The Ultimate Guide for Eloping in Oregon
Planning your adventure elopement in the pacific northwest’s Playground
When it comes to adventure elopements, there’s no state quite like Oregon. With windswept beaches, misty forests, snow-capped peaks, and even high desert, Oregon embodies everything “Pacific Northwest” and then some, making this the perfect place to promise forever and celebrate in nature with your lover.
The best place to start? With this here guide to eloping in Oregon. This will give you a lay of the land—including the best locations across the state, insight into what kind of weather you’ll have throughout the year, and even tips on what to plan and pack. And once you’ve decided on Oregon as your elopement destination, you’ll want a videographer and photographer to capture the moment and a guide to help you start making plans—give me a holler!
Whether you’re envisioning a moody, misty evening in a lush green forest or a shimmering sunrise on the coast, Oregon has locations that are just right for your elopement. But if you’re already feeling overwhelmed by all the prospects of getting married in Oregon—because yeah, there are a lot of options here!—don’t worry! With years of experience guiding adventurous couples on their big day, I can help you identify the most important aspects of your wedding day and how to pick a time and place in Oregon to make your dreams come to life.
Like I said above, Oregon has a surprisingly diverse landscape, from chilly beaches to waterfall forests to high mountains to rocky, tangerine-colored deserts. While it might sound like a lot to choose from, once you learn a little bit more about Oregon’s star parks and views, I think you’ll find one special place that speaks to your hearts.
Here are a few of my favorites:
The Oregon Coast
Mt. Hood & Columbia River Gorge
At 11,250 feet, Mount Hood is Oregon’s tallest and most famous mountain peak. Mt. Hood National Forest covers more than a million acres, including lakes, streams, mountains draped in evergreen forests, and, of course, the mountain herself. While getting to the top of Mt. Hood will require some serious climbing experience, there are plenty of trails and hikes surrounding the mountain, like the 9-mile Tom, Dick and Harry Trail that offers views of the mountain reflected in Mirror Lake, or the easier 3-mile Tamanwas Falls hike, which leads to the tall falls with moss-covered rocks below. A wedding in the national forest requires a simple permit that is available free-of-charge; learn more here.
On the northern border of Mt. Hood National Forest is the Columbia River Gorge, a deep canyon that stretches over 80 miles and forms the boundary between Oregon and Washington. The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is known for its secluded waterfalls, like Wahclella Falls, which is spanned by a wooden bridge, and rich valleys with striking views of the surrounding gorge. For fewer than 75 guests (since you’re considering eloping, I’m guessing your guest list is a lot shorter!), you don’t have to apply for an events permit for the national scenic area.
If you’re planning to fly into Oregon for your elopement, both Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge are easy destinations within a couple hours’ drive of Portland. The whole region is lush and green much of the year, but if you’re envisioning a winter wonderland for your elopement, you’ll find snow in Mount Hood during the winter months (just keep in mind that means some of the roads will be closed or difficult to navigate).
Oregon’s 363 miles of coastline stretches past the beaches, tidepools, and sea stacks between California and Washington, and the best part is it’s alllll yours—or really, ours. According to Oregon state law, the beaches—from the water to the brush at their land’s edge—are free to use, as the law says: ”The public has free and uninterrupted use of the beaches.” So if you’re envisioning a Pacific Northwest beach elopement, Oregon is the place!
Along the coastline you’ll find well-known destinations like Cannon Beach, with it’s Instafamous Haystack Rock, and lesser-known but equally accessible spots like Ecola State Park. The nine miles of state park are criss-crossed by trails with views of quiet coves, forests, and even an old lighthouse. The Oregon Coast Trail winds through Ecola for eight miles, but the trail in itself is another landmark worth considering. If you’re looking for a real adventure elopement, consider a multi-day hike on part of the trail; it’s still a work in progress, but it crosses through state parks, national forests, public beaches, and small coastal towns. Sometimes there’s no manmade trail at all, just the wide expanse of a beach with the trail resuming on the other side.
Oregon’s coast is a choose-your-own-adventure kind of elopement option. If you want sea views without a hike and convenient access to a small (or big) town, that’s an option; but if you prefer days out on the trail or secluded caves in which to whisper “I do,” those are options, too. The Oregon coast is particularly beautiful in summer—June through September—when the gloomy weather the coast is known for lets up and lets the sunshine through. But if you’re looking for an overcast elopement (it’s moody and emotional and honestly, makes for great photos!), think about spring, when it’ll be a little warmer but still rainy.
