How to Have a Hiking Elopement – A How to Guide

WHAT IS A HIKING ELOPEMENT?

If you and your lover would rather be outside exploring than inside four walls when you say your I do’s; then a hiking elopement might be exactly the right way to go for you! Adventure elopements are great for couples who spend their time together hiking big peaks. Where their fondest memories together are forged on hiking switchbacks and chasing sunrises.

Even better, you can choose just the hiking path that’s right for your wedding day and your vows to each other. The hiking trail and the sky are the limits!


A couple crossing a stream in their elopement attire.

HOW TO PLAN A HIKING ELOPEMENT

Your first step is to map out your hiking elopement! At this stage, you can put it all on the table and dream big. Once you have all of your ideas out, then you can work together to decide on the details before setting out on your big hike! The idea of a hiking elopement is pretty simple, but there are some things to really consider before setting out on the trails.

Some things to think of for your hiking elopement might include:

  • What do you want your hiking elopement photos to look like?
  • Are you up for a sunrise hiking elopement?
  • What kind of scenery do you enjoy when hiking?
  • How many miles do you want to hike? How are you with elevation?
  • Do you have a preference for the season for your hiking elopement?
  • Do you want friends or family to join you for your hiking elopement?

A couple hiking down a mountain in Colorado at sunrise.

• FIND YOUR HIKING ELOPEMENT PHOTOGRAPHER

Even if you’re an experienced hiker, a hiking elopement is a bit of a different animal. Having someone experienced with the local hiking trails, familiar with what a wedding day entails, and someone who is an avid hiker is your best resource for finding out more about a hiking elopement. It also helps if that person happens to love photography, people, and the great outdoors; I’m here for it all!

As an experienced hiking elopement photographer, I’m pretty involved with helping my couples plan their hiking elopements. Where I am from in Colorado, we see many people coming here every year from out of state to get married, some who have been here before, and some who are coming for the first time.

If you’re from the area, you may have a little more “insider knowledge” than the average bear, but there are always things that people are surprised by when we dig down and begin to plan the hiking elopement and what they are looking for from their photographs from their day.

Helping couples plan their hiking elopement accomplishes many things; it helps you gain a deeper understanding of what the day is going to look like, how many miles they really want to hike, the different scenery options, how to be fully prepared, the times for the best lighting and so much else!


A bride and groom hiking up the tundra at sunrise on their elopement.

• CHOOSE YOUR DATE

Let’s be real. No one wants to have their adventure elopement during the post-hole season! Choosing the correct season for your hiking elopement will go a long way in making sure you’re happy! I suggest gravitating towards the warmer months for your hiking elopement where the trails are clear and the weather is more predictable.

Trust me: hiking through snowfields for hours on end isn’t the way you want to be spending your time! You should really consider hiking in the summer months. You can thank me later when you’re basking in the alpine air surrounded by wildflowers!


A bride hiking up a mountain in the fall in Colorado.

• CHOOSE YOUR LOCATION, DISTANCE & ELEVATION

Before choosing your spot, let’s talk a little bit about how hiking elopements are a bit different from an average day on the trails. 

This is not the day for an all-day endurance hike. As much as you might love to hike, you don’t want to be doing it all day on your wedding day! Your hiking elopement will be more than just hiking; it will also include things like changing clothes, saying your vows, and taking photos; sometimes in more than one location. Exploring the surrounding areas and drinking some beers! As a rule of thumb, a 3-5 miles round trip hiking elopement is perfect.

Even experienced hikers can get out of breath here! If you’re from a place that’s just above sea level, you can be unprepared for what the change in altitude means. Headaches, nausea, and lightheadedness can happen even at our lowest elevations if you’re not acclimated. Plan to arrive at least a few days (a week is even better!) Hang out, enjoy the beauty and drink a lot of water.

Scenery to think of when choosing your hiking elopement:

  • Bodies of water (lakes, rivers, oceans)
  • Flowers
  • Cliffs & edges
  • Forests
  • Waterfalls

Bride and groom hiking away in their wedding clothes with backpacks,

• CHOOSE YOUR HIKING ELOPEMENT ATTIRE

You’ve gone your own way with your wedding day plans, so you can be just as creative with your hiking wedding attire. Just remember that everything you need has to be packed in on the hike, so consider the weight of the fabric. Wedding dresses especially can be heavy!

Hiking in, you’ll be in your regular outdoor clothes, so wear whatever attire you are comfortable in and is right for the weather conditions. Weather is changeable, and it can be considerably colder in higher elevations, so make sure you pack accordingly with layers.

Once we get on-site, you’ll change into your wedding duds; it’s time to get married! Bonus Points: The getting ready photos for an adventure elopement are my absolute favorite!


Bride doing hair and makeup on her hiking elopement.

HOW TO STYLE YOUR HAIR FOR A HIKING ELOPEMENT

If you are hiring someone to do your hair for your hiking elopement, then a practice run is a great idea. Let them know exactly what your plans are, and have them style it for you and see how it holds up. Maybe even take a practice hike! 

If this isn’t possible, then the simpler the hairstyle, the better. Braids can be really awesome! I’ve also seen many clients favor the “half up half down” styling, which gives it a little bit of glamour but still allows for some hair movement in photos (which I love!). If you have a veil, make sure you have clips or bobby pins to secure it tightly, it can be windy up in the mountains. Veils can make for dramatic photos!

Also, I work with a number of hiking elopement H&M artists that crush hiking weddings!


A bride getting ready in the woods for her elopement.

SUNSET OR SUNRISE HIKING ELOPEMENT?

Sunrise and sunset are the two most popular times to do a hiking elopement because these photos’ results are epic. Let’s take a look at the difference it makes in your hiking photos.

SUNRISE HIKING ELOPEMENT

If you are willing, morning person or not, sunrise results can be spectacular. First, the trails are generally pretty quiet then, and so is the traffic getting to locations. It can be cold, but there is usually less wind at sunrise. Low fog may hang, and that can add dramatic effects to the hiking photos.

Sunrise light is soft, ethereal, and more pastel than sunset. The sun’s rays are shorter, producing those pretty blue and violet tones you see in the early morning. If you love the idea of watching the world come alive on the very first day you marry your person, well, sunrise hiking elopements are pretty amazing.


A couple hiking under the stars with their headlamps.

SUNSET HIKING ELOPEMENT

The light at sunset is what photographers call “more directional,” meaning that the rays are longer. Remember when you were a kid, and you first noticed your big, long shadow on the ground? That’s caused by directional light!

Sunset photos can be absolutely killer and are much more colorful than sunrises. It also has a longer window of light in general, which we sometimes refer to as “the golden hour” but will vary by the time of year and the altitude.

They also tend to be more popular, so trails will be busier, and if you’re coming from a distance, we have to be mindful of travel time. As they say, sunrise and sunset wait for no man!


A couple hiking with their clothes at sunrise in Colorado.

WHAT DO YOU WEAR TO A WEDDING HIKE?

If you’re doing a hike in the mountains, then I recommend packing your clothes and gear into a backpacking backpack beforehand — these can generally fit a suit, your dress, shoes, champagne, flowers, and all of your accessories.

Some things you might want to consider wearing:

HIKING ELOPEMENT BOOTS

Boots in the mountains are a must for everyone! Not only are boots much safer, but they also make for amazing photos. 

Buy the best boots you can afford, and make sure to break them in before the big day. I would also suggest pairing your boots with some comfortable socks to avoid blisters. You will never regret spending money on good boots; you can use them for many adventures to come!

HIKING ELOPEMENT DRESS ADVICE

Think exploration, adventuring, and moving when looking for your elopement dress. Find a dress that you feel great in, feel great about, and are okay with getting a little dirty.

I love a big flowy EPIC dress with the mountains! Don’t you want that? We can save the wild and tumble stuff for the end of the session; you can literally let your hair down if you want.

SKIP THE SUIT IF YOU WANT

There are no rules when it comes to your adventure elopement. Don’t like a suit, or just don’t want to wear one? No problem. Rock whatever you want, but do think about your photos. I’ve seen guys look relaxed and casual in jeans and a linen jacket or kick-it lumberjack style with a sharp-looking buffalo plaid shirt and suspenders.

DON’T FORGET TO LAYER

The mountains can have unpredictable and changeable weather. Having layers will allow you to be prepared for anything that comes your way. I suggest making sure you have room in your backpack for a rain jacket, windbreaker, gloves, hats, and even leggings or running tights. Look for fabrics that wick away moisture or that are good insulators.

FUN ACCESSORIES

Are you ready to make an already stylish elopement outfit that much cooler? Top off your backpack with sunglasses, hats, suspenders, vow books, and anything else that would make your day extra fun and photos extra special. Don’t be afraid to take your outfit to the next level!

Check out this blog for things you should pack for your elopement.


Bride drinking champagne in your wedding dress on top of a mountain in Colorado.

WHERE DO I GET READY? BEFORE WE START HIKING, OR AT THE DESTINATION?

There are no rules when it comes to your adventure elopement. But hiking any distance while decked out in wedding attire can be a challenge, which is why so many of my couples opt for carrying their wedding clothes, flowers, and other gear in a backpack until they reach their epic destination to exchange vows. Or you can say eff it and spend every moment of your wedding day in your gown or suit. It’s your day—do what you want!


A bride getting ready for her elopement with a friend.

HOW DO YOU PACK A WEDDING DRESS IN A BACKPACK?

This is probably the question I get asked the most when it comes to hiking weddings and the answers are as simple as you might think. There are two basic options that I suggest without having to get too creative.

