Top 13 adventure elopement locations in Michigan's lower and upper peninsulas
Updated: Sep 21
Are you inclined to do a traditional wedding, or do you want to walk off the beaten path and do things a little differently? Adventure elopements are quickly becoming a unique alternative to traditional weddings in Michigan. Venues are starting to offer intimate wedding packages and local couples are taking notice. Read more about my top list of 15 intimate wedding venues in Michigan.
Elopements are not about running away to get hitched in Vegas without witnesses. They are just more intimate celebrations focused on two people getting married and celebrating a commitment to each other. Elopements embrace a style of a wedding that reflects on the relationship, rather than hosting a ballroom full of guests with their own expectations.
Here are a few things to consider before you make the decision about your epic wedding experience:
When you think about your wedding day, what are the most important elements? Is it the time spent with your partner, family, or are you looking to invite a ton of guests and dance the night away? If you imagine this crazy idea of an intimate destination wedding exploring new cultures, or eloping in Iceland or at Faroe Islands, does your heart skip a beat? Does it sound exciting to create a day for you and your partner that reflects all your wants and desires regardless of what others think? When trying to come to a decision about what is right for you, the first steps are to consider your finances, your personalities and preferences for an ideal day.
What are adventure elopements?
Adventure elopements are intimate ceremonies in the nature setting, often in the desert, on top of a mountain, at lakes, oceans, anywhere beautiful. The idea of elopements on a whim is an outdated notion, you can create the day of your own and invite your immediate family to witness your ceremony. But don't be mistaken, there is actually quite a bit of planning that goes into your adventure elopement and this is where my expertise comes in. I will help you research the perfect location, the ideal time of the day, we will talk about logistics and come up with the complete game plan.
Who are adventure elopements for?
Adventure elopements are for anyone who wants to do things a little differently, for couples in love with nature and the outdoors, for adventurers and free spirits that want to have an intimate event instead of a full on wedding with couple hundred guests. Elopements are a perfect idea for introverted couples that don't fancy being the center of attention the entire day, don't want to be stressed out while planning their day and want to spend the money somewhere else. Perhaps another travel adventure?
What to wear?
If you're planning an adventure elopement, you might be looking for a beautiful, flattering dress that will allow you to move freely without feeling constrained all day. You are most likely not wildly interested in a fairytale ballgown from a traditional bridal shop, but a gown that simply makes you feel you. The good news is that there are SO many options for incredible wedding dresses that will make you feel like a goddess without paying thousands.
Check out my blog post about incredible down-to-earth wedding dresses for adventurous brides.
Michigan elopement locations:
The Lake Michigan shore and the dunes is a staple location for amazing landscape shots. Ideal choice for eloping couples that want to reflect "Caribbean" atmosphere in their elopement photos, right here in Michigan. The sunsets are stunning and romantic. There are multiple different trails to explore for a one-of-a-kind adventure experience - overlooks, sand dunes or dune grass landscapes.
Turnip Rock, Port Austin, Michigan
There are several sites along the shore near the Turnip Rock formation that provide a perfect landscape for an adventure engagement or elopement - from the water! The land is privately owned, so the rock formation can only be seen from a kayak or canoe, but the entire coastline provides a beautiful nature setting right here in Michigan. If you are into a true adventure, you can bring a canoe or rent one and decorate it with florals and do your elopement vows directly on the water. Once you paddle towards the Turnip rock, the water is shallow enough for you to stand up and have a sultry couples photo session!
Silver Lake Sand Dunes, Mears, Michigan
Most of that state park is covered in pristine sugar-sand dunes, but the location also includes a four-mile beach at Lake Michigan, inland Silver Lake and wooded hiking trails.
The dunes that reminisce of North African Sahara desert (but on the West side of Michigan!) lure visitors to explore its sandy peaks. Absolutely gorgeous spot for sunrise or sunset engagement photography sessions. Don't forget to wear a long gown that will reflect the soft light and fly in the wind.
Black Rocks, Marquette, Michigan
And oh my, this amazing dramatic coastline near Marquette reminds me of Hawaii and is an absolute stunner for an adventure elopement or a simple engagement session. The intimate beach can be a great setting for a private elopement and the black rock coastline looks like dramatic slate. It is easily the number one for your romantic portrait session and an exhilarating coast dive into chilly waters of Lake Superior right after!
Beautiful landscape of woods and lakes with dramatic hilly views - a gorgeous area for a hiking elopement with backpacks an all! The landscape reminds me a bit of the Catskills or mini version of the Smokies. If you are true adventure lovers, you don't mind to climb hills and exploring new landscapes is your jam, Porcupine Mountains might just be perfect for you two!
Coastline of dramatic cliffs, gorgeous sandy beaches and turquoise waters is a dreamy setting from spring to fall. If you like the adventure of hiking the trails through woods, coastline and waterfall, or you just like to have a peaceful and private elopement ceremony on the beach, this area has it all! The landscape is so diverse, that you can transform your elopement day into an adventure of exploration on foot or in a kayak.
