This post is getting some major updates & I’m adding new national parks every day! Be sure to check back in & stay tuned for the full post once it is released!
Getting married in a national park allows you to enjoy some of the best & most unique views in the world in one of the many of the various national parks all around the world. Most national parks have some sort of permit that is required. But when you elope in such a place that is already so well “decorated” naturally, the fees you have to pay for the permits are so worth it & fees like this help maintain the beauty & wildness of these places.
I was also interviewed about this blog post about how to elope in a national park for the Run Away Together podcast! If you want to listen & get even more information, listen on Spotify or listen on Apple podcasts.
General Information You Need to Know for Getting Married in a National Park
Most places follow a similar set of rules & guidelines for weddings in national parks. Although everything is slightly different with each park, there are some general things you should know. For more specific information, be sure to do more research on specific national parks.
Wedding Permits & Photography Permits
Do you really need a wedding permit for a national park if it is just a small elopement? The answer is yes. Most of the times, even simple photoshoots require a permit if they are taking place in a national park. Keep in mind that wedding permits for national parks aren’t usually issued for holidays or holiday weekends, the use of speakers or drones is generally not allowed in most national parks, there can be no throwing of rice or flower petals, & you need to keep on the established trails in most areas.
Special use permits for getting married in a national park are different for every park. Most parks take a quite a long time to process permits & you have to send applications in 30 days to a year in advance, depending on how popular the national park or specific location within the park is. At some national parks, they can process permits for weddings in as short as a week. Each national park has its own set of regulations & restrictions. Some places allow for weddings that are quite large, other places only allow a very small number of guests.
Do your elopement photographers or other vendors need additional permits? Sometimes they do. In some national parks, they allow your wedding permit to cover some or most of your vendors. In other national parks, additional permits are needed & your vendors usually need to apply for those types of permits. Each national park has slightly different regulations so be sure do your research & contact the park with any specific questions!
The Best Time of Day for Eloping in a National Park
I very strongly recommend that your elopement take place in the early morning, at or around sunrise. Most locations are not blocked off for your use so other visitors may be around. There are a lot less people around in the early mornings & this is especially important for the busy seasons of the national parks. Sunset can also be a good time for an elopement, especially if you have to do a bit of hiking. Most people will want to be back from the trails before sunset. Some national parks restrict the locations where you hold a ceremony but that doesn’t mean you can’t take pictures elsewhere. After your elopement you can go to other beautiful locations for awesome photos! It’s important that you keep in mind the regulations for each park. Many times you do have to put on the permit other locations where you may like to take photos.
Deciding on a Location for a National Park Elopement
First you need to decide which national park you’d like to get married in. Think of what you want to do on your wedding day & also what you want to see & experience. Do you like hiking or would you rather not hike on your wedding day? Do you want to go to some place that is special to you or would you rather go somewhere totally new? What kind of weather do you prefer?
After you’ve decided on a national park, most parks require you to specify an exact location for where you’d like to get married. Use the official national park websites to learn more about the locations & areas where they allow ceremonies. Use Instagram & Google image search to look up the specific locations. Make a date night out of it & research various areas around the national park you want to get married in.
The 7 Principles of Leave No Trace
Leave no trace endeavors to protect the outdoors by teaching and inspiring all sorts of people to enjoy it in responsible ways. The seven principles of leave no trace are plan ahead and prepare, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife, & be considerate of other visitors. Some photographers aren’t educated or just don’t care & go off trail in sensitive areas, just to get a better photo. This can cause years of damage. Read more about leave no trace and elopements.
For example, one single foot step off the trail in certain areas in Utah can cause a decade of damage to the sensitive cryptobiotic soil that makes life possible in the desert. In other places, such as around Banff, people going off trail have caused very severe erosion in some of the most beautiful areas. Adventure wedding & elopement photographers should be setting the example & taking the lead in preserving these wild spaces in our national parks.
Making Sure Your Guests are Informed
Your guests are probably a lot more used to traditional weddings than outdoor adventure weddings in national parks! The outdoors are definitely not the best place to be wearing high heals. Make sure your guests wear practical shoes & practical clothes. The weather can always be unpredictable so it is a good idea to bring warmer clothes & an umbrella for the hot sun or the rain.
Getting Married in National Parks of the Pacific West Region
The Pacific West Region includes the states of California, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, & Hawaii. Way out west you’ll find some truly beautiful national parks in the deserts, mountains, & Pacific coastline. This section of the United State also includes the largest national parks in the United States & some of the largest in the world. Eloping has become more common in some of these national parks. Some of the parks are very popular & others are some of the most remote national parks that there are.
Yosemite National Park
Unique features about Yosemite: Yosemite National Park just might be the most popular elopement location in the U.S. right now for couples, along with Rocky Mountain National Park. Yosemite has some of the most unique & epic views. It is full of overlooks, cliffs, valleys, lakes, & waterfalls. Classics like Half Dome & El Capitan rise out of the Yosemite Valley. These features surround a gorgeous valley, making a deep valley surrounded by very high, steep rocky peaks. There are not only unique rocky features (a favorite of rock climbers around the world) but also beautiful water features such as rivers, streams, lakes, & waterfalls. Elopements in Yosemite National Park have become quite common due to the stunning beauty of the park as well as areas that are very easy to access.
Closest cities & airports: Mariposa, California is the closest town to Yosemite Valley. It is about 45 minutes to the rock arch entrance & it takes a little over an hour to get to Yosemite Valley. The Mariposa-Yosemite airport is the closest airport. The Merced Regional Airport is a little bigger airport at about 2 1/2 hours away from the valley. The Fresno-Yosemite International Airport is a larger airport at about 2 1/2 hours away from Yosemite Valley.
Weather: Yosemite gets most of its precipitation from November through March. It is much drier during the late spring & summer months. A popular location in Yosemite is Glacier Point. The road to Glacier Point closes every winter due to snow. It opens at a different date each year, just depending on the winter. It can open as soon as mid-May or as late as early July. It usually closes around mid-November. Yosemite has elevations that vary from 2,000 feet to over 13,000 feet. Due to the location & landscapes of Yosemite National Park, summers are relatively mild. Winters are wet & snowy but not too cold.
Permits: The fee for Yosemite is $150, if the park office deems your ceremony needs monitoring (such as if you have a large amount of guests) there is a an additional fee of $50 per hour. If your photographer or videographer wants to use photos or videos in their portfolio, they will also need a film/photo permit from Yosemite. The permit your photographer or videographer will need to get if they want to use the photos or videos costs $200. Even if you are not having a ceremony in the park & are just taking photos, you will still need a wedding permit. Read more about permits on the YNP website.
Yosemite does have location restrictions depending on the size of your wedding. But if your your guests & vendors number less than 11, you don’t have to be limited to these locations! Ceremony locations in Yosemite Valley include Cascades Picnic Area, Lower Yosemite Fall Paved Trail, Swinging Bridge Picnic Area, Cathedral Beach Picnic Area, Sentinel Beach Picnic Area, & Bridalveil Fall. In Wawona, the ceremony locations available are the Glacier Point Amphitheater & Chilnualna Falls Trailhead Parking Lot. Tuolumne Meadows locations for ceremonies are Tenaya Lake Beach & Tuolumne Meadows Lodge Area. Ceremony locations in the Big Oak Flat area are Tuolumne Grove & Merced Grove. Learn more about the ceremony locations on the YNP website.
Joshua Tree National Park
Unique features about Joshua Tree: Being in such close proximity to Los Angeles and San Diego, Joshua Tree National Park is one of the more popular national parks to elope in. With hundreds of couples enjoying the serene open landscapes & golden rocky terrain, it is also worth noting that because of the park’s popularity the best days to plan your elopement are during the week and a ceremony at either sunrise or sunset. Joshua Tree National Park is best known for the Joshua trees, aka Yucca brevifolia. It is a plant of the yucca family & not actually a tree. These yuccas are native mainly to the Mojave desert region. In Joshua Tree National Park, you will be rewarded with stunning sunsets & sunrises with clear skies a majority of the time. Joshua Tree elopements definitely will give you a unique desert vibe. The golden sands, yucca, & rocky formations come together to create a beautiful national park to get married in.
Closest cities & airports: Joshua Tree National Park is closest to Palm Springs, California. The closest airport is the Palm Springs International Airport at about 45 minutes away from the park. You can also fly into Los Angeles or San Diego. Both cities are about 2 1/3 to 3 hours away from Joshua Tree.
Weather: The best months to elope in Joshua Tree are from October through April, with the summer months from mid May to September being a bit too hot to spend all day in a place that consistently has an average high over 90 degrees & provides almost no shade.
Permits: The permit to elope in Joshua Tree National Park is $120 and unlike some other California national parks there is a requirement for a separate permit for your photographer. An additional $120 fee. Elopement parties of 25 and smaller are allowed at seven locations in Joshua Tree & they are Cap Rock, Hidden Valley Picnic Area (not permitted March-May), Live Oak, Quail Springs Picnic Area (not permitted March-May), Rattlesnake Picnic Area, & Split Rock. For larger parties (26-100) a special permit of $200 is needed to have your celebration at the Indian Cove Amphitheater. Learn more about special use permits on the JTNP website.
