How to Elope in Death Valley: Your Guide to a Desert Wedding

Imagine standing hand-in-hand with your partner, surrounded by the beautiful desert landscapes of Death Valley National Park, as you share your vows with each other. This remote desert landscape, known for its dramatic geological formations, offers a unique & remote backdrop for couples seeking an adventurous elopement experience in California. Here’s everything you need to know to make your Death Valley wedding happen!

Why Choose Death Valley for Your Elopement or Wedding?

Death Valley, located in Eastern California, is a unique national park that boasts some of the most dramatic scenery in the United States. From the sun-drenched salt flats to the rugged desert mountains, this location promises an elopement setting like no other. Its vastness & serene beauty offer not just privacy but also an incredible canvas of desert textures & colors that comes alive with the soft winter light, perfect for unique wedding photos in the desert.

Best Time to Elope in Death Valley: Why Winter Shines Brightest

Winter in Death Valley brings cooler temperatures, comfortable for outdoor ceremonies & more extended photo sessions in the midday sun. Unlike the harsh summer months, when temperatures soar, winter provides a gentle, more inviting climate. December through February sees daytime highs around a pleasant 65°F (18°C), ideal for your elopement in the deserts of Death Valley National Park.

How to Get To & Around Death Valley National Park

Nestled between Nevada & California, Death Valley is accessible via several major routes. The most direct drive from Las Vegas takes approximately 2 hours (via NV-160 W & CA-190 W), providing a little road trip to your elopement destination. Once in the park, traveling by car is really to only way to go. The expansive park features long stretches between sites, so having a reliable vehicle (and a full tank of gas) will give you the freedom to explore Death Valley National Park during your wedding day.

From Los Angeles, the trip covers approximately 230 miles & takes about 4 hours by car, making it an accessible getaway for a long weekend or a special elopement. To reach Death Valley, you’ll primarily use two major highways. Start your journey on the I-5 N from Los Angeles, then take CA-14 N towards Lancaster & Palmdale. This route will lead you through the beautiful landscapes of the Mojave Desert. As you continue, merge onto US-395 N, & then take the CA-190 W directly into the heart of Death Valley National Park.

Wedding day florals for a wedding day in Death Valley National Park.

Top Wedding Ceremony Locations in Death Valley National Park

Zabriskie Point: Witness the sunrise or sunset together in this iconic location, where the landscape unfolds in colorful & unique hills — ideal for an intimate sunrise ceremony.

Bride and groom elope at Zabrinskie Point in Death Valley National Park in California.
Elopement photo taken at Zabrinksie Point in Death Valley

Badwater Basin: At 282 feet below sea level, this surreal salt flat offers an ethereal beauty & an expansive sky that turns into a blanket of stars at night, perfect for evening vows.

Badwater Basin in Death Valley in California is a great place to view the Milky Way and the night sky.

Dante’s View: For those who dream of a panoramic backdrop, Dante’s View presents breathtaking views of the valley floor beneath the towering peaks, a spectacular setting for exchanging your vows.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes: The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes offer a dramatic & ever-changing landscape that’s perfect for couples looking for a dynamic & textured backdrop. These dunes, the most accessible in Death Valley, ripple with golden sand that glows under the sunrise or sunset.

Breakfast Canyon: For those seeking solitude, Breakfast Canyon is an excellent choice. This lesser-known gem is tucked away, offering a quiet nook with cool little rock formations. This secluded canyon is only available if you get a permit for the area, so it is guaranteed to be private since it isn’t open to the public!

Bride and groom have elopement photos taken in Death Valley during the afternoon.
Elopement in the private & secluded area of Breakfast Canyon in Death Valley

The Oasis at Death Valley: If you’re looking for a unique venue for your Death Valley wedding day, The Oasis at Death Valley offers more luxurious services for a unique wedding experience in Death Valley. You can include things like a ceremony in the gardens, a private 5 course dinner, or an overnight stay in a casita.

Artist’s Palette: This area showcases a beautiful display of natural colors. Formed by the oxidation of various metal deposits, Artist’s Palette features hues of blues, greens, & pinks splashed across the hills, creating naturally “painted” backdrop in the desert.

Artist's Palette in Death Valley is a colorful elopement location in the national park.
Artist’s Palette in Death Valley is a colorful elopement location in the park

Important Things to Know Before You Get Married in Death Valley

Before you embark on your Death Valley elopement adventure, there are a few logistical items to look into. You want to be sure you understand the permit requirements for weddings & elopements in Death Valley. You also want to be prepared for travel in & around Death Valley, as well as keeping in mind the Leave No Trace info specific to Death Valley.

How to Get a Elopement or Wedding Permit for Death Valley

While Death Valley encourages elopements & small weddings, there are some permit requirements to know about. When planning your day in the deserts of Death Valley National Park, it’s important to understand the guidelines around ceremonies, which require a Special Use Permit. To ensure everything is official, submit a complete application at least 30 days before your intended date, though starting the process 60 days in advance is encouraged. The fee to pay is $300. Your application must include specific details like dates, times, locations, & any equipment you plan to use. If any of these details are missing or change, you’ll need to submit a new application, which might restart the 30-day processing window.

