The Best Places to Elope in Oregon

PLUS tips for wedding photographers on each location!

 
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  1. The Oregon Coast

  2. Columbia River Gorge

  3. Central Oregon

  4. Southern oREGON


The Oregon Coast

 
 
  • Pacific City/Cape Kiwanda (personally my FAVORITE coastal location to shoot at or hangout at).

    • Distance from Portland: 2 hours

    • Best time to go: Summer! But it’s still good year round, just may be rainy and extra windy.

    • Pass required: No

    • Crowd: Always busy, but it’s so big you can get away with not having people in the background unless its a crazy busy weekend day in summer.

    • Walk/hike: Depends which way you go, but I typically take 15 minutes to walk to whatever point I want to shoot at.

    • Pro-tip: Grab a beer with your couple at Pelican Brewery, or get a power bite from Stimulus Coffee Shop before your shoot. For your session, there are 5 main areas of Cape Kiwanda to shoot at.

      • 1. The beach/tidepool/cave area under the cape

      • 2. Go up the short dune on the left and keep left to head out on top of the cape (Yes, you have to go under the rope… just beware, lots of people have in fact died here. The sand can easily slide down, and the waves can crash a LOT higher than you would think. So be careful.)

      • 3. Go straight up the big dune and shoot from up high (have fun going up that bad boy… and make sure you run down!)

      • 4. Go up the short dune on the left side and follow the ropes all the way down to the other cape (is it the same cape or considered something else? idk but you know what I mean) if you go past the rope over there, again, BE CAREFUL because in my time living in Oregon there has actually been a huge slide on that cliff which is terrifying because I’ve stood where that cliff fell. So scary!

      • 5. Go to the right of the dune and follow it all the way around so you can see the cape from the back side which has a cool angle and a neat view of the coast line.

    • Shoots here: Chelsea & Todd, Sammy & Thomas, Alyssa & Brooks, Katy & Wyatt

  • Cannon Beach

    • Distance from Portland: 1.5 hours

    • Best time to go: Anytime, but probably more pleasant in the summer!

    • Pass required: No

    • Crowd: It’s a huge beach, normal a bit busy by Haystack Rock, but there are so many different beaches you can go to so it should be fine! (Indian beach, Ecola state park, etc)

    • Walk/hike: None

    • Pro-tip: Don’t forget to edit out all the tourists in the background ;)

    • Shoot here: McCahl & Jared, Corrie & Josiah, Rose & Bryce

  • Hug Point

    • Distance from Portland: 1.5 hours

    • Best time to go: Whenever there is a low tide

    • Pass required: No

    • Crowd: Every time I have gone there’s been probably 15 people there

    • Walk/hike: .5 mile

    • Pro-tip: defffffinitely go at low tide! I went at high tide one time and had to wade WASIT-DEEP through water and there was basically no beach to actually walk on until the tide went back out.

  • God’s Thumb

    • Distance from Portland: 1hr 45minutes

    • Best time to go: Summer

    • Crowd: On weekends

    • Walk/hike: 4.4 miles, moderate-difficult hike.

    • Pro-tip: usually very muddy, no parking right at the trailhead, and the trail is not marked very well. Do your research before heading out there!


Columbia River Gorge


 
 
  • Government Cove (this will not come up in your maps if you search it, you need to map this address: Wyeth Rd, Cascade Locks OR. Turn left and then cross the railroad tracks and you will arrive at the parking lot)

    • Distance from Portland: 1 hour

    • Best time to go: Anytime

    • Pass required: No

    • Crowd: There will likely be 3-5 other cars there, and especially if it’s a weekend you will run into other people at the main viewpoint for sunset.

    • Walk/hike: Maximum 10 minute walk slightly uphill.

    • Pro-tip: To give your images more variety, start your session down below (take the path to the right) and shoot with the big rocks in the background. Then head up top for sunset to get those awesome views of the little islands and mountains, then once the sun has gone down, turn around and shoot with the Oregon hills in the background.

    • Shoots here: Katelyn & Steven, Yani & Luke, Becca & Conner, Lupita & Chris

  • Rowena Crest (the parking lot loop and viewpoints closest to it)

    • Distance from Portland: 1hour 30 minutes

    • Best time to go: Anytime! Beautiful year round.

    • Pass required: No

    • Crowd: busy. If you are trying to get that “windy road shot” you might have to wait for other people to finish their photos first because it’s so #instagrammable (ew, I can’t believe I just used that word in here! Haha). If you are shooting around the cliffs and viewpoints, you likely will not run into anyone else on those trails.

    • Walk/hike: 10 minutes max, flat walk.

    • Pro-tip: Shoot around each side of the parking lot on the cliffs, get “that road shot” real quick and then head to the road where you can shoot with the massive rock cliffs behind your couple.

    • Shoots here: Alicia & Mark, Stacy & Keenan

  • Rowena Plateau Loop

    • Distance from Portland: 1hour 30 minutes

    • Best time to go: Spring (AMAZING wildflowers all over the ground!) and summer

    • Pass required: No

    • Crowd: You may pass two other people on the trail. Super empty!

    • Walk/hike: 2.5 miles round trip, super flat and easy walk

    • Pro-tip: Go all the way out to the point and climb down, then back up where there’s a rock stack that looks over the river with railroad tracks below. Also, keep an eye out for deer! They love that area and are fun to get in the background.

    • Shoots here: Jake & Alana

  • Wahclella Falls: currently closed from the Eagle Creek Fire. (sad face)

  • White River Falls State Park

    • Distance from Portland: 2 hours 30 minutes

    • Best time to go: Summer, spring, fall. Not sure I would want to do the drive/trail in the winter

    • Pass required: No

    • Crowd: You will likely run into people down the walk enjoying the view of the falls. People tend to bring blankets and sit down and hangout right there.

    • Walk/hike: .25 mile but rugged and steep. Do not wear heels haha.

    • Pro-tip: Explore inside the old hydroelectric power plant building, it’s pretty cool!

    • Shoots here: Nate & Talline


Central Oregon


 
 
  • Black Butte Ranch

    • Distance from Portland: 2hrs 45mins

    • Best time to go: Anytime! It is equally beautiful in the winter and the summer!

    • Pass required: Some parts of the ranch you need a code to get into, but you should be able to access the meadow from the lodge which is open to the public.

    • Crowd: Busiest in summer, but you shouldn’t run into anyone (or just a person or two) in the meadow.

    • Walk/hike: Short easy walk

    • Pro-tip: Book a cabin here in the winter or summer, it’s magical!

  • Santiam Pass - there are sooo many different areas in the pass to pull over and shoot at!

    • Hoodoo/PCT access: Shy & Rafa

    • Idanha State Park: super pretty when there’s snow on the ground all around the river, but I am pretty sure they close the road during winter.

    • Detroit Lake: super rad year round, but in the winter they drain the lake so all these cool stumps show!

    • Blue River/Cougar Reservoir

    • Suttle Lake: Blake & Maci

  • Smith Rock State Park

    • Distance from Portland: 3 hours

    • Best time to go: Anytime!

    • Pass required: Yes, $10 day pass or annual state parks pass $30

    • Crowd: there’s always lots of people there but the park is so big, other people are never an issue!

    • Walk/hike: walk down by the river, maybe get a tiny bit winded on your way back up ;)

    • Pro-tip: Explore Smith Rock from all angles!!! The park is big so don’t just stop at the first place you park. Walk down to the river, go all the way to both sides and around the other side of the river, go back up top and walk the trails, or even do the steep hike!

    • Shoots here: Kylee & Mitchell, Erica & Jason, Sommer & Chris, Bre & Dillon, Andrew & Hailey

  • The Painted Hills

    • Distance from Portland: 4hrs 15mins

    • Best time to go: Summer

    • Pass required: No

    • Crowd: I’ve been there multiple times and the most people I’ve ever seen was 5 others!

    • Walk/hike: Super easy .5 mile trail overlook for the bigger hills, or you can drive down to the boardwalk area and it’s a very casual couple minute walk.