Death Valley National Park
Unique features about Death Valley: If you plan on eloping in the largest national park in the contiguous United States you better be prepared for some harsh conditions. Not only is Death Valley the second lowest point in the Western Hemisphere, it is the hottest place in the world & driest place in the U.S. If you can deal with these difficulties you will be rewarded with massive sand dunes, dried sea beds, & badlands all with a backdrop of snow-capped mountains. It is also one of the more protected national parks with over 90% of the park being a designated wilderness area. Due to the harsh conditions, Death Valley National Park is a great location for winter elopements.
Closest cities & airports: Death Valley National Park is the largest national park in the contiguous United State so is close to many different cities & airports. Las Vegas is one of the larger cities that Death Valley is close to at about 2 hours away. You can also fly into Los Angeles International Airport & it is about 3 hours away from Death Valley.
Weather: The best season to visit Death Valley National park is November through March. During the summer temperatures consistently remain at 100 degrees & above. In fact, the hottest temperature ever recorded on earth was in Death Valley at 134 degrees! Average temperatures throughout late fall through early spring are much more mild at 65 to 75 degrees.
Permits: The application fee for your wedding permit in Death Valley is $210 & can take some time to process. In addition an event monitor is required at $35 per hour. A maximum of two hours is permitted for the ceremony. There is a separate $300 dollar fee for your photographer. There is also an event fee for the photographer depending on the amount of people in the party as well as a mileage fee for the event monitor.
There are strict regulations on the times and places that your elopement can take place. Between June 14 & September 9 an event cannot be hosted below 2000 ft. between 10 a.m. & sunset. Some of the more popular locations for an elopement are Breakfast Canyon, Dante’s View, & Zabriskie Point. Learn more about permits from the DVNP website.
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks
Unique features about Sequoia & Kings Canyon: If you are looking for an intimate elopement experience that still feels “big” then Sequoia National Park may be the place for you. These northern California parks have overlooks & amphitheaters throughout that are in serene locations with the notorious massive sequoia trees & large granite rock walls giving a cozy feel to the experience. Eloping in these national parks offers you a sense of calm & serenity. These national parks are usually much less visited parks than some of the other popular national parks in California.
Closest cities & airports: Sequoia & Kings Canyon are close to Fresno & Visalia, California. The Fresno Yosemite International Airport is a little over 1 hour from the Kings Canyon National Park entrance & is a little over 1 1/2 hours from the Sequoia National Park entrance. Other international airports in the area are a few hours away.
Weather: Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks are good options for elopements year round. The parks do experience winter weather & do get snow, but the winters are more mild than other places such as in the high mountains of other national parks. The winters are mild but wet while the summers are hot but dry.
Permits: There is a $50 application fee in addition to a $125 permit fee. A $50 event monitor fee is only necessary if the party is large or at a unique location in the park. With all of the splendor & beauty Sequoia & Kings Canyon have to offer it is hard to choose the best locations for an elopement. Learn more about permits on the SKCNP website.
Redwood National Park
Unique features about the Redwoods: If you are looking to escape the hot summer heat of Southern California the year-round mild temperatures of Redwood National Park may be your answer! Located in close proximity to San Francisco, California & Portland, Oregon, the park runs along 37 miles of Pacific coast. At the Redwoods you will find a land full of lush greens & the world’s tallest trees. They aren’t found anywhere else on the planet! An elopement in Redwoods National Park will truly make you feel small. Surrounded by ancient, towering trees, you can’t help but be in awe of the nature around you.
Closest cities & airports: Crescent City, California is one of the towns closest to the Redwoods. The Del Norte County Airport has connecting flights from larger airports & is only minutes away from the Hiouchi Visitor’s Center. There are also other entrances to the park depending on where you want to enter.
Weather: The Redwoods generally have very mild weather year round. The high during summer rarely get above 70 degrees & lows in the winter usually don’t below 40 degrees.
Permits: For an expedited wedding permit you will need to have your application filled out no less than 14 days prior to your event. The application fee is $100 & a permit for up to 20 people is an additional $100, this includes your photographer. If there are more guests or & unusual requests the permit can range from $200-$400 with an additional $80 per-hour event monitor fee. There are twelve intimate venues that Redwood National Park hosts that will accommodate between 6 & 20 people. These locations are Berry Glen, Crescent Beach Day Use Area, Crescent Beach Overlook, High Bluff Overlook, Lost Man Creek Gate, Merriman Grove, Organ Donor’s Grove, Prairie Creek Amphitheater, River Trail, Schmidt Grove, Templeman Grove, & Zig-Zag 2 Trail. Learn more about permits on the RNP website.
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Unique features about Lassen Volcanic National Park: If some extra excitement is what you are looking to add to your elopement, then why not get married near an active volcano at Lassen Volcanic National Park? Located in northeastern California, Lassen Volcanic is known for its valleys of wildflowers that bloom through the summer & backdrop of rugged snow-capped mountains. Lassen Volcanic National Park has a lot of different features & landscapes. The park has many volcanoes as well as cinder cones, hot springs, bubbling mud, steam vents, canyons, clear streams, & blue lakes.
Closest cities & airports: Lassen Volcanic National Park is located near Chester, California. The closest larger airport is in Reno, Nevada. But Reno is about 2 1/2 hours away from the park. There are some connecting flights to smaller regional airports in the area.
Weather: Much of the park is at higher elevations. Winters can be very cold so the best time to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park is from June through October. Due to the higher elevations, summers are fairly mild. Though the temperatures can reach the 90’s from June through September, the temperature is still mild before 9 a.m. and after 3 p.m. The cool fall weather also makes for great hiking weather.
Permits: A permit for your elopement in Lassen Volcanic is $75 dollars. While that does cover your guests, a separate permit of $75 is necessary for your photographer as well as a location fee that ranges from $50 to $250 depending on the size of your party. Two popular places to tie the knot are Grace Lake Resorts or Lake Almanor. Learn more about special use permits on the LVNP website.
Channel Islands National Park
Unique features about the Channel Islands: The Channel Islands are located just off the coast of California but the remoteness of the islands protects them & really creates a unique environment on these little islands. The national park is made up of 5 different islands & the surrounding ocean environments. Here you can almost “go back in time” to see the undeveloped California coast as it used to be. Lush greenery covers the small islands while the deep blue sea contrasts the rugged archipelago. The five islands are named Anacapa, Santa Cruz, San Miguel, Santa Barbara, & Santa Rosa. Cavern Point & Inspiration Point are two amazing overlooks on the islands. The islands are not typically what you expect of California. They are very remote & there aren’t many places around to save you if you come unprepared. Private tour companies offer boat shuttles & tours by boat around the different islands. For an elopement at Channel Islands National Park, you have to come prepared!
Closest cities & airports: Oxnard & Ventura, California are the closest cities to Channel Islands National Park. These cities are located on the California coast on the mainland. The park must be accessed by boat. The closest major airport to Channel Islands is the Los Angeles International Airport. The airport is a little over 1 hour from Ventura where you can then access Channel Islands via boat.
Weather: Channel Islands National Park doesn’t experience too much extreme weather. Due to their coastal location, temperatures remain mild year round. In spring, although temperatures are nice, strong coastal winds are common. Dense fog is also common in spring, but it can also add to the unique beauty of the islands. Summer through early fall experiences the warmest temperatures & ocean temperatures are also much warmer. Summer temperatures average around 70 degrees. In late fall through winter, there are more storms & the most rain falls during this time period. Nice, sunny days are still common in between storms.
Permits: Advanced reservations for access to the islands via boat or plane are required. Private boaters are also able to land on the islands. For more information on special use permits & getting married in Channel Islands National park, be sure to contact the park officials. Learn more about permits on the CINP website.
Mount Rainier National Park
Unique features about Mount Rainier National Park: At an elevation of 14,400 feet, Mount Rainier appears almost suddenly among the miles of meadows, valleys, & forests that surround the largest peak in the Cascade Mountain range. The Cascades stretch on for over 700 miles, starting in northern California & ending in southern British Columbia. There are more than 25 glaciers that attach themselves to the volcanic mountain, creating a very lush, dense landscape full of greenery & wildflowers that peak all summer long. Snow can come to the higher elevations early & thick, wet snow will blanket the surrounding trees. The white, snowy trees along with the blue mountains in the background can make for a surreal winter scene. Mount Rainier National park has 5 different developed areas & they are Longmire, Paradise, Sunrise, Ohanapecosh, & Carbon River & Mowich. Getting married in Mount Rainier National Park will offer you views of the stunning alpine lakes & rugged mountain peaks in Washington.
Closest cities & airports: Elbe, Washington is located just minutes outside of the Nisqually Entrance of Mount Rainier National Park. This little town of just 50 people is known for its history with trains. Ashford, Washington is also located just minutes outside of the same entrance to the park. The best airport to fly into would be the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. It is about 1 1/2 hours outside of the park & since it is a bigger airport, flights are usually cheaper.
