Couple gets married in Arches National Park at the La Sal Viewpoint at sunrise.

How to Elope in Arches National Park

Arches National Park is really an amazing display of nature. The massive arches & sandstone canyons are evidence of what beauty wind & water can create over time. And did you know there are over 2,000 (yes, two THOUSAND) natural stone arches in Arches National Park?! It is the most concentrated collection of natural stone arches in the world. It is truly a unique place to visit. Not all of these arches are created equally though. The national park has roads & trails built to the largest, most prominent arches but there are many hidden ones & smaller ones throughout the park. There are a couple of things to know for how to elope in Arches National Park.

A Little About the Moab Area

Moab has become a sort of “mecca” for outdoor & adventure loving people of all sorts. There are not only the kinda standard outdoor things like hiking & off-roading, but it also has great places for canyoneering, climbing, rappelling, skydiving, base jumping, river rafting, slacklining, hot air balloon rides, helicopter tours, & more!

Moab is a great place to see some amazing red rock structures whether it is arches, canyons, cliffs, towers, or just the sheer amount of red rock! Many first time visitors to the Moab area are just so impressed with the amount & color of the red rocks here. Moab is home to two national parks & a state park, but so much of Moab’s beauty is outside of these parks in lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Moab also has some beautiful mountains that add a little bit of beautiful blue contrast to the mostly red desert.

Keep in mind that the Moab area is considered a high desert. It’s not a low elevation desert which means the elevation definitely can affect you if you’re not used to it. Moab also does get a fair amount of snow & it can be quite cold during parts of the winter.

Groom cries during wedding vows as the bride wipes his tears.

Leave No Trace in Arches

Before reading more details on how to elope in Arches National Park, it’s super important that we first talk about leave no trace in Arches & the Moab area. While the desert may look pretty harsh & tough, it is actually a very sensitive environment.

One of the most unique & important things to know about is the cryptobiotic soil crust that helps make life in the desert possible. When you look out into the desert around Moab, it may just look like some brush & a bunch of dirt. But that dirt is alive & is highly sensitive! One step off a trail will damage what has taken years to form. It is vital to stick to trails, washes, or hard surfaces such as slick rock. Crypto soil helps stop erosion & helps out plants which then also help out the critters that call Moab home. It is also illegal to step on crypto soil & you really don’t want to get into trouble on your wedding day. There is more that goes into leave no trace in Moab, but this is one of the most important things to know that is more unique to Moab.

When to Elope in Arches National Park

With being such a popular national park (it can see 1.7 million+ people a year), timing can be everything in making sure you have the experience you want for your wedding in Arches National Park. From early spring through late fall, & even sometimes in the winter, Arches National Park will close its gates when it gets full. It doesn’t matter if you have a permit, if they close the gates, you’re not getting in until they open it up later in the day. If you choose the right time of day, the right time of the week, & the right time of the year, you can have a much more enjoyable experience in Arches!

Sunrise vs. Sunset

Both sunrise & sunset are great options for almost everywhere in the park. I have shot at many of the locations around Arches at both times of the day & both are usually great! However, sunrise is usually going to give you the most privacy. Most people don’t want to get up at 6am or earlier to beat the crowds in Arches National Park. This means there are fewer people around. The parking in Arches is extremely limited as well. At sunrise, you are so much more likely to find parking spots at the places you want to go.

Sunset during a thunderstorm in Moab with a double rainbow.
Don’t cancel just because of a storm! Rain moves out fast in the desert & created epic sunsets!

Weekdays vs. Weekends

If at all possible, avoid weekends unless it is a less popular time of year such as winter. If you have to do a weekend, I only recommend sunrise, not sunset! Because Arches is popular & parking is extremely limited, I always strongly recommend that any guests & vendors carpool. Take as few cars as possible so that everyone has a better chance at getting a parking spot. If you’re having more than a few guests, it can be a good idea to arrange transportation for them.

Graph showing the least busy to the most busy times in Arches National Park in Moab, Utah.
Knowing when to elope in Arches can help you avoid the crowds

The Best Times of Year

Moab is a popular year-round destination but is especially popular from mid-May through mid-September. It is moderately popular in March, April, October, & November. It is the least popular during December, February, & March. There are so many things that can affect the popularity of Moab & it shifts from year to year. But the nicest weather is from about April through early June & then late September through November. I really do not recommend eloping in Moab during the summer months unless you want to be in the water or rafting! Moab gets seriously hot in the summer & gets over 100ºF fairly regularly during the warmest months. If I had to narrow it down more, I would say May & October are probably my favorite months for eloping in Arches National Park!

How to Elope in Arches National Park

To elope in Arches National Park, you will need a special use permit from the administration at the park. The permit fee costs a total of $185.00 & you can apply for the permit up to a year before your wedding date. The park now requires that you submit your permit at least 4 weeks in advance of your date.

Get a Special Use Permit for Weddings & Elopements in Arches

A special use permit is required for elopements & weddings in Arches National Park. The permit for weddings & elopements reduces user conflicts & it helps support the national parks. Just think of it as a small donation towards the beauty you get to enjoy for your wedding day! You will need to apply for the permit yourself. A photographer or planner cannot submit permits for the park on your behalf. I’m always happy to help with what information to put down & what time to write in!

On the permit, you have to fill in your personal information, the time you want & any alternative times, the date you want & any alternative dates, the location you want & any alternative locations, the maximum number of people & vehicles, as well as notes about the proposed activity. Submit this permit at least 4 weeks in advance of your date. Sometimes quicker turnaround times are possible but don’t count on it. If you don’t have the permit, you cannot have a ceremony in the park. I’ve been asked many times before if elopements with just 2 people really need a permit & the answer is yes. You can get a special use permit on the Arches National Park website.

Please note: The special use permit does NOT guarantee you or your guests access to the park! The park regularly closes due to it being full. That’s why it’s important to work with someone who is familiar with the park, how busy it is, & the regulations they have. The special use permit for Arches National Park also does not guarantee you or your guests any parking. You also must have a national park pass or pay the entrance fees.

Know the Rules of the Park

Just because it is your special day, it does not mean that the rules don’t apply to you. We have to respect the parks & respect the experience of other visitors around us.

If we are taking photos directly under arches, we can only spend 10 minutes at a time directly under the arches so that others can enjoy the view. But there are so many arches to go to & you can still go to areas with the amazing arches in the background!

You have to clean up anything you bring into a site & must stick to the trails, slick rock, washes, & other durable surfaces. That crypto soil is sensitive & we don’t want to harm it! Folding chairs are sometimes allowed but they must be stated in the permit that you submit to the rangers at Arches.

The following activities are not allowed in Arches National Park:

  • using rice, birdseed, confetti, or any non-native plant seed, this also means no seeded bouquets
  • releasing wildlife or insects such as butterflies or doves
  • holding your wedding within any cultural resource site such as Native American archaeological sites
  • setting up structures or items such as tables, tents, caterering, sound systems, arbors, altars, etc.
  • use of alcohol, not even champagne
  • taking dogs or pets on any trails, your dog can only be in parking lots
  • playing musical instruments
  • amplified sound from speakers or other such devices

Trust me, you DON’T want to get kicked out of the park or fined during your wedding or elopement! Follow the rules & you’ll have a great time! 😉

Choosing a Ceremony Location in Arches National Park

Arches National Park has a number of designated spots for wedding or elopement ceremonies. You can request other locations but they do have to do a full compliance review & you’d need to submit your permit more than 4 weeks in advance.

Use the map below to see all the preapproved ceremony locations! Keep on scrolling to see more photos & information about each spot.

La Sal Mountains Viewpoint

The La Sal Mountains Viewpoint is one of the first areas that you’ll come across along the park road. It is a more underrated area that isn’t nearly as popular as some of the other spots in the park. At this viewpoint in the park, there are great desert & red rock views but in the other direction, there are great views of the Manti La-Sal Mountains.

Group Size Limit: 50 people. Lots of room to spread out.

Accessibility: Easy. The walk to the view is rocky but relatively flat.

Best Time of Day: Sunrise or sunset

Popularity: Moderate. This area is a less popular overlook.

The Windows Section

The Windows Section is one of the most concentrated areas of arches within Arches National Park. This does tend to make the area a little more popular for photos, elopements, & weddings in the park. There are four main, distinct arches here– North Window, South Window, Turret Arch, & Double Arch. Be sure you & your guests arrive plan enough time to find parking here.

North Window

North Window is one of the most popular spots to view sunrises in Arches National Park. While it is stunning at sunrise, there is almost always a crowd of people here waiting for sunrise so I don’t recommend this spot right at sunrise, instead head there a little after sunrise or at sunset.

Group Size Limit: 25 people. Space & areas to go are a little more limited around this arch.

Accessibility: Moderate. Some stairs but an easy little hike.

Best Time of Day: A little after sunrise, right at sunrise it is crowded. Sunset can also work.

Popularity: Very popular. Right at sunrise, a small crowd gathers here.

South Window

South Window is located right near North Window but is less popular because you can’t really go right up to it. This arch is a good background arch but you can’t really go under it. Some of the best views of it are from Turret Arch & the trails that connect the arches in the Windows Section.

Group Size Limit: 25 people. Space & areas to go are very limited around this arch.

Accessibility: Moderate. Some stairs but an easy little hike.

Best Time of Day: Sunrise, or sunset can also work.

Popularity: Popular. This arch is harder to get right up to but makes a nice backdrop.

