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5 Best Fire Lookout Elopement Locations in Washington

You deserve an elopement location that is just as fire as you are 🔥Okay, maybe not somewhere that’s actually on fire, cause we don’t need any more wildfires in the PNW haha—I just felt like that was an appropriate intro to today’s topic, which is fire lookout elopements! If you’re wondering what the hell a fire lookout elopement is, don’t worry, I’ll be giving you all the ‘tails and showing you exactly why you should consider having one. In this guide I’m giving you my top 5 favorite fire lookout elopement locations in Washington, including a few amazing ones at Mount Rainier and Mount Baker! Trust me, these locations are bomb (or as the kids today would say, fire) 😉

What is a Fire Lookout Elopement?

First of all, you’re probably asking “Bree, what in the world is a ‘fire lookout elopement’?” 

Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like: an elopement that takes place at a fire lookout! This could either mean you have your elopement ceremony at a fire lookout, or you hike up to the tower to take adventurous elopement portraits, have a scenic picnic, etc. and have your ceremony somewhere else. It doesn’t really matter, you can define it as you please.

Fire lookouts are towers in remote areas (such as mountain ranges) that are used to spot wildfires. They started becoming popular in the early 1900s when they didn’t have the technology that we have today to detect wildfires, and somebody had to physically be inside of a lookout tower and keep watch over the nearby land. Fire lookout towers are placed strategically to get the best views possible (usually 360-degree views) so that lookouts could spot wildfires in the distance and report them right away, which is why you’ll find them situated at high vantage points such as mountain summits!

Can you elope at a fire lookout?

Absolutely! As long as the fire lookout you’re considering is located in an area that allows wedding and elopement ceremonies, and as long as you get the required permits/passes to access the trail and tower, then there’s no reason you can’t elope there.

Do you need a permit to elope at a fire lookout?

If the fire lookout is located in a state park, national park, or national forest, you may need a permit to elope there—it depends on the rules and regulations of the specific park. For national parks, you’ll typically need a Special Use Permit no matter where you want to elope. Always double check that ceremonies and/or photos are allowed at the fire lookout you’re considering for your elopement, and check to see if you’ll need to make any reservations ahead of time to visit. 

Some lookouts even allow overnight stays, so if you’re interested in sleeping at the lookout, be sure to try and book a reservation in advance online OR show up to the tower early if it’s a first come, first serve location!

What is the best time of year to elope at a fire lookout in Washington?

The best time to elope at a fire lookout in Washington is definitely the summer, between July-August (maybe into early September, depending on the location). This is because these are the months where we have the least snow in Washington, and when most high-elevation locations are fully accessible! Since fire lookouts are located at, well, high elevations, you’ll need to elope at a time of year when the trails are free of snow, and when it’s warm enough to comfortably hike for long periods of time. 

Pro tip from a Washington elopement photographer: Make sure to follow Leave No Trace principles!

One thing that’s superrrrr important when eloping in the mountains (or anywhere in nature) is to follow Leave No Trace principles! If you haven’t heard of these, it’s a list of 7 principles that help you minimize your impact + reduce damage every time you head outdoors. As an adventure elopement photographer, it’s really important to me to educate my couples and encourage them to follow the LNT principles to keep parks beautiful and safe for future visitors + couples! If you’re interested in learning more about how to incorporate the 7 Leave No Trace principles into your big day, be sure to check out my blog post on How to Have a Leave No Trace Elopement!

5 Best Fire Lookout Elopement Locations in Washington

1. Tolmie Peak Lookout | Mount Rainier National Park

Difficulty: Moderate

Route type: Out & back

Hike distance: 7.5 mi

Elevation gain: 1,100 ft

Dogs allowed? No

Permits/passes needed: National Park Pass

Panoramic mountain views, picturesque blue lakes, lush wildflower meadows, and greenery galore. . . what else could you ask for from a fire lookout in the mountains of Washington?! Tolmie Peak Lookout sits above Eunice Lake inside of Mount Rainier National Park, accessible via the Mowich Lake Campground parking area. Keep in mind that Mowich Lake Road closes down for the season once winter hits!

