Getting married in the breathtaking Arches National Park is a dream come true for many adventure-loving couples. With its unique natural beauty, more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches, and stunning red rock formations around every turn, Arches National Park provides both a spectacular backdrop and an unforgettable experience for an elopement. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about planning your Arches National Park elopement, from permits and reservations to choosing the perfect location within the park and how to celebrate the most “you” wedding, we’re here to bring inspiration and answer all of your questions along the way!
- How to get to Arches National Park
- What do I need to elope in Arches National Park?
- Best Time to Elope in Arches National Park
- Choosing a Ceremony Location for Your Arches National Park Elopement
- Activities for your Arches National Park Elopement
- Best Places To Stay for your Arches National Park Elopement
- Finding an Arches National Park Elopement Photographer
- Frequently Asked Questions about Eloping in Arches National Park
How to get to Arches National Park
Before we dive into the logistics of planning your Arches National Park Elopement, it’s important to have a plan on how you’re going to get there! Chances are, you’ll be flying into one of the closer airports or including your elopement at Arches as part of a big Southwest tour. The closest airport is Canyonlands Field (CNY), which practically lands you in the town of Moab, but it is a small airport and therefore the priciest. It is less than a 20-minute drive from the airport to the city center. Next would be Grand Junction Regional Airport (GJT) for a roughly 1 hour and 45 minute drive, and lastly Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) for a four hour drive.
If you’re looking to include additional places like Zion National Park, Page Arizona, or Capital Reef National Park in your trip, you may want to consider flying into Las Vegas. While it is a 7 hour drive from the airport to Moab, this is a common option for couples looking to visit multiple national parks and monuments in a single trip! As I’m sure you’ve picked up on this, regardless of the route that you select, it is super important to rent a vehicle to get around the area. If you haven’t been out to the desert before, you’ll quickly realize there are huge stretches of land between locations. But it’s all beautiful country to drive through, so the time behind the wheel is very enjoyable.
What do I need to elope in Arches National Park?
The list of essential items to share an elopement in Arches National Park is not long at all. At a minimum, you’ll be required to pull a Special Use Permit with the park for your ceremony, a Utah marriage license, an officiant to direct the event (we include this with all of our elopement packages), and two witnesses!
Obtaining a marriage license in Utah
The two most common ways our couples receive their marriage license are by utilizing the fully online option available through Utah County or by setting up an appointment with the Clerks office in the town of Moab. The online option is super convenient, however you don’t have a physical paper to sign during your elopement day. If having the paperwork in hand is meaningful to you and the symbolism of the day, then we recommend stopping at the Moab office to receive your license. A plus for eloping in Utah is that there is no waiting period for your marriage license to become valid, so once you have it in hand you can use it the very same day. Just be mindful with traveling that the clerk’s office in Moab has bank hours and isn’t open on the weekends, so if you do plan to have a physical copy in hand, be sure to plan your travel around their hours!
Obtaining a Special Use Permit for Your Arches National Park Wedding
When choosing to elope in Arches National Park, it’s important to be mindful of the policies that surround allowing a wedding to take place. National parks in particular have a stricter set of rules when it comes to holding your wedding on public lands. This is because national parks are most often designed with the infrastructure to cater to large groups of the public. Because we’ll be sharing a natural wonder with others and future generations, the preservation of the landscape is a top priority of park officials.
With that said, to elope in Arches National Park, you’ll acquire your permit from the Arches National Park website. The permit fee costs a total of $185.00, and 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, but from our experience, we always tell our couples to apply as early as possible. This for two reasons! The first being that the staff at public parks have pretty high work loads and the designated permit officer(s) do many more tasks than just manage wedding permits, filming permits, special events, etc. With a popular park like Arches, you have to imagine their inboxes fill up every day. Second, while a permit doesn’t grant you exclusive use of an area, it does guarantee that you’ll be the only ceremony taking place during your permitted time slot. Applying early is a way to ensure that you can secure the ceremony locations that you’ve had your heart set on.
How to Apply for a Special Use Permit
You’re looking to elope in Arches National Park because you likely want to escape the formality of a traditional wedding and the needless stress of planning every little detail down to napkin colors. So understandably the idea of needing a permit might cause a bit of hesitation. While you will need to apply for the permit yourself (A photographer or planner cannot submit permits for the park on your behalf), we promise it’s a very simple process and we are happy to help if any questions arise during the application process.
