Moab elopements are some of my favorites because of the epic scenery, wide open spaces, cliffs, canyons, arches, mountains, lakes, waterfalls, & more. This Moab elopement guide goes over just about everything you need to know for eloping in Moab. As a Moab elopement photographer, I get to help couples plan some of the most amazing adventure elopements in Utah! Moab has so many hidden gems but they’re called hidden gems for a reason. This article is full of a ton of helpful information for planning your day in the Moab area, but if you want all the best and customized info for what you want, working with a local photographer like me can help you have the desert elopement that you’ve always dreamed of.
Are you ready to book a photographer? Let’s talk about your elopement in the desert!
The only thing you need to do is have a date & general location in mind. I’ll help with the rest of the details! Below are just some of the things I’ll help you with…
• specific locations in the greater Moab area to fit the needs of you & your guests
• permits from the BLM, state, or national park offices
• creating a timeline & figuring out how long it will take to hike various trails
• helping you choose the right suit, dress, & hiking shoes for an adventurous elopement
• suggestions for activities the day of your elopement
• I’m a local photographer so I know all sorts of hidden gems that others don’t!
+ so much more
How Do You Elope in Moab?
Moab has recently seen an explosion of popularity! This little town has basically become a sort of “Mecca” for tourists & adventure seekers. There’s a bit of adventure for everyone, whether you want to go cliff jumping or just take a nice hike in a national park.
To elope in Moab you will need the appropriate permits from the BLM, forest service, state park, or national park. You will also need a marriage license from Grand County along with an officiant & witnesses. If you don’t want more people around, you can always have a commitment ceremony! Having an adventure elopement allows you to explore all the amazing places Moab has to offer.
Marriage Licenses in Grand County, Utah
Moab is located within Grand County of Utah. Both applicants for the marriage license must appear at the County Clerk Office. The non-refundable license fee is $30. The fee will also get you 1 certified copy of your marriage license. You can request & pay for additional copies if you wish. You are both also required to show a current ID. On the application you fill out, you also need to provide the date of your ceremony in Moab and the name of your officiant. You can also fill out your application online, but wait until you are both at the office to sign it.
When you get your marriage license in Grand County, it is valid throughout the state of Utah, not just Grand County. After your elopement ceremony in Moab, whoever officiated your ceremony will need to sign, date, & return the marriage license to the Grand County Clerk within 30 days. Learn more about marriage licenses in Moab.
Where to apply for your marriage license in Moab: Grand County Clerk, 125 East Center Street, Moab, Utah 84532
Officiants in Moab
I give my couples recommendations for officiants in Moab. You can also view a list of authorized officiants. Utah also has a very neat law that allows anyone to be your officiant. Utah Code Ann. §17-20-4 (2015) gives the County Clerk the authority to designate others to officiate your ceremony. Others can be designated to perform a single, specific ceremony or they can be authorized for a set amount of time. Learn more about this designation & officiants in Moab.
Leave No Trace in Moab
Most people know the basics of leave no trace in Moab, Utah such as not littering & picking up trash. But Moab has some special considerations when it comes to leave no trace. The most important things about leave no trace in Moab include not defacing the rocks, staying on all established trails & roads, getting the right permits, & not going on top of the arches.
First, when it comes to the rocks, please do not scratch, carve, stack, or otherwise disturb or mark the rocks. We need to leave the desert as we found it & marking up rocks or stacking them can disturb the desert & set a bad example for all the other visitors Moab gets.
Second, it is extra important to stay on all established trails & roads, or stick to other durable surfaces. The dirt in the desert of Moab may look like some ordinary dirt & sand you’d find in any desert. But the soil is alive! The cryptobiotic soil crust sustains life in the desert & helps prevent erosion. You absolutely need to stay off the soil & stick to the trails!
Third, it is important to get the right permits so we can avoid user conflicts. Most everywhere in Moab requires you or your vendors to get permits, even more remote areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management require authorization & vendor permits.
And fourth, stay off of the arches. They are massive structures but they still erode & crumble a little each year. They really don’t need any people causing issues. Not to mention, going on top of the arches can be dangerous.
Where to Elope in Moab & the Best Adventure Elopement Locations
Moab has some truly stunning places to elope! You can elope in Moab under an arch, overlooking a cliff, in the bottom of a canyon, at lake, near a waterfall, or in the mountains. Each area has it’s unique views & you can even do a variety of locations in one day if you want an all day adventure elopement to explore all that Moab has to offer. As a Moab elopement photographer, I know all the cool, off the beaten path, hidden gem sort of locations. While the parks are popular places, there are an endless amount of dirt roads & Jeep safari routes that take you away from where all the tourists go.
Arches National Park Elopement Info
Arches National Park is such a unique feature of Moab. The park features natural sandstone arches that tower above you. You can’t help but wonder how they formed so perfect & how these massive stone structures stand like they do. Having a national park elopement does come with some restrictions though. Don’t expect to be able to do a big setup & decorations. For elopements & weddings in national parks, it’s best to keep things like that to a minimum. It can be a very popular place with tourists!
If you are planning on an Arches National Park in Moab, I really only recommend sunrise. It will give you some of the best lighting & more privacy for your elopement in Moab. During the busy season from March-October, the gates usually close when the park is full & can close as early as 7am-8am! The park will then usually open back up later in the afternoon.
Arches National Park does require permits for any sort of elopement, wedding, or vow renewal ceremony. The permit fee is $185. The permit does not exclude you from entrance fees to Arches National Park. You can also get into the park with a valid recreation pass from the national park service.
Ceremonies are permitted in 10 different general locations of Arches. After your ceremony, we can go to other locations for photos. You can have your ceremony at La Sal Mountains Viewpoint, Park Avenue, The Windows Section, Sand Dune Arch, Delicate Arch, Delicate Arch Viewpoint, Pine Tree Arch, Landscape Arch, Devil’s Garden Campground Amphitheater, & Panorama Point.
*Special note: Be sure to be mindful of other visitors! We are asked by the National Park Service to let others enjoy the arches & spend a maximum of 10 minutes directly under an arch for photos.
Canyonlands National Park Elopement Info
Canyonlands National Park is the biggest national park in Utah. It is so big, it really is hard to comprehend. Canyonlands is composed of 4 different sections: Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, & the rivers that divide the park into these sections. Canyonlands is similar to Arches in that you can’t really do any sort of set up. But who needs a set up in these amazing canyons of Moab!
The Island in the Sky part of Canyonlands National Park is the most popular part of the park & it is the section of the park located closest to Moab, Utah. The Needles District is the next closest to Moab & is a great remote area.
Sunrise & sunset are both great times for elopements in Canyonlands National Park. Since Canyonlands is larger & a little further away from Moab than Arches, Canyonlands can be less congested than Arches, especially in areas outside of Island in the Sky. Wedding & elopement ceremonies in Canyonlands are permitted at Grand View Point, Green River Overlook, & Mesa Arch. We can take photos at other locations or combine Canyonlands with other locations.
Canyonlands National Park does require permits for any sort of elopement, wedding, or vow renewal ceremony. The permit fee is $185. The permit does not exclude you from entrance fees to Canyonlands National Park. You can also get into the park with a valid recreation pass from the national park service.
Canyonlands does not have much for guardrails in certain areas, so be sure to be careful at those cliff ledges! It’s also good to know your own fear of heights. I’ve even seen people who didn’t really think they had a fear of heights show that fear at certain places in Canyonlands.
Dead Horse Point State Park Elopement Info
Dead Horse Point State Park is located not too far from Canyonlands National Park & offers very similar views. Dead Horse Point can sometimes be a little less crowded than the national parks in the area. People can usually get into both national parks with a national parks pass, but Dead Horse is a state park & requires a separate fee. Not to mention, exploring all three parks can take awhile!
Dead Horse Point sticks out a little. The cliffs in the area come together to make a bit more of a point that overlooks the river below. This point is a little more unique because Canyonlands doesn’t quite have a “point” like this.
Dead Horse Point State Park does require permits for any sort of elopement, wedding, vow renewal, as well as for portraits & engagement photography in Moab. The permit does not exclude you from entrance fees to Dead Horse Point State Park. You can also get into the park with a Utah state park pass.
Dead Horse Point State Park is also dog friendly! But your dogs can’t go on the mountain biking trails, they can go on the hiking only trails which include East Rim Trail, West Rim Trail, & the Bighorn Overlook Trail. View a map of Dead Horse Point State Park.
