Read to hear about Carly & Cole’s engagement session and find some tips for taking engagement photos at Mt. Rainier!

As a wedding photographer based in Washington, a Mt. Rainier National Park engagement session is always a dream for me! When Carly & Cole decided to fly out here for theirs, I was so excited to take them to Mt. Rainier. Little did we know that it was going to be peak fall colors and clear skies! When I tell you we were beyond excited, I am not exaggerating. Mt. Rainier is such a stunning location anytime, but when you have a good full view of the mountain, it is so dreamy!

Here, you can find the locations in the park that we visited from the Nisqually entrance for Carly and Cole’s engagement session. If you read to the end, I have plenty of tips for you if you are planning your own engagement session in the park!


We started the session at Paradise by hiking up to Myrtle Falls. This is the location of the iconic bridge photo that Carly & Cole wanted. It truly was stunning! I’ve always seen this photo, but seeing the location in person is absolutely amazing!

The hike up to Paradise was relatively easy. It is a paved trail with some slight elevations – it took us about 20 minutes to get to the bridge. If you go across the bridge for some closer views of the mountain, the trail is not paved. I don’t think anyone can go wrong with any of the trails in Mt. Rainier National Park, but if you go in the summer or early fall, this is a must-see part of the park.

Since we had already made the hike up to the falls, we made use of the rest of the trail. We took a few photos with the gorgeous view of the snow-capped mountain. On our walk back down to the Paradise parking lot, we used the stunning fall colors because how could you not when the park looks like this?!

Reflection Lakes

After wrapping up at Paradise, we drove down to Reflection Lakes. This section of trail was much easier and relatively flat, however it was not paved. This is another picture perfect location, and a must-see in my opinion! The name “Reflection Lake” is extremely fitting – especially on this calm, sunny day!

Carter Falls Trail

To wrap up their session, we went to another one of my favorite trails, Carter Falls Trail. This trail is a very easy trail that is mostly rock (at least the very first portion that goes up to the river crossing – I can’t speak for the trail beyond the river). The river bed is wide and large, and completely rock covered, which makes it so fun to explore! Even when the peak isn’t visible due to cloud cover, this trail is absolutely stunning. But since we could see the peak, it was all that much more special for Carly and Cole.

This might actually be my favorite spot in the whole park. It is much much less busy than Paradise or Reflection Lake, but it is so serene and beautiful. Being down in the middle of the river bed feels so vast and peaceful with the river flowing fast next to you. It seems like a place I could bring a book and be happy just sitting there for hours.

Mt. Rainier Engagement Session Tips

1. Time of year makes a huge difference

Mt. Rainier is snow covered a majority of the year, not just in winter. Finding a time to come when there is no snow on the trails at Paradise can be tricky and changes from year to year. Typically, Paradise is only snow-free from mid-July to late September. Snow starts in October, but you may be able to find a time in October between storms that the snow has melted. Carly and Cole’s engagement session was on October 2nd for reference.

The lower elevations of the park are accessible most of the year. For reference, the last location we stopped at, Carter Falls Trail, is decently accessible through out the year.

As a precaution, if you are planning an engagement session in Mt. Rainier, please check the weather for the time of year you want to go, and set your expectations accordingly. For checking conditions within a day of your Mt. Rainier engagement session, I have found Twitter to be the most up-to-date.

2. Crowds are unavoidable on summer weekends – arrive EARLY

Since Carly and Cole only had a short weekend trip in Seattle, they chose a Sunday for their session. Getting into the park was the first battle. The line to get in at the Nisqually entrance around noon was about an hour long. If you arrive to the park at your scheduled session time, you almost certainly will be late. Leave plenty of time for admittance into the park. If you get in quickly, you just have a little extra time to explore!

While the Carter Falls Trail only had a couple other people in the vicinity, the other two locations were packed. To avoid crowds, plan your session during the off-season in the lower elevations of the park. If you want the views at Paradise, you’ll be better off on a late summer or early fall weekday.

I did notice that crowds started thinning slightly as we got closer to sunset in the afternoon. My husband and I got to the park around noon on Sunday to do some scouting, and had to park on the road down from the Paradise parking lot. Carly and Cole got there around 4/4:30, and we all were able to park in the actual parking lot.

Paradise is by far the busiest location in the park in the summer, so be prepared to have to park far away from your desired location, and have lots of people in the background of your images, unless your photographer can edit them out.

3. Check if you need a permit

As far as my knowledge goes, after talking with Elli and Josh at Mt. Rainier National Park, a permit for simple engagement sessions is not needed. However, rules surrounding permits for commercial work and photography in National Parks and National Forests are changing rapidly at the moment. Reaching out (or having your photographer reach out) and having proof of a response is helpful in the event that the park rangers stop you and ask for a permit.

4. Please please practice Leave No Trace

One reason why permitting rules are changing so rapidly across National Parks and National Forests is the surge in photography uses of national lands. This surge in use has come with negative side effects from photographers and clients who don’t practice Leave No Trace. This includes staying on marked trails, packing trash out, and not using props or confetti, including biodegradable items which still leave a mess.

While taking photos in nature and in some of the most gorgeous places in the country is absolutely amazing, we need to collectively respect the land, and keep it in pristine shape for photographers and clients to be able to use for generations to come.

To find out more about Leave No Trace, head to this website.

5. Be prepared for all weather outcomes

Mt. Rainier weather can change rapidly, and is generally unpredictable. While you can hope for clear skies to see the peak, it is not always visible. Even if the peak is not visible, the park is still absolutely gorgeous and photographs well either way. Make the most of it and find some other trails like Twin Firs, Bench Lake, and Snow Lake trails that will give you other gorgeous views that don’t need the peak in order to be completely stunning!

Carly & Cole’s thoughts about their Mt. Rainier engagement session

“We had so much fun at Mount Rainier! The scenes were incredible and we couldn’t ask for more beautiful pictures! You made us feel so comfortable during our session and we really felt like we could be ourselves. I would highly recommend you as a photographer and Mount Rainier as a venue!”

I couldn’t agree more about Mt. Rainier being a perfect location for an engagement session! Keep scrolling for more photos from Carly and Cole’s engagement session!

Mt. Rainier Engagement Session in Fall at Paradise

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