From the campground you’ll head around the west side of the lake and follow the trail through the forest, where you’ll eventually pass Eunice Lake, which is this big and absolutely stunning blue lake. If you get tired and decide you don’t want to go all the way to the fire lookout, you can totally stop at Eunice Lake and have your ceremony + take portraits here, because it’s just as breathtaking in its own way! 

Once you get to the top of Tolmie Peak, first of all, pat yourselves on the back for making it up that steep uphill grind at the end there 👏 After you’ve celebrated for a minute, look up and ENJOY THE VIEWS!! Mount Rainier is massive from the Tolmie Peak viewpoint and is especially jaw-dropping on a clear, sunny day. You’ll even get views of Mount St. Helens, the Olympic Mountains, AND Mount Baker, too! If you time it right for peak wildflower bloom, you’ll be gifted a variety of gorgeous, colorful flowers all around ya in addition to the vibrant green alpine meadows. 

Bonus points if you take a dip in Mowich Lake once you make it back down the trail, especially if you’re in your elopement attire! Spontaneous swims make for the cutest pics, even if it means getting your dress dirty and messing up your hair. It’s all part of the adventure 😉 

2. Mount Fremont Fire Lookout | Mount Rainier National Park

Difficulty: Moderate

Route type: Out & back

Hike distance: 5.6 mi

Elevation gain: 1,200 ft 

Dogs allowed? No

Permits/passes needed: National Park Pass

Mount Fremont is another one of the four historic fire lookouts inside of Mount Rainier National Park, and just so happens to be one of my personal faves. This lookout was built back in the 1930s and boasts striking views of Mount Rainier, the Cascades, and the Olympics, so you better bet it’s a killer spot to elope if you’re looking for a quintessential WA mountain adventure! While you can hike this trail at any time of day, the views of Mount Rainier at sunrise (the time of day, not the visitor center!) are pretty spectacular. So if you’re down for an early wakeup call, I’d say you should try to arrive at the Sunrise parking lot before, well, sunrise haha!

The trail starts 6,400 feet high at the Sunrise Visitor Center, and takes you west along the Sourdough Ridge Trail to the Frozen Lake Junction. You’ll hike through grassy wildflower meadows and rocky terrain to get to the fire lookout, and you might even see some wildlife (make sure to stay a respectful distance from them)! There’s not a ton of shade up at the lookout, so make sure you pack plenty of sunscreen and water. Sadly, you can’t camp at or around this lookout, so it’ll have to just be a fun day trip!

3. Winchester Mountain Lookout | North Cascades

Difficulty: Moderate

Route type: Out & back

Hike distance: 3.4 mi

Elevation gain: 1,300 ft

Dogs allowed? Yes, on leash

Permits/passes needed: Northwest Forest Pass

Winchester Mountain Lookout is such an amazing place for your elopement because it’s stunning, fairly easy, and the views are EPIC. The trail up to Winchester Mountain is only about two miles each way, and you get access to a lookout at 6,500 feet with the most insane 360-degree views of Mount Shuksan, Mount Baker, Twin Lakes, and more! In fact, you’ll start the hike at the parking lot at Twin Lakes, so you should def take some time to enjoy that lakeside scenery either before you head up or once you come back down the mountain. The lookout was built back in 1935 and is maintained really well by volunteers from the Mount Baker Hiking Club, so you can thank them for how nice the tower is to this day! It’s even better if you can time it so that you get the whole mountain to yourselves and get a lot of privacy during your elopement day, especially during the summer season. Sometimes that just comes down to luck though!

The only catch to this amazing lookout with such a moderate hike? You’ll need at least a high clearance vehicle to get up the road, but a four wheel drive will be extra helpful. If you don’t have high clearance then you can park on the shoulder past the Yellow Aster Butte trailhead, but it’ll add 2.5 miles each way of walking along the road. Also make sure that the roads in the area are open if you’re eloping early in the summer or in the fall, or really anytime when snow could still be covering parts of the mountains/trails.

Autumn and Matt hiked to Winchester Mountain Lookout for their elopement a couple years back; unfortunately the lookout had been vandalized by snowboarders over the winter, but it was still open and cute AF. You can see their pics here!

4. Mt. Pilchuck Fire Lookout | Mount Baker

Difficulty: Moderate/Hard

Route type: Out & back

Hike distance: 5.4 mi

Elevation gain: 2,300 ft

Dogs allowed? Yes, on leash

Permits/passes needed: Discover Pass, Northwest Forest Pass, or America the Beautiful Pass

Want to elope closer to Mount Baker? Check out the Mt. Pilchuck Fire Lookout, one of the most popular lookouts in the area! 360-degree views of Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, AND the Olympics, with only a 2.7 mile hike each way? Count me innnn. Keep in mind that although the trail isn’t super long, you do gain around 2,300 feet on the ascent, so it’s not for the faint of heart—the summit itself sits at around 5,300 feet. The trail can also be pretty dangerous if you’re not careful, especially in the winter (I wouldn’t recommend doing this hike in the winter anyway), so it’s important that you check in with the ranger ahead of time and sign the registry at the trailhead for safety reasons! 

Now this is one of the fire lookouts on this list that you CAN spend the night at—but it’s first come, first serve, so you’ll definitely have some competition throughout hiking season. Even if you can’t grab that desired overnight spot, the tower is still a great place to just chill and enjoy your elopement. It was originally built back in 1921 and has gone through multiple renovations over the years; today, you can sit on the benches/boulders and enjoy a picnic + the views, plus you might meet some new friends since it’s such a popular trail!

Wanna see a really freaking beautiful example of an elopement here? Check out Catherine + Jon’s Mountain Top Elopement at the Mt. Pilchuck Fire Lookout, it’s seriously breathtaking! We got the moodiest views of the Cascades covered in clouds and fog.

5. Heybrook Lookout | Index

Difficulty: Easy/moderate

Route type: Out & back

Hike distance: 2.6 mi

Elevation gain: 850 ft

Dogs allowed? Yes, on leash

Permits/passes needed: None

Heybrook Lookout is the last one on this list, located near Index, WA. This is a fairly easy (but steep) hike and is perfect if you’re limited on time, or you don’t want to go on a crazy long hike on your elopement day! The 2.6 mile round trip trail only takes around 1.5 hours to complete, plus any time you want to spend at the lookout of course. You’ll start at the trailhead located in a gravel parking lot just after the entrance to Mount Baker-Snoqualmie Forest, and you’ll meander through a ton of gorgeous greenery: ferns, moss, all the luscious icons of the PNW. There’s actually been multiple lookouts at the viewpoint since 1925, each one growing a little bit taller, the current one offering an 89-step climb up to a stunning viewing area! On a clear day, you’ll be able to see Mount Persis, Mount Baring, and maybe even Bridal Veil Falls flowing down Mount Index. And if you don’t feel like making the climb, there are picnic tables near the bottom where you can relax instead 🙂

Washington Fire Lookout Elopement Photographer

Now that you know all about fire lookout elopements and where to have a fire lookout elopement in Washington, you can’t tell me you’re not dying to plan your own!! There’s something so magical and epic about taking a beautiful hike on your elopement day, ending at a scenic fire lookout with panoramic views of all of Washington’s most iconic peaks. Kinda sounds like the dream to me! If you’re ready to start planning and pick which fire lookout will be best for your adventure elopement, then I’m ready to tag along and capture it all for ya! Reach out here and give me all the deets about your special day!!

Wanna see more of my favorite elopement locations around the PNW? Lucky for you, I have plenty of guides up on the blog; here are a few of the best:

7 Best Hot Springs in the PNW for Elopements

15 Most Beautiful Alpine Lake Elopement Locations in WA

The 5 Best Beach Elopement Locations in the PNW

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