How to Plan a Hiking Elopement in 2024

Are you and your partner looking for a unique and adventurous way to tie the knot? Consider a hiking elopement! With stunning natural landscapes as your backdrop, hiking elopements are becoming an increasingly popular choice for couples who want to celebrate their love in a more intimate and adventurous way. Whether you’re eloping to a secluded spot surrounded by nature or going for a more adventurous hike up a mountain, a hiking elopement can be a unique and special way to commit to each other and celebrate your love. In this blog post, I will provide tips on how to plan your own hiking elopement that leaves you with unforgettable memories.

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What is a Hiking Elopement?

A hiking elopement is a type of wedding ceremony that is becoming increasingly popular among couples who are looking for a unique and adventurous way to exchange vows. This type of elopement typically involves hiking, camping, backpacking, or other outdoor activities in scenic and remote locations. It’s a way for couples to celebrate their love for each other while connecting with nature. Unlike a traditional wedding, a hiking elopement is typically small and intimate, with only the couple and a small number of close friends or family members in attendance.

Choose a Location

One of the most important aspects on planning a Hiking Elopement is selecting the perfect location. Some of the top hiking elopement destinations in the United States include national parks like Yosemite, Zion, and Glacier and popular trails like the Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian Trail, and the Colorado Trail. However, many lesser-known hiking trails and locations can provide stunning backdrops for your elopement ceremony. Explore my list of top locations in California here.

When selecting a location for your hiking elopement, there are several factors to consider. You will want to choose a trail that suits your fitness level and experience and a location with scenic views and photo opportunities. It’s also important to consider the time of year, weather conditions, and any permits or restrictions that may apply to your chosen location.

Hiking Elopement Location Ideas in California:

Big Pine Lakes

Located in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains, Big Pine Lakes offers beautiful alpine lakes, waterfalls, and stunning views.

View of trees and hiking trail.

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is one of the most iconic and beautiful natural locations in the world, featuring granite cliffs, waterfalls, and stunning valleys.

Yosemite National Forest rives, trees, and granite wall.

Big Sur Coast

With miles of coastline, Big Sur offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and is perfect for a romantic and intimate elopement.

Big Sur road, shore, and hills at sunrise.

Lake Tahoe

The Tahoe area is perfect for couples who love hiking and outdoor adventure. It offers incredible views of the lake, mountains, and forests.

Lake Tahoe blue lake with rocks at shore and trees.

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park offers incredible desert scenery, unique rock formations, and beautiful sunsets.

A couple standing in the center of a desert with Joshua Trees beside them.

Helpful Tips for Selecting Your Location:

Determine Your Fitness Level and Experience

Before selecting your elopement location, it’s important to consider your fitness level and hiking experience. Choose a trail suitable for your skill level, and make sure you have the appropriate gear and equipment for the terrain. If you’re a beginner, I recommend starting off with a shorter hike or choosing an area with less challenging terrain. On the other hand, if you’re an experienced hiker, you may want to choose a more challenging trail that offers more adventure and excitement.

Look for Scenic Views

One of the biggest advantages of hiking elopement is the opportunity to exchange vows in some of the most beautiful and scenic locations in the world. Some popular hiking elopement locations in the United States include national parks like Yosemite, Zion, and Glacier and popular trails like the Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian Trail, and the Colorado Trail. However, many lesser-known hiking trails and locations can provide equally stunning backdrops for your elopement ceremony. A lesser known trail also provides more privacy for your vow exchange.

Weather Conditions and Temperatures

The time of year and weather conditions can play a significant role in your choice of location for a hiking elopement. While many trails are accessible year-round, some may be closed or more difficult to navigate during certain seasons. Make sure you have appropriate clothing and gear for the climate. For example, if you’re planning a winter elopement, you’ll want to choose a location with suitable trails for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. In comparison, if choosing a summer elopement, it’s best to avoid deserts and canyons.

Research Permits and Restrictions

Many hiking locations, particularly those in national parks, require permits or have restrictions on the number of people allowed on the trail at any given time. Be sure to research any permits or restrictions that may apply to your chosen location, and plan accordingly. Some locations may also have restrictions on where you can hold your ceremony or take photos, so it’s important to be aware of any limitations before making your final decision.

Pick a Date or Season

When selecting a date for your hiking elopement, there a lot to be considered. You’ll want to narrow date your preferred temperatures, trail length, difficulty, and privacy.

Helpful Tips for Selecting Your Date:

Weather Conditions

When selecting a date for your hiking elopement, allow your ideal weather to influence your chosen location. You’ll want to avoid the hottest or coldest times of the year. Freezing or sweating from heat probably won’t create much enjoyment on your elopement day. Take the time to carefully consider the weather conditions. Remember that weather can be unpredictable somtimes, so it’s important to have a backup plan such as choosing an indoor or covered ceremony location or rescheduling your elopement to a different date.

Time of Year

Depending on the location of your hike, certain times of the year may be better than others. For example, some trails may be too icy or snowy to hike during the winter months, while others may be too hot and dry during the summer. During certain times of the year daylight can be severely affected as well. For example, Iceland experiences very short daylight hours during January, yet in June it’s as if the sun never sets!

Peak Season vs. Off-Season

If you’re an introvert like me, avoid peak season. Peak visitor season can be a great time to hike and enjoy the natural beauty of the area, but it can also mean more crowds and higher prices for accommodations. This also means less chance of having privacy, unless you decide on a more remote area or longer trail.

Trail Conditions

Before selecting a date for your hiking elopement, it’s crucial to research the trail conditions of your chosen location. Some trails may be closed due to weather conditions or maintenance, while others may be too difficult for certain skill levels. I’d also look into the history of the trail and how the seasons typically affect it. In Big Sur and the Redwoods, winter brings rainstorms that sometimes flood the area or create extremely muddy trail conditions.

Couple holding hands while wearing backpacks with signs that say "Just" and "Married."

Make a Gear List

When it comes to preparing for a hike, creating a gear list is essential. It ensures that you have all the necessary equipment and supplies for your trip and can help prevent any potential problems or mishaps. Your gear list should include items such as appropriate clothing for the weather conditions, comfortable footwear, enough water, and snacks to keep you  fueled, and any necessary navigation or safety equipment.

It’s important to be comprehensive in your list-making and to make sure you have everything you need before embarking on your adventure. This will not only make your hike more enjoyable, but it will also ensure that you’re prepared for any unexpected situations that may arise.

Hiking Gear List:

  • Hiking Boots or Shoes: Proper footwear is essential for any hiking trip. Choose shoes or boots that are comfortable, provide good support, and are appropriate for the terrain you’ll be hiking on.
  • Backpacks: A sturdy and comfortable backpack is necessary to carry all your gear, snacks, and water on the hike. Choose a backpack with enough capacity to hold all your essentials.
  • Water: Bring plenty of water for your hike, especially if it’s a longer hike or if the weather is hot. Consider bringing a hydration system, like a water bladder, or a water bottle that can be refilled with a filtration or purification system. I love my Sawyer water filter!
  • Snacks: Bring high-energy snacks that are easy to carry, like granola bars, trail mix, or energy bars.
  • Sunscreen: Protect your skin from harmful UV rays by applying sunscreen before and during your hike. Choose a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Insect Repellent: Keep bugs at bay with insect repellent. Choose a repellent that is effective against ticks and mosquitoes.
  • First Aid Kit: Accidents can happen on the trail, so it’s important to bring a well-stocked first aid kit. Pack items like band-aids, gauze, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and tweezers.
  • Maps and Compass: Bring a map and compass to navigate the trail and avoid getting lost. Consider bringing a GPS device or a smartphone with a mapping app as a backup.
  • Headlamps or Flashlights: If you plan to hike during low-light conditions or camp overnight, bring a headlamp or flashlight to light your way.
  • Warm Layers or Rain Gear: Weather can change quickly on the trail, so be prepared with warm layers or rain gear, depending on the forecast. Consider bringing a waterproof jacket, a hat, gloves, and a warm fleece or down jacket

Photography and Videography for Your Hiking Elopement

Your elopement will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience and one that you’ll want to remember for years to come. Here are some important considerations to keep in mind when choosing the right photographer or videographer for your hiking elopement.

Why Hiring a Photographer or Videographer is Important

Hiring a professional photographer or videographer ensures that your memories are captured in the best possible way. A skilled photographer or videographer will know how to capture the beauty of your surroundings and the emotions of your day. They will have the right equipment and expertise to create stunning images and videos that will allow you to relive your hiking elopement for years to come.

Tips for Selecting the Right Photographer or Videographer

When selecting a photographer or videographer for your hiking elopement, it’s important to do your research. Look for someone with experience in outdoor photography and/or videography, and make sure to review their portfolio to see if their style matches your vision. It’s also important to communicate your expectations and preferences upfront so that you and your photographer or videographer are on the same page.

I specialize in adventure elopements and have plenty of experience hiking outdoors. I’ve helped countless couples and groups navigate trails, backpacking, and camping. To begin planning your hiking elopement [reach out here].

Have a Backup Plan

As mentioned earlier, having a backup plan is an important aspect of any outdoor adventure. Even if you’ve planned your trip down to the smallest detail, there can always be unforeseen circumstances. You may run into bad weather, trail closures, or other emergencies.

You may want to choose an area with multiple trails or viewpoints to ensure you have options in case of inclement weather. This means that if one trail is closed or too dangerous to navigate, you can still explore other areas and make the most of your trip. Additionally, it’s important to research local emergency services and have a plan in place for how to contact them in case of an emergency. This may include bringing a satellite phone, learning how to use a map and compass, or having a first aid kit on hand.

Overall, a hiking elopement can be a beautiful and memorable way to tie the knot. By carefully considering all of the logistics involved on How to Plan a Hiking Elopement, from selecting the perfect trail and attire to planning the ceremony and securing accommodations, you can ensure that your special day goes off without a hitch. Your elopement photographer will also heavily research and help plan your perfect day. You’re ready to go. Get out there and start planning your dream hiking elopement!

Here's to co-creating an unforgettable elopement experience.

I’m Karen, a Southern California Elopement Photographer who empowers couples to create memories that will last a lifetime. I am dedicated to providing the tools you need to create an unforgettable experience. 

I help couples by providing personalized location lists, planning resources, vendor recommendations, permits, timeline-curation, and much more to curate elopement days that will be cherished forever.

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