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Ultimate Columbia River Gorge Elopement Guide for 2024-2025

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If you’re looking for a *gorge-ous* elopement location, I’ve got just the place for you 😉 Lol how many times will I use that pun throughout this guide?? The limit does not exist. Anyway, welcome to my Columbia River Gorge elopement guide!! 

Get ready to *waterfall* in love with all these breathtaking locations (including 5 different waterfalls, obvi), die over some of the most luscious greenery in the PNW, and realize that you neeeeed to elope here, stat. I’ve got all the deetz you need to elope in the Columbia River Gorge, including the best locations, permit info, places to stay, and a ton more!

Where is the Columbia River Gorge?

First, let’s make sure ya know where the Columbia River Gorge is—and what it is. Is it a gorge? Is it a river? Technically both: it’s a massive river canyon that stretches 80 miles across the PNW, creating a border between Washington to the north and Oregon to the south. The canyon gets up to 4,000 feet deep (you def wouldn’t wanna fall in) and winds west through the Cascade Mountain Range with all sorts of cliffs, ridges, waterfalls, forests, spires, and more incredibly scenery. In fact, it’s aptly named the “Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area” and is the largest designated scenic area in the country! Plus it’s one of the 7 Wonders of Oregon.

If you were to drive from Seattle, it would take you about 3 hours to get to the scenic area, or about 20-30 minutes from Portland (it depends on where in the gorge you’re going, though). So flying into PDX would be your best bet if you’ll be traveling in from outta state! 

Why Elope in the Columbia River Gorge?

The photos in this blog post will probablyyyy speak for themselves, but let’s talk about why you’d want to elope in the Columbia River Gorge anyway. I’ll keep it simple for ya with a quick list of the top reasons why the gorge is suchhhh an awesome elopement location + why you might choose it over other places in the PNW!

—The scenery + landscapes are SO diverse: Seriously, the gorge has every type of landscape imaginable, except for the coast/beaches! Cascading waterfalls, towering basalt cliffs, rolling green hills, vast canyons, winding rivers, snow-capped mountains, lush forests. . . literally everywhere you look you’ll find some sort of stunning vista that takes your breath away. I looove when couples elope in the Columbia River Gorge because it’s super easy to get a variety of landscapes + explore different types of scenery, without having to drive a ton between locations! Literally just drive along the scenic highway and you’ll find everything you’ll need!

—It’s close to Portland: Can’t decide between spending time in the big city & heading out into nature for a scenic escape? Good thing you don’t have to!! It’s SO easy to access that city life in Portland from the gorge since it really isn’t too long of a drive; but again, it depends on where in the gorge you’re gonna be eloping. But no matter where, you’ll be able to have an incredible stay out in the mountains, the forest, etc.—then visit Portland for a day or an evening if you’re craving a night out on the town!

—It’s beautiful at any time of year: Summer, fall, and spring are def the best times of year to visit, since that’s when you’ll get the best weather, gorgeous foliage, wildflowers, greenery, etc. But! While there are certain trails and viewpoints that often close off during the winter months, there are usually beautiful spots you can access even when it’s cold out! You might even get to see a super cool (literally) frozen waterfall surrounded by snow and ice-covered trees; the area turns into suchhh a magical winter wonderland. 

—It covers parts of both WA & OR: Why not hit up two states instead of one? This isn’t really that important haha, but it’s kinda fun to think that you could cover two different states during your elopement and explore so many different places, just in one trip!

Top 5 Columbia River Gorge Elopement Locations

Ugh it’s impossible to narrow it down to just a fewww Columbia River Gorge elopement locations, but I did my best! There are SO many amazing spots to check out, so don’t worry—you don’t necessarily need to choose just one of these locations. We can explore to your heart’s content 😉 I’ve also included a few more amazing locations in a section further down in this blog, “10 fun things to do in the Columbia River Gorge!”

1. Latourell Falls

Type of location: Waterfall, forest

Ease of access: Easy

Entry fee: None!

Special Use Permit required? Nope!

Pet-friendly? Yes!

First up is Latourell Falls, aka one of the most breathtaking waterfalls in the area! The falls are framed by these gorgeoussss basalt columns, and there’s a ton of luscious greenery everywhere you look, especially in the spring. Latourell Falls is accessible year-round unless there’s a winter storm that prevents you from being able to access the road or the trail, so it’s up to you when you want to visit! Winter is by far the least crowded time of year, which means you won’t have a bunch of other hikers in the background of your photos 🙂 

The best part about this waterfall is that it’s literally SO easy to get to; you don’t even have to hike if you don’t want to. No sweat-breaking required 😉 The road to get to the falls is right off the highway, and is super easy to access with just a 2 wheel drive car (unless it’s winter and the conditions are super icy/snowy). Once you arrive, you just need to park in the lot, walk along a path through the trees for a few minutes, and then bam—you’ll already be at the base of the falls! BUT if you do want a bit of a longer trek, you can follow the Latourell Falls Loop Hike, which is an easy, 2.4 mile round trip hike that takes you to the upper part of the falls. Either way, you’ll get to experience a really breathtaking waterfall that’s a must-visit during your time in the gorge!

