So, you want an EPIC adventure elopement spot. You want to climb something insane…that requires absolutely no technical experience. Then look no further than Mt. St. Helens.
Mt. St. Helens is an active volcano that sits 50 miles northeast of Portland, Oregon. What makes it so unique, you ask? Well, in 1980, a massive eruption blew over 1300 feet of elevation off the mountain leaving a 2-mile long crater.
It’s truly spectacular. And whether you want to elope on the top or at its foothills, there are plenty of locations that offer an unbelievable PNW backdrop. In this post, I’ll cover the whens, the wheres, and the hows of planning your dream elopement at Mt. St. Helens.
When to Elope
Summer at Mt. St. Helens
If climbing Mt. St. Helens is your goal (more on this later on!), make sure you plan on eloping in the summer. Late June - early October is when the weather and conditions on the mountain will be ideal for a stress-free climb. Anytime before or after you run the risk of snow, clouds, and avalanche danger.
Fall, Winter, & Spring
You can certainly still experience Helens in the winter if summiting isn’t a priority. Every road surrounding the volcano is open all year round, meaning you can always access the trails and turnoffs with the best viewpoints. Just keep in mind that sunny days are fewer and farther between at this time of year.
What’s My Best Option?
So here’s what we’ll need to decide: winter wonderland, flexible days, and a stunning volcanic backdrop? Let’s do December!
Summiting is not a priority, but you’re prioritizing better weather and still want snow on the ground? Pick spring!
Want to summit on a clear day? Then summertime it is!
Where to Elope
Mt. St. Helens is surrounded on practically all sides by trailheads and viewpoints. Here are some options with stunning backdrops, starting with the obvious…
Summiting Mt. St. Helens
Can you imagine?? Eloping on the rim of an active volcano, overlooking at least FOUR other active volcanoes. It’s a tough climb: 4.1 miles and 4600’ of elevation gain. But if we start early, we’ll be at the top before you know it. And don’t worry, I have plenty of tricks up my sleeve to freshen up your look when we have our ceremony at the top.
It can be hard to score a permit for this climb from Recreation.gov, so I would suggest booking a guide to guarantee your date. Mt.St. Helens Institute and Adventure Tripr offer private guided climbs of Mt. St. Helens - perfect for me, you, your partner, your officiant, and your two Washington-required witnesses!
Surrounding Trails Perfect for Eloping
- Hummocks Trail is just 2.4 miles round-trip and opens up to picture-perfect fields overlooking the northern crater side of the volcano.
- Loowit Falls Trail combines volcanic scenery and a waterfall with constant views of Mt. Adams, great views of Mt. St. Helens, and even views of Mt. Rainier. The trail is 8 miles with 1171’ of elevation gain, so we can scout for our favorite spot to hold your ceremony and then continue on to take photos at the waterfall.
- Harry’s Ridge Trail is 7.8 miles and 1564’ elevation gain of volcano views and summer wildflowers! Perfect for adding pops of color into your elopement.
- June Lake Trail is just 2.5 miles and perfect for snowshoeing.
Car-Accessible Viewpoints and Overlooks of Mt. St. Helens
Hit Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens in One Go
Packwood is a town that sits pretty much directly in the middle of the south side of Mt. Rainier National Park and the east side of Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. So why not hit two volcanoes in one go? Elope at Helens, and then take photos on Skyline Loop Trail overlooking Rainier! It’s a no-brainer.
Once we start working together, I’ll let you in on all my favorite locations so we can choose together. As always, I log hundreds of miles every month to find the best areas. And since we’re using public land instead of a costly venue, it’s our job to do what to protect our surroundings and practice the 7 principles of Leave No Trace!
How to Elope at Mt. St. Helens
Mt. St. Helens is in Gifford Pinchot National Forest, so we have to follow the rules specified by the National Forest Service. You must contact Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument to inquire about a special use permit (we can work on this together - my job is to make this as easy as possible for you!) by calling their main line: (360) 449-7800. We’ll also have to acquire a commercial photography permit, which is $250.
Getting to Mt. St. Helens National Monument
Portland is the closest city/airport to Mt. St. Helens. It only takes about an hour and a half to get from the airport (PDX) to the southern viewpoints, and two hours to get to the northern points. If you plan on renting a car, make sure you choose one with all-wheel drive for the winter months.
If Seattle is your preferred hub, plan for a three-and-a-half-hour drive.
Where to Stay
It can be a little tricky to choose a good central hub around Mt. St. Helens. I’ll make sure to indicate the best places to stay if you’re planning to summit vs. if you are planning on eloping on a surrounding trail. We will have to start early (think 3:00 am!) if we’re going to summit, so it’s important to pick a place close by.
- Davis Yale Lake House (Sleeps 10, $204/night) Good location if you plan to summit
- Secluded Creekside Cabin (Sleeps 8, $191/night) Good location if you plan to summit
- Resthaven Guest House on the Toutle River (Sleeps 4, $111/night)
- Fantastic Waterfront Lake House (Sleeps 7, $225/night)
Packwood Airbnb’s (For Helens and Rainier)
- Millard’s Cabin (Sleeps 8, $205/night)
- BASECAMP - modern cabin w/ hot tub (Sleeps 8, $356/night)
- Elkhorn Chalet (Sleeps 8, $245/night)
Van Life It!
If you choose to rent a van, you can sleep at the trailhead you want to elope at. Meaning we can catch dawn golden hour before anyone else even gets there! Washington is the capital of luxury campervan rentals. Outdoorsy.com is like Airbnb for camper vans. Renting one of these souped-up vans makes it easy to continue your adventure after you elope:
- Luxury Campervan with Queen Bed, Full Kitchen, and Full Bathroom
- Yogi the Van
- Gorgeous Off-Grid 4WD Campbulance Van with Indoor Shower and Toilet
Stay in Portland
If summiting isn’t a priority and you don’t mind a little extra driving, Portland is a no-brainer to set as home base. Plus, you can book a really nice hotel, like The Nines or Sentinel, and explore Portland and its surrounding areas with ease. If you go this route, let’s do an ultra-hot steamy session in that 5-star hotel room 😉
Mt. St. Helens Adventures
There’s so much to do and see at and around Mt. St. Helens National Monument - it’s central to 2 major PNW cities absolutely worth visiting, plus it’s surrounded by nature. Here are some adventures to consider in and around the monument:
- Visit Seattle and make sure to book a food tour of Pike’s Place Market and stop by Starbucks Reserve in Capitol Hill.
- Visit Portland and explore its many adorable neighborhoods and incredible food. Charter a private plane over the city or take an underground donut tour.
- If a winter elopement speaks to you, go snowshoeing!
- Hike one of the many trails surrounding the volcano, or head over to Mt. Rainier National Park to explore some AMAZING trails.
- Charter a private plane for a scenic flight over Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier
- Reserve a permit and backpack through Mt. Margaret Backcountry, where you will hike miles and miles of the otherworldly blast zone from Helens’ 1980 eruption.
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The Gal Behind The Lens
I want to make your day what you want to make your day. I’ve been obsessed with tailoring my own path to what I want it to be that I’ve gone on to help guide people down the same path with adventure elopements. It can seem scary, but I promise I’ll be here from start to finish to help you build your own adventure.