Sunset at the Griffen House Small Wedding Venue over the river

How To Elope In The Columbia River Gorge

The Columbia River Gorge is one of those amazing places in Oregon that’s full of wonder, nature, and great experiences. I want this blog to be a resource for everything you could possibly need to know about how to elope in the Columbia River Gorge. From where to stay, where to elope or have your wedding ceremony, to cool activities you can do or great places to get some local brews, this blog has it all. After we moved only 20 minutes away from the gorge I made it my personal mission to learn EVERYTHING I could about it. I hope you love it as much as I do.

Table of Contents:

  1. Where is the gorge located?
  2. Why you should choose the Columbia River Gorge
  3. How to elope in the gorge
  4. Best season to elope
  5. Best elopement locations
    • Latourell Falls
    • Government Cove
    • Horsetail Falls
    • Multnomah Falls
    • Wahclella Falls
    • Rowena Crest
  6. Small wedding venues in the gorge
  7. Where to stay
    • Hotels
    • Bed and Breakfasts
    • Airbnbs
  8. Things to do in the gorge
  9. More Oregon elopement resources

Where is CRG?

Located about 30 minutes east of Portland, the Columbia River Gorge spans 90 miles between Oregon and Washington. Oregon is widely known as a place with over 200 waterfalls and the CRG houses many of the most amazing ones. You can access the gorge on both the Oregon and Washington side or see them both via the Bridge of the Gods, the bridge that hikers use on the Pacific Crest Trail!

On a clear day, you might be able to get views of Mt Hood which is another nearby area for skiing and hiking. One of the best things about exploring the gorge is that you don’t have to go on long hikes to see amazing views.

Why you should get married in the Columbia River Gorge

Getting married in the Columbia River Gorge gives you access to many amazing locations, cute small towns, and some great food. Depending on what season you choose to elope you may find yourself on Government Cove all by yourself or exploring Multnomah Falls at sunrise before all of the tourists arrive. Watching a waterfall while the sun comes up is an experience you won’t want to miss.

While it’s true that most of the foot traffic in the gorge is for the waterfalls, there are still many amazing locations where you can have your wedding ceremony with wildflowers or cliff views instead. Getting married in the gorge is the perfect location for couples who can’t quite choose just one type of scenery. This means you can have wildflowers, waterfalls, mountains, and rivers all on the same wedding day!

The Columbia River Gorge is also a great location to start your honeymoon and have a multi-day adventure. There’s so much you can do in the gorge that it’s impossible to fit it all in one day. I highly recommend staying in a cute Airbnb or bed and breakfast and enjoying the small towns while you’re here! More on that below!

How to elope in the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area

Thankfully, Oregon makes it pretty straightforward to understand what you may (or may not need) in order to legally elope on the Columbia River Gorge.

Like many other locations throughout Oregon, there are a few rules in place in order to keep the CRG clean, healthy, and accessible for all. It’s important to do your best to leave no trace and respect the land you visit. If you’re having an elopement in the Columbia River Gorge you cannot block any public access roads, host vendor trucks, throw confetti, rice, etc., or have large decorations or open flames. You’re also not allowed to camp overnight in undesignated spots or play loud music. Getting married in the gorge really is about embracing nature and enjoying it as it is naturally instead of trying to alter it.

Wedding permits in the Columbia River Gorge

Most of my couples choose to elope with just the two of them or a few very special guests, but if you plan to have over 75 guests at your Columbia River Gorge wedding (this number includes your vendors!) then you’ll need to file for a special use permit. You should contact the forest service and get the most up-to-date information regarding your special use permit as rules can change at any time! Many of the best locations in the gorge can only accommodate about twenty cars in their parking lot, so it’s really important to keep that in mind as you’re planning your special day.

Columbia River Gorge Elopement Regulations and Rules:

  • Leave No Trace
  • No Open Flames
  • No Vendor Trucks
  • No Exclusive Use
  • No Amplified Music
  • No Permits Required if Under 75 Guests

SPRING 2022 UPDATE: As of May 24, 2022, the forest service has implemented a new Waterfall Corridor Timed Use Permit. This permit is required for all personal vehicles to access the lands in the waterfall corridor between 9:00 am and 6:00 pm PST. The permit applies to exits between Bridal Veil and Ainsworth State Park and is applicable until September 5, 2022. Like the timed use permit at Multnomah Falls, this permit is only $2 and you can purchase it online ahead of time!