Moab Elopements in the Manti La Sal Mountains
So many people tend to totally overlook the beautiful mountains near Moab! The Manti-La Sal Mountains are located just outside of Moab to the southeast and can be seen from Arches, Canyonlands, Dead Horse Point, as well as from other locations in Moab. The mountains aren’t as big or impressive as other mountains like those in Colorado. But they do offer a lot of hidden beauty. You can elope on the top of on of the mountains there & have a pretty cool view of the valleys around Moab & Castle Valley. Along the road that goes up to the mountains there are also a number of overlooks & cliffs with great views. In the Manti-La Sal National Forest, there are also a number of hikes & alpine lakes.
In these mountains, there is also snow & fall colors which aren’t always common in Moab. Elopements in the Manti-La Sal Mountains do not require permits at this time, as long as you have a very small group & no set up or decor. The mountains can be a great escape from the heat of Moab in the summer. You could combine the mountains with other locations throughout Moab, whether you want to cool off in the summer or go some place snowy in the winter or see some fall colors or mountain wildflowers.
The Manti La-Sal Mountains near Moab almost remind me of the mountains of Colorado. There’s a lot of variety in scenery for elopement locations & adventures in the mountains here. There’s several 4WD roads, as well as easier to access overlooks, or if you’re feeling really adventurous, you could summit one of the 12,000 foot peaks!
Elopements in Moab Bureau of Land Management Areas
The vast majority of public lands in Moab are located on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management Moab office or BLM. The BLM lands around Moab offer endless places to explore, amazing cliffs & arches that rival those in the area parks, & free camping. Much of the BLM lands are way off the beaten path & offer a lot of privacy. Some of my favorite elopement locations in Moab are located on BLM lands.
I’ve spent countless days & hours exploring all over the deserts of Moab to find the most amazing, remote locations all throughout the area for couples wanting a Moab elopement.
The Bureau of Land Management in Moab does require permits for any sort of photography on BLM land & the permit is not the easiest to get. Your photographer & any other vendors need a yearly recreation permit from the Moab BLM office, & they only give them out twice a year. You as a couple do not need to do much in terms of permits, but you should make sure your photographer has the necessary permits. For couples, you just need a letter of authorization from the BLM office. This letter doesn’t cost you anything & you’ll need to name any vendors & make sure they all have permits. Going to areas without permits can get you kicked out or even fined, even after the fact.
These are just a tiny sampling of the locations for elopements in Moab, Utah. Moab is well known for its beautiful locations such as Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, & Dead Horse Point State Park. But Moab has so much more to offer! In the Moab area you can find canyons, rivers, waterfalls, mountains, red rock arches, natural bridges, stone monuments, & so many more amazing areas outside of the parks!
As a Moab elopement photographer, a huge part of what I help with is customized lists of locations for each & every couple. The best locations in Moab are sometimes unnamed & remote places that you won’t find listed in a book, on a map, or online. With the location lists I send to couples for elopements in Moab, I include how difficult the trails are, how hard areas are to access, what you can expect for privacy & views, the length of trails, elevation gain, photos, as well as other information specific to each location. I’m always happy to help couples all throughout the planning process for their elopements in Moab!
When to Elope in Moab, Utah
Moab has become a popular place in recent years. To best avoid some of the crowds & get the best weather for your elopement in Moab, knowing when to elope in Moab is very important.
The Busy Season of Moab
Moab has a pretty long busy season due to the mild winters & diverse landscapes with places to cool off in the summer. Moab’s busy season & time for a peak amount of tourists starts in mid to late March & continues all the way through to October or November. It used to be that Moab died down in the summer, but that hasn’t been the case in recent years. Due to the mountains nearby, lakes, streams, river, & even activities like rafting, Moab has become popular in the summer as well.
Spring in Moab
Spring is my absolute favorite time of year in Moab. But it is one of the busiest times to visit Moab because it tends to be everyone else’s favorite time of year for Moab as well! Moab tends to get most of its rain in spring. But since Moab only gets about 9 inches of rain per year, the storms that come through are usually gone pretty quickly. Nice spring weather starts early in the deserts of Moab & comes soon after to the mountains. Temperatures are very mild & comfortable. Wildflowers start to bloom. With the rain, the desert can look a little more lush than usual. The rains can also wet all of the red rock & make the colors of the sandstone really pop. If you do decide to elope in Moab during the spring, I recommend eloping before mid May as that is when many school start to get out & more people start to come. And definitely avoid Memorial Day as that is one of the most popular times all year to come to the Moab area.
