Arches National Park Elopement Guide

Arches National Park is one of the most iconic, one-of-a-kind national parks in the US, with natural rock formations that are truly like nothing else on earth. It makes sense that Arches is such a sought-after elopement location! In this guide, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about planning an Arches elopement, from permitting to location options to activities for before or after your ceremony!

Where to Elope in Arches National Park

The National Park Service has designated six locations throughout Arches National Park for wedding and elopement ceremonies. Applications to hold a ceremony at other locations in the park are considered on a case-by-case basis—but the locations below present a lot of great options and incorporate some of the neatest views in the park!

Each location has a maximum number of people who can be present at the ceremony, which includes the couple and any vendors, like officiants and photographers (that’s me!).

Double Arch

Max. Ceremony Size: 25 people

Located in the Windows section of Arches NP, Double Arch is the tallest and second-longest arch in the park, and also easily one of the most iconic and recognizable. The ceremony space here is just off the trail to the arch, with the arch dominating the backdrop. As one of the most popular arches in Arches NP, this site is sure to be busy year-round, but a sunrise elopement here would help avoid the crowds—and would be completely gorgeous.

Couple holding hands and walking together in front of double arch in arches national park

Park Avenue

Max. Ceremony Size: 15 people

The ceremony space at Park Avenue is an overlook over a small canyon, with a backdrop of a cool red rock wall that’s very classic to Arches NP’s iconic scenery. This site has the advantage of being very accessible to the park entrance and parking lot—but on the flipside, it’s the first overlook after entering the park, so it tends to be quite busy. I think this site is best for a small, off-season or weekday elopement!

Couple walking under a large arch in arches national park

The Windows and Turret Arch

Max. Ceremony Size: 25 people

The ceremony site at the Windows and Turret Arch is in the middle of the one-mile loop trail—so keep in mind there’s a small hike to reach this site. But the location in the middle of the loop is between two of the area’s coolest features—the North Window and Turret Arch—making for some really cool and unique ceremony backdrops. This site is also less popular than Double Arch if you’re hoping for a more private experience.

La Sal Mountains Viewpoint

Max. Ceremony Size: 50 people

The La Sal Mountains Viewpoint offers views of the name La Sal Mountains, as well as famous rock formations in the Courthouse Towers area of Arches NP. The ceremony space offers 360-degree views with a different amazing natural feature in every direction, and the views here are especially stunning at sunrise and sunset. The surfaces are uneven slickrock, so this option is a bit less accessible than the paved Park Avenue site, but it still has the advantage of being close to the park entrance.

Panorama Point

Max. Ceremony Size: 50 people

Panorama Point is one of the best ceremony options as far as accessibility for those with limited mobility, with paved trails leading from the parking lot to an amphitheater with stone benches. This site offers a sweeping canyon view in one direction, and red rocks in the other.

Devils Garden Campground Amphitheater

Max. Ceremony Size: 80 people

The amphitheater at Devils Garden Campground has some unique advantages, including its proximity to the campground for a built-in lodging option if you and your loved ones want to camp before or after the ceremony. This spot also seats a lot of people, with nice built-in benches. However, there is a large screen at the front of the amphitheater that interrupts the red-rock wall backdrop, so this doesn’t have the picturesque views of other locations.

Can We Go Hike?

Yes! You can definitely go hiking in the park on your wedding day. But- you have to have your ceremony/vow exchange somewhere approved by the National Park Service. Locations other than the 6 listed above are considered on a case-by-case basis, so it can’t hurt to ask! But don’t worry if the Park Service says no, you can always have your ceremony at one of the stunning arches listed above and then go on a hiking adventure!

When to Elope in Arches National Park

There’s no wrong time for an Arches elopement—it just depends what you’re looking for! Southern Utah is part of the Colorado Plateau, a high desert area that can experience wide temperature fluctuations, even within a single day.

Winter

Large snowfalls are uncommon in Arches National Park, but dustings of snow can coat the rocks in a gorgeous contrast of red and white. Average highs are between 30 and 50 degrees, with lows between 0 and 20 degrees. Keep in mind that snow, even small amounts, can make roads and trails impassable. With that in mind, winter can be an ideal choice for a daytime Arches elopement if you’re seeking privacy and snow-capped mountain views.

Spring

Spring (April and May) is one of the more temperate seasons in Arches National Park. Daytime highs average between 60 and 80 degrees, with lows between 30 and 50 degrees—which is ideal hiking and camping weather! Weather can still be unpredictable, but packing layers and good outdoor clothing should keep us prepared for whatever nature throws at us during your Arches National Park elopement.

Summer

Because Arches National Park is in the desert, summers can be hot and brutal, with daytime temperatures often exceeding 100 degrees, and lows in the 60s. In the late summer, monsoons can cause flash floods in canyons. A summer elopement in Arches is still doable—but I’d recommend a sunrise or sunset ceremony when temperatures are lower, and starting any planned hikes early in the day. You’ll want to make sure to bring tons of water, avoid strenuous exercise at the hottest parts of the day, and take it easy in the shade. When it gets dark and cools off, though, we can do some amazing astrophotography thanks to the limited light pollution in the park!

Fall

Fall (mid-September through October) is my personal favorite season in the desert, with similar daytime highs (60-80 degrees) and lows (30-50 degrees) to spring. The temperate climate makes all-day adventuring possible, starting with a sunrise hike and ending with sunset portraits against a canyon backdrop. Keep in mind that fall is a busier season, however, as other hikers also seek out good weather in the park. A sunrise Arches elopement could be magical in the fall, followed by daytime hiking and adventuring.

Consider Weekdays and Sunrises

No matter the season, you can beat the crowds by choosing the right day and time for your Arches elopement.

Weekdays are always less busy than weekends—and one significant advantage to eloping is that it’s usually not any more inconvenient to pick a weekday (unlike with a large wedding where lots of guests have to travel). If you’re planning to spend a few days in the park before or after your elopement, why not get married on a Tuesday?

Finally, the time of day you choose for your elopement makes a big difference in how crowded the most popular overlooks and vistas will be. Sunrise and sunset are the most picturesque times of day in terms of lighting, but sunrises are always less busy—so if you don’t mind an early morning, you can plan an intimate ceremony first thing in the morning, bathed in golden light, and enjoy the whole rest of your day being newly married.

Adventuring Before and After Your Arches NP Elopement

One of the coolest parts of an adventure elopement is that we aren’t tied to a traditional timeline—we can plan a whole day of activities that reflect your passions and priorities. Arches National Park has so many options, no matter your desired vibe for your day. When you book me as your Arches elopement photographer, I’ll help you weigh options, offer advice, and plan an itinerary that takes into account weather, lighting, and timing your ceremony and activities.

Hiking

There are a whole bunch of hiking trails in Arches National Park—these are just a few of my favorites! They’re organized by length, so you can pick the hike that fits perfectly into your day.

Double Arch

Length: 0.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 95 feet

Located in the Windows area, Double Arch is the tallest—and one of the most iconic—arches in the park. Even if you don’t want to hold your ceremony here, this short trail is still a great place to stop off and stretch your legs.

The Windows

Length: 0.7 miles

Elevation Gain: 98 feet

Another easy but stunning hike, the Windows loop offers views of the North Window, South Window, and Turret Arch.

Broken Arch

Length: 1.7 miles

Elevation Gain: 167 feet

The Broken Arch loop takes you first through deep sand to visit Sand Dune Arch, tucked between canyon walls, and then across grasslands to view Broken Arch above a small forest of piñon pine and juniper trees.

Delicate Arch

Length: 3.2 miles

Elevation Gain: 629 feet

Delicate Arch is the most recognizable arch in the park by a mile—it’s even emblazoned on Utah license plates—and for good reason! This hike can be strenuous, especially in the summer, and involves a lot of steep slickrock climbing. The arch is visible at the very end of the trail, set over a steep rock bowl. I highly recommend this trail, though I’d start early and bring plenty of water.

