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The Ultimate Guide to Your Crater Lake National Park Elopement

elopement couple at crater lake national park
Reading Time: 9 minutes

Crater Lake is the perfect place to elope if you’re looking for a laid back atmosphere that’s not too crowded, and has breathtaking views that feel like you’re on another planet. 

It is one of the most charming, magical places to visit, and surprisingly the only national park we have here in Oregon!

Its blue color earns it the nickname ‘Majesty Lake’ and rightfully so. Majestic is an understatement! Whether it’s a blue sky sunny day or cloudy with a bit of rain, the views are equally spectacular.

A Little History About Crater Lake National Park

crater lake national park sunrise elopement

Formed by the collapse of an ancient volcano called Mt. Mazama 7,700 years ago, Crater Lake’s rich blue color comes from the fact that all of its water comes exclusively from rain or snow since there are no inlets or outlets to the lake. Which means there is no sediment or mineral deposits carried into the lake. This makes it one of the purest, cleanest, most pristine lakes in the world.

As tempting as it is to jump in for a swim, the only safe and legal spots to do so are at the bottom of the Cleetwood Cove Trail and around Wizard Island. But be warned! As America’s deepest lake, measuring 1,943 ft, water temperatures don’t get very high.

Cleetwood Cove is also where you’ll find the boat to Wizard Island if you choose to make it a part of your wedding experience.

Oregon’s Marriage Laws – Let’s Talk About The Paperwork

watchman's peak crater lake national park elopement

Some couples choose to take care of their documents in the state they reside. Others choose to do it where their elopement takes place. If you’re planning to do it all here, Oregon requires a 3-day waiting period from the day your license is purchased (about $60) until it can be used. This waiting period can be waived by paying an additional $10.00 for immediate use.

Once the license is effective, it is valid for 60 days and must be signed + delivered to the nearest county clerk’s office. The closest & most convenient place to get it done near Crater Lake is located at: 305 Main St., Klamath Falls, OR 97601

Here’s the link to get things started online. 

FYI, I am also an ordained minister in the state of Oregon and would be happy to officiate and sign your documents if needed.

 

Permit Information for your Crater Lake National Park Elopement

crater lake national park wedding permit information

Applying for a wedding permit in advance is critical for your Crater Lake Elopement. The park suggests applying 8 weeks ahead of time but their permitting office is often understaffed so I would apply the second you know which ceremony location you’d like.

Here’s a map of all 46 locations you can get a wedding permit for. The cost per application fee is $50 (non-refundable) and another $50 upon acceptance to file.

Basic Wedding Permit Guidelines:

– amplified music is prohibited. acoustic is fine.

– generators are not allowed in order to protect the other park visitors’ experience

– consider your guests’ transportation. entrance fee per vehicle is $20 / day.

– the permit map linked above will show you if there is a restroom at each location.

– always abide by the Leave No Trace principals (LNT). That means no throwing rice, flowers, balloons, confetti, releasing butterflies or bringing non-native plants.

– as with any outdoor recreation, always pack out all trash

– though there are drinking fountains and potable water available at the visitor center, always be prepared and bring plenty of water for you and your guests. According to the Wilderness Medical Society, your body loses water through respiration at high altitudes twice as fast as it does at sea level. Pack lots of water!

The Best Time of Year to have your Crater Lake National Park Elopement

Crater Lake National Park is open year-round, 24 hours a day. However, most areas close in the winter due to heavy snowfall. They open back up roughly mid-June until about the last week of October.

There are 3 entrances to get into the park: North, South and West. The north entrance and rim drive are closed in the winter.

Every season has its own beauty to explore so the “best” time really depends on what you enjoy doing! If you love snow, winter is probably your jam. If you prefer warm weather, summer is definitely better.

I find early fall to be the most favored by eloping couples. You get all of the summer perks without the crowds. The weather is not too hot, not too cold and hello… who doesn’t love fall?

godrey glen trail crater lake national park

Activities to enjoy in the summer / fall

– hiking to the waterfalls

– enjoy scenic overlooks around the lake like Cloudcap, Pinnacles & Pumice Castle

– hotel lodging with a panoramic view of the lake (you’ll have to get reservations super early for this one – they book up fast!)

