This blog is for the lovers of adventure, and those looking for information on how to elope in a national park. As more and more couples are looking for alternative ways to tie the knot, more couples are also turning to EPIC outdoor adventures to commemorate their marriage. With most couples not having first-hand experience being involved in weddings like this they typically enter this process with a lot of questions on how to plan a national park elopement. Good thing for you, I’ve done a deep dive on what eloping in a national park actually entails and will let you in on a few secrets that I’ve learned first-hand.
When you begin your planning process for your national park elopement, you will want to begin with a lot of research. Lucky for you there are SO many guides all over the internet for eloping in national parks to help you along the way. When you first start doing your research you will want to start with these questions, where do you want to have your elopement, when do you want to plan your elopement, and what twill the cost be? Let’s take a look at each a little more in-depth.
When deciding on your location for your national park elopement, you’ll want to set some expectations on what type of experience you hope to have. Do you hope to spend the entire day outdoors, hiking, exploring, and sharing your vows in your wedding gear? What degree of difficulty do you hope your hike to be? And what is your experience level when it comes to hiking? These are all questions you and your partner should think about before choosing a location. After you decide what kind of experience you hope to have on your wedding day, you can begin doing research on various national parks for your elopement.
When choosing your national park, you will want to begin your research by looking into the average temperatures and weather throughout the various seasons of the national park. You want your elopement to be safe, and you also want it to be enjoyable, so you will want to plan your elopement during a time of year when you will be comfortable spending time outdoors. For example, if you have never hiked in snow, you’re not going to want to plan your elopement doing a 10 mile hike in Glacier National Park in February.
When planning your elopement, if you hope to avoid crowds, I highly recommend getting married on a weekday or at sunrise on the weekend. This will help you to have an intimate experience for your elopement day.
Nearly every national park throughout the US allows wedding ceremonies to take place. If you plan to elope in a national park, you will need to make sure that you apply for a special use permit and begin the research into the special use permit as early as a year in advance. Each national park varies in the amount of time it takes to obtain the special use permit, so it’s better to be safe than sorry and start this process early.
These special use permits typically range between $50 to a couple of hundred dollars and will be tacked onto your experience in addition to your park admittance fee. If you’re looking for more information on various national parks, head to NPS.gov to find more information on your specific park. You may have to get in touch with a park ranger for specific details if the information for the park you have in mind is not on the site.
You will want to make sure you bookmark your specific National Park’s website to be sure you are up to date on any restrictions or changes within the park. Things to look out for are seasonal road closures, path closures, or hazardous weather that could end up affecting your elopement day.
In addition to closures or restrictions be sure to look into the number of people that can attend and whether or not your pet is allowed. Also, the majority of national parks do not allow flames, so no sparklers, candles, or things of that nature. Last but not least, many national parks have specific sections of the park that are available for elopements and events. Be sure to check with the guidelines on your national park website for the guidelines specific to that park.
You will want to look up the marriage laws that pertain to your state to ensure you have everyone and everything you need in order to elope in your national park. I can act as a witness or your officiant if needed. If you choose a national park to elope in and don’t want to have a witness, we can find someone on the way back from your ceremony to sign as your witness. When applying for your license be sure to take note of the waiting period in the state your national park is in, along with the number of witnesses and officiants you will need to legally get married.
Typically most couples end up including a photographer, a florist, a hair and makeup artist, and an officiant in their wedding day plans. With the logistics of an adventure elopement, including an often early start time, it’s important to keep your elopements’ logistics on the simple side.
Pro Tip: If you want someone close to you to be a part of your elopement day, ask a friend or family member to conduct the ceremony! Your loved one can be ordained using the Universal Life Church and join in on your national park elopement.
There are SO many variables that go with national park elopements that can affect your timeline. When planning it is SO important to hire a photographer and ask for their advice on how best to plan out your elopement day to create the experience you hope for. If you are planning your national park elopement at one of the more popular national parks to elope in the US, there are a couple of things you will want to think about.
One of the most important is what kind of experience you hope to have for your elopement. If you were hoping to have a more intimate ceremony removed from other hikers plan around a less busy time of day. Do you want to spend the whole day out on the trail or is that only part of how you want to spend your elopement day? Talk with your photographer and get a plan in place on what your day will look like. Most elopements range from 4-6 hours of photography coverage.
Typically the max amount of time that I will spend out with a couple on their elopement day is 6 hours. That includes their ceremony, the process of hiking out there and prepping for their experience, portraits, and then hiking back. When planning a national park elopement, it is important to reference and use your elopement photographer in the planning process. They’ll be able to guide you, answer questions, and let you know what will and won’t work for the elopement day.