Turret Arch

Turret Arch is a little more unique as it isn’t a big round arch. This arch is still large, but it is more tall & skinny. This arch also has great views of the valley around. Getting to the backside of this arch does require some climbing & scrambling up the rocks under the arch depending on what views you are wanting. But it also does have easy to access areas right in front of the arch.

Group Size Limit: 25 people. Decent amount of flat space in front of or behind this arch.

Accessibility: Moderate. Some stairs but an easy little hike to the base of the arch, going to other areas require scrambling up rocks.

Best Time of Day: Sunrise or sunset.

Popularity: Popular. This arch isn’t quite as popular as other arches in the Windows Section.

Double Arch

Double Arch seems to be a favorite elopement location of couples in Arches National Park. Many have commented that it just really looks like a wedding arbor, others have said that they love it as it is a double arch & it kinda signifies to them the marrying of two people. The area in front of this arch is easy to access, but if you’re feeling brave & adventurous, you can also do some scrambling under the arches to get some epic photos!

Group Size Limit: 25 people. Decent amount of flat space in front of these arches.

Accessibility: Easy. A flat, sandy trail that is easy to walk.

Best Time of Day: Sunrise or sunset.

Popularity: Popular. These arches are more popular for elopements in the area since they make a great background.

Sand Dune Arch

Sand Dune Arch is a unique little arch within some sandstone fins that form both wide & narrow slot canyons. Couples love to explore this little area because it can give a wide variety of photos. It’s an easy walk for most people but if you’re having elderly guests, make sure they can walk through deeper sand ok.

Group Size Limit: 25 people. Lots of space in the canyon & around the arch

Accessibility: Easy. A flat, very sandy trail that is easy to walk but you do sink into the sand a bit.

Best Time of Day: Mid morning or mid afternoon, not right at sunrise or sunset.

Popularity: Popular. This little arch sees a decent amount of people but has a smaller parking lot so usually not too busy.

Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch is one of my favorite places for elopements in Arches National Park! If you want to elope here, it does require a decent hike up. You also have to plan for the right time of day as it is a more popular spot. On this hike, there is room for a smaller group of people if you’re having guests & it has other viewpoints other than the arch. You have to be in shape to do this harder hike!

Group Size Limit: 10 people. There are canyon areas along the trail on the way up & spots with views of the arch.

Accessibility: Moderate to hard. Steep trail over slick rock with some hiking on ledges.

Best Time of Day: Sunrise. At sunset, there can be just way too many people here.

Popularity: Very popular. This is THE arch to see so it is popular. Plan to start parking & hiking before sunrise or you won’t get parking.

Delicate Arch Viewpoint

Delicate Arch Viewpoint is located just down from Delicate Arch & offers a far away view of it. I personally don’t recommend this as a spot for weddings or elopement in Arches National Park. The only reason I would recommend it is if it is important to have Delicate Arch in the background but you or guests can’t make the hike. Keep in mind the view of the arch is from far away & it doesn’t look that significant.

Group Size Limit: 25 people. There are canyon areas along the trail on the way up & spots with views of the arch.

Accessibility: Easy. Fairly flat trail that leads to a view of Delicate Arch in the distance.

Best Time of Day: Sunrise. At sunset, there can be just way too many people here.

Popularity: Very popular. This is THE arch to see so it is popular. Plan to start parking before sunrise or you may not get parking.

Pine Tree Arch

Pine Tree Arch is a great little hike without being too strenuous. It is a mostly sandy trail with some ups & downs through some hills. This arch is large, impressive, & slightly more private since it is a little more of a hike. Great views at sunrise with the sun shining through the arch.

Group Size Limit: 25 people. Decent amount of flat sandy & rocky spots under & around this arch.

Accessibility: Moderate. Trail with some small hills that leads directly to this arch in the Devil’s Garden.

Best Time of Day: Sunrise or sunset. Sunrise gets more light in the arch.

Popularity: Somewhat popular. Devil’s Garden is very popular though & parking fills quickly, this arch can give you some privacy.

Landscape Arch

Landscape Arch is one of the longest natural stretches of stone in the world at 306 feet across. It is really impressive & cool to see, however, it isn’t the best elopement location in Arches National Park in my opinion. There are lots of fences & rails, getting the arch in the background of photos is a little more difficult, & there’s a limited amount of space. You could take photos here but I’d say there are better spots for your ceremony.

Group Size Limit: 10 people. Limited amount of space here, there are also railings & fences.

Accessibility: Moderate. Trail with some small hills that leads directly to this arch in the Devil’s Garden.

Best Time of Day: Sunrise or sunset.

Popularity: Somewhat popular. Devil’s Garden is very popular though & parking fills quickly.

Park Avenue

Park Avenue is an impressive little trail through some sandstone towers & canyons. There are two points that you can enter the trail from. I personally like the trailhead that starts from the top (more southern) part of the canyon. There’s an easy overlook to go to or you can hike down more into the canyon for different views.

