How to elope in a national park
Eloping in a national park is one of the best things for many reasons! You get some of the best & most unique views in the world in many of the various national parks all around the world. Many of them 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.
A few things to keep in mind for eloping in pretty much any national parks… Wedding permits aren’t issued for holidays or holiday weekends, the use of speakers or drones is not allowed in national parks, no throwing of rice or flower petals, & keep on the established trails.
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. 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 we can pretty much go wherever for awesome photos!
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 below or listen on Apple podcasts.
But first, remember the principles of LNT
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.
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.
Eloping in Colorado in 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 state all around. The fee for Rocky Mountain National Park is $200 & the permit includes coverage for your officiant, photographer, guests, any location, & any size. Check out the current regulations and some FAQs here.
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. See this article for more information on the various locations, their views, restrictions, & ceremony sizes allowed.
Eloping in Yosemite National Park
I would say that Yosemite National Park is probably the most popular elopement location in the U.S. right now for couples. Yosemite has some of the most unique & epic views. It is full of overlooks, cliffs, valleys, lakes, & waterfalls. 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. For all the regulations specific to Yosemite, see this article.
I’ve listed the locations they allow ceremonies in Yosemite. But if your your guests & vendors number less than 11, you don’t have to be limited to these locations! Glacier Point Amphitheater, Lower Yosemite Falls, Swinging Bridge Picnic Area, Sentinel Beach Picnic Area, & Bridal Veil Falls area all are handicap accessible.
Other locations include Cascades Picnic Area, Cathedral Beach Picnic Area, Chilnualna Falls Trailhead parking lot, Tenaya Lake Beach, Tuolumne Meadows, Tuolumne Grove, & Merced Grove. There is even a chapel in Yosemite Valley. But why get married in a chapel when you have such an amazing outdoor space! Click here for more information on the various locations & specifics about each.
Yosemite does have a few special restrictions that you may want to pay attention to. Don’t stand under the sequoia trees, they have very shallow & sensitive roots. The use of hardy flowers in bouquets & decor is preferred, so seeds don’t fall & germinate. And do not use baby’s breathe, it isn’t allowed. And if possible, have your florist use as many native florals & greenery as possible. Native florals will not only be environmentally friendly & non-invasive, but they will also just flow & fit in with the natural surroundings.
Eloping in Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is a (somewhat) less visited park. It still gets very busy but isn’t quite like Yosemite or RMNP. Glacier has some of the most rugged mountains & most gorgeous views of valleys & high alpine glacial lakes. 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 epic!
Glacier National Park doesn’t have near 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. 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. These are some great recommendations but if you want some even better locations, get in touch! I’ve been to Glacier many times & know all the cool spots!
Eloping in Canyonlands National Park or Arches National Park
Moab & the the surrounding areas, including Canyonlands National Park & Arches National Park, are known for the hues of red & orange rock. Canyonlands has some unbeatable views overlooking sheer cliffs & valleys. Arches is known for its arches (duh!). At sunset & sunrise the entire area around Moab just comes alive! Everything just glows & it’s such an amazing sight to see. It can get very busy with photographers & tourists with phones towards sunset, so I’d recommend to aim for sunrise, at least during the busier time periods.
There are 3 locations where ceremonies are allowed in Canyonlands National Park- 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. 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 cost for a permit in Canyonlands or for a permit in Arches costs $185. And always make sure you stay off the sensitive, soft soil & stick to the slick rock, dry washes, or maintained areas.
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! Group sizes in the area are limited, depending on the location, & make sure you carpool, there are very limited parking spaces in both parks. And you can request other locations, they just have to be approved first.
Eloping in Grand Teton National Park
The Tetons are probably my favorite mountains in the US, but it’s really hard to pick because I also really love the mountains in Glacier National Park! 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!
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 $125 for any location. And keep in mind that you cannot block trails or overlooks if other visitors are in the area. For more details & the permit, see here.
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. But if it does happen to be accessible in winter, it is absolutely gorgeous! And keep in mind that it is the absolute best at sunrise.
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.
Eloping in Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Canyon is an American classic! It is said that seeing Grand Canyon at sunrise is like seeing the world for the very first time. Grand Canyon is pretty much always beautiful & always accessible. The application fee for an adventure wedding or elopement can vary based on location, so I’d recommend checking out their website for more information. Fees start at $140. Many locations are available, so check out their wedding guide to see where ceremonies are allowed.
Eloping in Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park is a much lesser know park but has the uniqueness of the saguaro cacti. I mean, it doesn’t get more Arizona than that! Sunset, desert, & cacti make for an amazing elopement in the desert. And if you were wanting an elopement in winter, the weather is amazing in the winter.
Saguaro National Park is also one of the cheapest places to elope! For a small adventure elopement or wedding, a permit will only cost you $50. 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. See their wedding information sheet for more regulations.
Be sure to check out this post for the philosophy behind elopements today + tips for planning your elopement!
Check back soon for more updates to this post!