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landscape image overlooking Canyonlands National Park

How to Elope in Moab, utah

KATIE BERG PHOTO || Moab, UTah wedding & elopement photographer - Updated for 2022

Whether it's exploring the expansive red rock canyons of Canyonlands National Park or running through the warm desert sands of Arches National Park, as your personal Moab wedding photographer, I'll be there to capture every second of your love in one of the most mesmerizing parts of our country. Because you deserve more than just incredible photos, you deserve the ultimate adventure in the most perfect and memorable place imaginable.

Ready for your next adventure?

Let me be your guide!

AN EPIC LOCATION FOR EPIC LOVE

If you’re wanting to get married somewhere with breathtaking landscapes that are as monumental and deep as your love - you’ve found it! Take it from a professional Moab wedding photographer -- Moab is truly the dreamiest desert destination based in Utah and the hub for all things “adventure” related! Moab is made up of three main parks: Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park.

wedding ceremony at moab national park during sunset

In this guide, we will cover:

  • Why You Should Elope
  • Best Time of Year
  • Sunrise or Sunset?
  • Permits & Marriage Licenses
  • The Best Locations
  • Things to Do
  • Where to Stay
  • Wifi
  • Getting There
  • Leave No Trace Principles
  • newly married couple embrace while standing alongside canyon in Moab, Utah

    Why elope?

    My husband and I eloped! It’s true! We made the decision to have a small, intimate, intentional and meaningful wedding day in a national park with only 25 of our closest family members. And it was magic!

    Eloping isn't about saving money or the stress of a bigger, more traditional wedding. It's all about YOU and the connection you share. It's about creating the most meaningful and incredible experience for you and your relationship. It's beautiful, emotional, intimate and unforgettable.

    Whatever your reasons are for eloping, it truly is the most incredible way to start your new life together with a once-in-a-lifetime adventure in the most special and unique way and as an extra added bonus — it opens up all the possibilities of marrying in an absolutely EPIC location!

    Still not sold on whether or not you should elope? Check out my blog post below!

    FOR THAT ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME “JUST THE TWO OF US” EXPERIENCE

    10 reasons why you should elope

    How to elope in moab, Utah

    1. Choose your dates and length of trip

    2. Send me an inquiry for a FREE elopement consultation

    3. Hire me to help you plan your epic day — I’ll help you plan EVERYTHING from locations, vendors and timelines to day-of activities, permits, accommodations and anything in between

    4. Apply for a marriage license

    5. We’ll have an adventure in the location you chose in Moab, Utah, create some epic pics and celebrate the start of a new chapter of your lives together!

    Best time to elope in Yosemite national Park

    When planning your elopement, one of the biggest things to take into consideration is the time of year! While it’s true that there’s no time of the year where you won’t get the most amazing experience of your life, each season will still bring its own unique set of elements to the day that you might want to consider when choosing your elopement date.

    SPRING: Yosemite in the Spring time is so so beautiful! This is when the park is at its most green and the waterfalls are gushing like crazy! One thing to keep in mind with springtime in Yosemite is that the valley meadows and fields are often left a little muddy from all the rain. If you're not afraid to get a little dirty, this shouldn't be a problem! When it does rain, it's usually light but it's still a good idea to bring umbrellas just in case. The clear kind are my favs and make for super cute rainy pics as well.

    SUMMER: Yosemite National Park is by far one of the most popular National Parks in the United States, especially in the summer. Between school being out for the summer, families vacations and visitors coming from far and wide to catch a glimpse of the park majesty, June, July, August become the absolute busiest time for tourists in the park. Which means even at sunrise, it can get pretty crazy and crowded.

    FALL: Late summer - fall is my personal favorite time of the year to elope in Yosemite! The roads are all still open and the weather is still pleasant while most of the tourists have begun to diminish.

    WINTER: Some of the most monumental, iconic viewpoints in Yosemite (ie: Glacier Point and Taft Point) are CLOSED in the winter. If these are two locations that are strongly on your heart to experience, consider aiming for an elopement in the late spring, summer or early fall if possible to maximize the likelihood of the road access.

    Make sure to check out their Current Conditions page for all things weather, road closure and wildfire related.

    Sunrise or Sunset?

    SUNRISE

    PROS: There will be less tourists (usually)! While it's true that most people don't always love the idea of waking up at the crack of dawn (or even hours prior) it does help to get an early start in place likes Arches National Park or Canyonlands where lots of the locations are popular and highly coveted! Waking up early not only means you're more likely to get the spot you want without much, if any, disturbances from fellow hikers; but you'll also be able to be the desert heat! If you plan on eloping in the summer when foot traffic is at an all time high, you might want to consider a sunrise ceremony!

    CONS: Be prepared to be exhausted earlier on in the day. Before a sunrise ceremony, you'll still have to plan on waking up, getting your morning cup of coffee in, shower, do your hair and makeup, get dressed in your attire, hike etc before the sun comes up. If you aren’t a morning person, this might not be the best option for you.

    Should you elope at sunrise or wait until sunset? That is the question. When it comes to deciding on whether or not you want a sunrise or sunset ceremony in Moab, there are a few factors to consider! While both are equally beautiful, there are pros and cons to both. Here are my thoughts on the ol’ sunrise vs sunset debate.

    SUNSET

    PROS: You can sleep in and have a slow start to your day to enjoy yourselves and prep before the ceremony. If you plan on including some other events like a first look or getting ready photos in your day, a sunset option is a great choice. If there are some guests or loved ones you'd like to include in your celebration, this is usually the easiest option for them.

    CONS: If you’re wanting photos in multiple locations but are not wanting to do a first look ahead of time, this might not be the best option for you. You’ll be most likely limited to one area as the distances between locations in Moab can take a lot of time to get to and from especially on the trails.

    Permits?

    Do I actually need one?

    If you plan to elope in any of the parks within Moab, you will need a special use permit, which can range between $60-$185 depending on your location. Whether you’re having an official ceremony or not, this permit will be required. You can apply for this permit up to one year in advance and no more than 21 days prior to your elopement. Make sure to review each of the parks Wedding and Elopement Ceremonies Pages for more in depth information. You can find each of these pages below!

    couple over look a canyon while doing classic Titanic pose

    the best locations in Moab, Utah

    WITH SO MANY incredible locations to experience AROUND MOAB, IT CAN BE HARD TO CHOOSE THE PERFECT SPOT FOR YOUR CEREMONY OR EVEN JUST YOUR COUPLES PORTRAITS! ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU TAKE INTO CONSIDERATION THAT THE NATIONAL PARKS INVOLVED SPAN OVER 400,000 ACRES! WHEN PLANNING YOUR LOCATIONS, MAKE SURE TO DO YOUR RESEARCH. NOT ALL SPOTS ARE CREATED EQUAL AND SOME CAN TAKE OVER AN HOUR TO ACTUALLY GET TOO! BELOW ARE SOME OF MY FAVORITE OPTIONS TO GET YOU STARTED.

    ARCHES NATIONAL PARK

    This park is a red rock wonderland containing over 2,000 towering formations and natural sandstone arches that make this an absolutely breathtaking and unique place to get married. It’s a gold mine for adventurous couples looking for an iconic place to elope and just as stunning at sunrise as it is at sunset. There’s a Special Recreation Permit ($185) is required to to exchange vows in the park so make sure you apply in time (a few months in advance – no later than 4 weeks out) Admission to Arches National Park is good for seven days. As of 2022, the entrance system to the park has changed as well and will also apply to eloping couples. From April 3 through October 3, 2022 you will be required to apply for a Timed Entry Reservations in order to enter the park. Private vehicles start at $30.00 for any private, non-commercial vehicle (15 passenger capacity or less) and all its occupants.

    CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK

    Canyonlands has a totally different vibe than Arches. While Arches National Park is known for, well, it’s arches; Canyonlands is known for its expansive plateaus and canyons that stretch as far as the eye can see. Think “everything the light touches” from the movie The Lion King, as that’s what Canyonlands is, especially at sunset! Canyonlands is separated into 3 different areas: The Needles, The Maze and Island in the Sky.

    The Needles is about an hour and a half from Moab and is the second most remote location in the park. Named after it’s tall spires of cedar mesa sandstone, this portion of Canyonlands is perfect for hiking or doing some good off-roading.

    The Maze is the most remote portion of Canyonlands and it’s literally in the middle of nowhere! While there aren’t many trails, it is especially great for experienced backpackers and those who desire the most private experience possible.

    The Island in the Sky is the closest to Moab at only 40 minutes away and also the most accessible. It’s best known for having the iconic Mesa Arch and Upheaval Dome. All approved ceremony locations can be for on the Island but that doesn’t mean you can explore the rest of the park on your wedding day as well! When you hire me as your elopement photographer, I’ll help build you the perfect timeline to get you to all the epic locations you want for the perfect lighting without feeling rushed or stressed out.

    DEAD HORSE STATE PARK

    Dead Horse Point State Park is smack in the middle of Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park and while it doesn’t offer as much privacy as the other two, Dead Horse Point shouldn’t be written off! It’s full of beautiful canyons and vistas carved out by ice, water and wind making it a visual masterpiece. Dead Horse Point is about 45 minutes outside of Moab and has two main trails, the East Rim Trail (1.5 miles) and the West Rim (2.5 miles), that have multiple spur trails along the way to take you to overlooks. All of which are very well maintained and marked.

    Since Dead Horse Point State Park, it’s Special use Permit is a little bit cheaper at $60 but still required so make sure to apply no later than 30 days prior to your elopement. Another thing to note is that the park doesn’t allow any live or cut florals in so make sure to opt for artificial ones instead.

    CASTLE VALLEY

    Castle Valley is named for the castle like red rock formations you can find around the area. Castle Valley is just north east of Moab and is perfect for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking and no permits are currently required.