Group Size Limit: 15 people. Somewhat limited amount of space but a longer trail for different views.

Accessibility: Moderate. Trail with some elevation fall & gain, rocky areas, & some light hiking.

Best Time of Day: Sunrise or sunset.

Popularity: Popular. There are two ways to access Park Avenue depending on what spot you want to go to.

Devil’s Garden Campground Amphitheater

This amphitheater is a great location for weddings in Arches National Park. It has a lot of seating available that is built into the amphitheater so no need to bring any setup or chairs! This area also has some of the best parking available here. Rangers restrict access to the campground to campers only. If you have a permit for this location, there is designated parking for the amphitheater that will be open & easy to get a spot. This area also has impressive views of Skyline Arch & isn’t far from the Devil’s Garden area trails.

Group Size Limit: 80 people. Lots of space & there is also built in seating at the amphitheater. Great for weddings in Arches.

Accessibility: Easy. Flat, very well maintained trail that is a short walk from the parking lot.

Best Time of Day: Sunset, sunrise can also work.

Popularity: Moderate. The amphitheater doesn’t see nearly as much foot traffic since it isn’t a main trail.

Panorama Point

Panorama Point is just as it sounds. There are panoramic views of the canyons, valleys, & other features of Arches National Park. If you have more guests & are concerned about parking, this is a great location for weddings in Arches National Park with more guests. Picnic tables & shade/rain shelters here can also be helpful as they aren’t found in most other areas of the park.

Group Size Limit: 50 people. Lots of space to spread out, some picnic tables here. Great for weddings in Arches.

Accessibility: Very easy. Flat, very well maintained area that is just steps from the parking lot.

Best Time of Day: Sunrise is slightly better but sunset can also work for this overlook.

Popularity: Moderate. This overlook is not very popular & is much easier to get parking.

Getting to Moab & Arches National Park

Where should you fly into to get to Moab & Arches? Most people immediately think of the Salt Lake City International Airport. It is a good option for a larger airport, but it is a 4 hour drive away. I highly recommend looking into the Grand Junction Regional Airport. It is 1.5 hours away & is located just over the state border in Colorado. The Canyonlands Field Airport is also another option you can look into, just outside of Moab.

There is not a great public transportation system or shuttles for the Moab area, so it is best to rent a car to get around. If you’re sticking to main roads & highways, any car will do. However, Moab has a ton of dirt roads that range from beginner to hard to navigate & renting a Jeep from an outfitter can be really fun to take you on some of Moab’s back roads!

Pro Tips for How To Elope in Arches National Park

• The park fills up & closes its gates. Follow the park on Twitter & turn on notifications to get notified the instant it opens & closes!

• The middle of the day is the warmest & busiest part of the day. My advice is to never plan an elopement or wedding in Arches National Park during the middle of the day.

• If you are having any guests, be sure they carpool & be sure the cars are full of passengers, I cannot emphasize this enough, parking is extremely limited. If you have a larger amount of guests, it may be best to use a transportation service.

• I do not recommend the summer months at all, highs are usually around 100ºF or more & sometimes even at sunrise it can be 80ºF or more.

• Moab is dry & at high elevation. Be sure to drink lots of water & be sure to eat. Sometimes the heat & elevation can make you feel like not eating, continue to eat throughout the day so you don’t get sick later.

Vendors for Elopements in Arches National Park

Need some vendor recommendations for your wedding or elopement in Arches National Park? Check out some recommendations below. When you book with me, you get an even bigger vendor list! Moab is a remote community & it can be hard to find vendors.

Alternative Locations to Arches National Park

I get it, Arches National Park is an amazing location for a wedding or elopement. But it is extremely popular. Having a ton of tourists around may not be exactly what you had in mind for your day. But did you know that there are a ton of arches & other epic locations outside of Arches National Park? Moab is surrounded by a seemingly endless amount of public lands. Many locations are located on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) lands. These Moab BLM locations do require a permit. But vendors such as myself hold yearly permits to Moab BLM lands so you don’t have to worry about permits! Contact me if you want to get off the beaten path & explore some of Moab’s hidden gems!

All of these photos are taken on various BLM Lands around Moab!

Malachi Lewis at Shell Creek Photography in Moab, Utah

Meet Your Photographer for Arches National Park

Hey! My name is Malachi Lewis, owner & photographer here at Shell Creek Photography. I am an expert on Arches National Park– I’ve been down every single road & have hike every single trail in Arches! Few others know the park like I do.

I always say in another life I’d be a park ranger or adventure guide & I kinda get to do something similar with adventurous wedding & elopements in national parks. Navigating the permit processes, planning for weather, & going at times that are less busy are just a few of the things I help with. View more pricing & get in touch to start planning your elopement in Arches National Park!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *