Imagine saying your vows to the love of your life with the deepest lake in the country glistening behind you – yes please! Crater Lake is one of the most incredible places in Oregon and is a no-brainer if you’re looking at epic elopement locations in the PNW. The near-perfect circular shape of the lake, the vibrant, clear, blue water, and the tree-lined crater make for the most spectacular scenery & elopement backdrop. Sooo if you’re thinking about eloping at Crater Lake, you’re going to love this full guide to how to plan your Crater Lake National Park elopement!
Crater Lake National Park is located in the Cascade Mountains of southern Oregon, about 90 miles from the Oregon-California border. The park is about 5 hours from Portland, just under 3 hours from Bend, and just under 4 hours from Redding, CA.
If you’re flying in from out of state, I’d recommend finding connecting flights into Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport (MFR). If you’re down for a bit of a road trip from a bigger city, you can fly into Portland International Airport (PDX) or Sacramento International Airport (SMF). You could totally find a place to stay in Portland or Sacramento for a few days, drive to Crater Lake for your elopement & stay for a couple of nights, then drive back to the city to wrap up your trip before flying back home!
Technically, Crater Lake National Park is open 24/7, but the operating hours for different facilities change with the seasons. Certain trails and locations might also be inaccessible once winter hits, so it really just depends on the weather (late/early snowfall, when the snow melts, etc.) each year. This page has a list of park access + closing dates in recent years if you want to get an idea of what seasonal closures could potentially look like.
Yup, you’ll need either a private vehicle pass, which is valid for 7 days and costs $20 in the winter/$30 in the summer or a Crater Lake Annual Pass, which costs $55. You can buy passes at an entrance station when you get to the park or online in advance here & find all the fee/pass info here!
Yessss you totally can – and should! There are a ton of incredible locations to choose from, and the permit process is fairly straightforward.
There aren’t any specific, approved (or restricted) wedding sites in Crater Lake National Park, but you can check out this map that shows all the permitted locations in the park that you can choose from! You’ll want to make your decision based on the physical capabilities of you & your guests, as well as how much effort you want to put in to get to your location. Do you want to go on a decent hike? Do you or your guests need a wheelchair-friendly location? How steep of a hill are you willing to climb? These are all important things to keep in mind as you choose the best location for your Crater Lake elopement ceremony!
Yup! To hold your wedding ceremony at Crater Lake National Park, you’ll need a Special Use Permit.
It costs at least $120 to get married at Crater Lake, as you’ll have to pay a non-refundable $50 application fee when you send in your permit application, a non-refundable $50 administrative fee if your permit is approved, and a $20+ park entry fee.
You might also have to pay additional monitoring fees, depending on where in the park your ceremony is held & how many people will be attending. Skip down to this section for more details on the permit you’ll need to get!
Crater Lake National Park has sooo many incredible hiking + biking trails, overlooks, and spots to pull off the road – and they truly do ALL offer insane scenery. It’s really hard to pick what area(s) you want to explore for your elopement, so I’m more than happy to help you consider all your options & choose the right ones for your big day! Below are 5 amazing locations in the park, but trust me – there are SO many more.
You can’t visit Crater Lake without driving along Rim Drive! This 33-mile road is absolutely epic and boasts the most spectacular views in the park, and there are more than 30 pulloffs you can stop at to take in allll the scenery. This is one of the locations that closes between November and July, so make sure you plan your elopement during the summer if you’re dying to see the views from Rim Drive!
Discovery Point Trail is an easy 2.4-mile trail that takes only around an hour to complete, and it’s a popular spot for camping & cross-country skiing as well as hiking! It’s a great trail to visit year-round if you want to go in the winter and bring your skis instead of your summer sandals.
This 3.4 mile trail takes you through some amazingggg views of the glistening blue lake. If you’re looking for a moderately-challenging hike to do on your elopement day, this is a super popular one!
If you want a bit of a shorter hike with JUST as beautiful of views, check out the Watchman Peak Trail! This trail is just 1.7 miles out-and-back and takes around an hour to complete. There’s only 400 feet of elevation gain and the views are absolutely epic.
