The best thing about eloping is that there are absolutely no rules – which means you get to decide how, where, and when you get married. If the two of you love climbing mountains together and you feel most like yourselves out in nature, a hiking elopement might be right for you! But, adding some elevation gain to your wedding day requires some planning and you’ll need to figure out some logistics – so here’s the scoop on how to plan a hiking elopement!
The first thing you’ll need to do to plan your hiking elopement is decide on a hiking trail!
Before you search for trails, it’s a good idea to get on the same page about what level of difficulty you’re looking for. If you love a challenge, but don’t want to work too hard on your elopement day, there’s nothing wrong with that! And if you only feel alive when your calves are on fire and want to work for the views, you can pick a more difficult trail.
It’s important to assess yours and your partner’s abilities and experience. If you’ve never hiked a fourteener, your elopement day may not be the best time to start. If you’re planning on inviting guests, make sure to think about what they’d be up for and able to do! Decide what length and elevation gain you’re comfortable with.
There are a lot of hiking trails out there – so to start narrowing it down, I recommend working backwards! Decide what kind of scenery you’d like to be surrounded by while you say your vows. Do you want to stand on top of a mountain? Dip your toes in the ocean? Kayak across an alpine lake?
Once you have an idea of what the perfect elopement day looks like, start brainstorming locations that fit. Whether it’s specific trails you know of or general locations, come up with a list of some places you’d like to go.
If you have a fur baby that you just can’t imagine your day without, you can totally bring them along! However, you will need to find a trail that’s dog friendly. This means that almost all national park trails are out, but don’t worry! There are plenty of trails in national forests and state parks that allow dogs, and as an added bonus they’re usually less crowded!
The easiest way to find a trail that fits your vision for the day is on All Trails. You’ll find thousands of trails across the country, and you can filter by length, elevation gain, difficulty, and even what kind of views you’ll get!
If you have a few different areas in mind, for example, Yosemite and Glacier, check out what trails are available for both and see if anything stands out! After you decide on a hiking trail, you’ll need to do some research in trail conditions throughout the seasons before you choose a date for your hiking elopement. In general, the best time for hiking is summer (unless you’re hiking in the desert, in which case fall or winter are ideal) – many higher elevation areas stay snow covered into mid July, so make sure you look up potential road closures and trail conditions before deciding on a date.
Now that you have your location picked, it’s time to start planning the details of your hiking elopement!
You have two options for what to do about your wedding attire – you can wear it while you hike, or pack it in your bag and change once you reach the destination. For shorter hikes, I recommend wearing your dress or suit during the hike, as it will give you opportunities for photos on the way up! For longer hikes you can pack them – don’t worry, I’ll explain how.
If one of you is wearing a dress, think about your hiking elopement before you purchase one. If you know you want to pack your dress, try to look for fabrics that don’t wrinkle easily. Lace is the best, as it’s basically wrinkle-proof, but light fabrics like chiffon and tulle work well too! I recommend avoiding heavy fabrics, because along with potential wrinkling, whether you wear the dress or pack it in, it will add a lot of weight and make hiking more difficult! Make sure it’s something you’ll be able to move around in easily – that means no mermaid style dresses!
If you pack your dress, the best way to keep it safe is to have a waterproof garment bag. When you pack it for the hike, carefully fold any boning or structured parts of the dress. Then, any skirt that’s too long for the bag, roll it up! Then, you can strap the bag to your backpack with bungee cords.
For suits, a garment bag is ideal as well, and you can strap it to your backpack!
Any experienced hiker knows that you should always be over prepared when you’re hiking! You never know what can happen, so it’s best to have too much than not enough.
You’ll need the basics, like food and water, along with jackets and extra layers. If the hike you’re planning is going to be cold, thermal leggings under a dress work wonders! Make sure to also bring a small first aid kit. Then, it’s time for the fun stuff, like wedding bands, vow books, champagne, and anything else you want with you to celebrate your elopement!
LNT stands for Leave No Trace – a set of principles that we should follow any time we go outside. You can learn more about it here, and when you elope, think about the ways in which your presence impacts the environment! We want to make sure that parks keep allowing elopements, and that the outdoors stays beautiful for years to come.
With a hiking elopement, it’s especially important to hire a photographer who specializes in elopements. As an elopement photographer, I also guide couples throughout the elopement planning process. From giving you location recommendations, to crafting a timeline, I’m there to make sure your day is unique, perfect, and totally you. And most importantly, I’ve spent years exploring (for work and for fun) outdoors, and have all the tips and tricks to keep you safe while you hike. If you’re ready to plan your hiking elopement, contact me!
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