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.
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.
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.
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!
Mt. St. Helens is surrounded on practically all sides by trailheads and viewpoints. Here are some options with stunning backdrops, starting with the obvious…
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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 😉
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:
Ready to start planning your unforgettable North Cascades National Park elopement!? Nomadic Weddings proudly offers complimentary planning assistance from start to end, customized packages and timelines to fit any needs, and an experience that will make this adventure your best one yet! This thing won’t plan itself! Reach out today to get started.
This ain’t an all-day photoshoot, I’m not here to get you to grin at a camera all day long, that would suck. I’m here to capture all the natural and organic moments of a beautiful day filled with things you two love to do the most together. Whether that’s hiking, backpacking, camping, rock climbing, sailing, biking, exploring cities, or sipping on microbrews; whatever your heart desires.