Last Updated on January 19, 2022 by vowsandpeaks

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! Hiking elopements are great for couples who spend their time together hiking big peeks. Where their fondest memories together are forged on switch backs and sunrises.

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


Bride and Groom at Sunrise Hiking Elopement

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 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?
  • How many miles do you want to hike? How are you with elevation?
  • Do you have a preference on season for your hiking elopement?
  • Do you want friends or family joining you for your hiking elopement?

Bride and Groom at Sunrise Hiking Elopement

• FIND YOUR HIKING ELOPEMENT PHOTOGRAPHER

Even if you’re experienced hikers, 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 prepared, the times for the best lighting and so much else!


Bride Getting on Cliff Hiking Elopement

• 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 Hiking in Fall Hiking Elopement

• CHOOSE YOUR DATE

Let’s be real. No one wants to have a hiking elopement during post-hole season! Choosing the correct season for your hiking will go a long way in making sure you’re happy! I would 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 the summer months for your hiking elopement. You can thank me later when you’re basking in the alpine air surrounded by wild flowers!


Bride and Groom Hiking Elopement

• 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 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 hiking clothes, so wear whatever 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 a hiking elopement are my absolute favorite!


Bride Getting Ready for 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!


Bride Getting Ready for Hiking 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.


Bride and Groom Under the Stars HikingElopement

• 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!


Bride and Groom at Sunset Hiking Elopement

WHAT DO YOU WEAR TO A WEDDING HIKE?

Ultimately, I suggest hiking up in gear that you feel super comfortable in. When picking out your hiking attire, remember that you’re going to likely be hiking up in the dark so it should be able to keep you not only warm but not weigh you down. There are plenty of layering options to choose from including:

  • Base Layers: Lightweight Moisture wicking shirts are best.
  • Outer Layers: Puffer jackets, rain coats, wind breakers, etc.
  • Accessories: Beanies, gloves, headlamps, etc.

Really focus in on your base layers, which help wick sweat and regulate temperature to keep you warm and comfortable on your hike up!


Bride and Groom in Hiking Attire

HOW DO YOU PACK A WEDDING DRESS IN A BACKPACK?

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 at Sunrise Hiking Elopement

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 through 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.


Bride and Groom at Sunrise With Dog Hiking Elopement

SHOULD I 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 like 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 Elopement

CAN I BRING MY DOG ON MY 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 on 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 wild life in the area, so make sure to have them leashed or have a leash handy! The best way to continue having dogs on hiking elopements is to follow the rules.

Also, always pick up your dogs poop. This is super important for the ecosystem and because no one wants to smell or walk on poop during their hike.


Bride and Groom Hiking Elopement With Their Dogs

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 the 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

Bride and Groom Hiking Elopement at Sunrise

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