Weather: The Pacific Northwest is known for its rainy & cloudy weather. Mount Rainier National Park is no different. The weather is generally cool & wet. August & July are the sunniest months of the year but it still rains quite often. Snow will usually remain at the higher elevations into June & July. Due to the mountain weather, you should be prepared for quickly changing weather conditions. The Paradise area of the park is known for getting lots & lots of snow! The average snowfall in that area of the park is 640 inches of snow per year! The park does also have limited access in the winter but most roads close to vehicles & are only open to foot traffic.
Permits: At Mount Rainier National Park the application fee for your wedding permit is $60 & must be submitted at least four weeks in advance of the ceremony date & allow parties of 25 or less to be held at any of the parks designated public areas or fire lookouts. An additional fee of $100 is needed for a photographer. Be sure to include your photographer’s contact information on your wedding permit. Learn more about permits on the MRNP website.
Mount Rainier is home to a wide variety of beautiful landscapes for your backdrop and ceremony, including the summit of Mount Rainier itself! Some areas to consider for an elopement ceremony are the Paradise, Longmire, & Sunrise. Some others to consider are, Grove of the Patriarchs, Mount Rainier, Narada Falls, Paradise Loop, Paradise Valley, and Tipsoo Lake Loop. Keep in mind that if you are having more guests at your elopement, you may have more restrictions about the locations you can use. Learn more about locations & restrictions on the MRNP website.
North Cascades National Park
Unique features about the North Cascades: The rough & rugged peaks of the North Cascades are home to more than 300 glaciers! North Cascades National Park has the most diverse amount of wildflowers in any national park in the United States. There are over 1,600 different plants that have been documented in the park. Much of the park is designated as wilderness area, which means that within the park there are fewer roads & developed areas to protect the wilderness. The park is surrounded by national forest & other natural areas that also offer amazing views of the Cascades. The Northern Cascades are full of some of the most spectacular hiking trails, making the North Cascades a great location for a hiking elopement in Washington. Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is another close by area that borders the park & offers a lot of beautiful views of the Cascade Mountains. The North Cascades make a beautiful elopement or wedding location. There are both remote & easy to access areas in the park.
Closest cities & airports: Mazama, Washington is a nice little town that has a limited amount of amenities but is a good “base camp” area outside of the park. It has a store as well as places to stay, such as cabins. Winthrop, Washington offers more than Mazama but is a little further down the road from the park. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is the closest major airport & is about 2 hours from the entrance to the park.
Weather: Heavy snow & avalanches on the steep slopes make the park harder to access in winter. Snow covers much of the park for over 6 months of the year. The mountains of North Cascades National Park cast a rain shadow. The western side of the park receives significantly more rain than the western side of the park. The best time to visit the park is usually from late June through late September. Summer is usually the sunniest time of year with better weather. Fall sees cooler weather & a beautiful display of fall colors.
Permits: Special use permits for weddings in North Cascades National Park cost $50. The park offers a lot of beautiful areas to get married & you can get more information by contacting the park. Learn more about permits on the NCNP website.
Olympic National Park
Unique features about Olympic National Park: At nearly 1 million acres, Olympic National Park offers a lot to see & explore. The park is named of the tallest peak, Mount Olympus. There are 3 unique ecosystems within Olympic National Park. You can find rugged coastlines along the Pacific with sea caves, rocky sea stacks, sandy beaches, & tide pools full of life. Sometimes, you can even spot many ocean animals off the coast. Dense, temperate old growth rainforests are full of greenery & rich with life. Thick mossy forests soak up the 12+ feet of rain each year. The mountainous areas of the park features wildflowers & alpine tundra. There are hundreds of glaciers that add to the beauty of Olympic National Park. The park is made up of 2 different areas. You’ll find the first, larger section of the park inland with rain forests & mountains. The second section of the park is entirely along 73 miles of the Pacific coast. Water is Olympic National Park’s lifeline & supports the mountain tops, rainforests, & oceans. There are few national parks where you will find such diverse landscapes & other features. To really explore many of the amazing areas that the park has to offer, you’ll definitely want an all-day elopement in Olympic National Park!
Closest cities & airports: Olympic National Park is quite large & there are a variety of towns that are close by various parts of the park. Towards the northern part of Olympic National Park are the towns of Sequim, Port Townsend, & Port Angeles. On the east side of the park are the towns of Brinnon, Potlatch, Quilcene, Hoodsport, Lilliwaup, & Union. South of the park are South of the park are the towns of Olympia, Aberdeen, Hoquiam, & Shelton. The best airport to fly into for Olympic National Park would be the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. It is just over 2 hours outside of the park & since it is a larger airport, flights are usually cheaper.
Weather: Olympic National Park is one of the wettest spots in the United States, so always be prepared for rain or snow! July & August are usually the best times to visit the park as there is less of a chance of rain & the days are usually sunnier. It does still rain quite often though. In early October is when many more severe storms come to the area & the seas get rougher & the mountains start getting snow. In winter, lower elevations around the coast & rainforests are cool but relatively mild & wet. The mountains can get over 35 feet of snow each year but certain areas are still open. But winter conditions can limit access to certain parts of the park.
Permits: A permit for getting married in Olympic National Park should be submitted at least four weeks in advance & runs at $50 for the wedding application fee & $100 for a photographer application fee. In Olympic National Park you can have your ceremony at any public place in the park, as long as it is in an area that won’t disturb other visitors to the park. It isn’t a good idea to have your ceremony in the middle of a trail. Some of the more popular locations for an elopement ceremony are HOH Beach, Kalaloch Beach, Rialto Beach, Ruby Beach, & Sol Duc Valley. You can also take advantage of the freedom to get married in other places by hiking one of Olympic National Park’s many trails. Learn more about permits on the ONP website.
Crater Lake National Park
Unique features about Crater Lake: Oregon’s only national park is home to the deepest lake in the United States. Crater Lake is 1,949 feet deep at its deepest point. Crater Lake is also the third deepest lake in the world! Though the lake is surrounded by peaks, there aren’t any streams or waterfalls in the area. Crater Lake refills completely through rain & snowfall. Crater Lake is got its name because the lake is actually inside of a massive, collapsed crater of Mount Mazama, a volcano that last erupted over 7,000 years ago. Many times unique cloud formations partially or fully cover the lake. Sunrise & sunset are absolutely stunning times to be rewarded with beautiful colors & cloud structures. East & West Rim Drive connect to make a complete loop around the entire lake. In the lake is Wizard Island. This volcanic cinder cone rises over 750 feet from the surface of the lake. You can access the island in summer via boat tours & hike the trails & visit the crater of the cinder cone. Eloping in Crater Lake National Park will give you beautiful views of the colorful lakes, as well as being uniquely positioned at the top of an old volcano crater.
Closest cities & airports: Fort Klamath, Oregon is close to the main, southern entrance of Crater Lake National Park at about 30 minutes outside of the park. It is known for its great fly fishing opportunities. Medford, Oregon is a large community that is a little further from the park at about 2 hours away. The Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport is the closest airport. The closest major airport is the Portland Airport but is over 4 hours away. If you have the time, the drive is beautiful. But is you don’t, you can find connecting flights to areas closer to Crater Lake.
Weather: Crater Lake National Park experiences fairly moderate temperatures year round. Average highs in summer are around 70 degrees with lows around 40 degrees. Winter highs are usually around 35 degrees with average lows around 20 degrees. Winter weather & snow closes most roads in the park including most of Rim Drive. Winter access is still available to the park headquarters & to Rim Village, as long as there isn’t too much snow. In the winter, snowshoeing is a popular activity in the area & allows you to reach different parts of the park.
Permits: Park management at Crater Lake suggests that you submit your application and $50 fee for permit at least eight weeks in advance of your ceremony date. A photographer’s permit is an additional $50 and should be processed at least four weeks in advance, ten weeks if multiple locations for photography are needed. Learn more about permits on the CLNP website.
The park also suggests sending maps of where you plan to have your ceremony & photography shoots to help with the application process. There is also a $50-$250 location fee depending on the size of the party. View a location map on the CLNP website.
Gates of the Arctic National Park
Unique features about Gates of the Arctic: Gates of the Arctic National Park is one of the few remaining places on the planet that is truly remote & wild. The park sits completely above the arctic circle. Being so remote, it is the least visited national park but one can explore endless mountains & nature preserves as long as they do not cross into the lands of any Native Corporations. With no roads in the park, it really adds to the uniqueness of an adventurous wedding experience. If a backcountry wedding filled with solitude & the most amazing arctic landscapes is what you are seeking, Gates of the Arctic would be at the top of list for someone wanting a truly epic, adventurous experience! You have to hike or fly into the park. Gates of the Arctic would be an amazing place for a helicopter elopement as you could fly in, do a little adventurous hike around one of the lakes, & be rewarded with amazing views of the park from above! Helicopter elopements allow you to access remote areas without having to spend days upon days hiking. Helicopter tour companies can advise you on the best areas to go depending on the experience you want & current weather conditions. You can get married in Gates of the Arctic National Park, or you can do something else like a flyover tour as part of your elopement in Alaska.
