Do you dream of tying the knot amongst some of the most incredible landscaped in the country? Getting hitched on a mountaintop, or by a waterfall, or surrounded by a vast desert? National parks offer some of the most jaw dropping scenery, and they can make an absolutely epic elopement location! But with 63 official national parks and a total of 423 national recreation areas (with more being added all the time), finding the best national parks to elope in, and choosing just one, can be a bit of a challenge.
This guide will tell you about some of the most incredible national parks to elope in, along with some tips for planning your adventure!
The Best National Parks to Elope In
There are national parks all over the country, offering stunning views and diverse landscapes! To help you decide, here are a few of the best national parks to elope in.
Sequoia National Park, California
Sequoia National Park was this country’s second national park – after Yellowstone! This park is absolutely amazing, and one of the best national parks to elope in if you love forest views. The towering sequoias are some of the tallest trees in the world, and wandering along the tree lined trails is a really magical experience.
This national park is also right next to Kings Canyon National Park – and while they’re technically two different national parks, they’re considered to be one area! So, you can experience two national parks in one day, and see mountains and forest landscapes.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
This is one of the most popular national parks for elopements! The jagged peaks of the rocky mountains make for some pretty incredible views, along with alpine lakes, wildflower meadows, sweeping valleys, and cascading waterfalls.
The entire state of Colorado is an incredible place for any couple who wants mountain views, and Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the best national parks to elope in!
Olympic National Park, Washington
Few national parks are as diverse as Olympic National Park – within a few hours of each other, you can see the snow capped peaks of the Olympics, the mossy temperate rainforest, sparkling lakes and dramatic waterfalls, and the rugged rocky beaches on the western coast of the state!
For mountain views, Hurricane Ridge is one of the best places to tie the knot, and if you love the ocean, head to Ruby Beach for sea stacks that poke through the sea, dramatic waves, and a driftwood covered beach.
Arches National Park, Utah
For unique desert views, consider Arches National Park for your elopement! Here, you’ll find natural arches carved out of stone, towering pinnacles, and huge rocks that seem to defy gravity, towering over the desert. The rocky formations make for an amazing backdrop for your elopement, and the red rocks make for some absolutely stunning sunsets.
Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite is one of the most iconic national parks in the country – and it’s easy to see why! The landscape is truly jaw dropping, with granite cliffs that tower over the valley, and some of the most incredible hiking trails. This is one of the best national parks to elope in if you’re a rock climber, but you definitely don’t have to scale the cliff faces to appreciate the breathtaking views!
Joshua Tree National Park, California
The remote Joshua Tree National Park offers incredible views of the desert, dotted with the bristled trees and bordered by purple mountains. This is one of the best national parks to elope in for desert views, stargazing, rock climbing, and great weather when other parts of the northern hemisphere are cold!
Tips for Eloping in a National Park
Finding the perfect national park to elope in is just one part of planning your adventurous wedding day! Tying the knot outdoors, and getting married in a national park, means there are some additional logistics to think about. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you’re eloping in a national park!
National Park Elopement Permits
Permits are huge when you’re eloping in a national park! They aren’t always required – some parks only require a permit if your ceremony is over a certain number of people (usually 10), but other parks, usually the really popular ones like Rocky Mountain and Joshua Tree, will require a permit no matter how small your ceremony is.
You definitely don’t want to have a confrontation with park rangers on the day you get married, so if a permit is required, be sure to get yours, and have a copy of it printed out! I always recommend applying for your permit as early as possible – most national parks allow applications up to a year in advance – to ensure there’s plenty of time for the park to process your application. A minimum of one month is best, but even that can cut it close if the park is busy!
Permit fees depend on the park, but usually range from $50 to $300. Once you choose a national park to elope in, you can find permit information on NPS.gov. But, as an elopement photographer, helping you plan your elopement is a big part of my job – so I’ll help you figure this out!
National Park Reservations and Entrance Fees
Another thing to remember when you’re eloping in a national park is that even with a permit, you will have to pay the entrance fee. This fee is per car, and for most parks, it’s $30. If you visit national parks often, I highly recommend getting an America the Beautiful Pass! This pass costs $80, and will get you into every national park in the country, for an entire year. Definitely a good deal if you plan to go more than a couple of times!
Many national parks have become much more popular in recent years, so some of them have also started implementing a reservation system to limit crowding and preserve the natural beauty of the parks. Typically, if you have a wedding permit, you don’t need a reservation – but if you want to explore the park before or after your elopement day, this is good to keep in mind!
Leave No Trace in National Parks
Anytime you’re exploring outdoors, it’s incredibly important to follow Leave No Trace (LNT). LNT is a set of seven principles that guides how we spend time outdoors, to avoid damage to the environment! Our impact is often bigger than we think, and things that seem small, like taking shortcuts on hiking trails or picking a wildflower can cause damage that takes years, even decades, for nature to repair.
Each park can have its own unique LNT guidelines, so be sure to brush up on those before you go! Here are the seven principles to remember no matter where you elope:
- Plan ahead and prepare.
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
- Dispose of waste properly.
- Leave what you find.
- Minimize campfire impacts (be careful with fire).
- Respect wildlife.
- Be considerate of other visitors.
Ready to Elope in a National Park?
If you’ve decided that a traditional wedding isn’t for you, and you want to tie the knot in a national park and have an unforgettable adventure, the next step is to hire an elopement photographer! My job, along with documenting your day, is to help you craft the perfect adventure – one that’s unique, and personalized for you!
I’ll help you find the best national park to elope in, be your adventure buddy, give you tips on everything from staying safe in the backcountry to packing a wedding dress for a hike, and create a custom timeline for your adventure. Ready to elope in a national park? Contact me!