    • Pro-tip: Stop at the red & white striped hills on the way in! Take your time and explore all 3 main areas, if not more!! Also make sure you have enough gas and have your maps downloaded because it is in the middle of nowhere with no reception!

    • Shoots here: Chelsie & Todd, Johnny & Manda, Justin & Amanda, Amika & Briggs

  • John Day Fossil Beds Sheep Rock Unit

    • Distance from Portland: 4hrs 15 mins

    • Best time to go: Summer

    • Pass required: No

    • Crowd: No

    • Walk/hike: We got lost so hear me out - you want to do the Blue Basin Trailhead which is 1.3 miles round trip.

    • Pro-tip: You’ll be amazed the second you walk up to these massive green rocks… just walk all the way to the end, it just keeps getting better and better!!

    • Shoot here: Chris & Sommer

  • Lava Butte

    • Distance from Portland: 3hrs 20mins

    • Best time to go: Summer, closed in winter

    • Pass required: Yes

    • Crowd: You might see a handful of other people

    • Walk/hike: For photos, I normally just walk the trail for about 15 minutes and shoot along the way until you get to the first marked viewpoint.

    • Pro-tip: Climb the fence at the viewpoint and shoot below it for sunset. Trust me… it’s epic.

    • Shoots here: Kelsie & Taani, Savannah & Carson

  • Cove Palisades State Park

    • Distance from Portland: 3hrs

    • Best time to go: Summer

    • Pass required: Yes

    • Crowd: For photo purposes, not busy. There will likely be lots of boaters out on Lake Billy Chinook.

    • Walk/hike: Just diddle-daddle around. No hiking required.

    • Pro-tip: Have your couple jump in the water! Or better yet, stay and enjoy the lake on a houseboat.

    • Shoots here: Kelsey & Caleb


Southern Oregon


  • Alvord Desert

    • Distance from Portland: 8 hours

    • Best time to go: Summer & Fall (fall for camping)

    • Pass required: No

    • Crowd: No

    • Walk/hike: you can walk all around & drive on the desert, there’s lots of hiking options around too!

    • Pro-tip: check the weather, rain can make driving more sticky/difficult, and the water can rise faster (especially in spring)! Reception isn’t great out there, and make sure to fill your gas tank right before at the closest station.

  • Steens Mountains

    • Distance from Portland: 8.5 hours

    • Best time to go: Summer & Fall

    • Pass required: No

    • Crowd: No

    • Walk/hike: You’ll definitely want to do some hiking! Kiger Gorge, the East Rim, Steen’s Summit, and Wildhorse Lake. None are too difficult or long.

    • Pro-tip: check the weather, it can change quickly and be dramatic. Poor reception, long distance to nearest gas station, bring plenty of water and food, some ticks and rattlesnakes present.


Best Oregon Engagement Session Locations

(besides all the locations just mentioned above)


  • Trillium Lake

    • Distance from Portland: 1 hour 40 minutes

    • Best time to go: Summer (personal fave) when there’s no snow on the mountain (or hardly any) because in my opinion it’s way prettier in photos when the snow isn’t glaringly white.

    • Pass required:

    • Crowd: Busy! Pretty much year round. But there’s plenty of places to walk around.

    • Walk/hike: In the winter you cannot drive to the lake, you have to park outside and snowshoe in which is about 4 miles round trip.

    • Pro-tip: Get to the lake early and walk around half of it to see where you want to shoot from. The angle of the mountain is slightly different! I think it would be best to shoot here like 2 hours before sunset (the mountains/hills block the sunset so it goes down significantly earlier) OR after sundown when blue hour begins. Bring a canoe for some creative shots!

    • Shoots here: Kacie & Ryan (summer), Hannah & Luke (fall) , Ashley & Caleb (winter)

  • Latourell Falls (guys, how the HECK do you say this? Lateral? La-tour-el? HELP)

    • Distance from Portland: 50 minutes

    • Best time to go: Summer

    • Pass required: No

    • Crowd: Busy, this is a super touristy area of the gorge since it’s so close to Multnomah falls!