Closest cities & airports: The closest communities to Gates of the Arctic are Bettles & Coldfoot, Alaska. However, the closest larger town is Fairbanks, Alaska. There are no roads to Bettles but you can make a 6 hour drive from Fairbanks to Coldfoot. The best & pretty much only way to fly into the Gates of the Arctic area is first through the Fairbanks International Airport. Most visitors get to the park via air taxi in smaller aircraft. Learn more about getting to the park from the GOTANP website.
Weather: Gates of the Arctic is one place where you almost have to elope only during the summer months. Gates of the Arctic is one of the coldest places in the United States. Winters are long & very cold with temperatures usually below 0 degrees with temperatures of -50 degrees quite common. Summers are usually warm & pleasant but very short. Summer months also see about 30 days of never ending sunshine where the sun never sets. Snow & icy conditions can be present during any time of the year due to the park being so far north. No matter what, you should always be prepared for the cold & be prepared for colder than expected temperatures.
Permits: A special use permit application fee of $100 is required for an elopement in Gates of the Arctic & should be submitted at least two weeks in advance of the ceremony. A photography permit is $200 & also must be submitted two weeks in advance. Learn more about permits from the GOTANP website.
Kenai Fjords National Park
Unique features about Kenai Fjords National Park: The most notable part of the Kenai Fjords is the Harding Icefield with over 40 glaciers. The Exit Glacier area is the only part of the park that is accessible by road. This area of the park is open year round. In summer, you can drive in & hike up close to a glacier as well as take a longer hike to the Harding Icefield. During the winter, the road closes but is open to winter activities such as dogsledding & snowmobiling. Kayaking in the fjords is a unique way to see the coastline & get up close to amazing glaciers & ice structures. A guide for kayaking in this area is highly recommended. Sight seeing tours over the park by air are available as are air taxi services that will drop you off in the park. Eloping in Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska is truly for the adventurous!
Closest cities & airports: Seward, Alaska is located just outside of Kenai Fjords. The best airport to fly into is the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in Anchorage, Alaska. Charter flights may be available to Seward. You can also drive from the airport in Anchorage to Seward. The drive is about 2 1/2 hours.
Weather: The weather in Kenai Fjords is very hard to predict. Daytime temperatures during the summer can range from 40 degrees to 70 degrees. Winter temperatures can range from 30 degrees to -20 degrees. Kenai Fjords is a temperate rainforest so precipitation is common. Snow will remain in the higher elevations throughout June & July & in some areas it may never melt.
Permits: Kenai Fjords National Park asks for the application to be completed and submitted with the $100 fee two weeks in advance to the ceremony. A photographers permit requires a separate $200 fee and asks for the permit to be submitted 30-days in advance. Learn more about permits on the KFNP website.
Haleakalā National Park
Unique features about Haleakalā: Haleakalā National Park consists of a shield volcano that takes up more than 75% of the island of Maui & exists along the eastern part of the island. The name “Haleakalā” means house of the sun. An appropriate name if you get to see an amazing sunrise at the summit! The 10,000 foot volcano is home to bamboo forests, rare freshwater fish, & also boasts the largest number of endangered species protected by a national park, including the Hawaiian goose. This tiny slice of Hawaii is an amazing area that protects a host of natural wonders. The Waimoku Falls is a beautiful area closer to the coastal parts of the park & is well worth the hike. The unique cloud formations & amazing sunrises & sunsets will give you an amazing “top of the world” feel for a Hawaii elopement in Haleakalā National Park.
Closest cities & airports: Maui, Hawaii is the closest town & is only 30 minutes from the eastern areas of the park. Kahului Airport is the major airport on the island of Maui. The airport is about an hour from Haleakalā National Park. You can also fly into the Honolulu Interational Airport & get other flights that take you to the other islands of Hawaii.
Weather: There are two different areas of the park that experience different weather patterns. The Kīpahulu coastal area is mild & wet. It is located on the eastern side of the island. The temperatures around this area have highs around 70 to 80 degrees with lows around 65 to 70 degrees. Mild temperatures & weather are pretty much the same year round. In the summit areas of the park, lots of sun, beautiful cloud formations, & cool temperatures are common. The summit of Haleakalā is usually about 30 degrees cooler than the coast. The temperatures can feel cooler than they actually are due to the windchill & damp conditions.
Permits: A special use permit is required for the ceremony along with a $150 application fee. A separate $150 fee is required for the photographer in addition to a location fee that ranges from $50-$250 depending on party size. The location fee covers the first two hours and an additional $50 per hour is added if needed. There is also a $50 per hour monitor fee due to the sensitive nature of the park. There are five locations at the summit of Haleakala that allow for a marriage ceremony. They are Pu’u’ula’ula (Red Hill), Haleakala Visitor Center area, Pa’ka’oao (White Hill), Kalahaku Overlook, Leleiwi Overlook, & Hosmer Grove. If being at the top of the peak isn’t your thing there are three locations within the park that also can accommodate a small ceremony & they are Kuloa Point, Kuloa Loop Trail, as well as the Coastal Trail from Kuloa Point to Kipahulu Campground. Read more about permits on the HNP website.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Unique features about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Located on the big island of Hawaii, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is home to Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, as well as Mauna Loa, the world’s largest shield volcano & also one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Because of the park’s consistent volcanic activity, guests are afforded the opportunity to view massive fields of lava as well as rare fauna & flora that can only be found in areas where volcanic activity takes place. There is a lot of volcanic activity in the area & a portion of the park is still closed due to lava flows destroying or covering the roads. Due to the active volcanoes, be sure to always check with the park on long term or short term closures of certain areas. There are few places in the world where you can get married with active volcanic activity in the background, making Hawaii Volcanoes National Park a unique place for and elopement.
Closest cities & airports: Hilo, Hawaii is reasonably close to the park at about 45 minutes away. It has less of a touristy feel to it than other areas such as Kona. Hilo is also a more affordable place to stay & has more of a local Hawaiian feel. The best airport to fly into is the Hilo International Airport on the east side of Hilo & is about 45 minutes from the park.
Weather: The weather on the islands of Hawaii can change quickly & it does tend to rain often. In the higher elevations of the park, temperatures are usually 15 degrees cooler than at sea level. In the coastal plains area tends to be warmer & drier with windy rain storms possible. Mild temperatures are usually right around 75 degrees.
Permits: A wedding in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park requires a $150 application fee and limits the ceremony to twelve quests. It must be submitted at least one month in advance of the ceremony and does not include the photographers application fee (an additional $150). Ceremonies for elopement can take place anywhere in the park other than the Halemaumau Crater, which is still active and the Kilauea Visitors Center. Accomodations for staying in the park must be made through the Volcano House Hotel, as it is the only lodging available in the park. Some places to consider for your elopement in the park are 1790 Footprints, Ainahou Ranch, Ainapo Trail, Puna- Kau Historic District, or Whitney Seismograph Vault No. 29 at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. Learn more about permits from the HVNP website.
Getting Married in National Parks of the Western Mountain Region
The Pacific West Region includes the states of Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, & Wyoming. In this region you’ll find the Rocky Mountains, Grand Tetons, Manti La-Sal Mountains, & other beautiful mountain ranges. Utah & Nevada also have beautiful deserts as well as mountains.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Unique features about Rocky Mountain National Park: Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most popular national parks to elope in because it has a lot of pretty areas that are more easily accessible. And Colorado is just a very popular & beautiful state all around. Rocky Mountain National Park is also known to be great for gorgeous wildflowers & beautiful fall colors. Locations around the park are accessible throughout the year, making even winter elopements in the Rocky Mountains possible. Trail Ridge Road will take you up into the alpine environments of the park. While the park is known for its mountains, the park also has some truly beautiful lakes. The combination of the lakes & mountains makes for such a beautiful elopement location in Colorado!
Closest cities & airports: Estes Park is the closest town to the eastern entrance to the park while Granby is the closest town on the western side of the park. The Denver International Airport is the best airport to fly into & is about 1 1/2 hours outside of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Weather: Weather in the Rocky Mountains can be quite unpredictable. The surrounding landscapes can brew some big storms. The good thing about these mountain storms though is that they roll through very quickly & don’t last long.
Permits: The fee for Rocky Mountain National Park is $250 & the permit includes coverage for your officiant, photographer, guests, any location, & any size of wedding. You have to stick to certain locations for ceremonies, even short ones. But you can take photos at other locations, just be sure to include those other locations on your wedding permit for the park. Learn more about wedding & elopement permits from the RMNP website.
There are only certain locations where elopements in Rocky Mountain National Park, along with vow renewals & ceremonies are allowed. The locations they allow elopements to take place are 3M Curve, Alluvial Fan Bridge, Bear Lake Nature Trail, Copeland Lake, Harrison Meadow, Hidden Valley, Lily Lake, Moraine Park, Sprague Lake, Timber Creek Campground, & Upper Beaver Meadows. Learn more about ceremony locations on the RMNP website.