Summer in Moab
Summer used to be sort of the not so busy season in Moab. But with more & more people discovering all that Moab has to offer, this isn’t the case anymore. Moab is very hot in the summer, & only if you’re lucky, you’ll get a few clouds. Many time temperatures can reach over 100F during the middle of the day & nights don’t cool off that much. The surrounding rocks retain & release so much heat. I only recommend sunrise elopements during the summer, not only due to the scorching heat, but also to avoid some of the tourists. Also be suer to avoid summer holidays as those can be quite busy times in Moab. Be careful in the heat & take a lot more water than you think you’ll need. Moab is a high desert & the higher elevations combined with the heat can really affect people.
Fall in Moab
Fall in Moab is similar to spring in weather, but many wildflowers & other plants are dried up or just look a little less lush due to the heat from the long summer. The Man-La Sal Mountains have aspen trees & other trees & shrubs that can start to change color in the fall. The lakes & rivers around Moab are also less full from the heat & dryness of the summer weather. If you want to elope in Moab during the fall, you can combine the desert & mountains for a pretty unique adventure elopement!
Winter in Moab
With winter in Moab, you never quite know what you’re going to get. It is a desert but it definitely does get cold & snowy. The weather in winter can be pretty erratic. One day it can be nice & warm, you’d just need a light jacket or no jacket if you’re hiking for your elopement. The next day, it can dump snow or rain & be very cold & wet in the Moab area. You need to be careful in the winter if you’re around cliff ledges. Snow & ice make the rocks a whole lot more slick.
Why You Should Elope on a Weekday
The middle of the week is almost always the best time for elopements in Moab. Even Mondays & Fridays can be busy because people tend to use those days to extend their weekend trips to Moab. The middle of the week will have the least amount of people, no matter what location you decide on for your Moab elopement. As a photographer in Moab, I’ve seen Moab during every part of the day, week, & year. You’re going to have a lot more privacy if you elope on a weekday. Places to stay in Moab get really booked up, & it can be much easier to find an AirBnB, lodge, campground, or hotel to stay at if your trip is during the middle of the week. You can then also easily extend your trip into the weekend.
Sunrise Verses Sunset in Moab
I get asked a lot about sunrise vs. sunset in Moab. Honestly, most locations are so similar at sunrise & sunset that it doesn’t really matter that much in terms of lighting for elopement photography in Moab. The time of year & popularity of the location is more likely to affect whether it is better as sunrise or sunset.
In the hot moths of summer, I really only recommend sunrise elopements in Moab. Sunrise will usually be the coolest part of the day, but even then it may only “cool down” to 80F or so. A lot of locations in the desert offer little to no shade. But in some areas, cliffs & rocks can provide early morning or late afternoon shade, which can make the daytime temperatures a little more bearable & sunset elopements more of a possibility. Sunrise is the coldest time of day, especially in winter, so I recommend sunset more for winter elopements.
Planning & Packing for a Moab Elopement
It can be a little overwhelming knowing where to start with planning your Moab elopement. First, just get some ideas flowing. Don’t think of everything in terms of a wedding. Just think about what a fun, perfect day for the two of you would look like. Then, decide on a general location. (I can help with specifics!) Think about where you want to go & what you want to see & do. After you have a more specific location in mind, you can start planning on permits. Then, you’ll want to also take care of your marriage license. What should you pack? hiking boots with good traction, a good water bottle, dress and suit,
Gearing Up for Your Elopement
For your elopement, there are a few essentials you’ll need…
• A good pair of hiking shoes or boots. You really want something with good traction. I highly discourage heels unless it is just for a few photos.
• A wedding dress you can move around in. You don’t want something that is too form fitting that will restrict your movements.
• A suit that isn’t too restrictive. Suits, like dresses, can at times be restrictive, so make sure you won’t split you pants moving around!
• Plenty of water. I love my Hydroflask water bottle because it is big & keeps my water cold. Camelbacks are another good option as they hold a lot of water
• Have a copy of your permit. Most places in Moab require you to carry a physical copy of your permit.