Devil’s Garden

Length: 7.9 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,085 feet

Landscape Arch starts as a relatively easy trail leading about 1 mile to Landscape Arch, the longest arch in the park (and all North America). Past Landscape Arch, the trail becomes more challenging but takes you to several additional landmarks in the Devil’s Garden area, including Double O Arch and Dark Angel. Be aware that this trail is steep and narrow in some sections and involves some rock scrambling, but it’s a great way to see multiple iconic Arches sites.

Backpacking

Arches National Park has some stricter rules about backcountry camping, but there are four designated backpacking campsites that can be reserved at the Backcountry Permit Office near Moab. Backpacking permits can be reserved up to seven days in advance and cover up to seven people. I think these rules make Arches a bit less backpacking-friendly than some other parks, but you can stay in some pretty neat backcountry locales if you manage to snag a permit!

Courthouse Wash

Length: 10.8 miles

Elevation Gain: 492 feet

Courthouse Wash has three designated campsites—two in Upper Courthouse Wash and one in Lower Courthouse Wash. This trail is pretty challenging and requires navigating the bottom of a wash with dense brush and water crossings.

Devil’s Garden

Length: 7.9 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,085 feet

Devil’s Garden, one of my favorite longer day trip trails, can also be backpacked and has one designated campsite along the “primitive” part of the trail that leads to Double O Arch. This part of the trail is the most challenging section and involves some heights, but it will definitely get you to a less populated part of Arches.

Stargazing

Arches National Park has very little light pollution and is a perfect location for stargazing—and star photography!
If you’re seeking an elopement with a starry backdrop, I can help you plan your trip at the perfect time when the Milky Way will be most visible. You can also check sunrise and sunset times and moon phases on Discover Moab.

Couple standing at the base of turret arch, it is night time and they are lighting up the arch with a flashlight

Rules for Eloping in Arches

The National Park Service lays out rules for weddings and elopements in Arches National Park that keep everyone safe and the nature pristine for all visitors. Don’t worry, I’ll go over them here so you can plan and prepare accordingly!

Wedding Permits

You’ll need a special-use permit to elope in Arches National Park. These permits can be requested up to one year in advance of your wedding date, and require at least four weeks to process. To apply, you’ll need to submit a completed Form 10-930s and a Pay.gov confirmation (more below) to [email protected].

Permits are $185, payable through Pay.gov. You can find instructions for paying permit fees on the National Park Service’s website.

Permits are written for one hour of ceremony time. They do not include the cost of vehicle entry to the park.

Photography at other locations throughout the park is allowed before or after the ceremony—so let’s take some amazing portraits! 

Other Elopement Rules

  • No Exclusive Use: Permits do not grant exclusive use of the area, and you cannot ask other members of the public to leave the area. You may not obstruct sidewalks, trails, parking lots, or other visitor facilities. Wedding activities are restricted to slickrock, dry washes, or maintained areas of the park.
  • Monitoring: Weddings will be monitored or spot-checked by rangers for compliance with rules. This is a bit unique to Arches—of course, any wedding in a national park can be spot-checked by a ranger—but Arches is a bit more vigilant about monitoring wedding ceremonies, which some couples are uncomfortable with if they’re seeking a truly intimate ceremony.
  • Decorations: Dried plants, including grasses, are prohibited in bouquets. Throwing birdseed or rice or releasing butterflies (or any other living or inanimate objects) is prohibited. Balloons, arches, and other decorations are also prohibited.
  • Food: Catering and other food service is prohibited.
  • Noise: Loud music and other noises are prohibited and must be kept at normal speaking volume.
  • Vehicles: All vehicles must be parked in designated areas only; no off-road traffic. Carpooling is recommended and may be required at specific locations. Groups larger than 25 are required to create a parking plan.
  • Pets: Pets are generally not allowed at ceremony sites.

Timed Entry

If you’ve looked into an Arches National Park visit before, you may have heard about the park’s timed entry system during peak season (May to October). Your special-use permit will act as an entry reservation, so you won’t need a separate timed entry reservation—but do keep timed entry rules in mind if you’re eloping in the summer and plan to adventure in the park the day before or after.

