landscape image overlooking Canyonlands National Park

How to Elope in Moab

KATIE BERG PHOTO || moab wedding & elopement photographer

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

Moab, Utah

man reaches for brides hand as she climbs down red rocks

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.

I love Moab so much (so much that I even got married there!) and I want you guys to be as prepared as possible before you take this adventure of a lifetime and say your “I do’s” in Moab.

In this guide, we will cover:

  • 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?

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

    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!

    10 reasons why you should elope

    How to elope in Moab

    1. Send me an inquiry for a FREE elopement consultation

    2. Choose your dates and length of trip

    3. Hire me to help you plan your epic day -- I’ll help 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 adventure throughout Moab, create some epic pics and celebrate the start of a new chapter of your lives together!

    Best time of the year?

    couple over look a canyon while doing classic Titanic pose

    When planning your elopement, one of the biggest things to take into consideration is the time of year! Personally, I don’t believe there’s a wrong time to elope in Moab where you won’t get the most amazing experience of your life! But still -- each season will bring its own unique set of elements to the day that you might want to consider when choosing your elopement date.

    SPRING: Snow will be present at higher elevations (like in the La Sal Mountains) but should begin disappearing at lower elevations! Temperatures are typically around 65-70 degrees and as an extra bonus the sun begins rising between 6-7am and sets around 7-8pm meaning super long days with tons of lights to play with!

    SUMMER: Summer is HOT! Like, easily in the 100 degree range hot. But that doesn’t mean it’s also incredible!! My husband and I got married in Moab right at the end of June and it was 98 degrees and he was in a full suit; BUT we weren’t sweating! Moab is more of a dry heat than a humid one which makes it more bearable. If you’re trying to beat the heat though, opt for either a early sunrise ceremony or later in the evening during golden hour / sunset. Summertime is also the busiest time for Moab and gets MEGA crowded so make sure to plan accordingly and book your accommodations and activities asap before everything is snapped up.

    FALL: Moab comes alive in the Fall! The river has had time to warm up and temperatures drop back down to comfortable 70 degrees. Fall is a great time to come hike, explore and see all that Moab has to offer!

    WINTER: Winter in Moab is one of the planets best kept secrets! Temperatures sit around the 40's to 50's but by now, all the crowds have gone and blankets of snow have covered Moab with the contrasting red rock shining through. When you think of Moab, you probably aren't thinking "skiing" but you should be! You can actually go up into the La Sal Mountains and backcountry ski! Can you imagine skiing to your ceremony location in a desert?! How cool would that be!

    Sunrise or Sunset?

    SUNRISE

    PROS: Less tourists! Most people don’t want to wake up at the crack of dawn (more like hours before dawn lol) and can you blame them? But this is part of why it makes sunrise so special! Not only will you get to start you day of being married, but you’ll be able to hit up coveted locations like Arches National Park and Canyonlands without much, if any, disturbance from other tourists. 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: Get ready to be tiredddd. In order for you to wake up, shower, do your hair, put makeup on, get dressed, drive, hike and get everything ready for the ceremony, you will have to get up extremely early. If you aren’t a morning person, this might not be the best option for you.

    Sunrise or Sunset? That is the question. When it comes to deciding on whether or not you want a sunrise or sunset ceremony, 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 have the whole day to take your time, enjoy yourselves and get ready! This is also the perfect option is you’re hoping to do a first look before your ceremony.

    CONS: If you’re wanting photos in multiple parks 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 park and one location within it as the distances between locations can take a lot of time to get to and from.

    couples hands reach for each other in the dark underneath the starry night sky

    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!

    Dead Horse Point State Park Wedding / Permit Info

    Arches National Park Wedding / Permit Info

    Canyonlands National Park Wedding / Permit Info

    The Best Locations in Moab

    WITH SO MANY STUNNING PLACES 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 20 days out)

    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 POINT 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’s 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.

    bride and groom holds hands far away while standing under an arch in Arches National Park

    Some other things to consider

  • Hike through Arches National Park, Canyonlands, Dead Horse Point State Park or Castle Valley
  • Go white water rafting
  • Take a 4x4 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
  • Things to do

    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!

    Wifi

    Getting There

    The closest airport to Moab is the Salt Lake City Airport which is a little over a 4 hour drive. 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

    But don't forget one of the most important things...

    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?!

    Katie Berg Photo is a Portland based wedding and elopement photographer

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    katie is a moab adventure elopement and intimate wedding photographer, specializing in photographing adventurous and joyful couples.

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