HANG IT OFF THE BACKPACK

This is a great option for those who are doing a shorter hike as the dress can swing from side to side while hiking. You can also hang it from the back and put straps around the backpack and dress to hold it in place while hiking. I personally love this option because you still have plenty of room in your backpack to pack snacks, blankets, makeup, and other goodies!


Bride and groom hiking with their wedding gear in the mountains.

PACK IT IN YOUR BACKPACK

This is a great option for those who have bigger backpacks or even backpacking packs. A lot of grooms will carry the bigger packs that include not only the dress but their suits as well. This leaves the other party to carry the accessories and help distribute the weight among both people. The downside to this option is you might have to unpack something at some point on the hike up, so your dress might get wrinkled with the packing and unpacking on the hike.


A couple and their dog looking at the sunrise in the distance.

WEAR IT

Feeling spicy and want to wear your dress on the hike up? Do it! This isn’t the most popular or practical option but I’ve still seen a handful of brides pull it off! At the end of the day, it’s up to each bride and what their comfort level is in hiking in their wedding dress.


A couple taking a break from their hike in their wedding attire.

SHOULD YOU HIKE IN MY WEDDING DRESS?

Absolutely! This is your golden opportunity to trash the dress! Unless you plan on framing your wedding dress in your house, then you should absolutely hike in your wedding dress! Not only does it make for awesome photos, but it allows you to be free and roam the beautiful landscape as you’ve never done before. I would still suggest hiking up in regular clothes but use your time at the top to hike and explore, because this is your hiking elopement, and you might as well go all out!


Bride and groom hiking down in their wedding attire in the mountains of Colorado.,

CAN YOU BRING MY DOG TO YOUR HIKING ELOPEMENT?

Personally, I think it should be required to have a dog on every hiking elopement. Joking. But maybe not? Seriously, bring your special dog to your hiking wedding! We have a corgi and our family isn’t complete without him, so I always welcome the extra company! Keep in mind that dogs should be leashed in most places. Having your dog off-leash can be dangerous because of wildlife in the area, so make sure to have them leashed or have a leash handy! The best way to continue having dogs on adventure elopements is to follow the rules.

PRO TIP: Invite a friend or family member to watch over your dog when you’re exploring. This will make your day way more stress-free!


A couple with their dogs on their wedding day in the mountains.

TRAIL ETIQUETTE FOR YOUR HIKING ELOPEMENT

It’s totally understandable if you aren’t familiar with trail etiquette for your hiking wedding. Most people aren’t familiar and that’s ok! Learning and following proper trail etiquette will allow adventurers new and old to enjoy their time outdoors. Being mindful of other hikers and fragile area goes a long way in preserving the open space and respecting others!

Some unwritten rules to keep in mind for your hiking elopement:

  • Avoid deviating from the trail
  • The person hiking uphill has the right of way. If you are hiking downhill, then you should step to the side
  • Keep the music off until you reach your final destination
  • Pack some Wag Bags for your own waste

A couple looking at the sunrise over the mountains.

HIKING ELOPEMENT PACK ESSENTIALS

Hiking elopements are an amazing way to enjoy your wedding day, but there are still some essentials outside of your vow books and dress that you should bring along for the adventure elopement. These things might be considered boring but they’re essential in ensuring you have a fun and safe adventure elopement!

  • Hiking Boots – These will go a long way in keeping your feet happy and you safe during your adventure elopement.
  • Water and a backpack – I highly recommend investing in a Camelbak reservoir for your adventure elopement. Plan on bringing half at least 1 liter of water for your hike.
  • Layers – Be prepared for your adventure elopement by dressing in layers for every condition.
  • Headlamp – You are likely starting your hiking elopement before sunrise and a headlamp will be needed as we start our hike under the stars.
  • Packable Jacket – A multi-use jacket will be the best when hiking. I suggest a jacket that is waterproof but also wind resistant to cover all weather conditions.
  • Trekking Poles – These aren’t necessary but some people swear by them, especially during the decline hike.

There are other items you can pack for your hiking elopement but these are definitely the essentials I recommend starting off with. Your adventure elopement photographer should also carry with them navigation tools, first aid, and other health and hygiene essentials!


A bride hiking up to her husband for their first look.

YOUR HIKING ELOPEMENT PHOTOGRAPHER

My name is Sean, your hiking elopement photographer! I’m a Colorado-based free spirit who has dedicated my life to exploring this wild world and connecting to the people in it.

I know firsthand what an important and personal decision this is—my wife and I eloped to Northern Ireland. You’re trusting me to capture this amazing day, and I make it my responsibility to make sure you have an incredible experience from start to finish.

My passion has led me here, where I can follow my heart and share my love for the outdoors with others on their wedding day. It’s truly an awesome experience, and I’m stoked every time I get to document your day.

When I’m not photographing couples, I love to go hiking with my wife and our corgi.

Sound like the perfect match? Reach out if you’re ready to get started on your hiking elopement!


Hiking Elopement Photographer

Last Updated on September 21, 2022 by vowsandpeaks