Want a unique SoCal wedding? Strap on your hiking boots

Camille and Robert Buttles during their hiking wedding. Both wear backpacks, hers with flowers tucked in it.
Camille and Robert Buttles got hitched on a hike.
(Illustration by Ross May / Los Angeles Times; Jade Bourdeau-Hernikl)

I fell in love with my husband over a series of hikes, starting in Idyllwild and continuing to Sandstone Peak and Red Rock Canyon in Vegas.

To me, hiking is incredibly romantic, like venturing off to a little dating island. A couple hiking together is isolated enough to focus solely on each other, but still connected to the stimulating natural environment surrounding them. Sharing the challenge of hiking can help you scale peaks you might not attempt alone, and that’s a metaphor for life. Six years after our first hike (and five years after we got married), my husband and I are planning to hold our vow renewal next year in the San Gabriel Mountains — hopefully, with a friends-and-family hike before or after the ceremony.

Camille and Robert Buttles, both 28 and from the South Bay, share my view of hiking as romantic. On Sept. 17, 2022, they hiked for an hour from Mosquito Flats to Little Lakes Valley in Inyo National Forest in the Eastern Sierra Nevadas. Once they arrived at the lake, they changed into the suit and dress they’d carried with them in their Hyperlite Mountain Gear backpacks, and Camille pulled out a bouquet of flowers from Trader Joe’s. Standing at Long Lake surrounded by granite mountains lit up with the sunrise, the couple said their wedding vows wearing their Keen Targhee III hiking boots (matching pairs, of course), then drank a celebratory cup of hot chocolate to warm up.

Camille and Robert's matching Keen boots underneath their formalwear
Dress code: Matching Keen boots, obviously.
(Jade Bourdeau-Hernikl)

Could the hiking elopement become a new trend? A peremptory search for “hiking wedding” turns up dozens of results, from tips on how to execute an elopement in a national park (like you’ll need to secure a permit ahead of your wedding) to what wedding dresses work best for hiking (consider the season, of course, and the length of your dress).

“We definitely have noticed the trend on social media of people our age choosing elopements over traditional weddings, especially since the pandemic hit and people weren’t able to hold large gatherings,” Camille said. “It’s great to see people breaking the mold and truly making the day about the love shared between two people rather than simply an event, without the astronomical prices of traditional weddings.” Though the average wedding in Los Angeles costs around $30,000, Camille and Robert spent only $1,200 on their elopement.

Beyond the finances, the Buttles’ plan to get hitched in a beloved outdoor setting just made more sense to them than doing it in an anonymous banquet hall. Both passionate adventurers, the two met on the dating app Hinge, where Robert’s profile photo showed him in front of a gorgeous lake. Camille, naturally, wanted to know where said lake was; turned out, it was in the Eastern Sierra Nevadas, a favorite spot for both of them. Robert ended up proposing there, and over the years, they’ve returned to hike, camp, backpack, ski and snowboard. “A lot of our best memories are of us adventuring together in the mountains,” said Camille. “Saying our vows there brought everything full circle.”

Camille and Robert Buttles pose with a "Camp Buttles" National Forest sign.
(Jade Bourdeau-Hernikl)

The week after that, the couple held a ceremony in San Diego where an officiant married them in front of family and friends, but having a moment to exchange their private vows by the lake that brought them together, with the sun rising over them, was a moment they’ll never forget. “This way, we were able to do it in a place that meant a lot to us,” said Camille. “We just feel really lucky that we were able to incorporate this part of ourselves into such a special time in our lives.”

The unconventional wedding received press attention after Camille posted a TikTok video of the wedding, with Newsweek scooping up the story and noting how impressed commenters were. Camille’s followers shared their own struggles dating as well as hopes for a hiking romance of their own. “Giving me hope!! Just messaged with a cute hiker from my area,” Dmary1418 wrote.

diptych with two photos of a couple in their wedding attire in the mountains
“We just feel really lucky that we were able to incorporate this part of ourselves into such a special time in our lives,” says Camille Buttles.
(Jade Bourdeau-Hernikl)

“It was very heartwarming to see how much it resonated with everyone else,” said Camille.

Camille and Robert say they’re impressed with the range of hiking environments our city offers, and I have to agree. “You can go from being at the beach to the mountains and then to the desert all in one day,” Camille said. “Hiking-wise, there are so many different trails you can choose from, whether it’s an easy stroll by the water or a difficult climb through the mountains, and everything else in between. You can never get bored exploring what Los Angeles has to offer.”

I have my own personal theory that L.A. hikes are so romantic because of our views and our elevation. Sure, a stroll in the park is great for lovebirds, but research has shown that the adrenaline rush of exercise (even a fairly easy hike up to the Griffith Park Observatory) can make you more attracted to your mate.

Wherever you are on your hiking — and dating — journey, the Buttles have favorite L.A. hikes to recommend for you.

couple on a trail next to a lake with mountains in the background
Camille and Robert Buttles embody the romance of hiking.
(Jade Bourdeau-Hernikl)


Point Vicente Lighthouse trail. You get amazing views of the coastline, cliffs and the ocean from this trail. It’s very accessible as well. If you go during the right time, you may even see some whales.
Eaton Canyon. This is a good, distanced hike that ends in a beautiful waterfall. We love the varying terrain, especially how it goes from rocky mountain sides to a secluded forest, all within the same hike.
Escondido Falls. Similar to Eaton Canyon, this hike also features a stunning waterfall at the end, which is definitely something we don’t see a lot of in Southern California.



Sandstone Peak. This is a great hike if you’re looking for a workout, and you’ll get great views throughout. There’s also a small scramble to get to the top, where you’ll find yourself at the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Los Liones Trail. This moderate hike offers amazing views of the Pacific Ocean at the top.
Sitton Peak. This is a 10-mile trail that goes at a steady pace. We love this hike because it was our first hike together. The top also offers great views of the mountains beyond.

man and a woman smile at a plaque at the top of a mountain
Camille and Robert Buttles at the peak of Mount Whitney, which they consider “the hike of all hikes.”
(Camille Buttles)


Mt. Baldy. One of the toughest hikes in L.A., in our opinion. You’ll definitely feel the burn going up, but the views and the feeling of being at the highest point in L.A. County makes it all worth it. The Top of the Notch restaurant located on the trail is the perfect place to grab a bite after a long day of hiking.
Mount Pinos & Sawmill Mountain. This trail is located not too far from the city but has some of the most stunning views we’ve seen around L.A. County. This hike will have you summiting two different peaks on the same trail, which makes for a great challenge.
Mt. Whitney. We consider this the hike of all hikes! Not only is it the highest point in the contiguous U.S., but it also holds such a vast variety of terrain. Aside from the feeling of accomplishment from physically being able to complete this hike, the views are definitely ones we’ll never forget.

For even more date hike recommendations, check out these romantic hikes.


3 things to do

A group of bikers get ready to ride.
Everyone is welcome at Outdoor Asian L.A. and Trash Panda Cycling’s relaxed L.A. River ride.

1. BYO Bike to an L.A. River ride. Fixie, mountain bike, road bike or recumbent — whatever your wheels, you’re welcome at Outdoor Asian L.A. and Trash Panda Cycling’s relaxed L.A. River ride this Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m.-ish. Meet at Spoke Bicycle Cafe in Frogtown for what the group calls “community chats,” or casual conversation to get to know one another, then hop on to ride for 10 to 12 miles. This free event is focused on creating space for AAPI cyclists, but all are welcome. No registration is necessary.

A woman hula hoops in a park at sunset
Parks After Dark events begin March 23.
(Calvin B. Alagot / Los Angeles Times)

2. Dance and make art in the park. Spring is coming, and it feels like everything is happening all at once. On that note, L.A. County just released its schedule for Parks After Dark, a free series of music, art and culture events happening from March 23 to April 15 on Thursday and Saturday nights from 6 to 9 p.m. (that means tonight and this Saturday, to start). You’ll find tie-dye stations, chalk and mural art, canvas painting, culinary demos, wind chime crafts and more for the little ones, along with karaoke, dance and free snacks. Today, Boxtales Theatre Company will perform at Jackie Robinson Park, while the String Family Players regale Stephen Sorensen Park. On Thursday, Chameleons Mime Theatre will perform at George Lane Park, and on March 30, Sakai Flamenco hits Sorensen Park. For more, peep the schedule.

The moon rises over clouds and beyond palm trees

Guided moonlight hikes are back!
(From TreePeople)

3. Hike by the light of the moon. TreePeople’s guided Moonlight Hikes are back at Coldwater Canyon Park starting tomorrow at 8 p.m. Two musical guests, Lake Mary and the Spookfish, will play music for the hikers as part of TreePeople’s musical partnership with the experiential art and music series “Floating,” which throws soundbaths and park listening seshes around our city (follow them on the ‘gram for more). The hike costs $10 per person; you can register here.


The must-listen

black and white photo of a woman holding a sack and an umbrella
Emma Gatewood, the first woman thru-hiker to complete the Appalachian Trail.
(Getty Images; Denver Post)

I’ve been inspired by women athletes throughout my life, from track and field wonder Jackie Joyner-Kersee to speed-skating great Bonnie Blair, both Olympians. But what does it mean to be a hiking phenom? To me, it’s not so much about completing thru-hiking trails as it is about your story of emotional grit and mental gumption.

Recently, I listened to a pod called “The (not so) Great Outdoors” about Emma Gatewood, a pioneer of ultralight hiking, the first woman thru-hiker to complete the Appalachian Trail in 1955 at the age of 67 and the first person to hike the A.T. three times. In an informal survey of some hiker pals, I found many had never heard of Grandma Gatewood, as she was known. This incredible hiker and mom of 11 was a survivor of domestic violence who went on long walks in her native Ohio to escape her abusive husband. She performed trail maintenance into her 80s and hiked 2,000 miles of the Oregon Trail solo at age 71.

Grandma Gatewood’s story had me thinking about 53-year-old Scottish climber April Welch, who competes against 20- and 30-somethings on HBO’s “The Climb.” A lot of folks look at her as an outlier, but to me, her grit and lack of concern about her age or gender is exactly what powers her on to climb into her 50s and hopefully beyond.

This year, I’m hoping to visit Hocking Hills, Ohio, for some climbing and rappelling, and to hike the Gatewood Trail in Hocking Hills State Park, as well as the nearby Gatewood Trail System in Rio Grande, both named in honor of Grandma Gatewood. Women’s history is very much alive with us today, in the very trails we hike.

Happy adventuring,

Dakota Kim's signature

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Hikers descend Vasquez Rocks with a sky full of rolling clouds.
There’s plenty to do, even when it rains.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

If the rain has got you feeling cabin-feverish, how about drawing up the grand master plan for five upcoming months of spring and summer camping trips (or maybe even going glamping right now)? If you’re going to hike in the rain or shortly after, here are some tips for how to do so safely. Don’t hike to those rushing waterfalls until after it stops raining.

Me, I’m going to spend my rainy days climbing indoors, watching HBO’s “The Climb” (which has incredible cinematography, not to mention super challenging routes by rock climbing legend and show creator Chris Sharma himself), painting with my son and shopping at REI’s 20% off Member Sale, which goes until March 27, because I’ve been wanting a pair of approach shoes for our spring climbing. Grab that raincoat — and stay warm.

For more insider tips on Southern California’s beaches, trails and parks, check out past editions of The Wild. And to view this newsletter in your browser, click here.