2. Bridal Veil Falls

Type of location: Waterfall, forest, river view

Ease of access: Moderate

Entry fee: None!

Special Use Permit required? Only for groups of 50 or more (info here)

Pet-friendly? Yeah!

Bridal Veil Falls is another gorge (double meaning there) waterfall located right off the Columbia River Highway, and is actually a state scenic viewpoint. There are two ways to explore this area: the Lower Trail, which is a steep, 0.3-mile descent to the base of the waterfall itself, and then the Overlook Trail, which is a 0.5-mile paved loop that takes you to amazing views of the Columbia River. I recommend doing both if you have the time, since each one rewards you with its own unique scenery! It only takes about 10 minutes to get to the falls, so you won’t need to plan for a big hike or anything; just enjoy the amazing scenery around you while you walk and then try to pick your jaw up off the floor once you get to Bridal Veil Falls itself!

The two-tiered waterfall flows underneath the Old Columbia River Gorge Highway’s 1914 bridge, and cascades over this magical, moss-covered basalt. I’m obsessed with the massive rock at the base of the falls, it’s sooo perfect for epic elopement portraits in front of the falls!! The trail to the falls is accessible year-round as long as weather permits, and the surrounding greenery + foliage is especially beautiful in the spring, summer, and early fall. 

3. Government Cove

Type of location: Mountain-y, peninsula, cliffs, hills

Ease of access: Easy

Entry fee: None!

Special Use Permit required? Nope!

Pet-friendly? Yeah!

Want a more mountain-y elopement location in the Columbia River Gorge? Government Cove is by far my fav place in the gorge besides all the beautiful waterfalls & denser forests! Panoramic views of the Columbia River? Check. Hiking & biking trails? Check. Rock climbing opportunities? Check. Wild berries in the summer & wildflowers in the spring? Check. It’s a must-visit!!

Located right off the highway, about 20 minutes from Hood River & just east of Cascade Locks, Government Cove is super easy to access and doesn’t require any type of difficult hike. There’s free parking at the entrance, which you get to via the Herman Creek Road turnoff from I-84. You’ll get to see a bunch of photogenic rock formations, winding pathways, dry brush, coves, and a spacious grassy area at the top where you could have a cute picnic after your ceremony. Government Cove is also really close to other scenic spots like Punch Bowl Falls and Wahclella Falls, so you can easily get a variety of diverse scenery by stopping at a few of these locations in one day!

4. Wahclella Falls

Type of location: Waterfall, creek

Ease of access: Moderate

Entry fee: $5 or valid Northwest Forest Pass

Special Use Permit required? Nope!

Pet-friendly? Yeah!

Don’t ask me to pronounce “Wahclella” correctly lol—I just take the photos here😂Wahclella Falls is located near Cascade Locks (and Government Cove!), along Tanner Creek. It’s probs one of my favorite waterfalls on this list because of the stunning waterfall itself, but also because of the beautiful and lush vegetation around it! To get to the dramatic 350-foot, two-tiered waterfall, you’ll follow a 2.4 mile out-and-back trail through a slot canyon—you used to be able to get to the upper section of the falls via a short loop at the end of the trail, but unfortunately it’s closed due to damage from a fire back in 2017 🙁 The falls are open year-round, but just be aware that heavy rain and snow can trigger flash floods, tree fall, and landslides—so it’s probably best to avoid it within a day or two of really strong rain!

5. Panther Creek Falls

Type of location: Waterfall

Ease of access: Easy to moderate

Entry fee: None!

Special Use Permit required? Nope!

Pet-friendly? Yeah!

Last but not least is Panther Creek Falls! Aka a super gorgeous, off-the-beaten-path waterfall with 10/10 views. It’s one of the most unique-looking waterfalls in the area because instead of just one or two main flows, the two-tiered falls are split into all these little streams that drop into the plunge pool below! The way the segmented waterfalls cascade over the vibrant green moss is sooo magical, especially when the sun is out and shining down through the trees. It’s fairly easy to get to the falls via a 0.4 mile out-and-back trail, and you don’t even need a pass to park here! 

