National Parks: Great Basin National Park, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Arches National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Great Sand Dunes National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Petrified Forest National Park, Saguaro National Park, White Sands National Park, and Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

Crowds: Areas around larger cities such as Denver and Phoenix are busy during peak seasons. Many of the National Parks in this region are visited from around the world and attract heavy crowds during peak season, June through early September. But crowds can be avoided by strategically choosing a date outside of peak times.

Unique Locations: Lake Tahoe, the Colorado Rocky Mountains, the Grand Canyon, the sand dunes in Colorado.

Find a Photographer

Once you know the general area of where you want to elope, start looking for photographers in that region that specialize in elopements. Many elopement photographers also help with the planning process and can help you find an exact location for your elopement.

If you’re searching for an elopement photographer in the Western US, I would love to help you plan and document your day! I’ve spent my entire life living and exploring the Western US and am an avid adventurer myself. In addition to photographing your day, I will help you find the perfect location, obtain permits if needed, and help you organize your day.

Elope with me!

Bride and Groom holding hands while standing on a bridge

Some Things to Consider When Choosing an Elopement Photographer

Photography Style

Every photographer has their own style in how they work with couples, pose them, and edit photos. You want to find a photographer whose style you like in all of these areas. View their portfolio and make sure you like the way their couples are posed as well as the editing style. When you work with a photographer, you will receive photos in a similar style, so don’t expect to get light and airy photos from a photographer with a moody portfolio.

Knowledge of the Region

Make sure the photographer you hire has knowledge of the region you want to elope in. They will be able to give you inside info on the best locations, time of day for the best lighting, the best timeframe to avoid crowds, and so much more!

Find Someone you Vibe With

You’re going to be spending an entire day with your photographer, so it’s important that you choose someone that you feel comfortable with. Most photographers will make time to let you both get to know each other before booking to make sure you’re a good fit. Read their bio, ask them about themselves outside of photography, and choose the photographer that makes you feel at-ease and that you vibe with.

Narrow Down Your Location

It’s finally time to get specific in your location. Your photographer can suggest specific locations, but in the end, it’s your decision. Take all of the information you learned above and use it to find a location that checks all of the boxes for your dream day.

Bride and groom kissing next to the water with mountains behind them

I hope this guide was helpful to you. If you are looking for a planning partner and a photographer, please reach out! I love working with couples to help them plan their elopements and document their memories through nostalgic, cinematic imagery.

Happy eloping!

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