On the permit, you have to fill in you and your partners personal information, the time you want and any alternative times, the date you want and any alternative dates, the location you want and any alternative locations, the maximum number of people and vehicles, as well as notes about the proposed activity. Here is the link to 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! During the busy season, timed reservations are still required for you to access the park! That’s why it’s important to work with someone familiar with the park, how busy it is, and the regulations they have. The Special Use Permit for Arches National Park also does not guarantee you or your guests any parking, so carpooling is an absolute must with larger group sizes.
Rules for eloping in Arches
When deciding to elope in Arches National Park, there are a handful of things the park requires that you do not do or include in your wedding day. You’ll see these same rules on your finalized permit as well as on the National Park’s website. Below is a general list of requirements from the park:
- Protecting Natural Resources: Weddings are only permitted on stable rock bed, within dry washes, or on maintained trails/areas of the park to protect plants and sensitive biological crust like cryptobiotic soil.
- Bouquets: To prevent the spread of invasive species into Arches, dried florals, including grasses, are prohibited in floral arrangements.
- Releases: Releasing butterflies, and all other living and/or inanimate object releases or dispersal, including birdseed and rice, are strictly prohibited. In conjunction with maintaining LNT, the permit holder is responsible for cleaning up after themselves and their wedding party.
- Decorations: To maintain the natural landscape and not impact other visitors experience, no setups of any kind are permitted for your wedding ceremony. This means no free-standing (additional) arches, banner displays, signs directing your wedding party, or anything of the sort. The only potential setup which you may be allowed is folding chairs for members of your wedding group who are unable to stand during your ceremony.
- Obstructions: The permit holder may not obstruct sidewalks, trails, parking lots, or other visitor facilities. This includes the use of tents, tables, or other furniture.
- Food: The establishment of caterers or any food service is prohibited.
- Audio Disturbance: No amplification system is permitted and music volumes are highly regulated (Re: 36 CFR 2.12). Noise levels must not exceed normal speaking volumes.
- Vehicles: All vehicles must be parked in designated areas only; no off-road traffic. Carpooling is recommended and may be required at specific locations.
- Pets: Pets are typically not allowed at ceremony sites, particularly those areas off pavement or in other undeveloped locations.
- Drones: Operating a drone is prohibited.
- Monitor: Activities will be monitored or spot checked by NPS personnel for compliance with the terms and conditions of the permit and to ensure that no resource damage or visitor conflicts are occurring.
- Time limit: If the requested ceremony location is under or immediately adjacent to an arch or scenic feature, then the ceremony may have a required time limit of 15 minutes, depending on time of day, time of year, and other visitation patters and factors. Locations likely to contain a time limit in the permit conditions are The Windows Section, Sand Dune Arch, Pine Tree Arch, and Park Avenue due to the congested nature of those locations.
Best Time to Elope in Arches National Park
While the best time to elope in Arches National Park will vary by the couple and their desires, here are things to consider that are important to most. The park is especially popular from mid-May through mid-September. This means ticketed entry and lots of traffic from sun up to sun down. If you’re looking to avoid the crowds but still want to enjoy the favorable weather, then “shoulder season”, being mid March through mid May and mid September through November allows for plenty of sunshine with much less of the other visitors. If privacy is one of the most important factors for you, then eloping in arches during December, January, or February will provide that option. Keep in mind that March and April can be windy, which lends itself to some epic photographs.
Sunrise vs. Sunset
In terms of lighting and ambiance, sunrise and sunset are great options for almost everywhere in the park. However, sunrise will always offer more privacy, as fewer people are looking to wake up early to explore the park. While sharing your vows with your partner as the sun crests through an iconic arch is an absolute dream, understandably the average person visiting the area doesn’t have a strong reason to wake up while it’s dark and travel into the park.
Don’t count out sunset though! There are plenty of places within the park that would allow you to escape the crowds still and enjoy sleeping in during the morning. Choosing sunrise or sunset comes down to envisioning what you’d like your elopement day to feel like and how you’d like the entire experience to unfold as a whole.
Weekdays vs. Weekends
While sunrise vs sunset relies much more on the full elopement experience, we always recommend to our couples that they plan to have their elopement on a weekday rather than a weekend. Tuesday through Thursday are statistically the
least busy days of the week in most tourist towns, so planning your trip during this time period enhances the intimacy of your planning by default. Do your best to avoid weekends unless you’re planning your elopement during the less popular winter months. We completely understand that given work or restrictions otherwise, you may be unable to schedule your elopement on a weekday. In those circumstances, we do recommend a sunrise ceremony rather than a sunset one.
