Hey friends! A while back I published a guide to how to elope in Oregon in the fall that y’all loved, so I figured I’d continue on with the seasons and give you a WINTER Oregon elopement guide now! Summer is usually the most sought-after time for outdoor adventure in Oregon, but I’m equally as obsessed when couples decide to elope in Oregon in the winter. The scenery is completely different, the atmosphere is so tranquil and beautiful, and there are so many new opportunities that open up for fun activities! So without further ado, let’s dive into the pros & cons, the best places to elope in Oregon in the winter, my top planning tips, and a packing list to make sure you’re as prepared as can be.
First off, why should you elope in Oregon in the winter?! The picturesque scenery across this amazing state usually attracts most people in the late spring, summer, and fall, since that’s when the weather is best and the scenery is everything you’ve dreamed of. But I really want to encourage you to consider a winter elopement if you want a day that feels a little more private, quiet, and has an extra touch of magic! Here are the biggest pros & cons of a winter elopement in Oregon to help you decide if winter is the right season for your day.
Yes, the scenery in Oregon is amazing ALL year-round, but the winter landscapes are just something else y’all! The snow-covered mountains, meadows, valleys, and forests make you feel like you’re inside of a cozy fairytale, surrounded by glistening ice and sparkling snow everywhere you look. While summer in Oregon might deliver epic mountain views with visibility far out into the distance, and fall might have gorgeous fall colors, the winter weather creates such a romantic, tranquil atmosphere that is so perfect for a meaningful elopement day. Imagine eloping among the trees that are drenched in snow, with fog surrounding you and complete quiet in the woods because there are NO other visitors in sight; just the noises of the birds, the breeze, and the snow falling from above.
Probably one of the biggest benefits to eloping in the winter in Oregon is the lack of crowds! The majority of people visit Oregon in the warmer months to see the picturesque scenery in the mountains + the Gorge, which can make it hard to find privacy, especially if you elope at a popular location. In the winter, though, you’ll run into way fewer people—usually just folks who are snowshoeing and enjoying the winter weather! This makes it easier to find a spot that’s secluded and feels intimate, without having to hike too far.
Because the high tourist season in Oregon is the summer months, travel costs are usually cheaper in the winter! If you and/or any of your guests are traveling to Oregon from out of state, you’ll most likely be able to find lower rates for airfare, accommodations, and rental cars.
Finally, Oregon is a DREAM for anybody who loves winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, sledding, etc. Places such as Mt. Hood, Mt. Bachelor, and the Wallowas offer incredible skiing and snowboarding, and you can pretty much snowshoe anywhere if there’s enough snow, like Trillium Lake, Black Butte, and Dutchman Flat! And of course, once you’re done enjoying the snow and exploring the breathtaking landscapes, you can head into wherever you’re staying (a cozy cabin, luxury ski resort, etc.) and grab a hot drink to enjoy by the fire. A perfect way to end your adventure 🙂
If you really want to hike on your elopement day, then winter won’t be the right season for you, as many trails close down for the season or only stay open for snowshoeing. You won’t have access to any high elevation locations in the mountains for a mountaintop ceremony or anything, so before you decide on a winter elopement, make sure you’re able to find accessible locations that you love!
Obviously, the cold weather could be a pro or a con depending on who you are, and what kind of weather you thrive in. If you know you HATE being cold and will be really unhappy if your toes are freezing in the snow, then be realistic and maybe opt for a spring or summer elopement instead! Know yourself and your limits, and think through whether you’ll be comfortable in the cold, and if you’re down to throw on some extra layers over your elopement attire as needed. If you really want your dress/suit/outfit to shine on its own, you’re better off eloping in the summer when you don’t need any big jackets!
On the same note as closed trails, winter in Oregon (or anywhere in the PNW, really) often comes with closed roads and travel delays due to winter weather. It’s important to be prepared for any scenario so that your day isn’t ruined by a change in plans, and to be ready to adapt to delays/detours/etc. if necessary. We’ll talk more about making backup plans in a minute!
Finally, winter comes with much shorter and darker days—so if you want to be exploring outside ALL day with as much daylight as possible, then choose a date in the summer instead! With a much later sunrise and earlier sunset during the winter, you’ll be a lot more limited on the time you can safely spend outdoors and you’ll probs need to find a solid indoor location to transition to once the sun goes down (such as an Airbnb, a restaurant, etc.). One good thing about later sunrises, though, is that if you want a sunrise ceremony, you won’t have to wake up at like 2:30am like you would in the summer!