Special permit fee: $75
In order to elope in Yellowstone National Park, you will need to obtain a ceremony permit as well as a photography permit if you plan to have a photographer. The ceremony permit is $75 and the photographer permit is around $300. These permits do take some time, especially during peak season for the park so apply sooner rather than later. For more information on how to obtain your permits, head to this site here. When it comes to obtaining a marriage license you will want to pass through Bozeman, Jackson, or Billings which also happen to be the most popular spots to fly into when visiting Yellowstone.
Special Permit Fee: $125
There is a permit application fee of $125, you can apply for your special use permit here. When planning your national park elopement you will want to make sure you go over all of the guidelines that come with eloping in the park. One of the guidelines you will want to take note of is that within Glacier National Park there are specific locations where ceremonies are allowed. Reference this page to find where ceremonies are allowed within Glacier and plan around them!
Special Permit Fee: varies
The best times to visit Joshua Tree National Park are March to May, and October to November. Though these are also the most popular times of year to visit the national park, if you plan your elopement for early in the morning or later in the evening you should be able to avoid some crowds at the allotted locations. In order to preserve the integrity of the National Park itself, along with the permit needed, there are also rules on where you can have your ceremony, and what can be included.
Permit Application Fee $100
When planning your Zion National Park elopement, you will want to make sure you submit for your permit at least three weeks in advance of your elopement date. Though there are no limits in terms of where you can go for your elopement at Zion, you will want to make sure you plan ahead and pay attention to things like road closures as well as weather for the time of year that you plan to elope.
Permit Application Fee $175
When planning your elopement at Mount Ranier National Park, you will want to have an idea of how many people you hope to have present at your elopement. Much like many of the other national parks, when obtaining an elopement/special events permit, you will be presented with a list of where you can go for your elopement. What is unique about Mount Ranier, is that where you can go throughout the park for your ceremony is dependent on how many people will be present for your ceremony!
$125 Application Fee, $240 Wedding Permit Fee
Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the US and it is easy to see why. Thus Grand Canyon National Park is also one of the most popular national parks to elope in as well! When planning your elopement at Grand Canyon National Park you will want to be sure to apply for your permit at least four weeks in advance and have a general idea of who you want to have present with you for your elopement.
$200 for Special Use Permit
Grand Teton National Park is an incredibly beautiful park in Wyoming and the perfect choice for an elopement. The park has so much natural beauty to it and has a ton of spaces in it that would be perfect for your elopement. The special use permit requires 30-60 days to process so be sure to apply early before your date to ensure you’re able to have your elopement when you plan on it!
$50 Application Fee
These incredible mountains along the border of Tennessee and North Carolina have so much charm and character to them it making them a great choice for a national park elopement. The Mountain range often has a haziness to it which is where the name comes from and is such a cool effect to witness. When it comes to your permit the payment and reservation are required 14-21 days before your scheduled date and can be made up to a year in advance, so there’s no harm in scheduling ahead!
$100-$400 Application/Permit Fee
The Redwood National Park is a BEAUTIFUL location for elopements in the US. With some of the tallest and oldest trees in North America, this national park is such a unique and serene space to marry the love of your life. To apply for your permit you will want to apply a minimum of 14 days prior to when you hope to have your ceremony, but in general, to insure your ability to use the national park for your elopement you will want to apply 30 days or more prior to your elopement date. The permits are only accessible for certain areas of the park for your elopement, and if you do plan to have more than 20 people in attendance at your elopement the earlier you apply the better.
Application/Permit Fee: $100
Known for its jaw-dropping rock formations and beautiful colors, Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the most popular spots in the US to elope. To elope in the national park you must obtain a special use permit that you can apply for using the link above. It is suggested that you apply for your special use permit at least 30 days in advance, as the applications typically take two to four weeks to process.
Application Fee: $50, Photography Permit: $50
North Cascades National Park is the last national park on my list that makes for a BEAUTIFUL backdrop for eloping. Known for its GORGEOUS views filled with mountain tops, lush forests, and fields of wildflowers, this national park literally has it all. Unlike the national parks listed above, this location is actually one of the best-kept secrets in terms of elopement locations as it is actually one of the least popular national parks in the US. This makes the North Cascades National Park a great national park to elope in because of its lack of crowds and unique experience.
That covers everything you need to know to start planning your own elopement at a national park. Each park has different requirements and rules so be sure to do your research when you plan and don’t hesitate to ask your photographer for help. And if you’re looking for other unique elopement locations for you and bae check out my list of the top locations to elope in on the California coast!