Washington National Park Elopement | How to Get a Special Use Permit

Mount Rainier, Olympic and North Cascades national parks all vary in size, the amount of visitors they see each year and the natural and cultural resources they protect. For that reason, each park sets its own special use permit requirements. 

Obtaining a special use permit for your elopement or intimate wedding helps the park manage land use–Potential interference of other visitors’ experience (The parks are for everyone to enjoy!), congestion of popular spots and overuse or damage of the natural resources the park was established to protect.

While you should technically get a special use permit for elopements and intimate weddings of every size within a national park, many don’t for elopements with just a few guests or the couple only. The parks don’t have the staff to chase down and kick out every one of these groups but just know, if you do get stopped by a ranger, you could be asked to show your permit, even fined and asked leave the park. (Pretty big downer on your wedding day!) Either way, keep a low profile by practicing Leave No Trace. Be sure that any photos you’re taking don’t promote poor Leave No Trace practices–We know planners and photographers that have been fined after the fact because they didn’t know (or chose not to pay attention to) the restrictions/conditions. They posted a photo that broke the rules on social media, tagged the park, a ranger saw the photo and mailed their business a ticket!

Special use permits are super easy to get and we’ve never had a couple denied for one! Again, it’s mostly about managing the popular spots to make sure they aren’t being destroyed. It’s a good excuse for the park to touch base with each couple and educate them on the rules. It’s nothing to be afraid of!

Mount Rainier National Park

Of Washington’s 3 national parks, Mount Rainier National Park’s restrictions and conditions are definitely the most particular!

  • The special use permit application for your Mount Rainier National Park elopement can be found here!
  • Submit your application at least 4 weeks prior to your wedding day
  • Under ‘Permits for Weddings’, be sure to read through the restrictions and conditions section
    • Even if you have a permit, you can’t impede on the activities of other visitors
      • You can’t ask other guests to move or not to watch
      • You can’t hog the best view points
      • Keep the noise down and make sure any music isn’t too obnoxious
    • We usually think the natural environment is stunning as is but if you have any sort of setup, like flower arrangements, rugs, etc., be sure to ask for special permission. NO arches, chairs or tents allowed!
    • NO throwing rice or confetti in the park
    • If you have professional photography/videography, include their contact info on the application

***Permits are issued to couples NOT photographers or planners

***Mount Rainier is the only park of the 3 in Washington that spells out their restrictions and conditions this thoroughly online–If ever in doubt, apply these general rules to all of the national parks!

  • Ceremonies with less than 12 guests are permitted along trails in the wilderness
    • Groups of less than 12 can go almost anywhere in the park, with the exception of Tipsoo & Reflection Lakes (max 8 people)
  • There are designated front-country locations (roadside locations, overlooks and amphitheaters) where ceremonies with over 12 guests are allowed
  • Paradise & Sunrise areas may not be used from 11:00am-4:00pm on Saturdays and Sunday during peak season (Memorial Day-Labor Day)
  • To apply:
    • Download and fill out the application
    • Email your application to mora_special_use@nps.gov
    • You will be emailed directions on how to pay the $60 non-refundable application fee

Olympic National Park

  • The special use permit application for your Olympic National Park Elopement can be found here!
  • Submit your application at least 3-4 weeks before your wedding day
  • To apply:
    • Scroll down to ‘Weddings & Ceremonies’
    • Download, print and fill out the application
    • Mail your application and the $50 non-refundable application fee to: Olympic National Park 600 East Park Avenue, Port Angeles, WA 98362
    • In addition, it is recommend that you send an email, using the contact form on the same page, to let them know the application and payment are on the way. Include your purpose and requested date

North Cascades National Park

***At the time of writing, North Cascades National Park didn’t have their application on their Special Use Permits page. This may be due to Covid-19. We will keep an eye out and update this if that changes.

  • To apply:
    • Send an email, using the contact form on the page above, for more information
    • The $50 non-refundable application fee can be made online, using the link on the same page

If your application is approved by one of the parks above, you will be sent a copy of the permit to review and sign. You will need to return the signed copy to the park for the superintendent’s signature, along with any additional requirements. A copy signed by the superintendent will be returned to you–You must have this copy with you during your permitted activity!

Bonus Info: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Mount Baker-Snoqualmie Forest covers more land in Washington than any of the 3 national parks and includes some extremely popular locations like Artist Point and Gold Creek Pond.

  • Non-commercial events, including elopements and weddings, under 75 DO NOT require a permit. Note that we never recommend more than 25 for these types of events!
    • Non-commercial events are events where guests/participants are not charged a fee and the primary purpose for the event is not for sale of goods or services
  • Even though the rules are a little more lax and you won’t need to get a permit for your event within Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest, we always recommend following the same guidelines you would for any of the national parks. This will help protect the land and others’ experiences!

Need help planning your Washington national park elopement or intimate wedding? Contact The Greatest Adventure Weddings & Elopements to set up a complimentary consultation!

Cheers & happy planning!

Erika

Photos by:

Kim Butler Photography

A Fist Full of Bolts

Nick Plus Danee

Hartman Outdoor Photography

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