Forest elopement

A forest elopement is a great choice for you if you love tall trees, mossy landscapes, and lush greenery. There are endless options for a forest elopement. This guide is going to cover exactly how to plan a forest elopement, and amazing forest elopement locations!

Best Time to Have a Forest Elopement

Personally, I think the best time for a forest elopement is when the wildflowers are blooming. Generally late spring to early summer. However, wildflower blooms totally depend on where you are. If you’re in higher elevation, it might not be until mid July. In lower elevation locations that are warmer, it can be earlier in May. Each season brings something different to the forests, so consider what you and your partner are looking for and research the times of the year for your forest elopement location. Here is what each season can look like:


Spring is lovely in lower elevation forest locations. Things are lush and green, and wildflowers are beginning to bloom. If you pick a forest elopement location with a waterfall, this is when they will be at their peak, flowing the heaviest. Some areas can still be a bit chilly, and some areas are prone to a lot of rain in spring. Trails can also be muddy this time of year.


Summer is a beautiful time of year for a forest elopement. If you’re in higher elevation in a place such as Glacier National Park, this is when all the forest elopement locations will be accessible. Trails will be dry. Flowers will be blooming. And even in summer, it won’t be too hot high up. In lower elevation locations, some flowers might be starting to die off. This is also when you’ll see a lot of bugs, and temps can be very high.


Fall is one of my favorites times of the year for a forest elopement. The changing of colors is absolutely stunning, and crowds in popular places are dying down. Fall is the “shoulder” season, which also means you’ll get things like flight and accommodations for cheaper. However, this is the time of year where all the flowers are gone. The good news is, all trails are normally still accessible until new snowfall. It can be pretty cool in higher elevation locations, especially in the mornings and nights.


Winter is a stunning time of the year for a forest elopement. You can choose a forest along the coast, such as The Redwoods National Forest, and still get mild temps. This time of year, you’ll get locations like that all to yourself, which are otherwise usually popular and crowded. Alternatively, if you love the snow, you can pick a lower elevation forest elopement location. This will give you a beautiful winter wonderland backdrop. Higher elevation locations might not be accessible. Some can be accessed via snowmobile. Remember, days are much shorter, and you’ll have to pack layers to stay warm!

Forest Elopement Wedding Permit

You will likely need a special use permit to have a forest elopement. For National Parks, you will need to get one through the National Parks website. National Parks will have the most restrictions on location selection, and how many people you can have. State Parks almost always require a special use permit as well. Their conditions can be a bit more lenient, however.

You also have the option of having your forest elopement in a National Forest or on BLM land. You always need to check about permits (this is something I do for my eloping couples) however, you often don’t need a permit unless you’re having over 75 people.

How to Get a Marriage License For a Forest Elopement

Getting a marriage license is actually super easy! You don’t have to be a resident of the state you’re eloping in to get a marriage license there. So, once you have decided on your forest elopement location, you just need to find the closest county clerks office to that location. From there, you’ll go to their online site and apply for your marriage license online.

Following that, you will both need to appear in person with valid ID’s to finish the application, and pick up your marriage license. You will pay the fee, and then be able to get legally married. However, some states have a three day waiting period to use your marriage license. Make sure to ask when you apply online about this. If they do have a three day waiting period, you can either pay a fee to waive it, or you can plan your ceremony three days after you pick it up.

Forest elopement

How to Plan a Forest Elopement

You plan a forest elopement in similar ways as you’d plan any adventure elopement. There are a few major steps, and you can read about those here on my thorough guide on how to elope. For this forest elopement guide, I’m going over the major things you’ll need to consider!


This is an imperative part of the planning process for elopements. This is because some guests won’t have the hiking ability, some might not want to drive or forest roads, and others will be apt to altitude sickness. Choosing a location will be much easier once you’ve determine who you’re inviting, and how many guests total you’ll have.


This might feel early in the planning process, but bear with me. Elopements don’t have wedding planners. Most elopement photographers have taken it upon themselves to help couples with some of the planning. Many actually help you find your location! And they will think of things you might not have considered, such as: lighting, elevation, difficulty in hiking in a dress, permits, and so much more.

Each elopement photographer offers something different. Personally, I send my couples a customized list of locations based on their preferences, hiking ability, who they want to invite, and what they want to see. I also help them determine lodging options, get permits, get their marriage license, recommend vendors, and create a comprehensive day of timeline, and offer unlimited guidance calls for any questions along the way.

The being said, hiring your forest elopement photographer early is going to take a massive amount of planning stress off of your shoulders. Wanna chat? Contact me here!