Now that you know the main pros & cons of eloping in Oregon in the winter, let’s talk about a few important ways you’ll need to prepare for your special day.
Make sure that when you’re hiring a photographer, you choose somebody who has experience shooting in the winter or in non-ideal weather conditions! It’s important that they know how to use their camera gear in the cold/wind/rain/snow/fog and how to keep you comfortable + safe the whole time. They should also be ready to help you adapt throughout the day if unexpected situations come up, and to keep you feeling excited and encouraged no matter what happens. Find somebody you connect with + trust to support you every step of the way, rain or shine (or snow).
When you’re in the process of choosing a location (or once you’ve nailed one down), do your research so that you know exactly what to expect. See if you can find historical temperature averages, precipitation levels, road/trail closures, or extreme conditions—anything that’s happened in the past can help you prepare for scenarios you might run into. For example, if you’re eloping at a spot in the mountains that is sometimes inaccessible due to winter conditions, find a chart that shows you dates that the road was typically open + closed. Use that to pick the best date possible, and then make sure you have other backup options ready just in case!
Once your elopement date gets closer, see if you can also find anywhere to monitor road/trail/area conditions, or any live webcams that show you the scenery. This can help you know exactly what to expect and make changes to your plans as needed in advance! E.g. if it’s supposed to be foggy on your elopement day, watching a live webcam of the area + seeing what the views are like can help you decide if you want to stick with your original location or find somewhere else.
Speaking of backup plans, it’s sooo important to have at least one or two backup locations in mind. This way, your day won’t be totally thrown off if your original location is inaccessible for any reason, and you can just adapt to a new plan with ease! I can definitely help you with this and do some location scouting in the area you’re planning to elope, to make sure we have other options to go with if needed.
You never know when a winter storm could hit and impact cell service where you’re at, so just to be safe, I recommend downloading offline maps for any roads/trails you’ll be exploring. It’s also smart to have an emergency meeting point set up with your guests, in case you lose touch and can’t access any cell service!
If you’re driving on your elopement day, definitely make sure that your car (and any cars your guests are driving) are prepared for winter weather such as snow, ice, sleet, hail, or rain. Have winter tires on if you can, as well as chains, ice/snow scrapers, Rain-X, and emergency items such as blankets, food, extra clothes/boots, and thermoses with hot drinks. Better safe than sorry!
And finally, just be ready for anything, friends! You can truly never predict what the PNW weather will bring (even in the summer), so if you’re in the right mindset + headspace beforehand to enjoy it no matter what, then nothing can ruin your plans 🙂
Packing the right gear and items is important at any time of year, but especially in the winter, when it’s extra important to be safe and ready for all kinds of weather. Here’s a list of items you’ll want to bring along for your winter elopement to stay safe + cozy, besides the regular stuff you’d bring along for an elopement. You can find a full adventure elopement packing list with everything else I recommend bringing here!
Location is everything when it comes to the vibe + atmosphere of your elopement, so it’s essential that you pick a place that you love, and that fits your vision! Because not every outdoor location is accessible in the winter, I’ve put together a list of my favorite places in Oregon that ARE accessible for a winter elopement, from the desert to the coast. Keep in mind that conditions change year-to-year, so it’s possible that some locations could be open most years, but have unpredictable closures other years.
Smith Rock is an amazing place to elope at any time of year, with picturesque desert views no matter if it’s sunny, raining, or snowing! In fact, the desert in the winter is such a cool thing to see; the snow covering the canyons and the massive rock formations is SO beautiful + creates such a peaceful environment. It’s a totally different experience than visiting in the summer and I highly recommend it, especially because it’s the least crowded time of year in the park. There are even certain trails that are accessible in the winter (unless conditions are super icy), such as Canyon Trail and Rim Rock Trail!
Kelsey + Mel had the most amazing Smith Rock desert wedding a few years back. See it here for inspo!
The Painted Hills are honestly a hidden gem in Oregon all year-round, with these crazy beautiful, colored hills that make you feel like you’re on another planet. If you want to elope in the mountains but can’t do so due to the winter weather, the Painted Hills are an amazing alternative, as they’re usually accessible at any time of year and the colors always look so beautiful. If you visit after quite a bit of rain or snow, the moisture can even bring the colors out more—unless the snow doesn’t melt, in which case the hills will be covered in white, hahaha. But even if the colors are hidden underneath the snow, the desert scenery is still a beautiful winter wonderland, perfect for the backdrop of your ceremony!
Want to elope at this unique, otherworldly location? Read through my full Painted Hills Elopement Guide for all the best hikes, permit info, and more.
The Cascade Lakes are a chain of 14 lakes in central Oregon where in the summer, you’ll get spectacular views of the surrounding mountains + wildflower meadows, and in the winter you’ll get great opportunities for snowshoeing + cross-country skiing around the lakes. Spots like Sparks Lake look absolutely breathtaking in the winter, frozen over and covered in ice, and if the sky is clear, then the views of snowy Mt. Bachelor, South Sister, and Broken Top Mountain are incredible!
Sparks Lake is one of my favorites in the Cascade Lakes chain—I even put together a complete Sparks Lake Elopement Guide!
Due to its low elevation, the Columbia River Gorge makes for an ideal winter elopement location in Oregon! You’ve got waterfalls, lush greenery, paved trails that are sometimes still open, and picturesque views alllll around. My personal favorite spots for a winter elopement in the gorge are waterfalls like Latourell Falls, Wahclella Falls, and Panther Creek Falls!
Want to find out what other options you have for an elopement in the gorge? Here are the Top 5 Best Places for a Columbia River Gorge Elopement.
If you’re down for a chilly walk on the beach + freezing water that you will definitely not want to swim in, then the Oregon Coast is a perfect winter elopement location—especially Cannon Beach! You’ll get to explore the charming little coastal town, walk along the beach and check out Haystack Rock, and enjoy the scenery with way fewer crowds than in the warmer months. Coastal weather in the winter can be super dramatic with dark clouds, rain, fog, and mist, which honestly make for such a magical and moody atmosphere that I looove. Winter is also an amazing time for whale watching on the coast if you want to see some of Oregon’s biggest sea creatures!
Cape Kiwanda is another favorite of mine that looks just as beautiful in the winter as it does in the summer; the rain and fog give you the quintessential PNW experience, and watching the storms roll in over the water from your cozy Airbnb is such a tranquil, surreal experience. Summer at Cape Kiwanda typically sees pretty hectic crowds, so if you’re down to brave the cold, then you’ll enjoy a lot more privacy here during the winter!
I had so much fun at Cape Kiwanda a few years ago with Negin, Jeff, and their adorable dogs—check out their gorg elopement day here!
The Southern Oregon Coast fully has my heart, especially spots like Secret Beach, Natural Bridges, and every other crazy picturesque spot along the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor. And while I cherish sunny days exploring the caves, the beaches, and the rocks with my couples, there’s something about the stormy winter weather that makes the foggy forests + misty coastlines so cinematic!
The southern Oregon Coast has to be one of my all-time favorite areas of Oregon. If you’re loving the dreamy coastal vibes, you won’t wanna miss my Ultimate Guide to Eloping on the Southern Oregon Coast!
Most people don’t know that we have redwood groves in Southern Oregon—AND we have super easy access to the bigger redwoods of Northern California, too. I freaking love taking couples on epic adventures along the coast and through the redwoods, whether it’s sunny and the skies are blue or it’s overcast and the rain is making the forest extra lush + beautiful. You can’t go wrong in the woods in the winter, because they look enchanting no matter what—I might argue that they look even more magical with a little bit of fog and mist blowing through the trees.
Of course I have a redwoods elopement guide for you 😉
Remember how I said you should hire an experienced photographer for your winter elopement in Oregon? Well look no further y’all, because I’m right here! I’ve photographed couples in every freaking scenario possible: blue skies, hail, sleet, windstorms, snow, ice, rain. . .you name it and I’ve experienced it. So I know all about planning safe winter elopements, helping you adapt to whatever may come your way on the big day, and making sure you have an unforgettable experience no matter WHAT. You can learn about my Oregon elopement packages here, and then I would love to connect with you to hear all about your vision + dreams for your celebration. Fill out my contact form here and I’ll be in touch within 24-48 hours—can’t freaking wait, y’all!