Leave No Trace During Your Arches National Park Elopement

As with any activity in Arches National Park—and anywhere in nature—it’s critical to respect the beautiful surroundings and follow Leave No Trace guidelines during an Arches elopement. You can find more information on the Leave No Trace website, but here are the basics!

The seven Leave No Trace principles are:

  • Plan ahead and prepare
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  • Dispose of waste properly
  • Leave what you find
  • Minimize campfire impacts
  • Respect wildlife
  • Be considerate of others

During your Arches National Park elopement, here are some specific things we’ll want to keep in mind:

  • Pack out trash and waste. Make sure that anything you bring with you leaves with you! Be considerate of food wrappers, and make sure you dispose of any trash in the trash cans at trailheads and picnic areas. The rules for eloping in Arches state that you cannot throw anything like flower petals, rice, birdseed—just because something is biodegradable doesn’t mean you can leave it all over the trail.
  • Stay on established trails. The Arches National Park rangers work hard to keep hiking trails and wedding ceremony sites maintained and safe. These areas are designated to ensure visitors don’t accidentally damage the nature around them, so it’s important not to wander off to try to get a better view. In Arches, some trails cross areas of slickrock that are not as well marked, so make sure to look out for cairns and other trail markers, and not to disturb—or attempt to create your own—trail markers.
  • Plan ahead for weather conditions. As I mentioned above, Arches can get very hot and very cold depending on the time of year, and there’s little water in the park at all. Especially in the summer, it’s critical to pack sufficient water. I’ll help you consider what to pack, from clothing to snacks to hard warmers, to make sure we have a fun and safe experience!
  • Educate yourself on biocrust! Southern Utah has the coolest things, and biocrust is one of them. It is a living soil that creates a crust over the landscape. It helps control erosion, retains water, and fixes nitrogen into the soil from the air. If stepped on, it may never recover. Please learn to recognize it and admire it from afar while exploring this area. Learn more from the NPS here!

Other Places to Elope in Utah

If you’ve read through this blog, and you’re starting to think that Arches National Park is not right for your elopement, no worries! There are so many amazing locations around southern Utah that might be a perfect fit. You can reach out to me at any stage in the planning process—including if you’re not set on a location yet—and I’d love to help you weigh options to find one that matches your priorities.

Here are some of my other favorite elopement locations for Utah:

Moab

Moab is such a fun, centrally located town, between several national parks and monuments and with all the amenities you could want. My comprehensive Guide on Eloping in Moab is coming soon!! There are lots of unique micro-venues, parks, trails, and hidden gems to pick from. Or even consider Canyonlands, the other Moab National Park.

Zion, Bryce Canyon, or Capitol Reef National Park

If you have your heart set on a National Park wedding, I highly consider checking out all of the parks in Southern Utah! Compare, contrast, and you might find yourself in love with a less popular park than Arches. Guides for these incredible parks are coming soon!

BLM Land

The Bureau of Land Management controls a lot of the land around Arches National Park, and has a lot less restrictions about camping and permitting for elopements. There are 26 BLM campgrounds (all first-come, first-serve) near Moab, as well as dry camping and backpacking opportunities. I hold an annual Moab BLM commercial photography permit, so I’ve got you covered!

There’s also plenty of BLM Land outside of the Moab area! The entirety of Southern Utah has incredible red rock, canyons, arches, and overlooks. The middle of nowhere is insane. Want privacy? The hidden gems are the way to go.

If you want to escape the crowds without sacrificing the unmatched views of Arches, reach out to me and I can recommend some lesser-known locations for a unique, intimate elopement backdrop.

Meet Your Arches National Park Elopement Photographer and Planner!

Hey there, the name’s Sam!

I spent two years living in and exploring the state of Utah, and oh my gosh is it stunning. Southern Utah has a special place in my heart, and I spend at least a month here every year capturing incredible wedding days at some of my favorite spots. Being an ex-local I know a whole bunch of hidden gems that you won’t be able to find unless you too spend a lot of time taking “wrong” turns in the middle of the desert.

Let’s Start Planning Your Elopement!

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