Best Places to Stay in Moab
There are a lot of great places to stay in Moab & new places are being built all the time. Moab has been growing in popularity & many places can be booked out during the busy season on Moab. Be sure to check out my list of the best AirBnBs to stay in when you are in Moab! There are quite a few unique options for AirBnBs to stay in, one even has a climbing wall!
Special Considerations for Eloping with Your Dog in the Desert
The desert of Moab gets very hot in the summer & there are some things you should take into consideration if you’re eloping with your dogs in Moab. Dogs are not allowed on any trails in either Canyonlands or Arches National Park. They can basically only go in the parking lots. Dogs are not allowed on any of the mountain biking trails in Dead Horse Point but can go on the hiking only trails in the park. Another thing to keep in mind, especially for summer, is the rocks & sand can get very hot & will burn your dog’s feet. Be sure they have booties & are used to wearing them, or plan for a time of day or year where it won’t be as hot. Also, don’t leave your dog in a hot car!
Getting to & Traveling Around Moab
Moab is located in the remote high deserts of eastern central Utah. There really isn’t much around Moab & the closest towns are also other small communities. There are a few options for airports & getting to Moab.
Getting There & the Closest Airports to Moab
The best airport to use for getting to Moab is the Grand Junction Regional Airport in Grand Junction, Colorado. Grand Junction is the closest larger town to Moab. It is located near the border of Colorado & Utah. The Grand Junction Regional Airport is just under 2 hours from Moab. The airlines that serve Grand Junction include American Airlines, Delta, United, Allegiant, & Denver Air Connection. The closest major airport is the Salt Lake City International Airport at just under 4 hours away. The Canyonlands Regional Airport is the closest airport to Moab & is just 20 minutes outside of Moab. The airport in Moab is usually a little more pricey to fly into & Salt Lake City usually has the best rates. Grand Junction rates can vary quite a bit but it’s worth checking out the various airports to weigh your options for getting into Moab.
Traveling Around the Moab Area
If you want to do some exploring around the Moab area, I definitely recommend a decent rental car if you’re flying in. If you want to do some of the Jeep routes, ATV trails, & remote dirt roads, I don’t recommend taking the nicer rental vehicles down the rough roads. There are plenty of places in Moab that do ATV & Jeep rentals. These vehicles are much more equipped for exploring around Moab & are insured for those rocky trails. But be sure you book vehicles in advance! Moab is a popular place & things book up quickly. If you are bringing your own vehicle, be sure you know your own driving limits & the limits of your vehicle. Get familiar with the routes you want to take, & always always stay on the established routes & please don’t go off the trails!
Meet Your Moab, Utah Elopement Photographer
Hey! My name is Malachi & I’m the photographer behind Shell Creek Photography. I specialize in adventurous elopements & small wedding celebrations. The more adventurous the better! Moab is a very special place to me & I want to protect it & at the same time, share the beauty of the area with others. If you’re planning an elopement in Moab, I’ll go with you in a Jeep to an epic overlook, camp overnight & take amazing star photos of you, photograph your helicopter tour of Moab, get wet & go rafting, & help you plan the best day for your elopement! There are so many places you can go & so many things you can do in Moab.
Maybe a traditional wedding isn’t for you. The family drama, big expensive wedding, etc. And wedding “traditions” don’t allow you to be you! So ditch the traditions and have an adventure wedding or elope instead! Go & get married outside. Say your vows to the only person who matters or invite a few close friends & family. An intimate wedding or elopement can be a true experience that will create amazing memories and result some epic photos! I love helping and empowering couples to elope. And while I love create amazing images for you, I want your elopement to be more than just about the photos. It’s not just a photoshoot. I’ll help you create an amazing experience that will leave you with memories for life.
I’m a Moab, Utah elopement photographer currently photographing weddings all across Colorado & Utah. I live in Montrose but always love traveling to beautiful Moab in the desert! You have many elopement photographers in the Moab area to choose from. What makes me different? I love bold, natural colors while still capturing those beautiful, heartfelt emotions. I am an adventure loving photographer with a love for Moab. Get in touch & we can talk more about your wedding in Moab, Utah!
Moab makes an amazing place to elope year round & has many diverse views & landscapes! Looking to elope in Moab? I’d love to be your Moab elopement photographer! Contact me to get started with your elopement in Moab. I can help with specific locations, permits, timelines, other wedding vendors, places to stay, things to do, & can answer all your questions about adventure elopements in Moab!