This is going to help you choose a date and location. There are rainy seasons, dry seasons, and even seasons that you THINK would be warm, but can still be snowy and cold depending on elevation. You’ll want to decide what type of weather you want to be in, and then pick a location and time of year that accommodates that!


Once you’ve decided on how much you’d like to hike, how many guests are coming, your ideal weather, and the landscapes you want, you’re ready to deep dive into researching forest elopement locations. Finding the perfect spot will be a lot simpler after considering all of your needs and logistics.

This is information I collect from my couples through a questionnaire, and then use to make a customized list of forest elopement location options for them.


Once you have your location, it’s time to consider if there’s anything you need vendors for. Do you need any event rentals? Do you want a friend or family to officiate, or do you want to hire an officiant? Will you go out to eat, or do you want something catered, like a meal at an Airbnb from a private chef?

Figure out what extra services you may want, and hire your vendors in advance!


You will need to get the correct permits for your elopement. These are usually “special use” permits that you apply for on the National Parks website, or National Forest/BLM website.

Personally, I get all permit information for my eloping couples that hire me. With that, all you need to do is fill out the application when it’s sent to you and pay the fee. Fee’s vary, but are usually around $150 or less.


Activities are such a fun part of an elopement. When you choose to elope, you’re opening yourself up to having a wedding day celebration that feels unique and resonates with you. Incorporate things that will elevate your elopement day experience. Here’s just a few ideas to get you brainstorming:

  • Going on a hike
  • Having a bonfire
  • Having a mossy picnic
  • Star-gazing or astrophotography
  • Swimming
  • Visiting waterfalls
  • Hiring a private chef
  • Sightseeing
  • Scenic driving with time to stop for pictures
  • Visiting hot springs
  • Exchanging gifts
  • Reading letters from friends or family


Making a timeline is an important part of any elopement. It strings together all of your locations, activities, and lets guests know where to be and when. Creating a well thought out timeline will help you feel relaxed during the day, instead of stressed or rush. Make sure to include drive times as well as buffer times between each “event.”

Here are the things I include in the timelines I make for my couples:

  • All addresses
  • Sunrise time
  • Sunset time
  • Drive times
  • A linke to Accuweather
  • A list of all names for group shots
  • Vendor info
  • Emergency contact info
  • A packing list
Forest elopement

Forest Elopement Locations

There are endless stunning forest elopement locations all across the United States. You have a plethora of options. Remember to pick something that speaks to you and your partner as a couple. As an elopement photographer, I make a customized list of specific elopement locations for my clients. The list is tailored to their unique needs such as: scenery, how much they want to hike, if they want to avoid intense forest roads, elevation, and weather. For now, here’s a list of stunning forest elopement locations:

Bridger-Teton National Forest

The Bridger-Teton National Forest is absolutely stunning. It’s very close to both Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. It’s a great choice if you love those parks, but want less crowds and less restrictions for your forest elopement location. You can read more about a Grand Teton elopement here!

Coconino National Forest

Forest elopement

If you love a blend of both forest and red rocks, the Coconino National Forest in Arizona is an amazing choice. This forest elopement location is going to be best in early spring, when temps are mild, crowds are small, and things are lush and in full bloom! You can read more about eloping in Arizona here!

Tongass National Forest

Tongass National Forest in Alaska is an absolutely massive National Forest. Couples opt to get around via boats, and helicopters. With endless lush and stunning spots, Tongass will not disappoint for an adventurous forest elopement. You can read my full guide on eloping in Alaska and Alaska elopement locations here!

Redwoods National Park

Forest elopement

Redwoods National Park is one of the first places I think of when I think about a forest elopement. This location has massive trees, stunning ferns, and so much greenery. You also can opt for locations outside of the park, or ones that also offer views of the coast! You can read my full guide on eloping in the Redwoods here!

Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Waterfalls and wildflowers, the Gifford Pinchot National Forest is located in Washington State. I love that theres few crowds in this National Forest, with a ton of different options for forest elopement locations. Wether you want lush greenery, wildflowers, or both, you can find it here. Read my full guide on eloping in Washington here!

White River National Forest

Forest elopement

Located in Colorado, this is one of my favorite National Parks in the state. It offers a ton of space, and is far less crowded that places like Rocky Mountains National Park. From turquoise pools, to mountains, to lush greenery, this forest elopement location truly has it all.

Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park has a lot of vast landscape. However, the Hoh Rainforest within the park is an absolutely breathtaking forest elopement location. The moss covered trees are absolutely stunning, and you can feel fully immersed in the greenery. Read my full Olympic National Park elopement guide here!

