Table of Contents:
- Where is Leavenworth?
- Why Elope in Leavenworth?
- Top 6 Places to Elope in Leavenworts
- Best Time of Year to Elope in Leavenworth
- Legalities of Eloping in Leavenworth
- Best Places to Stay for Your Leavenworth Elopement
- 10 Fun Ideas for Your Leavenworth Elopement
- Leavenworth Elopement Photography Packages
Leavenworth is probably one of my fav places in all of Washington, it’s SO unique and is literally every outdoor lover’s paradiseeee. It’s unlike any other town you’ll find in the Pacific Northwest because it totally transports you to another world (or another country, rather)—it’s a Bavarian village with all sorts of German-inspired restaurants, bars, shops, and even hotels! As the Leavenworth tourism website says, this cozy little town will leave you saying “holy schnitzel” hahaha how cheesy is that. Anyway, this guide has got everything ya need to know to elope in Leavenworth, including the best Leavenworth elopement locations, where to stay, what time of year to elope, and more!
Where is Leavenworth?
If you’re not from the PNW, you’ve probs never heard of Leavenworth and have no idea what I’m even talking about. To fill you in: Leavenworth is this cute little town in central Washington, nestled in the Cascade Moutnains. It’s about 2.5 hours east of Seattle and 3 hours west of Spokane, if that helps ya at all. So you definitely could do a quicktrip to Leavenworth if you’re eloping in Seattle just for fun, but honestly you should stay in Leavenworth itself and explore everything that the area has to offer! If you’re traveling in from out of state, you will want to fly into SeaTac, though, and drive from there.
Why Elope in Leavenworth?
Leavenworth is one of those places that you fall in love with as soon as you arrive, ya know? It’s just so full of charm and all the warm, welcoming Bavarian vibes, so there are a MILLION reasons why you should elope in Leavenworth. Here are a few of the biggest ones that’ll probably convince ya enough!
1. The outdoor rec: If you know me then you know I’m a big outdoorsy gal: hiking, climbing, biking, you name it and I am THERE. Which is why I love Leavenworth so much; there’s an endless amount of incredible outdoor activities to choose from!! It depends on the time of year you visit, obviously, but some of the most popular outdoorsy activites in & around Leavenworth include hiking (and tons of it), biking, horseback riding, climbing, white water rafting, skiing, snowboarding, tubing. . . the list could go on! There are literally 800 miles of incredible trails available to explore, so you’ll never run out of options.
2. The scenery: And with those 800 miles of trails comes some of the most AMAZING scenery in Washington. Because Leavenworth is located in the Cascades, you have access to sooo many beautiful spots when you stay in Leavenworth, such as Stevens Pass, Colchuck Lake, and Lake Wenatchee! (And don’t worry, I’ll dive into those locations more in the next section of this guide.) You’ll get to enjoy the gorgeous mountain landscape that the Cascades provide, with crystalline alpine lakes, vibrant wildflower meadows in the summer, lush green foliage, winding rivers, and more. 10/10 recommend staying in Leavenworth for as long as you can so that you have plenty of time to explore!
3. The food: With the Bavarian style of the village comes delicious Bavarian bites (and plenty of other cuisines too)! There are a ton of incredible places to eat and drink in Leavenworth, whether you’re looking for a German beer and schnitzel, handmade pastries, fine Italian dining, or laid-back pub food!
4. The activities: There are a million fun things to do in Leavenworth even if you’re not a big outdoorsy person and you don’t want to go on a 10-mile hike through the mountains! Leavenworth has a variety of wineries, distilleries, and breweries to check out if you’d rather spend your time relaxing and sippin’ on some delicious drinks, whether it be wine, cider, beer, craft liquor, you name it. You can also find some amazing spas at some of the hotels and lodges in Leavenworth if you wanna go a little bougier + get some R&R before your elopement!
Top 6 Places to Elope in Leavenworth
Next, I wanted to highlight a few of my fav elopement locations in the Leavenworth area! Like I mentioned already, there are sooo many incredible places to explore around Leavenworth, so you’ve got endless options to choose from, whether you wanna hike through the mountains, spend a day out on the lake, or tie the knot in the middle of the trees. To help getcha started, here are 6 of the best places to elope in Leavenworth!
Colchuck Lake is by far the best elopement location near Leavenworth, IF you’re down for a bit of a hike. I’ve photographed more elopements and sessions at Colchuck Lake than I can count, and most of the photos throughout this blog post were actually taken at Colchuck! It’s literally one of the most stunning places in the entire PNW, nestled right in the middle of the Cascades beneath two of the tallest peaks in Washington, and in the Enchantments area of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Colchuck Lake isn’t just your average, every day lake, though—it’s straight out of a fairytale, with vibrant turquoise waters that sparkle so magically in the sunshine! And along with the breathtaking lake, you also get wildly beautiful views of Dragontail & Colchuck Peaks just chillin’ in the background. Colchuck is also one of the BEST spots in Washington for a fall elopement thanks to its incredible fall foliage, so 10/10 recommend hiking here in the fall if you’re down for a little bit chillier temps!! I will neverrrr get tired of Colchuck and can’t recommend it enough if you’re eloping in Leavenworth and are up for a bit of a trek.
