February 21, 2022
Do you dream of a wedding that’s a little unconventional? One that’s spent surrounded by the sounds of nature and views of the outdoors instead of the four walls of a traditional venue?
With its panoramic views, dense pine forests, and clear blue waters, Crater Lake National Park makes a great wedding venue for couples who want to slow down, connect with each other and with the great outdoors, and be intentional in the way they begin their marriage! This Crater Lake elopement guide will tell you everything you need to know to get married at Crater Lake National Park, and to plan your one of a kind day.
Crater Lake is located in the Cascade mountain range in Oregon, so like just about every mountainous location, the weather changes pretty dramatically throughout the year. Before you set a date for your Crater Lake elopement, here’s what you need to know!
In the summer, the weather is warm, the sun is shining, and most of the snow has melted from the trails. Some of the high elevation spots won’t be snow free until about mid July, so if you’re planning a longer hike, plan for later in the season, or bring some snow gear! This is the most popular time to visit Crater Lake National Park, so you can expect to see more crowds.
One of the best times to elope in Crater Lake National Park is early fall – though it gets a little cooler, daytime temperatures stay pretty mild in September. Snow typically starts accumulating around mid-October, though there’s always a chance that winter will begin early with flurries starting in September. The park is much less crowded in early fall, but the weather is usually still pretty perfect for exploring!
Winters in Crater Lake are an entirely different experience – the park is open year round (but the north entrance closes, and the south and west ones stay open), and with an average of 42 feet of snow per year, the park becomes a winter wonderland. If you want to cross county ski, sled, snowshoe, or just make a few snow angels, this is an incredible time to elope!
In the spring, as the weather starts to warm up, lower elevation trails can become accessible again, and wildflowers begin to bloom as the snow melts. Higher elevations are usually snow covered until July – and spring weather is pretty unpredictable, with sunshine in May and June some years and an extended ski season in others.
One of the best things about eloping is that the “wedding venues” at Crater Lake are actually overlooks, trails, and outdoor spots where you can say your vows surrounded by incredible scenery! The park has a map of potential elopement locations, and as an elopement photographer one of the best parts of my job is location scouting, to help couples like you find the perfect spot – whether it’s an easily accessible overlook or a hiking trail.
Keep in mind that these aren’t traditional wedding venues – Crater Lake won’t be able to accommodate a big wedding. These spots work best when you have no more than 10 people attending your ceremony!
To get you inspired, here are a few of my favorite places for elopements in Crater Lake National Park.
The Discovery Point Overlook offers a panoramic view of Crater Lake. The hike to the overlook is 2.4 miles roundtrip, and with only 337 feet of elevation gain, this is one of the best places to elope for couples who want scenic views without too much mileage!
Taking the Watchman Peak trail will lead you to the overlook – where you’ll see an incredible view of Crater Lake below! This trail is 1.7 miles roundtrip, with 400 feet of elevation gain. The lookout at the top is not ADA accessible, but there is a walled overlook that is, which gives you a view of the entire lake! For some more ADA accessible elopement locations in Oregon, check out this guide.
The Garfield Peak trail is more difficult, with over 1,000 feet of elevation gain. Beginning at Crater Lake Lodge, it will take you uphill – where you’ll be rewarded with views of the crystal blue water and the surrounding mountains. And the views only get better as you keep going! You can hike all 3.4 miles, or stop along the way – there are plenty of gorgeous spots for a ceremony.
To elope at Crater Lake, you’ll need a wedding permit. This is also called a special use permit, and you can find the application here! There is a $50 fee along with the application, and the park recommends sending in your application at least 8 weeks early.
However, Crater Lake National Park has limited staff in the permit office so it’s best to plan for possible delays in response times, and slow processing times for permit applications. To avoid any stress, I recommend applying farther in advance, at least a few months out. As soon as you decide on an elopement location, you can fill out your application and submit it to the park!
Your elopement isn’t like a traditional venue – because that’s sort of the point, right? But when you tie the knot outdoors, there are some extra considerations and things to think about! Here are some things to know about Crater Lake National Park, and things to keep in mind as you plan your elopement.
While you’re exploring, safety’s a big thing to keep in mind. Around the caldera (the crater), there are viewpoints and overlooks on the road and on the hiking trails – be mindful, and stay away from the edges. The steep cliff drop offs can be dangerous, and cliff sides can be fragile. Don’t get too close to the edge, and if there are fences, rock walls, or blockades preventing you from getting closer, remember that they’re there for a reason, and follow the rules!
The gorgeous blue water of Crater Lake is so tempting in the summer – but there’s only one place where you can swim. The Cleetwood Cove Trail leads to a spot on the shore where you have access to the water – though the trail is only a mile long, it’s steep! This is the only place where you can legally hop in the water.
Head’s up – the water is cold! In the summer, the surface warms up to around 55-60 degrees, but the lake is largely made up of melting glaciers, so don’t expect to stay in for long!
LNT (Leave No Trace) is a set of 7 principles that were created to help us reduce our impact on the outdoors. People often have a much bigger impact than we realize, and a lot of damage happens when we’re unaware!
Following these principles ensures that Crater Lake National Park stays beautiful, and that it stays open for adventure elopements.
Here are the 7 principles, and what they mean for elopements.
You deserve a wedding day that feels like you – a day where you can be yourselves, celebrate the connection between you, and get married in a way that reflects who you are.
As an Oregon elopement photographer, my job is to give you photos that take you right back to the incredible moment – the one where you said “I do,” the one where you got ready with butterflies in your stomach, the one where you spend the evening exploring together, and every incredible moment, big or small, that makes your day unique. And as someone who eloped herself, I’m here to make sure your day is nothing short of incredible – so everything you need for your Crater Lake elopement, from location recommendations to permit help to creating a timeline, I’ve got you covered!
Contact me to learn more about Crater Lake elopement packages, and let’s start planning your day!