– trolley tour on the rim drive

– fishing (kokanee salmon & rainbow trout galore)

– hiking

– biking

– camping

– swimming

– picnicking

– boat tour around the perimeter of the lake

– star-gazing at night without any light pollution (one of my personal faves!)

– explore Wizard Island

Wizard Island has a 2.3-mile hike with 750 ft elevation gain to the “Witches Cauldron” – a tiny crater of its own at the top of the island. A moderate hike for those with less experience and certainly a unique location to get married!

crater lake national park waterfall

Activities to enjoy in the winter

– snowshoeing

– cross-country skiing the rim drive – all vehicular traffic is blocked off in the winter

– downhill skiing (though there are no chairlifts so you’ll need to hike

– snowboarding

– backcountry camping 

– snowmobiling

– sledding

– star-gazing at night without any light pollution (one of my personal faves!)

– simply playing in the fluffy snow!

From a photography perspective, snow-covered landscapes are as magical as it gets but there are safety precautions to be aware of before adventuring here in the winter. Here’s a safety video made by the park to check out before considering a winter wonderland elopement here.

star photo elopement in crater lake national park

Getting to Crater Lake National Park

crater lake wizard island elopement

AIRPORTS:

The nearest airport with commercial flights is in Medford, Oregon – about 1.5 hours from the park called the Rogue Valley Medford Airport. This airport is serviced by Alaska Airlines, Allegiant, American Airlines, Delta, and United Airlines. 

2nd nearest airport will be the Mahlon Sweet Field airport located in Eugene, Oregon about a 3.5-hour drive from the park. If you want the full Oregonian experience, fly into Portland’s International Airport and enjoy the city for a bit before making the 5-hour trip down to Crater Lake National Park.

TRAIN:

Amtrak Train provides daily service to Klamath Falls, Oregon, about an hour from the park. A shuttle runs from the Klamath Amtrak station to Rim Village inside Crater Lake National Park every year from July to September.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION:

There is currently no public transportation in the vicinity of the park. The nearest vehicle rental location will be either from the aforementioned airports or 1 hour away in the city of Klamath Falls

RVs, Trailers, or Bus Rentals:

Here’s a great site if you’re interested in renting one.

Crater Lake doesn’t currently have any restrictions on the size of RVs, trailers or busses allowed in the park. However, roads there are pretty narrow so drive carefully and watch for wildlife, bicyclists and pedestrians.

FUEL:

The park’s gas station is closed in the winter. The closest place to find fuel west of the park is the Prospect Service Stations, 29 miles from the park’s fee booth on Mill Creek Drive. Gas and diesel are available 8am-8pm daily. South of the park, the closest place to find fuel is the Crater Lake Junction Travel Center, 30 miles from the fee booth on Highway 97. Gas and diesel are available 24 hours there. A charging station for electric vehicles is located in front of the Annie Creek Gift Shop in Mazama Village. It has one standard connector and one Tesla connector. If there is heavy snowfall, the EV station may be unavailable until it can be dug out.

Lodging at Crater Lake National Park

Options for sleeping in the park are Crater Lake Lodge, a campground, or obtaining a backcountry permit for camping. The park’s lodges and campgrounds are closed during the winter and open back up when the north entrance & Rim Drive open in the summer.

Other Nearby Lodging for your Crater Lake Elopement:

The Barndominium Cabin – this cute country bungalow is pet friendly with 3 bedrooms (should you bring any guests), a ping-pong table, and is close to the city of Klamath Falls if you need any last minute supplies.

The Old Farmhouse Cabin – only 5 minutes from the Crater Lake entrance and is pet friendly with a big yard for dogs to run around, has great mountain views and includes a pool table, BBQ grill and outdoor dining area.

The Chalet – adorable A-framed cabin nestled in the woods only 20 mins from Crater Lake National Park. It includes kayaks for the private park nearby and is also pet-friendly.

The Modern Marsh Wren Cabin – 25 min away from the Crater Lake entrance. Kayaks are available for use at Agency Lake, great sunset views & an oversized tub in the master suite.