Okay, this isn’t just ONE location – but multiple! Along with its incredible views of the crater, The area surrounding Crater Lake actually also has a few beautiful waterfalls you can hike to – and trust me, you’ll want to! Dramatic elopement portraits in front of a majestic waterfall are my absolute faaave. Below are some of the most popular, beautiful waterfalls in the park!
If you’re looking for some more stunning waterfalls in the area, check out my guide to the 9 Best Waterfall Elopement Locations in the PNW!
Like I mentioned earlier in this blog post, you’ll need a Special Use Permit to have your legal elopement ceremony at Crater Lake National Park! Unlike many national parks, Crater Lake doesn’t have a limited list of approved wedding locations – it actually has a whole bunch of spots you can hold your ceremony at. This location variety is great because you hopefully won’t run into as many people at the spot you choose, and you just have a ton of different beautiful places to choose from. Check out this map to see all the Crater Lake National Park wedding location options!
The National Park Service recommends you have a backup location or two in mind just in case something goes wrong with your original plan, and I fully agree! It’s always best to have backup plans & backup locations in case you get hit with unpredictable weather, trail/road closures, or even just big crowds that you want to avoid. The park staff will also decide whether to approve or reject your desired plan based on your group size, date, and location, so you’ll want to have a couple other options in case your first one doesn’t work out
Here are a few of the most important rules & restrictions that come with the Crater Lake Special Use Permit for weddings & elopements:
Now here’s how to get a Crater Lake Special Use Permit for your wedding or elopement!
Crater Lake National Park
Attn: Special Park Uses
PO Box 7
Crater Lake, OR 97604
Note: you must submit your permit application at least 8 weeks in advance of your desired date. But I recommend applying as early as you can to make sure the office has plenty of time to complete the process!
The best time of year to elope at Crater Lake National Park is definitely summer, between the months of June-September! Winter at Crater Lake National Park is intense and gets an average of 42 feet of snow per winter, with around 10 feet of snow still on the ground even into May.
Keep in mind that the West and East Rim Drives typically open by July 4th each year, but can sometimes be delayed if there’s still deep snow. So if you’re dying to have your elopement at one of these parts of the park, I’d recommend eloping in late July or August!
This is also where it’s super important to have backup locations in place – you never know when snowfall could come earlier or later than expected, and how long it will take for snow to melt at certain spots.
You can read more about winter road closures at the park & keep up with current park alerts here!
If you’re eloping at Crater Lake, you HAVE to take advantage of the stunning area it’s located in. There are a ton of amazing places to stay nearby, whether you want to stay close to the park at Crater Lake Resort or Crater Lake Lodge, or you want to find a cozy cabin a little further away. Below are some of the best places to stay near Crater Lake National Park for your elopement!
This past fall I got to photograph the most incredible elopement at Crater Lake, so I wanted to show you this couple’s amazing day to give you some real-life inspo!
My dream has been to photograph an elopement at sunrise in front of Crater Lake, and Hang + Bryant’s day did not disappoint! The light rays we got, the colors of their attire, everything was pure magic. I even went to the lake 2 weeks prior to their elopement to location-scout and make sure I was fully prepared for their amazing day, and I’m so glad I did! Part of my job as an elopement photographer is to not only create + capture beautiful storytelling moments for my clients, but also to help find the perfect spot, with the perfect light, at the perfect time.
And when Hang + Bryant told me they wanted to do an outfit change during their elopement, I was sooo stoked! They wanted to save this attire for the waterfalls, but I basically begged them to wear these beautiful outfits at Crater Lake for just 20 minutes because I knew the deep blue lake would look so good with the gorgeous red attire. I’m fully obsessed with how these turned out so I couldn’t wait to share with you!
Like I said, I am freaking obsesseddd with Crater Lake National Park and think that you should definitely consider it for your elopement location if you’re looking for an epic place in Oregon. I’d love to document your time exploring this incredible place, so you can reach out to me here if you’re looking for a Crater Lake elopement photographer!
And if you’re still not quite sure where you want to have your elopement yet, here are some other guides to more of my fave elopement locations in the PNW.