Legalities of Eloping in the Columbia River Gorge

Next up is some of the more boring stuff: permits and marriage licenses! I know it’s not the most glitzy and glamorous part of the elopement planning process, buuut it’s obviously important to make sure you’re well-prepared, and that you can, well, legally tie the knot 😉

Getting your Washington/Oregon marriage license

Sooo because the Columbia River Gorge is located in both Washington and Oregon, you’ll need to make sure that wherever you plan to have your ceremony, you know which state it’s in so you can get the proper marriage license! Luckily, the process is pretty much the same for getting a license in either state, and so are the main marriage laws.

If you’ll be having your ceremony on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge, here are the basic WA marriage laws you need to know:

  • Residency required? Nope!
  • Witnesses required: 2 over the age of 12
  • Minimum age: 18, or 17 with guardian consent
  • Waiting period required: 3 days
  • License is valid for: 60 days
  • Cost: Varies by county ($72 in Clark County, $62 in Skamania County)

For more info and step-by-step instructions to follow, check out my Simple Guide to Getting Your Washington Marriage License!

And if you’ll be having your ceremony on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge, these are the basic OR marriage laws:

  • Residency required? Nope!
  • Witnesses required: 2 over the age of 18
  • Minimum age: 18, or 17 with guardian consent
  • Waiting period required: 3 days
  • License is valid for: 60 days
  • Cost: Varies by county ($60 in Multnomah County)

Don’t worry, I’ve got one for Oregon too! Here’s my Simple Guide to Getting Your Oregon Marriage License, where you’ll find easy instructions + tips for getting your license.

Columbia River Gorge Special Use Permits

You’ll also need to do some research into Special Use Permits depending on where you’re going to have your ceremony. Some locations require you to obtain a Special Use Permit in order to have a legal ceremony or any sort of vow exchange; usually state parks, national forests, or other landmarks/federally protected land. You most likely won’t need to worry about SPU’s in the Columbia River Gorge if you’ll be having a small elopement, since WA State Parks & OR State Parks don’t require you to have one unless your group is over 50-75 people! However, it’s important to double check to make sure you know if you need to do anything before the big day. Don’t worry, I’ll help ya with this!!

Here’s some more info about elopement permits in Washington state!

Parking permits

Finally, you may need parking permits or specific passes to visit certain locations! To visit any Forest Service operated recreation sites in WA or OR, you’ll need to pay a day use fee orrrr have a valid Northwest Forest Pass, which costs $30 annually. Typically the day use fee for these areas is only $5, so nothing that’ll break the bank! And then for any state parks, you’ll need to pay either a day use fee or purchase an annual pass (Discover Pass for WA, 12-Month Permit for OR).

Best Places to Stay for Your Columbia River Gorge Elopement

Wanna cozy up in a warm, welcoming A-frame cabin next to the river after you tie the knot? How about a tiny hobbit-style cottage in the trees? Or maybe a luxury resort overlooking the gorge?! There are options for EVERYONE in this area, no matter what type of vibe or size of place you’re looking for—here are a few of the best Airbnb’s + hotels in the Columbia River Gorge to start your search with!

Best Columbia River Gorge Airbnbs

Check out some more adorable Airbnb wedding venues here!

Best Columbia River Gorge Hotels

10 Fun Ideas for Your Columbia River Gorge Elopement

You could seriously spend WEEKS in the Columbia River Gorge and still not have time to see everything. Whether you wanna go hiking, biking, fishing, and kayaking, or you’d rather dress up and book a fancy wine tasting at a scenic winery, the gorge really has something to do for every type of person. Here’s a list of 10 fun things to do in the Columbia River Gorge that I think would be fab to add to your elopement timeline!

1. Hike at Mount Hood

2. Drive along the Historic Columbia River Highway

3. Visit a winery/brewery in Hood River

4. Visit the Crown Point Vista House

5. Hike to the iconic Multnomah Falls

6. Explore Silver Falls State Park

7. Take elopement portraits at Rowena Crest Viewpoint

8. Go kayaking, canoeing, or stand-up paddleboarding on Hood River

9. Take a yummy tour of the Hood River Valley Fruit Loop

10. Walk along the Bridge of the Gods

Need some help putting together your Columbia River Gorge elopement timeline? I gotchuuu. Read this for all of my best tips 🙂

Columbia River Gorge Elopement Photographer

Hey gorge-ous 😉 Okayyy sorry, I had to use the pun just one more time at the end of this! I hope you’ve totally fallen in love with the Columbia River Gorge, because I can never get enough of it and am ALWAYS down to head back. Contact meee if you’re looking for a Columbia River Gorge elopement photographer who’s ready to help take you on the adventure of a lifetime + create lifelong memories for the two of you! Can’t wait to hear all the deetz!

I’ve got sooo many more PNW elopement resources up on my blog—read ‘em all here or check out some of my all-time faves below!

Ultimate San Juan Islands Elopement Guide

8 Wheelchair-Accessible Elopement Locations in Washington

The Best Places on Mt. Rainier for Your Elopement

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