We asked our readers to share their outdoor love stories, and the sweetness came pouring like that time your partner forgot the rain fly. 

I had just completed my first outdoor climbing route, and I could see a big smile on his face as I lowered from the sky. The thrill and nerves of something new (climbing? the handsome guy holding the other end of my rope?) made me feel like I was floating, even as my feet touched the ground.

“You did it!” he exclaimed.

“I did!”

And then he kissed me for the very first time, and I had a feeling we’d be spending many more afternoons at the base of towering rock. The wind in the Columbia River Gorge was cold, and he gave me his puffy to wear on top of my own as the adrenaline from my first successful climb wore off. After I shimmied out of my harness, we sat in the dirt to split a Snickers bar, and it was old and stale but sweet.

Outdoor love stories are my favorite kind. (That one in particular, but I’m kind of biased.) I also had the honor of reading so many love stories from you—our readers.

Warning: we’re going to get a little sappy here. But fresh air makes us feel all the feels. Here at The Dyrt, we obviously love the outdoors. And we’re piling on the love by celebrating the love stories that take place among trees and rocks and sand.

The Dyrt teamed up with Donny Mays, outdoor wedding photographer, to ask you for love stories that take place outside. Donny is awarding the best outdoor love story with a couple’s photo shoot. Check out his backcountry wedding photography where he ventures into wild places to capture couples in their favorite environments.

These Love Stories Are a Breath of Fresh Air

a man holding a woman close on a sandy trail surrounded by large palms and other tropical plants

Photo by Donny Mays

Here are our favorite submissions of outdoor love stories. Big hugs and lots of love to all of those who sent us their special love stories:

From Solo Hiking to Soul Mates

At the age of 26, my mom was a little worried that I had never had a boyfriend. She told me I needed to start looking into eHarmony or Match.com. She didn’t think I would meet anybody doing what I wanted to do, which was hiking. Every weekend in the summer of 2017 I went hiking, typically alone. I grew up going to Tahoe and lived relatively close. Most weekends I drove up, hiked all day, and drove home. One Saturday in July was different.

I was hiking in Desolation Wilderness, just like every other weekend. I attempted to hike Dick’s Peak, but felt a little wary alone on the shale so I hiked back to Dick’s Lake. As I was hiking behind this group of people, they started talking about hiking poles. I happened to be using mine and jumped into the conversation, as I normally do on the trail—trying to meet people, maybe make new trail friends. We exchanged taking pictures for one another. It just so happened one of the people in the group was a striking, tall, athletic guy who happened to be pretty funny. I had to stop at the lake to charge my phone to be safe for the rest of the loop. Paul, that striking gentlemen popped his head around a tree and started asking for directions. What man asks for directions? This one!

I gave him my best-educated guess on the trail because I had never done the trail as a loop. He asked me if I would like to join them on the way back. Of course I said yes. We crossed rushing rivers and saw two lakes I had never seen. We also flirted a little on the way. After we reached the trailhead, the girls and I exchanged Instagram handles and later I got Paul’s. I sent him some group pictures I had taken and the rest is history. He moved to Tahoe for a job and I followed ten months later. Now we hike backpack, kayak, SUP, and snowboard together.

I never gave up on the outdoors helping me find the love of my life. — Hillary L.

Two Skis in a Pod

One morning, freshman year of college, I saw the most handsome long-haired boy on campus and instantly had the biggest crush on him. I saw him around often, but never had the courage to say hi. Until one night, I was on a camping trip in northern Utah with the men’s and women’s ultimate team and I saw him. He was with a bunch of guys around the campfire.

After a couple more drinks, I made my way over and introduced myself. “Hi, I’m Erika.”

His name was Eric. We had the same long, dark brown hair, we had the same pair of skis (2009 Scott P3s), and we shared the same passion for skiing and the outdoors. Our birthdays are only 2 days apart, same year. It was crazy. That’s when I knew I had met my best friend, my adventure partner, my pal. Since then, three years ago, we have camped all across Utah; climbed, canyoneered, rafted, and biked. We’ve been to the Atlantic and the Pacific. We’ve driven 22 hours to ski Whistler. He has ignited my love for bikes and taught me many valuable lessons. I know anything is possible when Eric and Erika are together. — Erika

The Sweet Sound of Cicadas

My extremely handsome and inspiring partner told me he loved me when we were free camping near Jervis Bay, Australia whilst the cicadas beat their wings so hard, I nearly couldn’t hear him. He works in outdoor education and takes school kids on the most amazing adventures, and now I’m learning to tie knots, light campfires, read the stars, and navigate too. — Hannah C.

a man and a woman walking toward a rocky island in a lake at the end of a tall waterfall

Photo by Donny Mays

Van Dreams Come True

On our very first date, we shared our dreams of doing the whole “vanlife” thing and traveling across the country, visiting and exploring all of the nation’s magical wonders. A few weeks later we went on our first camping trip together, and already I sensed he was the one. Our love for the outdoors and sense of wonder are what brought us together and now we are making our dreams come true.