Great Sand Dunes National Park
Unique features about the Great Sand Dunes: Not only is Great Sand Dunes National Park home to the largest sand dunes in North America, it is home to a very diverse landscape. Along with 30 square miles of sand dunes that can reach up to 750 feet tall, there are grasslands, wetlands, lakes, forest, and tundra. Not to mention the lack of light pollution exposes what feels like millions of stars on a moonless night. The Great Sand Dunes are also a less visited national park & they look very impressive during the day but they truly light up at sunset! If you are eloping in this national park, be prepared for sun that can reflective off the dunes & high winds at times due to the wide open valley to the west of the Great Sand Dunes.
Closest cities & airports: Alamosa, Colorado is the closest town to the Great Sand Dunes. The San Luis Valley airport is the closest airport at only 45 minutes away. The Denver International Airport is the largest airport around but is over 4 hours away.
Weather: Weather during the summer averages 75-80 degrees. But during the heat of the day, the temperature of the sand can reach over 150 degrees! But summer nights are surprisingly cool. Winters can get cold but are fairly mild. In late spring, Medano Creek flows through the sand dunes. The valley around the sand dunes is unprotected & very open. This means there can be some very high winds that will whip the sand around. Early spring can be especially windy at the Great Sand Dunes.
Permits: A permit for an elopement in Great Dunes National Park requires a $100 application fee in addition to a $200 fee for a photographer permit and a location fee that ranges from $50 to $250 depending on party size. If your party is large a monitor fee is added at $50 per hour and is due before a permit is issued. There are a number of locations for your elopement ceremony that run along the edge of the dunes or picnic areas within the park. Some favorites are the Amphitheatre and Castle Creek Picnic Area on the edge of the dunes, or the North and South Ramada Picnic Areas located in the park. Learn more about wedding & elopement permits from the GSDNP website.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Unique features about the Black Canyon: The Black Canyon is a rugged & colorful canyon carved by the Gunnison River in western Colorado. Compared to other canyons in national parks it is a smaller canyon. But it is still plenty big! The Black Canyon is deep, steep, & narrow. The walls of the canyon can be found in various colors & patterns. At sunrise & sunset, the walls of the canyon have a slight glow which can enhance the colors of the rocks. The Black Canyon has numerous overlooks that look straight down into the canyon. There are both very easy & very strenuous trails throughout the park. Unique rocky structures throughout the canyon create a lot of unique textures & landscapes. Most people only access the canyon from the top rims, but the canyon is beautiful from the bottom as well! The Gunnison River runs through the park & visiting the inner canyon offers a unique view of the park that many don’t get to see. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison offers many beautiful locations for elopements & weddings in the park, including easy to access overlooks as well as many different hiking trails.
Closest cities & airports: Montrose, Colorado is the closest city to Black Canyon National Park. Montrose is located just about 20 minutes from the entrance to the park. In Montrose, there is a large variety of things to do, places to stay at, & places to eat. The closest airport is the Montrose Regional Airport. The Grand Junction Regional Airport sometimes has slightly cheaper flights & is located about 1 1/2 hours away. The closest large airport is the Denver International Airport, but it is over 5 1/2 hours away from the park.
Weather: While the weather in Montrose is usually very mild, the road up to the Black Canyon climbs a lot in elevation in a short period of time. While the weather in Montrose can be quite warm, weather at higher elevations in the Black Canyon will be much cooler with more precipitation. The North Rim & East Portal Roads close in winter, but the South Rim Road remains partially open up to the visitor’s center & main overlooks. The Black Canyon is a good elopement location year-round. The best seasons are usually late spring & fall, but weather is fairly mild all year at the Black Canyon.
Permits: Special use permits for weddings & elopements at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison will cost $100 for the application fee. Additional processing fees may be charged if the permit is approved & the type & size of the wedding. Learn more about special use permits on the BCNP website.
Mesa Verde National Park
Unique features about Mesa Verde: Mesa Verde National Park is located in a much less visited area of Colorado in the southwest area of the state. The park is know for its cliffs & red rocks. But Mesa Verde National Park is especially know for its archeological ruins from the Pueblo people who lived in the area for hundreds of years. The park contains over 5,000 archeological sites that have stood the test of time. You can also go on ranger led tours to view various sites up close & personal. Not only are the various archeological sites impressive, but the surrounding landscapes also provide natural beauty. Weddings & elopements in Mesa Verde National Park can take place at some of the various overlooks or hiking trails.
Closest cities & airports: Mancos & Cortez, Colorado are both quite close to the entrance of Mesa Verde. The closest airport is the Cortez Municipal Airport. The Albuquerque International Sunport in Albuquerque, New Mexico is the closest major airport & is just over 4 hours from Mesa Verde National Park.
Weather: The most mild months to visit Mesa Verde National Park are March through May and then September through November. Even though the park is in the high desert, the weather remains fairly mild year round. The park is located farther south in Colorado which can keep the park mild in winter, but due to higher elevations, it also remains mild in the summer. Extreme weather & temperatures are still possible. Be sure to have plenty of water in the summer as high elevations & the dry desert can dehydrate you.
Permits: A processing fee of $50 is required for a wedding permit in Mesa Verde, there may also be location fees depending on the location(s) you choose. A permit for photography & videography is also needed. These permits will cost your photographer or videographer $100, other fees may need to be paid depending on locations. Learn more about permits on the MVNP website.
Glacier National Park
Unique features about Glacier: Glacier National Park has some of the most rugged mountains & most gorgeous views of valleys & high alpine glacial lakes. There are amazing wildflowers as well as a lot of amazing lakes throughout the park. Even during the busy times of the year it is relatively easy to find a spot to get away from the crowds. Some locations may require a little hiking but the views are totally epic! Known as the “crown of the continent”, Glacier National Park is truly a jewel. The park extends from northern Montana all the way into Canada & borders Waterton National Park in Canada. There are a number of distinct areas within the park, each with different features. The western side of the park is very lush & green while the eastern side of the park is drier & has more abundant wildlife. Glacier has a high amount of wildlife, especially bears. In fact, one time when I went to Glacier, I saw 9 bears in 1 hour! For elopements in Glacier National Park, you’ll want to check out the weather for the time of year you are going & carry pepper spray with you in case of bears & other dangerous wildlife.
Closest cities & airports: Hungry Horse, Columbia Falls, Whitefalls, & Kalispell are close to the West Glacier entrance & range from 15 minutes to just under an hour from the entrance to West Glacier. Saint Mary, Babb, & Browning in Montana are located closer to the eastern entrances of the park near Many Glacier, East Glacier, & Two Medicine. If you’re in the northwest part of Glacier, be sure to check the awesome tiny little town of Polebridge. The Glacier National Park International Park is about 35 minutes from the West Glacier entrance. The Spokane, Billings, Missoula, & Bozeman airports are all larger airports that will have more flight options.
Weather: Glacier has mild weather during the summer months but due to the rugged terrain, weather can come fast & hard. July & August usually have the best weather & most wildflowers. The Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park is closed during winter. It usually opens in late June & closes in early October. Due to it being very far north, winters are long & very cold. Not much is open in the park in winter but there are still options for winter elopements in Glacier National Park.
Permits: Permits for weddings & elopements in the park are $100. Glacier doesn’t have as many location restrictions as some of the more popular national parks just because there isn’t near as many people holding their elopements in Glacier National Park. There aren’t any designated places where you absolutely have to stick to to hold a ceremony. You can have a ceremony or say your vows pretty much anywhere! Glacier even has a Flickr gallery of recommended ceremony spots. Learn more about permits from the GNP website.
Arches National Park
Unique features about Arches: Moab & the the surrounding areas, including Arches National Park, are known for the hues of red & orange rock. Arches is specifically known for its high concentration of natural red rock arches. There are actually over 2,000 natural stone arches of various sizes throughout the park! At sunset & sunrise the entire area around Moab just comes alive! Everything just glows & it’s such an amazing sight to see. Having an elopement in Arches National Park is a great option if you want a hiking adventure elopement or if you just want to get married outside but have easy access to beautiful areas. The Arches area really is the land of contrast. Red rock arches & fins rise up out of the surrounding rocks and truly contrast against the blue sky & Manti La-Sal Mountains in the distance. Always make sure you stay off the sensitive, soft cryptobiotic soil & only stick to the slick rock, dry washes, or maintained trail areas. Weddings & elopements in Arches National Park are becoming more popular due to the arches natural beauty & almost the entire park is very easy to access if you don’t like to hike too much.
Closest cities & airports: The closest town is the little desert town of Moab, Utah. Moab is only about 10 minutes from the entrance of the park. However, it does take some time to get to various locations throughout the park. The closest airport is the Canyonlands Field Airport, just outside of Moab. The Grand Junction Regional Airport just over the border in Colorado is a little over 1 1/2 hours away. If you’re looking for a larger airport, the airport in Salt Lake City is just over 3 1/2 hours away from Arches National Park.