I know it can be hard to know what location or times to put on your application, but don’t worry! I’m here to help with that when you work with me as your elopement photographer in Death Valley!

Death Valley offers exclusive spots like Breakfast Canyon, usually closed to the public but available upon request for weddings. For imagery of this unique location, reach out to the Office of Special Park Uses. It’s also worth noting that while wedding photographers don’t need a separate permit, the ceremony itself might be subject to monitoring fees to protect park resources & ensure we follow Leave No Trace. These fees are around $50 per hour. Typically, one monitor is needed for every eight participants, & the availability of monitors can influence the timing & issuance of your permit.

After your ceremony, the park will guide you on settling any remaining costs. By adhering to Death Valley’s guidelines, as well as Leave No Trace principles, you can ensure your special day in Death Valley is not only memorable but also respectful of the natural environment.

How Much Does a Wedding Permit for Death Valley Cost?

The cost of obtaining a wedding permit for Death Valley National Park includes a $300 non-refundable application fee. Additionally, weddings require monitoring fees, approximately $50 per hour, generally required for every eight attendees. The monitor ensure that all aspects of the ceremony comply with park regulations to protect both the natural environment & the experience of other visitors.

Being Prepared for Your Death Valley Wedding Day

Stock up on essentials like water, snacks, & sun protection. Mobile service can be very spotty, so download maps & important information beforehand. If you are traveling in a group or in different cars, the use of radios can be useful in case you get separated. For accommodations, consider staying within the park at one of the lodges or nearby in Furnace Creek, where you can find comfortable accommodations & good dining options. If you want to experience the Sierra Nevadas, you can also stay in the small towns of Lone Pine or Bishop, which (bonus!) have some awesome places to explore & hot springs!

Bride and groom spend some time together in a hot spring.
Explore areas outside of Death Valley such as the Sierra Nevadas & the hot springs of Bishop!

Leave No Trace While Getting Married in Death Valley

When planning your special day in Death Valley National Park, it’s crucial to adhere to Leave No Trace principles to preserve the park’s natural beauty & integrity. To ensure your celebration respects the park’s guidelines it’s important to know a few specific things about Death Valley.

Respect Wildlife & Environment: Avoid using drones or unmanned aircraft for photography. Loud noises, public address systems, & sound amplification equipment are generally prohibited unless specifically allowed by your permit. Do not disturb wildlife by feeding, touching, or harassing them. Viewing wildlife with artificial lighting is also forbidden.

Protect the Landscapes of Death Valley: Drive only on designated paved or dirt roads; motorcycles, bicycles, ATVs, & off-road vehicles must stick to these paths as well. Any form of travel off these designated areas is not allowed, preserving the fragile ecosystems from damage.

Preserve Cultural & Natural Resources: It’s important not to attach props, equipment, signs, or banners to any park facilities, structures, rocks, or plants & trees. Do not engage in activities that contribute to erosion or unduly disturb the ground, such as walking on soft areas after rain or engaging in activities on fragile areas. Collecting or disturbing any natural, historical, or archaeological resources is prohibited.

Mindful Elopement Photography In Death Valley: Avoid standing in roadways for film or photography without specific permission & approved traffic control as part of your permit. During your event, ensure that access to public areas of the park is not blocked, allowing other visitors to enjoy the park freely.

By following these guidelines, you’ll not only ensure your event runs smoothly but also help preserve Death Valley’s unique environment for future visitors to enjoy! Be sure to read more about LNT & elopements or read more about my values.

Bride and groom walking together during their sunset elopement in Death Valley National Park.

Securing a California Marriage License

To make your wedding or elopement in Death Valley official, you’ll need a California marriage license. Licenses are available from any county clerk’s office in the state; you don’t need to be a California resident to obtain one. Both parties must appear in person with valid identification, & there’s no waiting period, meaning you don’t have to build in a ton of extra travel time for a waiting period! Remember, the license is valid for 90 days & must be signed by an officiant & a witness on your big day.

Ready to Get Married in Death Valley?

Death Valley offers more than just a venue; it provides an adventure that reflects the grandeur of your love. With its awe-inspiring landscapes & mystical charm, coupled with the practical tips we’ve shared, you’re set for an elopement that’s as seamless as it is stunning.

Embrace the beauty of simplicity & let Death Valley be the witness to your love story. Are you ready to begin your forever in this extraordinary place? Pack your bags, grab your love, & head to the desert for the elopement of your dreams. It’s time to make those cherished memories in the heart of the wild & wonderful Death Valley!

Wide angle photography of a couple eloping in Death Valley National Park in the vast desert landscapes.

Want to book a photographer that will not only take colorful, epic images like this for your day, but also help with planning? I’d love to be your Death Valley photographer! Get in touch, browse my site for more info, & let’s start planning your day!


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