We are two years into the relationship. Now we have a van and two dogs that we will soon travel across the country with, living our best lives. We love our simple, yet extraordinary, nature-filled lifestyle and I am so grateful to have met someone who appreciates the little things as much as I do. — Lindsay

First Times

My now-husband and I met 7 years ago. In our first few months of dating, we took an epic road trip along the California coast to the Redwoods where we met up with his parents. I was born and raised a city girl, so I had many firsts on this trip. It was my first time going to a national park, my first time hiking EVER (about 6 miles and with a broken boot at that! I didn’t have proper hiking attire and my fashion boots were falling apart on the trail), my first time seeing elk, my first time successfully learning how to ride a bike at age 24 (it’s never too late!), and it was also the first time I fell in love.

On our last night of the road trip, we stopped in a small town in Morro Bay known for its giant rock. Morro Bay has sea otters, sea lions, and it’s a sanctuary to thousands of birds. That’s when we both said our first “I love yous.” Two years after that road trip, Kevin proposed to me by the Morro Rock and we had family/friends come in from all over the west coast to celebrate with us in our favorite place in the world.

In 2018 we finally decided to move to Morro Bay (this girl thought she would never leave LA!), and after a difficult year of trying to conceive we are now pregnant with our first! — Chanel C.

a man and a woman holding hands and wearing wedding attire at a campground in front of a tent on the edge of a forested lake

Photo by Donny Mays

Those Memorable Moments

I took my husband, Elliott, to Arches National Park for his first camping experience ever. We checked into the campground, but the manager accidentally gave away our site and we were relocated right next to the restrooms.

Elliott is 6’11”, so he didn’t fit in our tent or his sleeping bag and he didn’t have a sleeping pad. He tossed and turned and grumbled miserably while periodic toilet flushes and wafts of human waste passed through our tent. Neither of us were sleeping, and my visions of being a camping couple quickly faded.

I took a break from willing myself asleep and opened my eyes to a sea of stars. I rustled Elliott and saw the sky transform him with the awe and wonder found only in those outdoor “firsts”. We snuggled up closer as the magic of the stars lulled us to sleep. We’ve had many more “successful” trips since, but none as memorable. — Mariah

Sparks at Summer Camp

Samantha and I met while working at a summer camp on beautiful Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho in the summer of 2014. Over the next few summers we both kept returning to camp and grew closer and closer as friends. Sparks started to fly between us one summer three years later and we decided to try dating.

At the time I had just graduated from college and was starting my first teaching job that fall, while Samantha was beginning her early childhood education program at Western Washington University. We knew the distance would be difficult but something about this girl made me want to try. We spent every possible weekend visiting each other and every break we could going on adventures. It didn’t take long for me to realize how much this amazing and beautiful woman meant to me and that I wanted to spend the rest of my life by her side. She made me realize love was real and everyone deserved to feel it the way we do.

During the spring of 2018, I decided I would move to Bellingham to be with Samantha after we spent one more summer at the place we first fell in love. We worked at camp for one last summer, swimming, laughing, and hanging out with some awesome campers. At the end of the summer we went hiking with our cat (yes he’s that cool) when I slipped a little tag on him that said “Marry us?” And the rest is history. We are now living, loving, and exploring Bellingham together and happier than ever. — Samantha

Sunburnt and Smitten

My fiancé, Sean, and I love camping. Previously, we were mostly car campers. Over the summer of 2017 we spent every single weekend camping to travel all over our home state of Missouri. We were trying to stop in all of the 88 State Parks and Historic Sites. This year, we’ve branched out to backpacking. We’ve had so many memorable experiences, but I’ll focus on the romance for this story!