    • Walk/hike: Super easy and casual. Just a couple minute walk down to the falls.

    • Pro-tip: Be prepared to get WET here. Especially in the fall and winter. There’s a lot of mist that comes off the falls! Bring your waterproof gear ;) or just a towel haha.

    • Shoots here: Lauren & Gavin

  • Bridal Veil Falls

    • Distance from Portland: 1 hour

    • Best time to go: Anytime, but I would personally only go to waterfalls in the summer since I hate when my hands get wet and cold.

    • Pass required: No

    • Crowd: Busy, this is a super touristy area of the gorge since it’s so close to Multnomah falls!

    • Walk/hike: 1.5 miles round trip… TBH I lost my breath a bit and definitely started sweating mildly on the way back up, haha!!!

    • Pro-tip: Walking on the rocks in the river HURT. Like, bad. And it’s cold. I would advise your couple to bring something like Jesus sandals or Chacos to walk in the river. Also definitely make sure you climb up that big fun rock in front of the falls!

    • Shoots here: Marcella & Eric

  • Government Camp/White River West Sno Park

    • Distance from Portland: 1hr 15minutes

    • Best time to go: Winter!! Obviously you want all that yummy snow!

    • Pass required: Yes, ODOT Snowpark Permit (you can get one from the store there)

    • Crowd: The trail is busy with snowshoers on the weekends, but you should be fine on weekdays and you can always wander off the trail a bit

    • Walk/hike: You don’t have to hike at all, when I went we just walked probably 5-10 minutes down the trail and shot there!

    • Pro-tip: Bring snowshoes or a sled for funsies for your couple!!!

    • Shoots here: Camdin & Hayley, Annie & Holden

  • Vista House

    • Distance from Portland: 45 minutes

    • Best time to go: Anytime! Fall and winter are really pretty from up high there.

    • Pass required: No

    • Crowd: Doesn’t matter too much for photography purposes, unless you want your couple right in front of the vista house there may be others there.

    • Walk/hike: None

    • Pro-tip: Drive a few minutes further past Vista House and park on the left side of the road (which is super narrow), walk a bit further down and you’ll see a trail on the left side of the road that is kinda steep right off the road. There is a REALLY narrow walkway out to an epic viewpoint of the gorge, with a waterfall and the Vista House in the background. PLZ don’t die here.

    • Shoots here: Molly & Mitchell

  • Devil’s punchbowl

    • Distance from Portland: 2.5 hours

    • Best time to go: Anytime, but summer is surely nicer on the Oregon coast.

    • Pass required: No

    • Crowded: Yes

    • Walk/hike: 1.8 miles

    • Pro-tip: ONLY go in the lower portion (inside the punch bowl) when it is absolutely low tide. You can easily be killed if the water starts to rise in there.

  • Lewis & Clark State Recreation Site

    • Distance from Portland: 40 minutes

    • Best time to go: Anytime

    • Pass required: No

    • Crowd: Busy in the summer on the weekends, otherwise, I’ve not seen anyone else there

    • Walk/hike: None

    • Pro-tip: Parking lot is slightly sketchy in the gravel lot, but there is a nicer parking lot with a bathroom past the bridge.

    • Shoots here: Danielle & Mitchell, Stephanie & Nyles

  • Sisters woods

    • Distance from Portland: 3hrs

    • Best time to go: Anytime!

    • Pass required: No

    • Crowd: None

    • Walk/hike: None

    • Pro-tip: Just pull over anywhere on the side of the road on your way into Sisters, the trees are beautiful!

    • Shoots here: Sommer & A&Be

  • Sparks Lake

    • Distance from Portland: 3hrs 45mins

    • Best time to go: April-September

    • Pass required: Yes

    • Crowd: Busy when the water level is good, but not too bad

    • Walk/hike: You can do the loop around the lake which is about 20 miles, or just walk from the parking lot up to the waters edge and enjoy.

    • Pro-tip: Check the water level before you go, if there isn’t much snow in the winter there will hardly be any water there the rest of the year!!! Like, seriously. But if the water levels are good, bring kayaks and have fun!! The water is freezing though haha.