Sawtooth National Forest

If you want a mix of forest, alpine lakes, and mountains, Sawtooth National Forest is an amazing forest elopement location. This is also an amazing spot if you’re into hot springs! There’s plenty around, and this is generally an area that doesn’t bring a ton of crowds, making it easy to find seclusion.

Sierra National Forest

Forest elopement

The Sierra National Forest located in California is one of my favorite forest elopement locations. There’s no lack of woods, waterfalls, and wildflowers. Everything you could want out of a forest ceremony, and adventurous elopement. Easily choose a drive up location, or an all day hike. There’s something for everyone in this stunning location. Read everything about eloping in California here!

Sequoia National Forest

Forest elopement

Sequoia National Forest is stunning, and a lot less busy than the National Park. You can find a lot more solitude amongst the giant trees in the forest elopement location, located in California.

Dixie National Forest

For being in the middle of the desert, the Dixie National Forest is actually a lush mix of red rocks and trees, located in Utah. There’s even waterfalls, making this a wildly unique and beautiful forest elopement location. Read my full guide on eloping in Utah and Utah elopement locations here!

Lodging for a Forest Elopement

Lodging is important when it comes to elopements. A lot of couples incorporate their lodging into aspects of their wedding day. For example, getting ready + getting ready photos, a first look, an intimate reception with friends, a dinner made by a private chef, etc. Once you’ve decided what you’ll incorporate in your day, pick a location that will allow everything you want to include.

If you want to host an intimate reception, I highly recommend a vacation rental such as a cabin or an Airbnb. You can also stay at hotels, resorts, chalets, campgrounds, etc. I absolutely love when couples choose a Airbnb that is in the forest and set up an a beautiful candlelight dinner among the trees and moss.

How Much Does it Cost to Have a Forest Elopement

To have a forest elopement, you’ll need your marriage license $50-$150 as well as a specail use permit $50-$250. So, a forest elopement costs around $100-$350. That being said, most couples spend an average of $5000-$20,000 on their elopement. This includes flights, lodging, permits, vendors, wedding attire, meals, and anything extra a couple might want.

Forest elopement

Packing for a Forest Elopement

When planning a forest elopement, you’re going to want to pack some specific things to make your day easy, and comfortable. Here’s a list of things I recommend for an adventurous elopement in the forest:

  • Bug spray
  • Bear spray
  • Backpacking backpack
  • Snacks
  • Water
  • Camel pack
  • Comfortable shoes (possibly hiking boots)
  • Warm layers (nuder layers to go under dress if in a cold location)
  • Hand warmers (if in a cold location)
  • Baby wipes (to wipe off any dirt)
  • Sunscreen
  • Specail use permit
  • Marriage license

Forest Elopement Packages

Elopement photography by Emilee Setting Photo, and everything included in my packages:

  • Explore anywhere within the state you elope in, all travel fees included in the price!
  • Packages from half day elopements to multi-day elopements
  • Receive a customized location list
  • Help finding lodging that suits your needs if you’re having an intimate reception
  • Included comprehensive timeline design
  • Help obtaining your permits
  • Help obtaining your marriage license
  • A planning checklist
  • Unlimited planning and guidance calls 
  • All of your stunning photos delivered under three months
  • Day of polaroid sneak peeks

Forest elopement packages starting at $5800. Want more information on my pricing and what’s included? Click here

Forest elopement

Ready to Have a Forest Elopement?

This Forest elopement guide is a way to get you excited about all the possibilities of what your day could look like. Although, this amount of information can be overwhelming. I’m here to help. I can answer any and all questions you have on a complimentary low pressure consultation call. If you then choose you’d like to work together, I’ll do all of this planning right by your said to alleviate any stress, and bring your Forest elopement vision to life. We can chat here!

Don't forget your free elopement planning checklist


You see a stranger’s puppy & it takes everything in you not to run up & cuddle it.

Your dress gets dirt on it, and you shrug.

You think ice cream & wine is always an acceptable dinner option. Always.

You LIVE for the feeling of sunshine on your skin & wind in your hair.

You’re already screaming YASSSS WHERE DO I BOOK YOU?

I'm Emilee

I'm an elopement photographer who specializes in planning, crafting, and documenting untraditional weddings. I believe a wedding day should be filled with traditions that resonate with you. I'm here from start to finish to make that happen. Want to chat about your plans? Click below to set up a free consultation! 

You see a stranger’s puppy & it takes everything in you not to run up & cuddle it.

Your dress gets dirt on it, and you shrug.

You think ice cream & wine is always an acceptable dinner option. Always.

You LIVE for the feeling of sunshine on your skin & wind in your hair.

You’re already screaming YASSSS WHERE DO I BOOK YOU?

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