    CORONA ARCH TRAIL

    Want to elope under and arch but without all the busy-ness of a National Park? Corona Arch Trail might be the perfect option! This arch is located on BLM land and isn’t as popular as some of it is more iconic relatives, like Mesa Arch or Delicate Arch which means, less people and more privacy! It’s only a 3 mile hike but make no mistake, it’s a very strenuous one. Make sure to do plenty of hiking in the months leading up to your elopement to be prepared!

    BLM LANDS

    Moab has a TON of BLM land. 1.8 million acres in fact! And all full of cactus, desert sand, canyons, arches as far as the eye can see. BLM land is basically public lands open for recreational use if done respectfully and with Leave No Trace principles in good practice. Since these lands are considered public, the permit you will need to get married there is FREE! But, you will definitely still need BLM to approve the area you wish to elope first. Your photographer will also need to have a Special Recreation Permit in order to shoot your elopement on BLM land so make sure to chat with them (me?! lol) and make sure the have everything the need to conduct business on the land.

    - Hike through Arches National Park, Canyonlands, Dead Horse Point State Park or Castle Valley

    - Go white water rafting

    - Take a 4×4 tour and go off roading

    - Rock Climb in Castle Valley

    - Mountain bike through the trails

    - Go horseback riding and see the views

    - Trail run

    - Go kayaking in the Colorado River

    - Site see through Moab’s very own mountain range

    - Check out the Moab Giants Museum and hang out with dinosaurs

    just a brief example of the endless possibilities!

    Where to stay

    If you’re feeling EXTRA luxurious, Sorrel River Ranch is for you. It’s a gorgeous resort with stunning red rock mesas in the background. They also offer all sorts of amazing resort and spa amenities complete with nightly bonfires, live music, farm-to-table dining and options for horseback riding and off roading as well!

    Under Canvas Moab is such an amazing “glamping” experience for adventurous couples who still want a lil bit more luxury than what the usual tent and campground provide. They have beautiful tents which can make for some super fun for photos as well as electricity, showers, restrooms and other amenities similar to a hotel. It’s also less than half an hour from the Canyonlands National Park entrance and only 10 minutes from Arches National Park.

    This hotel is tucked away at the base of the Colorado River and is the perfect hub if you’re wanting to visit several different locations around Moab! Bonus: they offer a multitude of guided tours, wine tasting, horseback riding and more. This is also where I hosted my day-before-the-wedding dinner with all of my family and let me be the first to tell you -- their food is the BOMB!

    AIRBNB

    There are so many amazing Airbnbs around Moab if you take the time to search a little! Some are pet friendly, budget friendly and potentially have a hot tub and fire pit included! Perfect for relaxing after a fun wedding day filled with hiking and adventure. Finding the right Airbnb is key though and SURPRISE - something I help out with as part of my services! So if you’re looking for something that will fit your taste (and your wallet) hire me and I’ll help you out!

    Prepare to lose service at certain points in all of the parks. If you have Verizon, you’ll have the best service inside the parks, but even still, it will be spotty at best. Make sure to keep this in mind when planning out how you will communicate with family, guests or vendors when it comes to the elopement day!

    Using Wifi

    Getting There

    The closest major airport to Moab is the Salt Lake City Airport which is a little over a 4 hour drive or the Walker Field Airport out of Grand Junction, Colorado (only 1 hour 45 minutes away). However the truly closest is the Canyonlands Field Airport (CNY) which is a tiny airport about 18 miles out of Moab. If you’re interested in seeing other nearby places and are up for a slightly longer road trip, you can also fly into Denver or Las Vegas! It only adds an extra 1-2 hours onto your drive.

    Always make sure you’re practicing good Leave No Trace Principles when planning your adventure elopement. Despite what most people think, the desert is actually a very delicate ecosystem and needs to be taken care of. Moab is also home to precious cryptobiotic soil so make sure to keep an eye out for it while exploring and hiking on your wedding day!

    Leave No Trace Principles

    Choosing the right photographer

    As an adventure elopement photographer with lots of experience in Moab, trust me when I say that skimping out on a photographer is something you should definitely not too. Especially not in Moab and ESPECIALLY not on your most beloved and special day.

    Moab is gorgeous, but can be difficult to shoot in if you don't know what you're doing. You want someone who knows the in's and out's of the park so well that you can just relax and have the most fun, stress-free, adventure-filled day the two of you deserve!

    I'm more than just a photographer. I'm your wedding planner, cheerleader, travel guide, pack mule, best friend and more. Why? Because I'm 110% in this for you! Whatever you need, no matter what, I've got you. I'm the photographer who wants to be with you every step of the way because you deserve a someone who will go all out for you and get to know the REAL you.

    Let's create something beautiful together and bring your most wild wedding day dreams to life!

    So whaddya say? Are ya ready to start planning your ultimate dream elopement?!

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