Weather: Arches National Park & the Moab area is located in high desert country. The highest elevation is 5,653 feet at Elephant Butte & the whole park is above 4,000 feet. So it is a higher elevation area, even though it may not seem like it. Winters are dry & mild but can get very cold & snowy once in a while. Summers can be very hot. The surrounding rocks can hold & reflect a lot of heat, making it feel even warmer. If you’re eloping during summer, the best time will be around sunrise. March through May & September through November are usually the milder months in Arches National Park.
Permits: For an Arches National Park elopement in Moab, you can have it at La Sal Mountains viewpoint, The Windows section of the park, Sand Dune Arch, Delicate Arch, Pine Tree Arch, Landscape Arch, Park Avenue, & Devil’s Garden amphitheater. The total cost for a permit in Arches National Park costs $185. Many times couples want photos under arches in the parks, but we are asked to limit our time to 10 minutes so other visitors can take in the view. But that’s plenty of time for lots of awesome photos & there are lots of different arches! Group sizes in the area are limited, depending on the location, & be sure you carpool. There are very limited parking spaces in the park. You can also request other locations, they just have to be approved first. Learn more about permits on the ANP website.
Canyonlands National Park
Unique features about Canyonlands: Canyonlands has some unbeatable views overlooking sheer cliffs & valleys. You can also see the Manti La-Sal Mountains in the distance. There are also a number of arches in the national park. One of the best elopement locations in Canyonlands is Grand Viewpoint. A trial about a mile long follows the edges of the cliffs, offering amazing views of the river & the wide valley below. If you really want adventure, you can take a multi-day trip along the rim road through the backcountry of Canyonlands National Park. Elopements in Canyonlands can be very adventurous or very easy & chill. Overlooks of the canyon provide beautiful views of the valley & mountains off in the distance. Dirt roads within Canyonlands National Park make for a more adventurous wedding & gain you access to some very remote areas of the park.
Closest cities & airports: The closest town to Canyonlands is Moab, Utah. Moab is a little over 30 minutes from the entrance to the Island in the Sky part of Canyonlands. It can take some extra time to get to various locations throughout the park. The closest airport is the Canyonlands Field Airport, just a little ways outside of Moab. The Grand Junction Regional Airport in Colorado is about 2 hours away. If you’re looking for a larger airport, the airport in Salt Lake City is about 4 hours away from Canyonlands National Park.
Weather: The Island in the Sky part of Canyonlands National park has an elevation of just under 6,000 feet. Even though it may not seem like it, it is a higher elevation area. Winters are dry & mild but can get quite cold & snowy once in a while. Summers can be very hot. The surrounding rocks can hold & reflect a lot of heat, making it feel even warmer. If you’re eloping during summer, the best time will be around sunrise. March through May & September through November are usually the milder months in Canyonlands National Park. Arches has certain areas where there can be a little more shade, but there is much less shade in Canyonlands & you’ll pretty much be exposed to the sun the whole time.
Permits: The total cost for a wedding permit in Canyonlands National Park is currently $185. There are 3 locations where ceremonies are allowed in Canyonlands National Park. The locations are Grand View Point, Green River Overlook, & Mesa Arch. These locations are all at Island in the Sky. My personal favorite is Grand View Point at sunrise. It is a very large area with amazing cliffs & rocky areas. You can also request other locations, but they must be approved. Group sizes are limited to a maximum of 25 people. Learn more about permits from the CNP website.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Unique feature of Bryce Canyon: Bryce Canyon National Park isn’t actually considered a canyon. It is really a collection of natural amphitheaters & hoodoos in the desert of southern Utah. The warm colors of the landscape are beautiful in the summer when the sun deepens the red & orange colors. In the winter, all the orange rocks are accented with a white dusting from the snow. The hoodoos are truly beautiful on snowy days. Bryce Canyon makes for a unique location for an adventurous wedding or elopement in Utah due to the towering hoodoos that create a lot of layers & textures throughout the landscape.
Closest cities & airports: Bryce Canyon City is the closest community to Bryce Canyon National Park. The Bryce Canyon Regional Airport is the closest airport, located just minutes from the entrance of the park. The McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas Nevada as well as the Salt Lake City Airport are both larger airports & are both just over 4 hours away from the park.
Weather: Summers in Bryce Canyon are sunny but fairly mild due to the higher elevations. Winters get some snow & colder temperatures. Summers see average high in the upper 70s & 80s. Winters see temperatures range from lows around 15 degrees & highs around 30 degrees. The rainy season occurs in July & August with strong thunderstorms that usually roll through quickly.
Permits: The wedding permit for use of Bryce Canyon National Park is $100 and must be submitted at least two weeks in advance of the date of the ceremony. You will also need to obtain an approved official for the ceremony. The park fee is waived for the official as well as the bride and groom. A ceremony can host up to 30 people & be held at one of two locations at Sunset Point, either the Main Amphitheater Overlook or Silent City. The photography fees are $100 for the application in addition to a $50 administrative fee as well as a $50 per hour monitoring fee and a location fee that varies from $50 – $250 depending on the size of the party. Learn more about permits on the BCNP website.
Zion National Park
Unique features of Zion: Diverse landscapes from mountains to canyons, rivers to deserts, & woodlands in addition to hundreds of different species of wildlife make Zion National Park a popular place to visit. It is towards the top of the list of most popular national parks in the United States, attracting nearly 4.5 million visitors per year. The intense landscapes & dramatic color bursts that come from the sunrise & sunset make for one of the world’s most beautiful places for a wedding ceremony in a national park.
Closest cities & airports: Springdale, Utah is the closest city to Zion National Park. Springdale is geared towards tourists & is only minutes from Zion. There are also multiple places to stay within & around Springdale. The closest airport is the Saint George Regional Airport in Saint George, Utah. But it only has limited flights in & out. The McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada is the closest larger airport at a little over 2 1/2 hours away from the entrance to Zion.
Weather: Zion National Park usually has fairly mild weather year round, but the weather is especially great in spring & fall. Summers are mild but warm & winters are cool & there is snow but it doesn’t really ever get bitterly cold. June through August are historically the hottest months & November through March are historically the coldest months.
Permits: A permit for Zion National Park needs to be completed at least three weeks in advance to the ceremony and has a price of $100. This will cover the first two hours necessary to process the application which includes communication with the applicant, park staff and wedding coordinator. An additional $50 per hour will be added if the time is needed as well as $50 per hour monitor fee if the ceremony has any unique requests or has a large party. This all includes the price of a permit for your photographer. Zion has six pre-approved destinations for your ceremony which are Menu Falls, Nature Center North Lawn, South Campground Amphitheater, Temple of Sinawava, Zion Lodge Lawn, & Timber Creek Overlook. Learn more about permits & locations from the ZNP website.
Capitol Reef National Park
Unique features about Capitol Reef: Capitol Reef National Park is in a state that has to compete with world-famous geological locations such as Zion, Arches, & Bryce Canyon. This is why many locals call Capitol Reef the “hidden gem of Utah”. Offering many of the same spectacular views as the more popular parks, Capitol Reef can come with a more of a sense of privacy on the day of your wedding or elopement. Capitol Reef is about 60 miles long with most of the park being only about 6 miles wide. The park was named Capitol Reef for the light-colored Navajo Sandstone cliffs with dome formations. These landscapes are similar in appearance to the white rounded tops & domes that are many times seen on various capitol buildings. Reef refers to any rocky formation that hinders travel, many times reefs in the ocean hinder travel by water & the rocky formations on land basically do the same thing by hindering land travel.
Closest cities & airports: Torrey, Utah is located just outside of the park. There are a number of smaller hotels & other lodging options around Torrey. The Salt Lake City International Airport is about 3 1/2 hours to to park. The Grand Junction Regional Airport is a little closer at just under 3 hours from Capitol Reef.
Weather: May through September are usually the best months to visit Capitol Reef. The park is open year round & usually experiences mild winters. Average highs in the summer usually don’t get above 85 to 90 degrees. Capitol Reef is very dry & is very sunny year round.
Permits: Ceremonies in Capitol Reef National Park should be booked at least 7 days in advance and can be booked up to a year before your ceremony. The permit cost is $50 & also includes the permit for your photographer. Ceremonies are permitted at any of the parks picnic or campground areas. Because of this, parties are typically limited to 15-20 guests and the ceremony itself is limited to 20 minutes. Your reception can be held in picnic areas after your ceremony without time restrictions. Cassidy Arch Hike, Cathedral Valley, Fremont River Waterfall, Historic Fruita District, & Fruita are some beautiful destinations to consider. Learn more about permits from the CRNP website.