Distance: 8 miles roundtrip
Elevation gain: 2,280 feet
Dogs allowed? No 🙁
Parking pass: Northwest Forest Pass
2. Icicle Gorge
Icicle Gorge is anotha stunna of a trail, located in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. It’s an easy to moderately-challenging trail that takes you through the beautifullll Icicle Creek Valley, full of lush trees, diverse ecology, swift rapids, and really just scenic views everywhere you look! With a pretty gentle grade, it’s a great hike to do if you want to go on a fun, but not too challenging adventure; you’ll only be gaining about 150 feet of elevation, and the hike itself doesn’t take too long. I def recommend stopping at certain viewpoints along the way (you can follow the signs on the interpretive trail) and taking in the scenery, the massive pine trees towering above, and the sounds of the birds around ya!
Distance: 4.2 miles roundtrip
Elevation gain: 150 feet
Dogs allowed? Yes!
Parking pass: Northwest Forest Pass
If you wanna enjoy the gorgeous scenery around Leavenworth WITHOUT having to hike or break a sweat, Lake Wenatchee State Park is the place to go!! It’s a gorgeous blue, glacier-fed lake surrounded by mountains and trees, which create the most beautifullll reflections in the water. The views are to die for and all you gotta do is drive + park your car to enjoy them! You can explore the little beach area and find a spot to lounge for the day, have a lakeside picnic, go camping, bird watching, biking, swimming, boating, or even use one of the firepits for some smore’s and snacks around the campfire. Lake Wenatchee is def at its best, outdoor-rec-wise, in the summer, since the warm temperatures and sunny skies are perfect for heading out onto the water, whether it’s on a paddleboard, in a kayak, or on a bigger boat! You could even go horseback riding around the park for an extra fun way to experience the natural beauty + landscapes. There are SO many opportunities at Lake Wenatchee for every type of adventurer!
Hours: 6:30am to dusk (year round)
Parking pass: Discover Pass
Lake Valhalla is a lil gem of the central Cascades, located about 40 minutes from Leavenworth. The lake itself is nestled under Lichtenberg Mountain & Mount McCausland, so it’s surrounded by gorgeous mountain views as well as wildflowers + berries in the summer! And the scenery is extra surreal in the fall, thanks to the STUNNING fall colors of all the trees that border the lake. You can get to Lake Valhalla via two different routes in the summer, either via the Smithbrook Trail #1590 or from Stevens Pass, using a part of the Pacific Crest Trail. The route from Stevens Pass is a little bit longer but is def worth the extra time if you have it. Either way you choose to go, you’ll end up at this gorgeous lake, where you can enjoy a picnic on the beach and even stay overnight at one of the campsites!
Distance: 7 miles roundtrip
Elevation gain: 1,500 feet
Dogs allowed? Yes!
Parking pass: None
5. Stevens Pass
Stevens Pass is theee place to go if you’re into winter sports (or you just want pretty mountain pass scenery). The pass sits right on the border of King County and Chelan County, in the Cascade Mountains, about 40 minutes from Leavenworth. It’s one of the top destinations in the PNW for skiing and snowboarding, and there’s a gorg ski resort you can stay at for an epic winter adventure!! Even if you’re eloping in Leavenworth in the fall, spring, or summer and you won’t be skiing, the scenery at Stevens Pass is gorggg and full of beautiful greenery + mountain views (duh). You can hike along the PCT to the Cascade Crest for some amazing views of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, or you could take the scenic chairlift ride up the mountain + hike back down the Cowboy Mountain Nature Trail. So many options!!
6. In town
Finally, you should really just spend some time exploring the town itself!! Leavenworth is so charming and cute and full of cozy places to visit, with all kinds of food and drinks and unique local shops ready to welcome you in. It’s the dreamiest escape into the mountains and honestly, you feel like you’re in a quaint mountain town in Bavaria—not a town in the middle of Washington! Throughout the year, Leavenworth has SO many fun activities + events to offer: farmers markets, art workshops, live music, museums, luxury spas, yoga classes. . . there’s something for everybody to enjoy whether you’re a big outdoorsy person or not.
Best Time of Year to Elope in Leavenworth
So know you know WHY and WHERE you should elope in Leavenworth—what about WHEN you should elope in Leavenworth??
Leavenworth is honestly amazing at any time of year, but there are def certain seasons that are better than others (in general) for elopements. Although it really depends on what kind of experience you’re envisioning! Do you want a snowy, magical winter elopement? A ceremony by the lake on a warm summer day? Sunset portraits in the mountains?
Weather-wise, the best time to elope in Leavenworth is from late spring through early fall, I’d say between May-October.
Between May-June, you’ll have the most ideal temperatures for outdoor activities like hiking, biking, rafting, swimming, and climbing. Around July-August, the temperatures do warm up a bit and can get pretty dang hot, so keep that in mind if you’re planning a hiking elopement and don’t want to be sweating your asses off! Summer is also when Leavenworhth has a TON of fun events going on, so you’ll have no shortage of things to do in the area + ways to fill up your schedule. Keep in mind, though, that summer is also when Leavenworth is the most crowded, since everybodyyy wants to get a taste of this charming mountain town while it’s beautiful outside.