A big part of the dramatic coastline of UP's Pictured Rocks can be seen from the boat and via coastal trails, providing a stunning visual experience for a quintessential Michigan wedding or elopement. Below I have compiled different locations that feature beaches, waterfalls, rugged coastline and the majestic Lake Superior itself.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing your elopement location in the Pictured Rocks:
1. The most beautiful experiences include a bit of a hike, but there are plenty of stunning locations accessible via short trails. If you're up for an adventure, sky is the limit!
2. If you'd like to bring a few family members along to your adventure elopement spot, make sure everyone will be comfortable walking to the location you select.
3. If you are up for a bit of a hike, you should think about your wedding dress. You can either choose to pack it with you and change before your ceremony (depends what kind of dress you’re planning to wear), or you can simply hike in it. You should take into consideration, that your dress will get dirty during the day.
4. Locations and trails in Pictured Rocks are heavily trafficked over the weekend and during summer/fall months. If you want to have a truly secluded and intimate experience, aim for a week day.
5. If you're thinking about throwing an intimate wedding celebration with a couple dozen guests, think about renting a cabin/Airbnb near Pictured Rocks to host your ceremony/reception. You can then drive to Pictured Rocks or Black Rocks for an adventure wedding portrait session without creating a logistical nightmare for the guests.
6. If your wedding timeline just doesn't allow you to disappear for several hours, opt for a pre-/post-wedding photo session, before or after your actual wedding day. Choose your favorite location in the Upper Peninsula without having to rush back to your guests on your wedding day.
Specific wedding and elopement locations in Pictured Rocks
(depends on final location)
Grand Sable banks and dunes can be accessed via the 1/3 mile (one-way) Dune Trail beginning at the Sable Falls parking area, one mile west of Grand Marais. Be prepared to walk partly uphill in soft sand. Another access point with a steeper climb is from the small parking lot at the far eastern end of Grand Sable Lake on H-58. This area provides views of an inland lake, Lake Superior and majestic dunes on the coastline.
(1 mile roundtrip)
The log slide overlook is one of the great scenic overlooks in Pictured Rocks. Accessible from a parking lot with gorgeous views from the steep dune, similar to Grand Sable Banks.
(4 miles roundtrip) Mosquito beach is accessible via a 2 mile long trail and provides a perfect backdrop with dramatic coastline, beach and trees. It also features beautiful sculptured sandstone terraces leading up to the higher cliffs adjacent to this sand beach. The mouth of the Mosquito River is also here.The beach is fairly long, so can accommodate a nice secluded spot for an elopement ceremony.
(6 mile roundtrip)
3 mile easy hike from the trailhead through wooded areas to Lake Superior to reach Chapel Rock and the beach, with views of Chapel Lake and beautiful Chapel Falls along the way.
(0.5 miles roundtrip)
Miners Castle Trail is a 0.5 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Munising, Michigan that features a great forest setting and is good for all skill levels. It is one of the most famous landmarks along the Pictured Rocks shoreline, and is the only cliff area in the park accessible by vehicle. From the parking lot, a short paved foot trail leads past interpretive exhibits to breathtaking overlooks of Lake Superior and Grand Island. Stairs and a steeper trail lead to the lower overlook adjacent to Miners Castle.
The beach is accessible through a short sandy trail, and you can choose how far you want to venture. The coastline is gorgeous on both sides of the beach and features intimate nooks perfect for an elopement ceremony.
(1 mile roundtrip)
Laughing Whitefish Falls is a 1 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Eben Junction, Michigan and features a trail through white pine forest leading to a waterfall. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and snowshoeing and is best used from April until November. The falls can be accessible via a short and easy trail through the woods. Elopement portraits can be done from the bottom of the falls for dramatic views.
(10.1 miles rountrip)
This one is definitely a stunner for an all day adventure! Mosquito Falls and Chapel Falls via Chapel Loop is a 10.1 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Shingleton, Michigan that features a trail through pine trees with gorgeous views of the lake on the coast. The trail is primarily used for hiking and is best used from April until October. Several hikes are available in this area, depending on what trails you take and how long you wish to walk. Waterfalls into Lake Superior near Chapel Rock. The views of the coast are incredible! There is a good amount of variety along the trail with woods, streams, waterfalls and the incredible views of Lake Superior and Pictured Rocks.
There are many more stunning locations to consider when thinking about creating a beautiful elopement ceremony for you and your partner, here is my favorite list of locations out of state:
Big Sur, California
Joshua Tree, California
Death Valley, California
Antelope Canyon, Arizona
Lake Powell, Arizona
Horseshoe Bend, Arizona
Zion National Park, Utah
For true boundary pushers:
I would love to hear what your favorites are in Michigan and beyond. Let's explore together!
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