Camping in Crater Lake National Park

Campground options include RV with full hookups and RV with no hookups or tent. Click here for Mazama Campground Reservations.

Safety & Preparation Tips for your Crater Lake Elopement

wizard island in crater lake national park elopement

Thorough preparation is the key to a good time. If you choose to work with me for your Crater Lake Elopement, I’ll share a custom packing list of exactly what to bring but here’s the general stuff:

Wear Layers

No matter what time of year it is, everything is between 6,000 – 9,000 ft elevation so bring more layers than you think you’ll need.

HYDRATE

According to the Wilderness Medical Society, your body loses water through respiration at high altitudes twice as fast as it does at sea level. So if you only remember one thing from this guide, make sure it’s to bring water!

Download Maps Ahead of Time

Cell service in the park is spotty so download your maps before you go either through Offline Google Maps feature or All Trails. Those are my go-tos and have never led me astray!

Pets

Dogs on leash are permitted only in developed areas and within Mazama Village or Lost Creek Campground. Dogs are also allowed on the Godfrey Glen Trail (1.2 mile loop) with decent views of the canyon.

Restrooms and Drinking Water

Restrooms at Rim Village are open 24 hours a day, July – October and are closed in the winter. Water from the restroom sinks is safe to drink and bottled water is available for purchase at the Rim Café and Gift Shop. 

Food

Whether you are reading this guide for your elopement or just getting informed before visiting, I strongly advise packing plenty of meals before coming. The food options at Crater Lake are… limited and it would be a bummer to leave before you’re ready. If you are choosing to elope here, I can refer you to some great personal chefs that are happy to come craft some epic meals for your Crater Lake Elopement!

Cell Reception

As cell reception in the park is weak, free public Wifi is available at the Rim Café and Gift Shop. The best practice is to download your maps offline via the Google Maps app on your phone or if you have the All Trails app –it’s the best!

Do Not Feed the Wildlife

What may seem harmless can be detrimental to both humans and animals. Feeding disrupts their hunter-gatherer behavior which eventually leads to malnourishment. Best practice is to simply enjoy their presence and leave them be. 

Honor the Park’s Speed Limits

Wildlife likes to forage along the shoulders and linger around crossing roads. Pay attention while driving and obey all signs.

Winter Safety

Keep in mind this is one of the snowiest places in America with a yearly average of 42 feet of snow! It’s important to be extra cautious while exploring in the wintertime. If in doubt, please watch this safety video before hitting the park for winter activities.

Fun Fact! 

crater lake mazama newt elopement guide

Crater Lake is the only place in the world you can find the Mazama Newt. This subspecies of rough-skinned newt is native to the lake. Threatened by invasive species, scientists are trying to combat non-native crayfish and preserve the existence of these unique little buddies. 

Usually found hiding under rocks or logs, visitors may spot one of these rare creatures around the edge of the lake. Just don’t touch! Oils from human hands can become a barrier on the surface of the newt’s skin, making it defenseless against other invasive and non-endemic predators like the crayfish, Kokanee salmon and Rainbow Trout.

Let’s Work Together for your Crater Lake National Park Elopement!

elopement photographer Mia from Imagine Elopements standing under a waterfall and exploring Skogafoss Falls in Iceland

I hope this elopement guide has covered everything you need to know to elope in Crater Lake National Park. 

If you are choosing to elope here, I’d be thrilled to be your photographer and co-creator of your elopement experience! I know all of the best spots and vendors to help you plan the perfect day.

Just head over to my contact page and tell me how I can help! If you wish to set up a call directly, you’re welcome to schedule it here.

I can’t wait to hear from you! 

~Mia

about the author:

Hi! I’m Mia!

I live in a tiny cabin in the woods of central Oregon with my boyfriend. We love cooking, camping, fishing, raising chickens and listening to true crime. I’ve had the best job in the world documenting intimate celebrations since 2010. My love languages are quality time and travel.

My approach to photography is a cross between documentary and editorial. Think of fashion magazines but with real couples. I believe the experience is just as, if not more, important than the photos and that photos are the closest thing we have to time travel. 

portrait of elopement photographer at crater lake national park

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