Grand Teton National Park
Unique features about the Grand Tetons: The Tetons are probably my favorite mountains in the United States, but it’s really hard to pick because I also really love the mountains in Glacier National Park as well as the San Juan Mountains of Colorado! What I love about the Tetons is that you can go pretty much anywhere & get a beautiful mountain backdrop. I mean, you can pretty much just pull off the highway & have a beautiful location! Some locations are only accessible while there is no snow, unless you’re down for a hiking elopement. But there are plenty of locations accessible for a winter elopement in the snow as well. The Tetons aren’t far from Jackson, Wyoming, so after your elopement we can head into town & enjoy some of the great food & drinks that Jackson has to offer! Keep in mind that due to the location of Grand Teton National Park, sunrise is best to get that amazing alpenglow on the mountains. The Grand Tetons are full of beautiful lakes with lots of wildlife. Outside of the park, Grand Teton National Forest also offers some of the same & sometimes better views of the Great Teton Mountains in Wyoming.
Closest cities & airports: Jackson, Wyoming (aka Jackson Hole) is the closest city to Grand Teton National Park. Jackson has a lot to offer for a small town & is a great place to stay or hang out after your elopement. Jackson is about 20 minutes from the entrance of the park. The Jackson Hole Airport is located just outside of Jackson. The Salt Lake City Airport has cheaper flights since it is a larger airport & it is located about 5 hours from the Grand Tetons.
Weather: For the best weather, aim for May through September. Summers are very mild & fall colors are beautiful! The area around Jackson & the Grand Tetons can get a lot of snow in the winter. Winter is absolutely gorgeous but it can be very, very cold with temperatures dropping below 0 degrees quite frequently.
Permits: They aren’t super strict with where you have your ceremony or say your vows. A few locations that they recommend are Schwabacher Landing, Blacktail Ponds Overlook, & the summit of Signal Mountain. Permits go for $200 for any location. And keep in mind that you cannot block trails or overlooks if other visitors are in the area. Schwabacher Landing has an amazing view of the Snake River with the Tetons as the backdrop. It is best in late spring through fall as winter may close the road with snow. Signal Mountain summit has panoramic views of the mountains & valley. It is accessible by a gravel road late spring through fall. Winter snow fall usually closes the road at some point, but if you are craving adventure & want to have a hiking elopement, there are a couple trails that lead to the same view. The hike in winter is totally doable with the right knowledge & preparation. Learn more about permits from the GTNP website.
Yellowstone National Park
Unique features about Yellowstone: Did you know that Yellowstone actually sits on top of a massive underground super volcano? This super volcano is thought to be at least 1,500 square miles in area. Because of this huge underground volcano, Yellowstone is known for its thermal features such as hot springs, geysers, & bubbling mud. There are over 10,000 thermal features in the park. Many hot springs & other water features have brilliant colors. These colors are not due to rocks or the color of the water though. Microscopic organisms live in the insanely hot water & these organisms are called thermopiles. They come in many different colors & different species inhabit different waters, depending on the temperature. Not only does Yellowstone have some amazing thermal features but the park is also abundant in wildlife. Yellowstone is one of the most unique places on the planet because of the high concentrations of geysers, other thermal features, & wildlife. The park was also the very first national park ever created. If you are thinking about getting married in Yellowstone National Park, you can be rewarded with stunning views of the landscapes & thermal features, & if you’re lucky, you just might be able to see a bear or some wolves on your wedding day!
Closest cities & airports: Yellowstone National Park is a big park & covers 3,471 square miles. The park is mostly in the state of Wyoming but also overlaps into Montana & Idaho. North of the park is Gardiner, Montana & is very close to Mammoth Hot Springs. East of the park is the town of Cody, Wyoming. It’s a small western town known for its rodeo events. Jackson, Wyoming is located towards the south & is just south of Grand Teton National Park & offers great access to either the Tetons or Yellowstone. And to the west of the park is West Yellowstone, Montana. The largest airport in the area that you could fly in to would be in Billings, Montana at a little over 2 1/2 hours away from the northern entrance to the park. You could also fly into smaller airports in Jackson or Cody.
Weather: The best time to get married in Yellowstone National Park is going to be in the summer & fall. A lot of snow can fall in the winter, making certain roads impassible. Summer temperatures are usually around 70 degrees with temperatures warmer at around 80 degrees at lower elevations. Winters are bitterly cold but the thermal features never freeze. Much of the park is still accessible in the winter if you’re ready for more of an adventure!
Permits: For weddings & elopements in Yellowstone National park, both the couple & photographer will both need permits. The cost for a wedding permit in Yellowstone requires a $75 application fee. Photography permits in Yellowstone must be obtained by your photographer & will cost a minimum of $350. Permit costs can go up the more people there are or if you request to photograph near any thermal areas in the park. Learn more about permits for weddings & photography on the YNP website.
Great Basin National Park
Unique features about Great Basin: Great Basin National Park in Nevada was originally a national monument for the Lehman Caves. However it had camping & hiking grounds around the caves added to the protective services & it became a national park in 1986. The park is known for its bristlecone pines which are one of the oldest known organisms on the planet. Some of the oldest trees are over 5,000 years old! Rangers can also guide you on tours of the Lehman Caves. These limestone caverns are full of unique formations. Basin National Park has a large variety of environments including thick forests, rough mountains, limestone caves, & fragile alpine environments with wildflowers. You’ll even find a lone glacier in the park. At Great Basin National Park, you can have an wedding ceremony with mountain views & then take a tour of the caves for a fun, easy adventure.
Closest cities & airports: Baker, Nevada is only minutes from the park entrance. There are also places to stay & things to do around Ely, Nevada. The Cedar City Regional Airport in Cedar City, Utah is a good airport to fly into. Due to the remote location of the park, the airport is 2 1/2 hours away. The Salt Lake City International Airport is the closest major airport at a little less than 4 hours away.
Weather: There are a lot of varying elevations in the park. From the valley to the summit of Wheeler Peak, there is a difference of around 8,000 feet. In late spring through early fall, daytime temperatures in the valley can be quite hot. But snow at higher elevations usually won’t fully melt until mid-summer. The mountains do see frequent thunderstorms in summer which usually happen in the late afternoon. The Great Basin area is a desert so there is dry air & large drops in the temperature at night are common. Late spring through fall are usually the best times to elope in the park.
Permits: Basin National Park is one of the more financially friendly National Parks to have a small wedding or elopement ceremony. There is a $50 application fee & the application must be submitted 30 days prior to your elopement. No extra fee is necessary for a photographer. Some aesthetically pleasing locations for a ceremony are Alpine Lakes Loop, Bristlecone Trails, Lehman Caves, Teresa Lake, and Wheeler Park. Learn more about permits on the GBNP website.
Getting Married in National Parks of the Southwest Region
The Pacific West Region includes the states of Arizona, New Mexico, & Texas. In this region you’ll find a lot of desert regions as well as some coastlines & mountains. The southwest is known for its dry deserts, red rock landscapes, rugged mountains, & other natural wonders.
Grand Canyon National Park
Unique feature about the Grand Canyon: Grand Canyon National Park is an American classic! It is said that seeing the Grand Canyon at sunrise is like seeing the world for the very first time. Grand Canyon is pretty much always beautiful & accessible throughout much of the year. The canyon itself winds on for 277 miles. Through it’s truly “grand” size, it can really overwhelm you! Grand hardly describes the canyon. It is massive, gorgeous, amazing, awe-inspiring, & is truly a sight to behold. The Colorado River has carved away at the canyon walls. Over time, this process has exposed the cross layers of many different colors of rocks. The average width of the canyon is over 10 miles wide! The Grand Canyon has become a popular American icon & for good reason. Getting married in Grand Canyon National Park is a really special way to start your married lives together.
Closest cities & airports: Tusayan, Arizona is a town nearby & is just minutes outside of the park & it also has a smaller airport. Flagstaff is about 1 1/2 hours from the South Rim of the park. The Grand Canyon Airport is the closest airport & is only minutes outside of the park. But it does have limited service. The Flagstaff Pulliam Airport is about 1 1/2 hours away & the Phoenix International Airport in Phoenix, Arizona is located about 3 1/2 hours away.
Weather: The Grand Canyon region has elevations that span from 2,000 feet to over 8,000 feet. This means that there can be drastically different weather conditions in various areas of the park. Along the south rim in summer, temperatures are usually fairly mild at around 80 degrees. However, in areas such as Phantom Ranch at lower elevations, temperatures can soar to over 100 degrees. In late summer there is also more of a chance for thunderstorms. Spring & fall are both quite pleasant times of the year for the Grand Canyon. Due to high elevations, winter conditions can be a little more extreme. The South Rim Road remains open all year whereas the North Rim Road closes in the winter.
Permits: The application fee for an adventure wedding or elopement will vary based on location. Wedding permits for Grand Canyon are $240 for most locations. However, Shoshone Point has a permit fee of $500. Please note that special use permits do not cover commercial operations. Your photographer or other vendors may need to get additional permits. Learn more about permits on the GCNP website.
Outdoor elopements & wedding ceremonies are allowed at Pima Point, Rim Worship Site, Grandeur Point, Shoshone Point, Moran Point, Lipan Point, the Cape Royal Amphitheater, & Point Imperial Viewpoint. The park also does have some indoor locations available such as Shrine of the Ages & some lodges in Grand Canyon National Park. Learn more about locations on the GCNP website.
