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The alps are the ideal destination for planning a hiking elopement. The European alps boast extensive trail systems, hut-to-hut routes, and endless breathtaking views for every hiking enthusiast. If you want to learn more about planning a hiking elopement in the alps (or maybe you're still on the fence about whether it's right for you) this guide will give you the answers you're looking for.
What is a Hiking Elopement?
A hiking elopement is exactly what it sounds like - a wedding that involves hiking! Whether the trail is short and scenic or a calf-burner that rewards you with mountain top views, hiking elopements are perfect for couples who love to be outside.
Want to know if an outdoor adventure elopement is right for you? Then check out this post, ‘’Is an Adventure Elopement Right for Me?’’.
Can You Bring Guests to a Hiking Wedding?
Yes, you can definitely bring guests to a hiking wedding. I don’t recommend hiking with a group larger than 10-12 guests for your wedding. If you want to bring guests to your hiking elopement, make sure to pick a trail that will be suitable for the least experienced person in the group and everyone is fully briefed on the trail ahead of time.
If you want to include guests in your hiking wedding, but you are worried about it limiting your ability to explore to the extent you’d like, you can also consider a multi-day option. For example, spend one day at an easy access spot or small mountain wedding venue with family, and on the other day adventure to your heart’s content without any constraints.
Can I Legally Get Married in the Alps?
Legal marriage laws vary from country to country and depend on your nationality. As a US citizen, you can get legally married in both the Austrian Alps and Italian Dolomites. The ceremony must take place at a pre-designated location assigned by the municipality, though, and also requires a hefty amount of paperwork. For this reason, I suggest that couples do the legal part at home, and then hold a symbolic ceremony during their hiking wedding.
Symbolic Wedding Ceremonies
Any couple legally allowed to visit the alps can get symbolically married, and do so in any location they choose. When you choose a symbolic ceremony, you have the freedom to get married in the exact location you want, at any time of day (just imagine sharing sunrise or sunset vows!)
Symbolic wedding ceremonies typically involve exchanging vows, but can also have extra added elements such as lighting a unity candle, performing a hand fasting ceremony, or even building a time capsule together.
Hiking Wedding Officiants
A big question I often get about elopement ceremonies is whether to hire an officiant or not. In short, I don’t recommend an officiant for your hiking elopement because you’ll be limited as to where you hold your ceremony. Generally, you’ll need to stick to an easy-access location that requires less than a mile of hiking.
Choosing Your Hiking Elopement Location(s)
When it’s time to pick your hiking elopement location(s), here are a few key factors to consider. As a hiking elopement photographer, I provide my couples with custom location suggestions that match their vision.
Elopement Location Scenery
Do you want to elope with sweeping mountain top views, waterfalls, lush green meadows, sparkling alpine lakes, or maybe even a glacier? Start thinking about what scenery really makes you feel alive, and try narrowing your vision down to 1-2 key features you’d love to experience during your day.
How Far Should You Hike on Your Elopement?
How far you should hike on your elopement depends on a number of different factors, including:
- Your personal fitness level + comfort
- The difficulty of the trail (how steep is it, what elevation will you be at, is the trail smooth or does it require maneuvering lots of rocks and roots, etc.?)
- Will you be bringing guests with you?
The most important thing to highlight on this list to highlight is your personal *comfort* level. Your elopement day doesn’t need to be about trying to set a new record. Whether you hike one mile or 10+, your hiking elopement experience should be fun.
Pro-Tip: I’ve found that the pace you hike during your elopement tends to be slower due to carrying more gear than usual (and stopping to take plenty of photos along the way). Keep in mind that you’ll want to allot more time to get to your destination than what you may be used to.
Elevation Gain During Your Hiking Elopement
One of the top things to consider when picking a trail for your hiking elopement is how much elevation gain are you comfortable doing (i.e., how steep is the trail going to be)?
Elevation gain isn’t the elevation of the highest point on the trail, but rather, how many total feet of vertical uphill you’ll be hiking. So, if a trail starts at 1,800 feet above sea level and the top is at 3,500 feet above sea level, you can plan on hiking approximately 1,700 feet of vertical uphill.
Many people don’t realize it, but choosing the right elevation gain is even more important than the distance because the steepness is what will demand the most out of you physically.
Here are some general elevation gain ratings to keep in mind when considering a trail.
- >500 feet elevation gain (Easy)
- 500-1,500 feet elevation gain (Easy+)
- 1,500-2,500 feet elevation gain (Moderate)
- 2,500-3,500 feet elevation gain (Strenuous)
- 3,500+ feet elevation gain (Very Strenuous)
Pro-Advice: Trails in the alps are significantly steeper than what you’ll find in the USA. When reading descriptions online, what may be labeled ‘’family-friendly’’ in Europe, would have a rating of ‘’Moderate to Strenuous’’ in the US (based on my above elevation gain ratings). Make sure to know the exact stats of the trail before heading out to avoid surprises!
Trail Safety During Your Hiking Elopement
Beyond the hiking distance and elevation gain, there are other ways to plan ahead, so you can have a safe hiking elopement. Some ways to prioritize trail safety include:
- Bringing the 10 essentials (more on that under the section ‘’How to Pack’’)
- Avoid areas prone to rockfall, flooding, landslides, avalanches, etc.
- Select locations that allow for epic photos (without requiring you to stand on a cliff edge)
In the alps, many trails are rated on the SAC scale, created by the Swiss Alpine Club in 2002. This scale helps you get a better idea of potential hazards such as trail technicality, possible exposure, the quality of the path, etc. You can find a full description of the SAC hiking scale here. In the US + Canada, the Yosemite Decimal System scale is normally used, but I prefer the SAC method, which I’ve found to be more comprehensive.
What Time of Year Should I Plan a Hiking Elopement?
The best time of the year to plan a hiking elopement in the alps is late June through September. I also like October, but your chance of getting snowed on significantly increases around this time (particularly at higher elevations).
In the winter months, you can still hold an adventure elopement, though! It may include snowshoes instead though 😉
The Best Hiking Elopement Locations in the Alps
Looking for a quick breakdown of the best hiking elopement locations in the alps? Here are my top picks. If you want a more in-depth look, check out my guide, ‘’How to Elope and Get Married in the Alps’’ which compares + contrasts each destination.
Bavarian Alps, Germany
The Bavarian Alps are one of the best hiking elopement destinations in the European alps (I may be biased since it’s my home). A couple of perks of planning a hiking elopement in the German Alps include:
- The mountain-tops are overall more accessible to hikers
- Hiking season arrives earlier and stays later than in neighboring countries
Between the stunning peaks, abundant green meadows, lakes, and lots of cows, a hiking elopement in the German alps is simply idyllic. Want to know more about eloping Germany? I have a helpful resource you can find here.
Oh, and you know the iconic scene where Maria sings, ‘’The Hills are Alive’’? That was actually filmed in the German Alps! #themoreyouknow
Swiss Alps Hiking Elopements
The Swiss Alps are iconic, and make another stunning hiking elopement destination. Switzerland’s mountains are jaw-droppingly big, and the glaciated terrain is surreal. From the extensive cable car systems, cogwheel trains, and unique mountain hotels, this small country has so much to offer in terms of both beauty and experience. While many people flock to central Switzerland, I’d highly recommend considering the gems in the eastern part of the country, such as Pizol and Appenzell. Curious about eloping in Switzerland? Here is a guide I have that will help you get started.
Austrian Alps Hiking Elopements
Hiking elopements in the Austrian Alps bring together the vibe of both Germany + Switzerland. Austria’s alps offer rolling grassy mountains to 10,000+ foot summits, with a bit of everything in between for the adventurous wedding couple. It also has abundant alpine lakes to be explored. Just 45 minutes from my home, I spend nearly as much time enjoying hiking in Austria as I do in Germany.
Chamonix, France Hiking Elopements
If you’re an adrenaline junkie, Chamonix is a breathtaking hiking elopement destination and may be your perfect match. From white water rafting to paragliding above glaciers and enjoying expansive views of some of the most surreal rocky spires to exist, it’s incredible. Chamonix is a great location if you’re hoping to tackle some advanced adventures.
Italian Dolomites Hiking Elopements
The Italian Dolomites are an ideal hiking elopement destination for couples who want to experience an otherworldly landscape (and eat pizza and pasta while doing so!). The Dolomites are also a unique location to do a via ferrata as part of your wedding. A via ferrata is a type of mixed hiking and climbing made possible by steel cables bolted into the mountainside. The Dolomites have a wide variety of hiking trails for all skill levels.
Sunrise and Sunset Hiking Elopements
Sunrise and sunset hiking elopements can be a fun, rewarding way to kick off your marriage. They also have the added benefit of typically being more private, since most people aren’t out early in the morning or late in the evening. As a photographer, sunrise and sunset can be a beautiful time to shoot, because of the warm golden light that occurs during these times.
A few helpful tips about planning a sunrise or sunset hiking elopement:
- Sunrise generally has better weather
- Hikes that rely on cable cars or cogwheel trains typically don’t operate during sunrise and sunset hours.
- Pack plenty of warm layers! Even in the summer, a down jacket can come in handy
- If you want to maximize your chances of catching a good sunrise or sunset, consider booking an overnight package and staying in a ‘’Berghotel’’ (Mountain Hotel) or alpine hut.
Have you ever considered a multi-day hiking wedding, like a backpacking elopement? While traditional camping and backpacking, like you’ll find in the US and Canada, is quite restricted in the alps, an overnight hut adventure is an amazing option. Across the alps, you’ll find alpine huts situated in breathtaking locations that offer meals and overnight accommodations. Alpine huts are typically dormitory style. Another option is to look for a ‘’Berghotel’’, which is the same as a hut but is more likely to offer double-room options too.
If you still love the idea of overnighting in a tent, there are a limited number of spots in Switzerland and France that allow you to sleep in a tent for a night.
Backpacking elopements allow you to overnight in beautiful locations, stargaze, and experience so much more than a single day adventure.
Hiking Elopement Timelines
Here are three real hiking elopement times from past elopements I’ve photographed.
This half-day elopement primarily took place on one trail, spreading out a few different activities such as a picnic, exchanging vows, and a first dance at different viewpoints along the path (3.5 miles hiking, 1,000 feet elevation gain)
- 7:30 am - Getting Ready
- 9:00 am - Leave for train station + take cogwheel train to trailhead
- 9:30 am - Arrive at trailhead, begin hiking
- 10:00 am - Breakfast break with pastries and a view. Reading letters from home
- 10:45 am - Continue hiking along trail
- 11:30 am - Ceremony + champagne toast + portraits at a viewpoint along the trail
- 1:00 pm - Continue hiking along trail, stop along the way for a first dance
- 2:00 pm - Arrive at mountain hut for snacks and drinks
- 2:45 pm - Catch the train back into town
- 3:30 pm - Portraits in town before saying goodbyes
Full-Day Hiking Elopement Timeline
This full-day elopement included a first look near the couple’s hotel, one easy access location via a train, and one hike which we accessed via cable car and then hiked all the way back down into the valley after sunset (7 miles hiking, 650 feet elevation gain)
- 10:30 am - Getting ready photos and Packing up Gear
- 12:30 pm - Leave hotel, pack car with gear.
- 12:45 pm - First look in meadow above the hotel.
- 1:15 pm - Depart from hotel, drive to valley.
- 1:30 pm - Catch train to valley overlook
- 2:00 pm - Walk to overlook, take some photos, grab ice cream
- 3:30 pm - Catch the train back into town. Purchase picnic food.
- 4:00 pm - Drive to cable car the next valley over
- 5:00 pm - Take the last cable car up to the summit
- 5:20 pm - Arrive at the top, begin hiking
- 6:00 pm - Exchange gifts + snack break
- 7:00 pm - Exchanging Vows + begin hiking back toward cable car
- 7:30 pm - Picnic, champagne pop
- 8:30 pm - Golden Hour Portraits
- 9:25 pm - Sunset
- 9:45 pm - Begin hiking back to the valley.
- 11:30 pm - Arrive at cars, say goodbyes
Overnight Hiking Elopement Timeline
This overnight hut and backpacking elopement included hiking and a sunset first look on day one, followed by stargazing, more hiking, a lakeside ceremony, and swimming and the second day (16.5 miles, 5,000+ feet elevation gain spread across two days).
It's worth noting, an overnight elopement is 100% worth it, even if you're hiking distances in the 3-5 miles round-trip range. That means you have room to implement a variety of other activities!
- 3:30 pm - Meet at trailhead, dressed for hiking, go over gear!
- 3:45 pm - Begin Hiking
- 6:30 pm - Arrive at Berghotel
- 7:00 pm - Dinner is served,
- 7:45 pm - Change into wedding attire
- 8:15 pm - First look and watching the sunset
- 8:57 pm - Sunset
- 12:00 am - Wake up for star photos (1 hour)
- 7:30 am Eat breakfast, packup
- 9:00 am Hike to lake
- 11:00 am Arrive at the lake. Take a snack break.
- 11:30 am Change into wedding attire
- 12:00 pm Ceremony + champagne pop
- 12:30 pm Wedding portraits
- 1:30 pm Change back into hiking clothes. Eat lunch, swim
- 2:30 pm Hike back down to valley
- 6:00 pm Arrive back at parking lot, say goodbyes
What to Wear for Your Hiking Elopement
Trying to figure out what to wear for your hiking elopement? Here are some clothing tips and packing suggestions.