Sean took me on my first overnight kayaking trip during Labor Day weekend in 2018. We began at Alley Spring on the Jacks Fork River and spent the weekend on the water, soaking up the sun. I didn’t catch a single fish! We stayed up late talking around the fire and slept on the riverbank with the stars above us. After our trip was complete, we were brought back to our truck at Alley Spring. Sean suggested we walk over to see the spring before we drove home and once we were next to the spring, he proposed! He had the ring tucked away in his kayak the whole time. Nothing says “I love you” more than asking for marriage from a person who is sunburned, sweaty, and stinky after sleeping on rocks with them! — Kelsie

a woman caressing a man's face as they sit together by a campfire at night

Photo by Donny Mays

“Climb On!”

We’re both climbers. Our first date was at a dive bar after we had both been climbing all day. It turns out we had been in the same areas of Joshua Tree National Park all day prior to our date. We had missed each other at the crags by only a few minutes.

We both went on that first date unshowered, in dirty climbing clothes. I still remember looking in the mirror at the back of the bar and seeing how crazy my hair looked and how dirty my shirt was. It was best date of our lives! We fell in love almost immediately.

The next few months were spent camping and climbing every weekend. In a climbing partnership, you have to fully trust each other because you are literally putting your life in someone else’s hands. That trust has strengthened our relationship in ways we couldn’t have imagined. We are celebrating our love and marriage with our tribe in Joshua Tree National Park next year. It’s where our love story began, so it’s fitting we tie the knot there too. — Shannon

First Date, Second Chances

Before we ever met, I already felt so much for Sam. Our long conversations made me believe in love again.

We both were divorced and doubting that love was in the cards for us. For our first date we decided to hike to the top of a bluff. Getting off of work and time constraints led us there at dusk. He pulled up to the trailhead to meet me. He got right out of his truck and gave me the biggest smile. I felt at ease. We put our headlamps on and began hiking. We talked almost the entire way up and when we reached the top it was breathtaking. The autumn sky was crisp and the stars were bright and clear. We stood there in awe. In awe of how far we had come to be together. How grateful we were to have met. We stood there in the moment in a place where we could breathe and feel. A place we felt free and alive. The very best place to start our love story. Outside. — Haley

No Need for Permits

My wife and I made plans to get married on the boat to Isle Royale in Lake Superior—until we heard it was called the “barf barge.” So instead we left the kids with their grandparents and headed off for a weekend at Two Harbors on the North Shore. We dropped our wedding announcements in the mail on the way, a day before the wedding.

The morning of, we walked into the Ranger station to pay for a season pass and told them of our plans.

“Oh, you’ll need a special use Permit,” they told us. On explaining that it was just us two and a minister, and that we needed two witnesses, the Park Rangers said, “We can come back after work. And if it’s raining and you can’t do it on the rock beach, we can get a fire going in the fireplace and you can do it in here!”

Needless to say, it rained all weekend. A squirrel chewed into the small frozen cake we brought. But we got married in the lodge, and the next day was bright and sunny, so we dressed up again and took pictures on the rock beach with tourists watching from the cliff. — Jared

A Love Story Beneath the Stars

I met David online (even though I was very skeptical of online dating) and immediately knew that our relationship would be a beautiful adventure. Seven months later, that is true.

I’ve always loved the outdoors and have always loved the thought of camping, but can count on one hand the times I’ve been. David loves being outdoors and has extensive experience with backpacking and camping. Early on, I had expressed a desire to camp on a mountain without a tent. After only two months of dating, David arranged a backpacking trip, to Triangulation Peak, where we hiked up the mountain and camped under the stars. It was one of the most romantic and stunningly beautiful nights I’ve ever experienced. To say I was awestruck, is an understatement. The 360 views were breathtaking, and sleeping under the stary blanketed sky was beautiful. I’ll never forget all the sights and smells and the feeling of vulnerability… being out in the open, and with this man, I was still getting to know. Yet, I also felt safe and protected, and the whole experience felt completely natural. I felt blissful.

Two Sleeping Bags are Better Than One

“How ya doin?” I asked knowing that both of us were too cold for sleep. The warmth expected when we crawled into bulky sleeping bags never arrived. “Okay….my feet are quite cold,” she whispered.

Just three weeks after she’d asked me to marry her, my lack of experience outside would now likely kill us both. My hubris in the face of the frosty March forecast seemed to taunt me as did the flimsy tent I’d borrowed for this adventure.

“Why don’t we zip our bags together?” This reasonable solution flew against the myth I held; sleeping bags function better for 1. But my growing fear and frozen toes convinced me to give it a try. I imagined the authorities locating two frozen hikers snuggled together would make for a better story. And, it has. Surviving that night brought more than just our sleeping bags together, but our own love story. — Hutch

Thank you to everyone who submitted their outdoor love stories. We hope you keep living more! 

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