Saguaro National Park
Unique feature about Saguaro National Park: Saguaro National Park is a much lesser know park but has the uniqueness of the saguaro cacti. It doesn’t get more Arizona than that! Sunset, desert landscapes, & cacti make for an amazing elopement in the desert. And if you were wanting an elopement in winter, Saguaro National Park makes a great elopement location in winter. Saguaro National Park actually has 2 entirely different sections that aren’t connected. The Rincon Mountain District is usually referred to as Saguaro East & the the Tucson Mountain District is usually referred to as Saguaro West.
Closest cities & airports: Both sections of Saguaro National Park are located right outside of the city limits of Tucson, Arizona. In Tucson, there is the Tucson International Airport. You can also fly into the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The Phoenix Airport is about 2 hours from Saguaro West & about 2 1/2 hours from Saguaro East.
Weather: In southern Arizona, daytime temperatures are very hot & often reach temperatures of over 100 degrees. From November through February the weather is usually very mild. The average winter temperatures are usually around 65 degrees. Very early in the spring can also be a good time to get married in Saguaro National Park. In late winter & early spring, the rains come & the desert is extra green & certain flowers will be blooming. Due to the durable surfaces in much of the desert, you do have to watch for flash floods in certain areas.
Permits: Saguaro National Park is also one of the cheaper national parks to elope in. For a small adventure elopement or wedding, a permit will only cost you $100. Keep in mind that you’ll want to submit a special use application at least 4 weeks in advance. There aren’t many location restrictions, you simply find a location where you think you’d like to get married & talk to the park management about that location. Lodging nearby can also be found for very reasonable prices. There are places to hike if you want more of a mountaintop view, or other more accessible locations are also available. Learn more about special use permits on the SNP website.
Big Bend National Park
Unique features about Big Bend: Big Bend National Park is one of the largest National Parks at 1,251 square miles & least frequently visited. The park usually only sees about 440,000 visitors per year. The park is located on the Mexican Border & runs along the Rio Grande. Big Bend National park is known for its unique mountains & rocky formations. The park is named after a big bend in the Rio Grande River. Along the river you can see the United States on one side of the canyon & Mexico on the other side. There is quite the variety of plants & animals in this arid desert park. You can really find seclusion for a more private elopement in Big Bend National Park.
Closest cities & airports: Terlingua, Texas is the closest town to Big Bend. It is only minutes from the entrance of the park but it can take longer to actually get further into the park. The El Paso International Airport is the closest major airport at about 5 hours away. The San Antonio International Airport is 6 hours away from the park.
Weather: Big Bend National Park can different weather patterns at the higher & lower elevations. From late spring through early fall the temperatures can reach extremes of over 100 degrees during the middle of the day. Winter temperatures can get below freezing but winters are fairly mild.
Permits: There is a more rigorous application process & it is suggested that applications be submitted 4-6 weeks in advance of the ceremony. The fee for the application is $50. A separate $50 fee is necessary for your photographer. Also, two of the park’s more accessible and popular tourist locations, Chisos Basin Amphitheatre & Rio Grande Villiage Amphitheatre require a $50 fee for their use. Learn more about permits on the BBNP website.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Unique features about the Guadalupe Mountains: They say that everything is bigger in Texas, so if you are looking for a large experience Guadalupe Mountains National Park may be a prime spot for your elopement. Though the size of the park itself may fail in comparison to others at 134.9 square miles, it does hold two massive Texas landmarks in Guadalupe Peak, which is the highest peak in Texas at 8,749 feet. As well as El Capitan, the tenth largest peak in Texas which is well known for its distinct protrusion at the top of the mountain that has been used as a marker for travelers for centuries. The Gypsum Sand Dunes are on the west side of the park & add to the uniqueness of this national park in Texas. Getting married in this national park will give you some unique backdrops with the brown peaks of the desert, as well as the light colored sand dunes.
Closest cities & airports: Carlsbad, New Mexico is the closest major community to the park but it is still about 50 minutes from the entrance to the park. El Paso, Texas is another option but is almost 2 hours away. The best airport to fly into for visiting Guadalupe Mountains National Park would be the El Paso International Airport in El Paso.
Weather: Different parts of the park can vary quite a bit in weather. From mid-fall to mid-spring is usually the best time to visit the park for more pleasant temperatures & weather. Summers can be very hot. Winters are fairly mild but on occasion, wind during the winter can blow at over 70 miles per hour. The Dog Canyon area of the park is at 6,000 feet in elevation & sees less extreme temperatures in the summer.
Permits: A permit for an elopement ceremony is $100 & should be submitted at least three weeks in advance to the ceremony. In addition, a $150 photographers permit should be submitted two weeks prior to ceremony. Dog Canyon, Frijole Ranch, McKittrick Canyon, & Salt Basin Dunes are some of the more picturesque destinations in the park. Learn more about permits on the GMNP website.
Getting Married in National Parks of the Midwest Region
The Midwest Region includes the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Arkansas, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio. In this region you’ll find some of the most wide open spaces in the country. You’ll also surprisingly find a lot of beautiful & rugged coastlines along the Great Lakes. Lake Michigan is actually the largest lake in the United States. The midwest is known for its wide open spaces, prairies with rolling hills, farming communities, & the Great Lakes.
Badlands National Park
Unique features about the Badlands: Badlands National park was named the “Badlands” because of the rigid, sharp shape of the pinnacles & buttes that are found along the White River giving a very rough dangerous look to the landscape. The Lakota word for the area, Makȟóšiča, also means badlands. However dangerous the landscape my look, the beauty is a uniqueness that isn’t found anywhere else in our country. The Badlands is most well known as having been a hunting ground for Native American tribes. Badlands National Park is rich in wildlife & you will commonly see bison, prairie dogs, antelope, burrowing owls, & other animals of the plains & prairie. The Badlands have many short hikes that are easily accessible, as well as some longer hikes that include some fun climbs & scrambles. Badlands National Park is a bit of a hidden gem in the Midwest & is a great location for a Midwest elopement if you want something a little unique but don’t want to travel far.
Closest cities & airports: Wall, South Dakota is a quaint little town in the middle of nowhere. It is the closest town & is just a short drive from the entrances to the Badlands. Wall has numerous campgrounds & lodging options available. The town is also home to the famous Wall Drug. If you don’t know what Wall Drug is, you’ve got to check it out! The closest airport to the Badlands is the Rapid City Regional Airport at about 1 hour away from the Pinnacles entrance.
Weather: The Midwest region is known for rapidly changing & unpredictable weather. Summers in the Badlands are hot & dry in the summer. And the area can be bitterly cold in the winter. You’ll want to bring plenty of water as there aren’t many places to fill up in the park. Sunrise & sunset are best not only for lighting but also for weather. Extreme weather is usually less likely to happen towards dawn or dusk.
Permits: A marriage permit application for the Badlands must be submitted at least two weeks in advance to the date that you plan to have your ceremony and costs $100. A separate $100 application fee is required for the photographer as well as a location fee that varies from $50 – $250, depending on the amount of people in the party. There are three public areas for an elopement ceremony to take place & they are Conata Basin Overlook, Bigfoot Pass Overlook, & Cedar Pass Lodge. Learn more about permits from the BNP website.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Unique features about Theodore Roosevelt National Park: The park was named after U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt because of his love for the “rugged lifestyle” of the land & remoteness to find a space for healing. Theodore Roosevelt National Park is home to badlands & hunting camps that were used by ranchers and hunters during the days of the wild west. The park also has vast plains, small canyons, hoodoos, & the Little Missouri River that runs through the park. The remote location of Theodore Roosevelt National Park means it is less visited, offering more seclusion if you want to get married in a national park.
Closest cities & airports: The closest city to the park is Medora, North Dakota. For lodging there are the typical campgrounds & hotels, but there are also beautiful guest ranches in the area that could make for a romantic place to stay. The best airport to fly into would be the Bowman Regional Airport near Bowman, North Dakota. North Dakota is pretty remote so it may be better to fly into other airports depending on the flights you can find.
Weather: May through October usually see the best weather in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The climate is arid & not usually too hot since the park is located further north. The high temperatures during summer are never too hot but summer nights do cool down a lot. There can be up to a 30 degree or more difference between temperatures during the day verses at night.
Permits: A $50 application fee is necessary for all wedding ceremonies. The permit fees for a photographer are $50 plus a location fee of $50 – $250 depending on party size. Both must be submitted at least four weeks prior to the ceremony. The marriage can take place anywhere in the park, though you may not prohibit other guests from using the space that you have chosen. Buckhorn Trail, Caprock-Coulee Trail, Elkhorn Ranch Site, Painted Canyon Overlook, Petrified Forest Loop, and the North & South Unit’s are a few historical and beautiful landscapes to hold your ceremony. Learn more about permits on the TRNP website.
Be sure to check out this post for the philosophy behind elopements today + tips for planning your elopement!
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