Choosing a Ceremony Location for Your Arches National Park Elopement
Arches National Park offers ten designated spots for wedding or elopement ceremonies. While it is possible to request other locations, they require a full compliance review and are unlikely to be approved. Below is a list of where you can hold a wedding ceremony in Arches National Park:
La Sal Mountains Viewpoint
The La Sal Mountains Viewpoint is an underrated area that offers impressive desert and red rock views, as well as, as the name suggests, a beautiful view point of the Manti La-Sal Mountains.
Group Size Limit: 50 people
Accessibility: Easy; this is a park and you’re there kind of location Best Time of Day: Sunrise or sunset
The Windows Section (North Window, South Window, Turret Arch, or Double Arch)
The Windows Section is a concentrated area of arches within Arches National Park, featuring North Window, South Window, Turret Arch, and Double Arch. This area is one of the most popular locations within the park given the accessibility to so many grand features. Each arch is its own ceremony location, however the following information applies to them all.
Group Size Limit: 25 people
Accessibility: Moderate, each arch is close to the same parking lot so hiking (looking for tips on hiking during your elopement?) distances are all similar. They are all family friendly so long as all of your guests are capable of hiking with very slight variations in elevation. Best Time of Day: Sunrise or Sunset
Popularity: Very popular
Sand Dune Arch
Sand Dune Arch is a unique location nestled within sandstone fins that form both wide and narrow slot canyons. This elopement spot offers a more intimate and secluded feel if you catch it without any crowds. We will say, however, that given the tucked-in nature and popularity of this location, while it’s a fantastic spot to have your portraits captured, the busyness can quickly throw off the intimacy of your wedding ceremony.
Group Size Limit: 25 people
Accessibility: Easy. Mostly flat hiking through sand leads you to this iconic location Best Time of Day: Sunrise
Pine Tree Arch
Pine Tree Arch is a more secluded location within Arches National Park, offering a shady hike and stunning views of the La Sal Mountains. While it still receives plenty of traffic throughout the day, it is much less busy than the Windows Section.
Group Size Limit: 25 people
Accessibility: Moderate. This one definitely requires some hiking to get to. While it isn’t a difficult hike by any means, you may want to exclude this option if someone in your group has accessibility issues. Best Time of Day: Sunrise or sunset
Popularity: Somewhat popular
Park Avenue offers majestic views of sandstone formations, making it a fantastic location for an Arches National Park wedding. It is one of the first stops that you’ll come across after coming through the main entrance of the park and up and over the switchbacks. Parking here is extremely limited.
Group Size Limit: 15 people
Accessibility: Moderate. The hiking begins on a paved walkway before leading to a primitive trail that deposits you into a dry wash. Best Time of Day: Sunrise or sunset. Popularity: Popular
Devil’s Garden Campground Amphitheater
The Devil’s Garden Campground Amphitheater is the only location for larger weddings within the park. There is built-in seating and a private area unlikely to draw any park visitors outside of your wedding party. The parking here is very limited, so shuttling is required for a larger group.
Group Size Limit: 80 people
Accessibility: Easy. This is a short walk from the parking area around a corner and then you’re there! Best Time of Day: Sunrise or Sunset
Panorama Point offers panoramic views of the park’s canyons, valleys, and other features, providing a stunning backdrop for your Arches National Park elopement.
Group Size Limit: 50 people
Accessibility: Very Easy Best Time of Day: Sunrise or Sunset
Activities for your Arches National Park Elopement
You’ve searched your heart, and you and your partner couldn’t be happier with any other place than sharing your elopement in Arches. The park is somewhere you’ve visited over time and it already has a special place in your heart, or it’s a must-do destination to kick off this next stage in your relationship. We couldn’t be more stoked! But other than sharing your vows, what else is there to do? Remember, the whole day is your wedding day and it deserves to be filled with activities that are a direct reflection of your relationship. The vows you share will be unforgettable for sure, but all of the moments in between throughout your day are just as special. Below is a list of ideas to include during your elopement in Arches National Park:
- Go star gazing and catch the MilkyWay as it passes through the arches
- Hike to a secluded section of the park for a private picnic
- Go canyoneering down one of the iconic canyons in the park
- Explore the dirt roads that run through Arches
- Share a first look with your partner before your intimate elopement ceremony
- Exchange gifts
Activities for your elopement outside of Arches National Park
Above is just a short list to help inspire ideas of what to include in your Arches Elopement while in the park. One of the main appeals to eloping in Arches National Park however is that you’re extremely close to the town of Moab, which is a gateway to so many iconic elopement locations. Here’s a further list to provide a fuller picture of all that is available to include on your wedding day:
- Go offroading in a rental Jeep, ATV, or your own personal rock crawler on one of the many iconic offroading trails
- Have a rock climbing wedding by including a multi-pitch or hanging out at a favorite crag
- Raft on the Colorado River
- Visit Dead Horse Point State Park
- Take a trip out to Canyonlands National Park
- Go to the food truck park in Moab
- Hike to one of the many Arches outside of the park
Best Places To Stay for your Arches National Park Elopement
The landscape surrounding Arches National Park is truly stunning in every direction. While choosing the best location to stay while eloping in the park comes down to multiple factors, we’ll be highlighting the locations which place you closest to the park.