Crater Lake National Park
Wallowa-Whitman National Forest
While Oregon is home to umpteen forests, beaches, lakes, and rivers that are absolutely stunning and surrounded by wilderness, there’s surprisingly only one national park in the state, and that’s Crater Lake National Park. The focal point of this national park is, as you might expect, Crater Lake. The lake was formed when a dormant volcano collapsed and the crater left in its wake was filled with crystal blue waters. At the center of the lake sits Wizard Island, accessible by boat, and around its rim runs Rim Drive.
The national park is covered by a spider web of trails around the lake, more than 90 miles in total, making for plenty of adventure opportunities for your elopement day. Most of the hikes are more than a mile high in elevation, so you’ll want to take it pretty easy if you’re not used to the altitude. There are plenty of shorter hikes that provide spectacular views of the lake, like Watchman Peak and Sun Notch, but because these are such low-hanging fruit for other visitors, it’s likely they’ll be pretty busy. If you’ve got your heart set on one of these overlooks, I’d suggest planning for a sunrise ceremony to try to avoid some of the crowds.
In fact, a sunrise or sunset around Crater Lake is not to be missed. While the lake is the star during the day, it’s the stars that are the star at night! This area is known for its stargazing, offering panoramic and crystal clear views of the night sky. Contemplating the universe sounds like a pretty sweet way to ring in a marriage if you ask me!
In the far northeastern corner of Oregon, bordering Idaho and Washington, is a national forest with some very non-PNW vibes. Whereas most Oregon forests are recognizable by their lush, oversized foliage that practically feels like a rainforest, the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest is dry, arid, and rugged. It’s 2.4 million acres of diverse landscapes, from alpine lakes with bright green grassy banks to sandy mountain slopes, and an incredible variety of elevation, from 875 feet in Hells Canyon to 9,845 feet in the Eagle Cap Wilderness.
The Wallowa Mountains are known as the Alps of Oregon, and the views from their peaks rival those of anywhere else in the Pacific Northwest. Want these views without the lung-busting ache of a long hike? (Hey, I may be adventurous, but I don’t blame you!) There’s a gondola near Wallowa lake that you can ride to the tip-top of Mount Howard for panoramic views of the national forest.
As with any park or national forest with high elevations, there are parts of Wallow-Whitman that are less or even inaccessible during the winter months. (Though there’s nothing to stop you from strapping on your snowshoes and heading into the wilderness if you’re already experienced!) As long as your elopement is small (fewer than 30), you won’t need to apply for a special use permit.
Willamette and Deschutes National Forests
Smith rock state park
Oregon is known for its Jurassic Park-like deep green forests and oversized ferns, beachside cliffs, and rainy skies, so you might be surprised to learn about Oregon’s High Desert. Located in central and northern Oregon, the High Desert actually covers a quarter of the land in the state, and it’s exactly the opposite of those other regions: dry, sunny, and warm. There’s a lot of land here to consider—like the hard-packed earth of the Alvord Desert, where the Steen Mountains rise in the background, or the colorful Painted Hills of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument—but I’m partial to Smith Rock State Park.
The landscape in this state park is a tangerine dream, with tall pinnacles and cliffs that rise above the Crooked River like something out of Dr. Seuss. If you two are climbers, this is your dream elopement destination, with nearly 2,000 climbing routes across those rock formations that rise as high as 550 feet. But even if you’re afraid of heights, there are plenty of hiking trails that roll across the high desert floor or, even easier, overlooks you can drive to that afford panoramic and jaw-dropping views of the park.
You can only hold your ceremony in the amphitheater area of the park, which is available by reservation. But if you and your lover are looking for an otherworldly landscape to explore solo after your ceremony, this is a great park to consider
Like Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, Willamette and Deschutes National Forests trade in Oregon’s trademark moss and ferns for regal pines and fir trees. Here you’ll find sunshine, dry land, and views for days. If you’re into hiking or mountain biking and, you know, staying dry and avoiding mud while you do it, one of these national forests may be your dream elopement destination.
Both of these national forests are southwest of Bend, Oregon, and they’re known for their alpine lakes and cool rivers (perfect for a dip after a hot summer hike). These forests really offer something for everyone: In Deschutes, the Bend Glacier and No Name Lake Trails lead through fields of wildflowers and rugged slopes to a lake with cloudy, turquoise waters, while the 9-mile Green Lakes trail meanders along a lush river valley to the lakes. In Willamette, on the other hand, there’s a ton of waterfall-marked trails to choose from, like the easy Proxy Falls Loop, that practically promise a rainbow.
These forests and surrounding areas around Bend are known for their mountain biking, so if that’s your sport of choice (me, too!), this is another great option for you two. Because your elopement will be small, you probably won’t need a special events permit for these parks, but you can reach out to the District Special Use Permit Administrator to be sure or learn more here.
When Is The Best Time to Elope in Oregon?
Spring is still the rainy season in much of Oregon, but depending on the elopement you’re envisioning, that’s not necessarily a bad thing! In fact, some of my favorite photos ever were captured during rainy elopements. Plus spring brings fields of wildflowers to wilderness areas across the state, from Wallowa-Whitman National Forest to the Columbia River Gorge.
Oregon may be known for its moody overcast skies and chilly breezes, but depending on the season and where you are in the state, you could encounter hot sunshine or knee-deep snow! Here’s what to expect each season:
June - September
Summer is Oregon’s season to shine—literally. While lots of rain falls in this area of the PNW, less than 10 percent of it typically falls in the summer months, meaning this is your best chance at a warm, sunny elopement in Oregon. Temperatures typically stay in the 60s on the coast during the summer, but they’ll rise into the 80s in the eastern areas of the state.
september - november
Local Oregonians love the fall season because it’s typically drier and brings perfect temps to the state (plus there are fewer tourists). Autumn is actually the warmest season on Oregon’s coast; the water reaches its highest temp in September, and warm air flows in from California and eastern Oregon, raising the temperature and clearing fog. Inland, temps lower to warm but crisp temperatures and rain is less likely than in spring or winter.
december - february
West of the Cascades, winters are cold with plenty of that trademark rain and, at higher elevations, snow. To the east of the Cascades it’s even colder but generally drier. But the winters in Oregon usually aren’t too brutal, with average highs across the state in the 40s and 50s.
There are a few key rules I suggest to couples when they’re planning to elope in Oregon (or really, anywhere). Rule number one? Prioritize the time that works best for you. The biggest advantage of an elopement over a traditional wedding is that you get to do what feels right for you, and that includes picking a date that works well with your schedules, whether that’s picking a date that falls in the slow season at work or avoids important family holidays.
Then you should consider what area of Oregon you’re considering for your elopement and when it will be the least busy. In general, Oregon’s tourism season falls in the summer months, so you’re likely to run into crowds, especially at smaller, popular areas like Crater Lake. If you pick a date in the other seasons, you might get rain, but you’ll also have other advantages like lower airline fares and fewer crowds. The same rule applies for holidays; you know that tourists are most likely to flock to these beautiful natural areas during holiday weekends, so if you want an intimate experience, avoid those times, too.
Tips for picking your elopement day in Oregon
And finally, dream with your partner about what you want your elopement to look like, and then research not only where you’re likely to find those scenes, but when. Like I mentioned above, fall is beautiful on the coast if you want sunshine, but if you’re looking for moody skies, spring might be better. On the other hand, spring is really pretty inland when you’ll get lush fields and flowers, but winter will give you snowy vistas if you’re into that instead.
What to Do During Your Oregon Elopement
If you’ve made it to my website, chances are you’re planning more than a ceremony—you’re ready for an adventure! Your elopement is a chance to not only promise forever with the love of your life, it’s an opportunity to celebrate that love in nature, and Oregon offers lots of opportunities to do just that! The sky’s really the limit, but here are some fun activities to think about incorporating into your elopement or the days leading up to or after it.
Rock climbing (especially Mt. Hood!)
Skiing & Snowboarding
Canoeing or kayaking
Boating on Crater Lake
Go crabbing or clamming
Read letters from family & friends
ceremony with loved ones
video chat with family
Obtaining a marriage license & park permits in Oregon
If you’re traveling into Oregon from out of state for your elopement, there are some important details to know in advance about obtaining your marriage license. First and foremost, you both have to be present in-person to get your license. Here’s the tricky part: There is a three-day waiting period after you apply for your license before you can actually get married. So if you’re traveling into Oregon, you need to incorporate that extra time into your schedule—or you can pay an additional fee (in addition to the standard $60 fee) to waive the waiting period.
Oregon marriage licenses are valid for 60 days and in any county (so you don’t have to apply for the license in the county in which you plan to wed). You do have to return the license to the county in which you applied for it, but you’re allowed to mail it in. The only other thing to know is that you will need two witnesses (psst, your photographer can be one!) and someone who is ordained to officiate your ceremony.
As for permits:
whereas some states (looking at you, California) are pretty strict about obtaining special events permits for your elopement ceremony on national or state park/forest lands, Oregon is a bit more lax. Generally, as long as your elopement is pretty small (which is the very nature of an elopement), you won’t need to apply for a permit—but I definitely suggest doing your research before you plan your elopement just in case!
How to Get Around Oregon
If you’re arriving in Oregon from out-of-state, you’re probably going to need a car. For one, there are lots of breathtaking natural areas to take in all over Oregon, but they’re spread across the state, making them most accessible by car. And for another, some of the roads in Oregon are just plain cool! Highway 101 stretches along the Oregon coast and past landmarks like Cannon Beach, making it the perfect post-elopement road trip highway. And then there’s Rim Drive, which surrounds Crater Lake and offers awesome views. For convenience and experience, it’s really best to have your own car for your elopement in Oregon.
Where to Stay in Oregon
I have to admit, I am the world’s biggest advocate for options like Airbnb! I just don’t see why you’d stay at a stuffy hotel when you could experience the “real world” of a place from your own little cabin or house. I think this is particularly true in Oregon, where you’ll find secluded A-frames tucked into dense woods and beachy getaways in sweet, small towns; these are the kinds of places that will provide you and your partner with a resting place in what is sure to be a busy day or series of days.
If you’re the adventurous type, there are also plenty of camping options in Oregon. There are secluded beaches along the coast where you can pitch your tent (outside of most town limits and not adjacent to state parks, though). To the east, there are plenty of campgrounds in and near state parks and forests for all levels of campers (check out a list of campgrounds across the state here). In fact, the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is home to Eagle Creek, which was the first developed Forest Service campground in the country when it was built in 1916! Backcountry camping is also allowed in Crater National Park with a permit.
What to wear for your Oregon elopement
I’m all for a dress on your elopement day, just be sure it’s one in which you can move freely. That means a dress that’s loose through the thighs and booty so that you have some room to move, climb, and even run, if you feel like it. You’ve probably heard of Oregon’s fickle weather, so be sure to pack some extra layers—especially a raincoat—so that you’re ready if the weather shifts and a cold front or rainstorm blows in.
Shirts & Pants
Let’s say it again for the people in the back: Be sure to wear something that’s comfortable and stretchy enough to move in! I’d suggest choosing pants with plenty of room around your thighs, but if you prefer a slimmer style, just make sure they’ve got enough stretch to let you navigate the adventures ahead. And again, pack some extra layers, including something waterproof, so you’re ready for whatever the weather throws at ya.
This is your day, and you can wear whatever you darn well please! Well, as long as you’re comfortable and able to move around. If you’re planning some adventuring on your big day, there are a couple design elements to keep in mind, whether you’re wearing a dress, suit, or something in between:
If you’re planning a big hike for your elopement day, I can tell you that the last thing you want is to get married and have your mind distracted by blisters! Wear hiking boots (waterproof preferred) for the trail into your ceremony space and, if you feel like it, pack nicer shoes for when you actually exchange vows (or don’t—hiking boots are cool, too!).
what about photography & videography to help you re-live your Oregon elopement?
THAT'S WHERE I COME IN,
hI! i'M KATHRYN!
I am a deep rooted mountain girl at heart from being born and raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, but traveling all over the world has consistently made me fall in love with the beauty of each special place. Oregon is no exception. My first time there was a special trip wit my Father, and we discovered so many hidden gems. I love nothing more than being in nature with couples like you on such a special day as your elopement day, making sure I can do whatever I can to make things joyful and carefree.
I know what it feels like to stand on a mountaintop and feel the breeze on your face.
I know what it feels like to feel shaded, comforted, protected by the dense forest around you.
I know what it feels like to be brave enough to jump in the depths of a blue, chilly swimming hole and laying on a rock in the sun to get dry.
That is all I want for you and your elopement day.
I want you feel deeply connected to each other and connected to this beautiful planet we get to call home.
I’m here to help make that come to life for you!
Lots of elopement companies offer short and small packages, covering 1 or 2 hours of time, and thats all.
You might even think that’s really all you need for an elopement, because what else is there to do?
The secret is - There is SO MUCH you can do.
The best part about eloping is that you get to choose things that are tailored just for you.
You aren’t going through the motions of traditions and timelines that are meaningless.
You aren’t eloping because you value your experience less, but because you just want something DIFFERENT.
Something that is more about you as a couple than everyone else.
Something that is stress free and private.
Something that truly represents what you love and value in life.
I help my couples have an elopement day that is filled to the brim with memories, ranging from 4 hours to 2 days of coverage!