Best season to elope in CRG

The best season to elope in the Columbia River Gorge is going to depend on your personal preference. However, without a doubt, both fall and spring are incredibly breathtaking. In the fall you get to see deep reds, oranges, and yellows as the leaves begin to change along the river. If you hike up to Government Cove and have a picnic to watch the sun set, you’ll see miles of trees and the river below reflecting the dreamy pinks of the sky. If you choose to elope in the Columbia River Gorge in the spring you’ll get to see thousands of wildflowers of all sorts of colors! Be sure to be mindful and not trample the flowers so they will be there for years to come.

Where to elope in the Columbia River Gorge

Best locations for Columbia River Gorge elopements

1. Latourell Falls

Latourell is one of the MOST popular waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge, but for good reason! It’s incredibly easy to get to and is always lush and full. You’re guaranteed to get a little wet from the spray of the water, which makes visiting the falls really exciting. There are a couple of beautiful old bridges near the falls, tons of lush greens, and mossy rocks to explore.

Because it’s the closest waterfall to Portland, the parking lot and base of the waterfall is often full of people. It’s only a few minutes down a dirt path to see the epic falls so with very little effort you get to feel like you went on an adventure! Most people don’t stay very long so you can still get some great views and pictures while you’re at the waterfall. There’s also a top waterfall hike that is a 2.4 mile loop and most people don’t go on it if you wanted to explore the area a little bit more!

Even with all the tourists, I think this waterfall is a must-see while you’re exploring. If you don’t have a lot of time then I recommend exploring this waterfall for a few minutes before heading to your next spot. It’s worth it, I promise!

Come check out this perfectly moody, boho elopement at Latourell Falls with Alison and Chase.

2. Government Cove

Government Cove is the perfect place for an elopement at sunset. You have 360 views of the Columbia River and it’s only about 45 minutes from Portland. I love this ceremony location because it has the river, cliffs, trees, and mossy fields giving you so much variation in just one location. Another bonus is that you don’t have to hike much at all to access the beauty!

The little island is big enough that even when there are other people on it, you don’t really notice. I once had an elopement here at the same time as a movie crew and we only crossed paths once. I always recommend this spot when my couples want nature and seclusion without a lot of strenuous activity.

3. Horsetail Falls

Celebrate your wedding day with a waterfall you can walk behind! Horsetail Falls is awesome because you can get up close and personal with it while exploring around. It’s also really close by to Ponytail Falls so you can see two waterfalls in one hike! This hike is only 0.9 miles and is pretty easy to do. Just keep in mind you’ll probably get wet from the water spray and wear good shoes with tread!

These falls might not be as “wow factor” as some of the other locations, but getting to walk behind it is really cool. If you want something different, I recommend checking it out!

4. Multnomah Falls

Arguably the most popular waterfall in Oregon, Multnomah is a beast to see. I’m sure you’ve seen it before with its moody stone bridge crossing in front of the falls, but did you know it’s also a wedding venue? Pretty cool!

As I mentioned above, during the summer months there is a $2 timed use permit fee to see Multnomah Falls between popular visiting hours. If you wait until sunset or go at sunrise (both incredible and highly recommend!) then you’ll get to experience the falls with fewer tourists. During the fall, the water glows in the sunlight while the sun sets. You can’t get nearly as close to Multnomah as some other waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge area, but it’s a great spot either way.

If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can hike the second waterfall above Multnomah Falls. The hike to Wahkeena Falls is a 5.0-mile loop. It’s considered a more challenging hike but the view of that waterfall is so worth it!

5. Wahclella Falls

I looooove Wahclella Falls. The hike is longer than Latourell Falls so it feels a bit more rewarding once you reach the end of it. There are a couple of wooden bridges to cross and lots of little alcoves to stop at on your way to having a picnic or watching the water flow down Tanner Creek. The 2.0-mile hike is relatively easy and if you go during springtime, you’ll get to see lots of little wildflowers along your way.

6. Rowena Crest

Rowena Crest is absolutely stunning in the spring. The wildflowers bloom EVERYWHERE making the cliff-like views over the river even more amazing. It’s a little bit farther than the other options at a 1.5-hour drive from Portland but is so worth it. You can see the hills and river for miles or check out the scenic byway below. Depending on when you go, it might be a little crowded with people checking out the wildflowers, but if you go at sunrise or hang out in the sun sets, you’ll likely get the entire area to yourself.

