As the prevalence of elopements has increased over the last few years, more and more couples are also choosing to hike to their elopement. It’s a trend I am absolutely living for and I would totally encourage you to consider hiking to your elopement. There’s a lot to consider with a hiking elopement, from what to bring to where to go, and I’ve got everything you need to know right here. Let’s make your hiking elopement a success.
First and foremost, a hiking elopement is a private elopement. You can choose just about any spot you love, hike out there, and get hitched with as few people around as you’d like. Hiking to a secluded and private spot that you love means you can even get away from other hikers. This is especially true for couples who are flexible about the location, as you can simply decide to keep looking for a better ceremony spot if the one you had in mind has too many people, or doesn’t look quite like you imagined.
The most breathtaking and vast elopement photos that you see are often from hiking elopements. There’s so much beauty in nature that I can capture when I come hiking with you for your elopement. With the flexibility in schedule, early morning starts, and stunning scenery, there is no limit to the incredible photos we can create together. Not only will you have the memory of a beautiful wedding day, but also photos that read as fine art. We’ll tell your story against the backdrop of golden sunrises and snowy mountain tops.
Logistically, things look a little different when hiking to your elopement. There are things to consider that you would never think of when eloping at a venue or stationary location. Lucky for you, I’ve got tips and tricks to make sure things go off without a hitch.
The earlier start we get, the better. I always encourage clients to be on the trail before sunrise, sometimes even starting at 3:00am, so we can get those gorgeous golden hour shots. This will also help you avoid people if you’re choosing a busier trail or location to elope.
You are going to have everything for your day on your back, so make sure you pack really well. Consider all of the scenarios for your day. Think about the terrain you’ll be traversing. Hiking boots are a must to bring along. What wildlife could you run into? Bring your bear spray. Are you prepared for the temperature to drop a few degrees, or extra windy conditions at the summit? Pack extra layers, like skin toned fleece leggings to wear under your dress, or a cute blanket, puffy jacket, or windbreaker that you wouldn’t mind having photos with. Will you be hiking in the dark? Bring a headlamp! To help make this piece a bit easier, I’ve created a packing list on Amazon that I would really encourage you to check out. Click here to take a look.
When choosing vendors for your hiking elopement, make sure they can provide a service that will stand up to your hike. For things like florals, hair and make up, talk with prospective vendors about their experience. Have they provided services for hiking or adventure elopements before? How did things hold up? Additionally, are they comfortable hiking? Below are a few things to make sure you ask your vendors before you book.
Are they familiar with the area and able to get back to their vehicle safely if you decide to stay on the trail longer after your ceremony? What is their style of officiating? Does it match who you are as a couple? If you are struggling to find the right officiant for you, check out Married by Cole or Urban Officiant who are both based in Alberta.
Hair and make up for a hiking elopement is a bit different than your average wedding. Is the vendor you’re interested practiced in doing hair and make up that hold up well outdoors? Are they willing to travel to where you are staying, or even meet you on the trail? Can they be available hours before sunrise so you can get to the summit when you would like to? If you need help knowing where to find great hair and make up artists, check out this post with all of my favorite Alberta vendors.
Can they create sturdy arrangements that wont drop leaves or petals? This is incredibly important as even leaving flower petals on the ground is considered littering in National Parks! Make sure your florist is familiar with Leave No Trace principles (which we’ll talk about more below), and is committed to keeping these places pristine. Additionally, can they create an arrangement that won’t be too heavy, is easy to hold, and won’t fall apart strapped to a back pack? Do they know which florals will keep best in high winds, intense sun exposure, and long days?
First and foremost, how experienced of a hiker are they? Are they willing to get up early to hike for sunrise? Do they follow Leave No Trace? Are they familiar with the area and can they recommend good locations? Do they know what times of day are best for photos? If timetables shift unexpectedly, do they feel comfortable taking photos in harsh light? What about low light conditions?
Your bouquet will be going on quite the trek. To keep it looking fresh, wrap the stems in a soaked Swedish dishcloth and place in a small waterproof bag, then stuff it on the side of your backpack. Not only will this keep petals perky, but it adds to the vibe as you hike as a couple to your ceremony location.
From an extra change of clothes, to make up and bobby pins make sure you have more than what you think you’ll need. We aren’t going to be on the trail for weeks or even days, so packing ultralight isn’t a concern. Don’t get caught on the trail without something you need. We don’t want anything to dampen your wedding day.
Depending on the season, there’s a good chance that we will stumble upon snow and ice. It’s important to have spikes for your hiking boots well into spring so you don’t end up in an unsafe situation. The season is also going to greatly impact the foliage around. For example, if you have been dreaming of wildflowers in your photos, plan on heading out in August. August is also great for the bright blue alpine lakes. If you want the golden larches and fall colours, plan for the middle to end of September.
Some couples choose to hike up in outdoor gear, and change when they arrive at their ceremony spot, while others are excited to hike in their full glam and wedding attire. There are pros and cons to both that should be considered. First and foremost is the bride’s dress. Is it even possible to hike in it? Many wedding dresses have trains, layers of petticoats, and lots of delicate lace. Hiking in a full princess ball gown is going to be difficult, and possibly even dangerous. However, changing at your location gives you the chance to do a first look at your ceremony spot. Wearing your attire on the trail though can really add to the excitement and whimsy of the day, and means you don’t have to change your clothes outside. There is a third option as well! You can hike most of the way to your ceremony before stopping to change into your wedding attire to still get photos hiking in your dress, without wearing it the whole time.
As an elopement photographer, I hold near and dear to my heart the protection of the beautiful places that I go for my work. A large part of that is being Leave No Trace certified, and working hard to minimize the impact of humans on the natural places we go. It’s incredibly important that you also plan to Leave No Trace, and take efforts to make that happen when you hike to your elopement. Pack everything you bring in, and out. Stay on designated trails. Don’t feed or otherwise disturb wildlife. That’s just the beginning though! To learn more about keeping our parks and natural areas clean and safe, click here.
There are endless beautiful locations in Alberta if you plan on hiking to your elopement. I’m going to share two of my favorites below. But before that, there are a few things you should consider when choosing your elopement hike. Consider the distance and elevation. Your wedding day isn’t the day for a huge challenge, so don’t pick something incredibly hard or way outside of your activity level. How long will the hike take? Do you want to hike a couple hours or more, or something shorter and more jaunty. What kind of views do you want? There are wide meadows, stark cliff edges, tall waterfalls, lakes, rivers and more!
Lake Louise is located within Banff National Park. There are loads of nearby trails to hike, and the teahouse that you can stop for tea at during your hike. For this particular elopement we started hiking at 3:00am to make sure we could avoid the crowds. This spot can get busy (because it’s so stunning), so I advise heading out for a sunrise elopement. We hiked a total of 5.6km on this day.
Shootout: Create Gold
Lead Photographer: Liv Hettinga Photography
Lead Planner: Love Spell Co
Florist: Adventure Florals
HMUA: Amplified Artistry
Dress shop: Love Note Bride
Suit shop: Ed Williams Mens Wear
Wooden signs: Custom Laser Works
Vow Books: Forest Nine
This hike is located with Moraine Lake, and is backed up to the Valley of Ten Peaks. Larch Valley is perfect for fall couples who want to get married among the golden larches, which only appear for a couple weeks each year. This is another popular, and thus often busy hike, so I headed out in the evening with this couple to avoid the crowds. They chose to hike up in their everyday wear. Stopping to change into wedding attire just before the top, they finished the hike among the larches. Sat and Dan read their vows before a glacier lake, and cozied up for a charcuterie picnic complete with craft beer. Their first dance was lit by their headlights in the parking lot, and September rain. A truly romantic and unique hiking elopement.
Shootout: Create Gold
Lead Photographer: Liv Hettinga Photography
Lead Planner: Love Spell Co
Couple: Sat & Dan
Florist: Creative Edge Floral
Dress & Suit shop: Durand Bridal
Wooden signs: Riders Rustic Woodworking
Stationery: Paper & Petals
Earrings: Agaveh Girl
Looking for more than just an out and back hike for your elopement? There are so many ways to really make your hiking elopement your own. Consider a backcountry elopement, hiking in to a location, camping, and eloping the following day. Shadow Lake Lodge is a great option for that. Have a ceremony with loved ones, and do the hike afterward! Get all the epic photos with no time crunch, and no nervous jitters. Bring along your well trained pup if you’re venturing along a dog friendly trail. Bring along a picnic lunch, or get fancy with a private chef catered dinner. Set up a hammock and snuggle after your ceremony. There are a thousand ways to make it your own.
No matter where you choose to go, what you wear, or who you bring along, a hiking elopement will be an epic adventure. I’ve never met a couple who regretted it. When you elope in a beautiful place, the little things don’t seem to matter so much, like if it rains or every lock of hair is in place. It becomes a lot easier to focus on your new spouse, the excitement you feel, and God’s stunning creation. If you have more questions about hiking to your elopement, get in touch with me here. To learn more about my adventure elopement photography, click here. I can’t wait to help you get hitched.
I’m your elopement hype girl and a photographer for the goofball lovers + those who want to make their wedding day an adventure. I’m also the owner of a converted camper van and love exploring the outdoors. You’ll find my heart on this blog. Whether it’s documenting my real life couples or giving my brides + grooms the tips + tricks they need to plan their best elopement, I’ve poured my heart out for you here.
"Liv is extremely talented and great to work with! She gave us enough direction in our shoots to know what to do but still left tons of room for candid, genuine moments. Nothing beats seeing real smiles and laughter in your photos! She was more than willing to collaborate and go for some sillier ideas, and was always super encouraging. She's an incredibly sweet person and we felt very comfortable to be ourselves around her. Liv's talent is beyond just the technical knowledge, she really has an artist eye for beautiful photos. Her editing style is perfect, not too dark or light but still brings personality with the warm tones she adds. I HIGHLY recommend working with Liv!!"