Wedding Hiking Outfits
When it’s time to hit the trail, a great wedding hiking outfit will allow you to move with ease and keep you cool and dry. Depending on how long you’ll be out hiking, you may want to invest in a good layering system that includes the following:
- Baselayer such as a light merino wool hiking shirt or polyester top
- Midlayer such as a fleece or packable down jacket
- Waterproof and wind resistant layer
- Hiking pants. Convertible options that zip off into shorts have become a staple in my closet.
Suggested Brands: Icebreaker; REI; Dynafit, Arc’teryx
Wedding Hiking Shoes
Selecting shoes that are comfortable and sturdy throughout your hiking elopement is one of the most important gear purchases you’ll make for your day. For locations with less than a mile of hiking on flat surfaces, tennis shoes are a suitable choice. Otherwise, I recommend packing a pair of hiking boots or trail running shoes.
Make sure your shoes have good tread, and if needed, ankle support. Trail running shoes have limited ankle support, so if you aren’t used to wearing them, stick with boots on your elopement day.
Suggested Brands: Danner Boots, Columbia, Merrell, and Altra Running
How to Pack Your Wedding Attire
There are various ways to pack your wedding attire during your adventure. My two preferred methods include:
- Place your dress or suit inside a garment bag and then carefully fold the bag. From there, you’ll want to secure the garment bag to the outside of your pack (carabiners can be helpful).
- Roll your dress or suit and place it inside a garbage bag towards the top of your backpack.
After you unpack your clothing, you can give it a few squirts of wrinkle-release spray.
Should You Hike in Your Wedding Dress?
It depends, and it's also up to you! If your elopement location(s) can be accessed with less than 1-2 miles of round-trip walking, you may find it easiest to just hike in your wedding attire. Particularly for multi-location days, it’s nice if you don’t need to change in and out of your clothes repeatedly. A dirty dress is often part of the experience 😉 If you’re getting married in a warm location or tackling a steep trail, it’s best to wear hiking clothing up to your location, even if the trail is short. For longer hikes and more strenuous activities, I’d suggest changing on-location.
Where to Get Ready
If there aren’t bathrooms/facilities at your elopement location, most couples just find a tucked-away spot to get dressed at. It’s possible to purchase a small pop-up changing tent online too.
Hiking Wedding Hairstyles
Trying to decide the best hiking wedding hairstyle that will hold up during your adventure? My advice is to keep it simple. Many of my brides have found that half-up/half-down styles work well. If you can, avoid ornate updos that will be tricky to adjust if anything sections come loose during your hike. If you plan on wearing a veil, make sure that it can be placed securely and you have plenty of bobby pins to keep it tightened down.
You may want to consider consulting with a hairstylist that is familiar with your hair type and know the best methods for keeping it looking good.
What to Pack for Your Hiking Elopement
Wondering what you need to pack for your hiking elopement? Each adventure has different needs, but some standard items include:
- Wedding attire + shoes for both partners
- Hiking attire + hiking shoes for both partners
- Vows and rings
- Water bottles
- Headlamps with extra batteries
- Sun protection
- Food and snacks
If you want a full breakdown of what to pack, along with a free downloadable checklist, you can snag that here in my ‘’What to Pack for an Adventure Elopement’’ guide.
Ideas for Your Hiking Wedding in the Alps
If you want some ideas for how to level up your hiking wedding in the alps, here are a few to get you started:
- Take a helicopter tour or plane ride
- Climb a via ferrata with a guide
- Stay overnight in a mountain hut
- Book a guided glacier tour
- Go Paragliding
- Enjoy Stargazing
- Roast S’mores
- Pack a picnic
Hiring a Photographer for Your Hiking Elopement
Picking the right photographer for your hiking elopement can make all the difference in your experience. When choosing who to book, make sure that the person you hire is up for the adventure you envision (and has experience regularly hiking the distance you may want to trek).
It’s also important to make sure that your personalities are a good fit, after all, you’ll be spending hours with your photographer out on the trail!
An experienced hiking elopement photographer will be ready to pivot with the weather, know how to capture beautifully both you and the landscape you’re in and work with you to co-create a great experience.
I'm not the type to toot my own horn, but if you want to have a hiking elopement in the alps (or one of my bucket list destinations such as Norway + Patagonia) I'm your person!
I’ve hiked with couples anywhere from 2-16+ miles and summited over one-hundred peaks in the alps during my personal free time. If you want to go somewhere epic, I’ll be there to capture it.
Hiking Elopement Packages
Are you ready to start planning your hiking elopement in the alps? If so, why not start by booking your hiking wedding photographer? You can view my hiking wedding packages here, or contact me to get a more detailed pricing guide.