An important note about Rowena Crest is that it’s often really windy. The wind is GREAT for photos, especially if you’re wearing a flowy dress, cape, or veil. It can be a little in your face if you’re not prepared for it so just keep that in mind. If you’re the type of person who wants perfectly placed hair in all your photos, this probably isn’t the wedding location for you.

7. Honorable mentions: Beacon Rock State Park, Cape Horn Trail, Dog Mountain, and Bridal Veil Falls

Nine small wedding venues near Columbia River Gorge

These venues are unique and perfect for your small and intimate wedding on the Columbia River Gorge.

  1. The Griffin House – a private venue and lodge overlooking the river
  2. Multnomah Falls Lodge – literally right next to Multnomah Falls
  3. Skamania Lodge – offers fun treehouses to stay in before your relaxed wedding day in the CRG
  4. Westcliff Lodge – stay in their glamping tents and have a midday picnic
  5. Bridal Veil Lakes – go for a romantic canoe ride after your exchange vows
  6. The Ruins – old urban ruins make a really unique backdrop for your bridal portraits and creative dinner
  7. Noble Ridge Tree Deck – get married high in the trees on this unique tree deck venue
  8. The Perch & Tenzen Springs – the PNW’s newest hot springs resort with beautiful fields to run in
  9. Thunder Island – get married on your own small island

Where to stay in CRG

Staying close to your elopement location allows you more time to really enjoy your day instead of spending most of the time in your car! I recommend staying local so you can partake in local events, eat local food, and do unique activities! Have you ever wanted to mix your own wine? You totally could at one of the local wineries in the gorge!

Best hotels in the Columbia River Gorge

Each of these hotels are unique and perfect for housing a few extra guests if you choose to invite them to your elopement in the gorge. Whether you want to be on the Oregon or Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge, there are locations for everywhere!

Best bed and breakfasts in the Columbia River Gorge

If you want to take a step back in time and enjoy a quaint Airbnb experience and maybe even meet a real life Lorelai, then these bed and breakfasts are a great option! Much smaller than a normal hotel but they come with so much more charm.

Best Airbnbs in the Columbia River Gorge

If you’re like me and you prefer to be one with the wilderness then these amazing Airbnbs might be perfect for you. I love staying in really original places and these spots definitely check that box.

Things to do in the Gorge

One of the best parts about getting married in the Columbia River Gorge is all the activities there are for you or your guests to enjoy. From water sports, to wineries, to hiking or exploring on a bike, the gorge has so many different leisure activities. It’s the perfect spot to plan group outings or break off into couples and do your own thing!

If you’re stuck coming up with what to do while in the CRG, try some of these!

  1. See the view at Crown Point Vista House
    • The CRG Vista House has some of the best views of the river. Built in 1917, the house has helped provide valuable information to tourists and locals on the history, geology, flora, and so much more.
  2. Tour the wineries
    • While you’re hiking, you’ll probably see the hundreds of acres of wineries along the hills of the Columbia River Gorge. Hop on the Hood River Fruit Loop or sign up for a couple of tours and sample some of the amazing local wines at Cathedral Ridge Winery or Mt Hood Winery.
  3. Have fun at a u-pick farm
    • Also along the Hood River Fruit Loop are a bunch of great u-pick farms with fruits, flowers, jams, and other delicious bits to sample. It’s a great activity for families or for bringing a picnic and a good book and just enjoying the views at Draper Girls’ Country Farm.
  4. Breweries, anyone?
    • Try one or a few of these local breweries in the gorge: Everybody’s Brewing, Crush Cider Cafe, Walking Man Brewing, Thunder Island Brewing, Double Mountain Brewery & Taproom.
  5. Soak in a hot spring
    • I don’t think there’s anything more relaxing than soaking in a hot spring. Check out The Society Hotel or Carson Hot Springs nearby for your peak relaxation after your elopement in the Columbia River Gorge.
  6. Hiking galore
    • There’s truly so much hiking, it’s impossible to see it all in one weekend. Pick a couple of waterfalls right off of the Historic Columbia River Scenic Byway like Multnomah, Latourell, and Horsetail or take a longer hike up Dog Mountain or Mosier Plateau!
  7. Kayak, paddle board, or windsurf
  8. Take a bike tour

More Oregon elopement resources

If you still aren’t sure where you want to elope, check out these 5 reasons why you should elope here and then head over to some of my top favorite places to get hitched in Oregon.

You can always head to my blog to see tons of amazing resources and inspiration for your dream elopement day! If you’ve got questions or are ready to take the first step to plan your elopement, reach out and we can get started today!

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