- Under Canvas Moab – A favorite for eloping couples, Under Canvas is less than 15 minutes from the main park entrance and offers an intimate and beautiful stay to include in your elopement experience.
- An Airbnb in Moab – We know this isn’t a specific location, however by selecting a home in Moab, you’ll be no more than 20 minutes from the park entrance and can have all the comforts of home. Our biggest advice when choosing a location for your stay is if you’d like getting ready coverage captured, be sure there is lots of natural light and aim for a location without green, orange, red, or neon walls. As a bit of a photography side note, these colors in tight spaces can affect the way your skin tone is captured in camera, so we always advise when possible to avoid it!
- A Hotel in Moab – Again, not being too specific here and the same advice from above applies, but mainly we’re making these suggestions as they’ll place you central to the area.
Keeping in mind that you’re elopement day isn’t likely only going to include time spent in Arches National Park, it may be more ideal to stay further out of town like at Sorrel Ranch to be closer to Fisher Towers at sunrise or maybe within Spanish Valley if we’ll be headed to some Arches south of town. Don’t stress about it though, we go over all of this in the planning stages to be sure that your elopement experience is exactly as you dream it, down to every detail.
Finding an Arches National Park Elopement Photographer
Hey there! We are Traci + Bill, a husband and wife, elopement photographer team. At Adventure and Vow, we are both ordained and include officiating with all of our elopement packages. We also offer video packages with any of photography coverage. We love getting to share this little slice of the desert with our couples while capturing their wedding day.
Your Arches National Park elopement deserves to be captured by an experienced and skilled elopement photographer who knows the park like the back of their hand. An elopement photographer team will not only be there to document all of the special moments you share during your elopement, but also help you navigate all of the logistics, avoid the crowds, and select the perfect spots for your ceremony and photos. Arches and the greater Moab area is like home to us and we can not wait to hear all about your elopement day!
Frequently Asked Questions about Eloping in Arches National Park
Outside of and including your elopement in Arches National Park, below is a list of a few commonly asked questions when it comes to visiting the park.
Can I bring my pet to my elopement in Arches National Park?
The short answer is most likely not. Like most national parks, pets are only allowed on specific designated trails, in campgrounds, and within a set distance of paved roads and parking lots. This means that your pup can’t come along for any ceremony location that requires any hiking at all, limiting your ceremony choice to the amphitheater. We would only ever recommend that you select the amphitheater for your ceremony location if you have a very large group, and due to the limited parking at this ceremony location, it would be a better idea to look into a Venue for your ceremony like Red Earth Venue.
Will I need a reservation to enter Arches National Park?
If you’re heading into the park during the busy season you may need a ticket for your entry. This is because the reservation system is in effect from 7 am through 4 pm, meaning anytime before or after these times will allow you to enter the park without a reservation but during that period, you will need one.
How long does it take to Drive through Arches National Park?
The scenic drive in Arches spans 22 miles. To fully appreciate the drive, make sure to set aside at least 4-5 hours to experience the drive and make short stops of 10 – 20 minutes at all of the scenic viewpoints. If hiking in Arches is also on your agenda, then be sure to allow yourself even more time to fully explore this beautiful place.
Eloping in Arches National Park is an unforgettable experience, but proper planning is crucial to ensure your day runs smoothly. From obtaining the necessary permits and reservations to choosing the perfect location and hiring an experienced Arches National Park elopement photographer, this guide is here to help you create the wedding of your dreams amidst the awe-inspiring beauty of Arches National Park.