Oregon Elopement Photographer | Imagine Elopements

2022 fall dates still available

Table of Contents

The Ultimate Guide to Your Crater Lake National Park Elopement

how to elope in oregon crater lake national park

Everything You Need to Know!

Reading Time: 9 minutes

If having a unique elopement experience in a lesser-known national park sounds intriguing, this may be the perfect spot for you!

 

Crater Lake National Park is one of the most charming, underrated magical places to visit. Surprisingly, it’s the only national park we have here in Oregon!

 

Its beautiful blue color earns it the nickname ‘Majesty Lake’ and rightfully so. Imagine the deepest blue you can think of and I swear this lake is bluer. When all of the colors come out to play at sunset and reflect off of the crystal clear water it’s quite an incredible sight to see!

how to elope in oregon crater lake national park

A Little History About Crater Lake National Park

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 –which I highly recommend in the summer!

view of wizard island at sunset in crater lake national park oregon

Permit Information for your Crater Lake National Park Elopement

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 and take a while to respond so I recommend at least 9-12 weeks in advance or the second you pick your ceremony location in the park.

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, Rim Drive and many facilities are closed in the winter. 

Every season has its own beauty to explore so the “best” time really depends on what you enjoy doing together. If you love snow, winter is probably your jam. If you prefer warm weather, summer’s 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, nor too cold and hello… who doesn’t love fall?

 

Activities you can enjoy in the summer / fall

– hiking to 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 little experience and certainly a unique location to get married!

Astrophotography for star-gazing elopement couples at Crater Lake National Park

Activities you can 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 just playing in the fluffy snow!

From a photography perspective, snow-covered landscapes are as magical as it gets but there are safety precautions we need 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.

Getting to Crater Lake National Park

AIRPORTS:

The nearest airport with commercial flights is in Medford, Oregon – about an hour and a half from the park call the Rogue Valley Medford Airport. It’s serviced by Alaska Airlines, Allegiant, American Airlines, Delta, and United Airlines. 

The second nearest airport will be the Mahlon Sweet Field airport located in Eugene, Oregon which is about a 3.5-hour drive from the park. For a more scenic drive, I recommend the trip from Eugene to Crater Lake as the drive from Medford is mostly cow pastures. 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. (I can certainly help you find the best stopping points along the way – just ask!)

TRAIN:

The Amtrak Train provides daily service to Klamath Falls, Oregon which is 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 of these.

Crater Lake doesn’t have any current 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 during 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 gas 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

Overnight stays in the park are reserved for hotel guests, campground campers and backpackers who obtain a backcountry permit. The park’s lodges ad campgrounds are closed during the winter and open back up when the north entrance & Rim Drive open in the summer. Crater Lake Lodge reservations can be made by calling +1-866-292-6720 or booking online.

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 minutes away from the Crater Lake entrance. Kayaks available for Agency Lake, great sunset views and an oversized tub in the master suite.

Camping in Crater Lake National Park

Camping options include tent, RV with full hookups and RV with no hookups. Click here for Mazama Campground Reservations and here for a map of all the campground spots.

Other Safety and Preparation Tips for your Crater Lake Elopement

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. Here’s the general stuff:

Wear Layers

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

HYDRATE

always be prepared and bring plenty of water for both 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. So if you only remember just thing from this guide, make sure it’s to *bring water*!

Download Your Maps Ahead of Time

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

Pets

Dogs on leash are permitted within the park but only in developed areas and within Mazama Village and Lost Creek Campground. Dogs are not permitted on any trails of undeveloped areas.

Restrooms and Drinking Water

When the Rim Drive is open, restrooms at Rim Village are open 24 hours a day. 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 simply from lack of meal preparation. If you are choosing to elope here, please get in touch and 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

Again, cell reception in the park is spotty. Free public Wifi is available at the Rim Café and Gift Shop. The best adventure 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. It’s best 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 the 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 cautious when exploring in the wintertime. If you’re an experienced snow sports superstar, I’m sure you know these things already. If in doubt, please watch this safety video before hitting the park for winter activities. 


Pro-Tip
: wrapping up in a giant blanket together is not only cozy but makes super cute elopement photos. Just saying! 

Fun Fact! 

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 buddies. 

Usually found hiding under rocks or logs, lucky visitors may spot one of these rare creatures around the edge of the lake. Don’t touch though! 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.

crater lake mazama newt elopement guide

Work With Me for your Crater Lake National Park Elopement!

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

I can help you plan the perfect day for a fun, stress-free elopement experience at Crater Lake. I know all the best spots and vendors that can deliver an exceptional experience for you. Just head over to my contact page and tell me everything! Or if you wish to set up a call directly, please don’t hesitate 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’re total nerds who love raising chickens,  working on homestead projects, listening to true crime, and grilling scrumptious meals over a campfire. We met while on a road trip in Joshua Tree and have been traveling together ever since! Crater Lake National Park is our actual neighbor and I’m obsessed with finding beautiful places for couples to elope at!
mia elopement photographer in iceland cave screenshot
imagine elopements after the tone wedding photo