If you want to avoid those crazy summer crowds, and you’re okay with a little bit chillier weather + shorter days, then fall in Leavenworth is AMAZING. The fall colors around the area are breathtaking and the temperatures are great for hiking, without getting too hot, and the crisp autumn air is honestly just magicallll in the mountains. One thing to be aware of is that snow could fall at anytime once October-November arrive, so if you want to elope at a higher elevation spot in the mountains, it’s good to have backup plans just in case of winter weather that comes earlier than expected!
While summer and fall are totally gorgeous in Leavenworth, it’s actually probably the most magical in the winter. Leavenworth is actually known as one of the top best places to go in the winter in the US, thanks to the dreamy “Village of Lights” that are put up every year, and the way the town just looks sooo beautiful in the snow! So if your fav season is winter and you love the spirit of the holiday season, or you really just wanna go snowboarding/skiing, eloping in Leavenworth in the winter is a pretty epic option.
Legalities of Eloping in Leavenworth
Next up, let’s talk about the legal shiz you need to know about getting married in Leavenworth!
Getting your Washington State marriage license
Because you’ll be getting married in Washington State (obvi), you’ll need a Washington State marriage license. I’m gonna keep this section brief because I actually wrote a whooole separate blog post about getting your Washington marriage license that you can read here!
Here’s a quick overview of the most important Washington marriage requirements + laws you should know:
- WA residency required? No
- Witnesses required: 2 over the age of 12
- Minimum age required: 18
- Waiting period required: 3 days
- License is valid for: 60 days
Leavenworth is part of Chelan County, so here’s what you’ll need to do in order to obtain a Chelan County marriage license:
- Make sure you’re familiar with the marriage license requirements
- Submit your application online + pay the $57 fee
- Visit the Chelan County auditor’s office in-person to purchase your license + bring valid photo ID
- Wait 3 days once your signed application has been processed, and then you’re good to go!
Special Use Permits
In addition to getting your Washington State marriage license, it’s possible you may need to apply for some type of Special Use Permit depending on where you’re having your elopement ceremony. If you’re planning to elope within a state park, national forest, or another area protected by the federal/state government (such as the Enchantments), you’ll want to look into permit requirements ahead of time.
Washington State Parks (including Lake Wenatchee State Park) require you to get a Special Activities Permit in order to hold any kind of wedding ceremony within a park, which you can apply for via this application. The permit costs $45 and you need to submit your application at least 60 days in advance of your desired date!
For national forests (e.g. the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest), you ONLY need a Special Use Permit if your group has 75 people or more. So if you’re eloping, I’m assuming you’re keeping your group prettyyyy small and won’t need to worry about this!
And lastly, make sure you have the proper parking passes wherever you’re eloping! For Washington State Parks, you’ll need a day-use Northwest Forest Pass, and some parking lots/trails may have additional fees you’ll need to pay once you arrive.
Best Places to Stay for Your Leavenworth Elopement
Leavenworth has allll sorts of cozy places to stay and make the most of your time in the mountains, from ski chalets to cozy cabins to modern waterfront homes to upscale hotels with luxury spas. Find a place that fits the vibe you’re going for + the type of experience you’re craving (e.g. do you prefer a bougie hotel with luxury spa services on-site, or a rustic cabin in the woods?), and that you’ll LOVE to come back to at the end of each day! Below are some of the best Airbnbs + hotels in Leavenworth to help getcha started!
Best Leavenworth Airbnbs
Best Leavenworth Hotels
10 Fun Ideas for Your Leavenworth Elopement
Aaand to wrap this all up, I wanted to give ya some ideas of fun things to do in Leavenworth to make your elopement an UNFORGETTABLE experience (besides visiting all the epic locations I mentioned earlier in this guide)! Pick and choose the ones that make sense for your elopement + the season you’ll be there, of course 🙂
1. Go on a sleigh ride through the mountain scenery
2. Go white water rafting
3. Go horseback riding along the river
4. Take a yoga class at Alpine Hot Yoga
5. Meet some cute reindeer at the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm
6. Go wine tasting at Silvara Cellars
7. Enjoy a scenic spa day at the Alpine Spa
8. Take a soak in the Scenic Hot Springs
9. Drink some yummy beer at Oktoberfest in the fall
10. Go stand-up paddleboarding on the Wenatchee River or Icicle River
BONUS: Eat as many giant German pretzels as you can find 😉
That’s meeee! Hopefully you’ve fallen in love with Leavenworth by now and are ready to have an epic elopement in this adorable little Bavarian mountain town 🙂 I’d looove to photograph your Leavenworth elopement and help you plan the most unforgettable elopement experience—check out my Leavenworth elopement packages, and then I wanna hear ALL the deetz about what you’re dreaming up!!
Want some more inspo and ideas for your Washington elopement?? I’ve got sooo many killer resources you can check out on the blog, or you can peek at some of my faves below: