Hey! We’re Ashley and Dan – adventure elopement photographers based out of Wisconsin. On top of being full time elopement photographers, we are also full time explorers. Moab continues to be a place we come back to time and time again. We created this Moab Utah Elopement Photography Guide to be a one stop shop in answering all of the top questions for those wanting to elope in Moab, Utah. We’ll cover everything from locations, places to stay, to the best times of the year to plan your adventure wedding.
Table of Contents
Where to Elope in Moab – The Most Epic Locations
The very first time I went to Moab, I felt like I was on Mars. The crazy red rock formations, the unreal blue sky, and the infinite stars at night all give off an other worldly vibe. This quaint little town is the gateway to a Moab elopement photographer’s dream. I’m going to cover 3 broader locations that are totally worth looking into for you adventure elopement – National Parks, State Parks, and BLM lands.
Arches National Park Elopement
I have a super special place in my heart for Arches National Park. The first time I ever went there, it was in the dead of winter. We pulled up in my brother’s Subaru to our campsite at around 3am. I got out of the car, and looked up to the sky – I had NO idea that there were so many stars in the sky. It was dark, and completely silent – I felt so small in such a big wide open space underneath all of those stars. We woke up to the sun rising over the gigantic red rocks and canyons – I instantly fell in love.
Arches National Park has over 2,000 natural sandstone arches and a shit ton of trails ranging from short and easy to long OHV trails. Whether you’re looking for a place to have a ceremony, or place for epic couples portraits, Arches National Park WILL NOT disappoint you. I can’t recommend Arches enough. GO TO ARCHES!
Elopement Ceremony Location Guide
Arches National Park is less than a 10 minute drive from downtown Moab and currently allows ceremonies to in 10 different areas of their park. These locations are:
- The La Sal Mountains Viewpoint (up to 50 people)
- The Windows Section (up to 25 people)
- Sand Dune Arch (up to 25 people)
- Delicate Arch (up to 10 people)
- Delicate Arch Viewpoint (up to 25 people)
- Pine Tree Arch (up to 25 people)
- Landscape Arch (up to 10 people)
- Park Avenue (up to 25 people)
- Devil’s Garden Campground Amphitheater (up to 80 people)
- Panorama Point (up to 50 people)
Logistics for Your Arches National Park Elopement
To exchange vows on the park premises, there is a $185 Special Recreation Permit you must apply for. The park recommends applying a couple months out in advance, and no less than 10-20 days out. The sooner is always better, as only two ceremonies are allowed at one location on the same day. It’s rare that they get requests for two ceremonies at the same location on the same day, but better safe than sorry. You want to make sure that you not only get the location you want, but also the time of day you want! Lighting can make all the difference in your photos – so take the time to research which location you love, and make the reservation in advance. When you hire us to photograph your elopement, we will help you with all of this, as well as getting your timeline together!
If you choose to have adventure wedding portraits within the park, (which you should), there are so many more options of places around the park we can go including exploring more remote areas via off roading. For those who like hiking, Devil’s Garden Primitive Trail is a great option. This 7.5 mile trail takes you past 6 natural arches, and they all look so uniquely different.
To learn more about how to elope at Arches National Park, you can visit their wedding page here.
Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park has a completely different feel to it when compared to Arches. The park has a much more remote and wild feel to it, and foot traffic is generally less busy (especially certain areas!) In terms of your Moab, Utah elopement photography, this place is a fucking gem. Canyonlands is basically separated into 3 different areas: Island in the Sky, The Needles, and The Maze.
Island in the Sky Visitor Center is about a 40 minute drive from Moab and is the most accessible of the three areas. The iconic Mesa Arch and Upheaval Dome can be found in this section.
The Needles is a bit more remote than Island in the Sky (we love remote – bring out the GPS, let’s go!!!). It’s about an hour and a half drive from Moab and is named after the giant colorful spires of cedar mesa sandstone that cover the land. Here you will find plenty of opportunities for off roading and hiking to some of the most incredible canyon views. Moab, Utah elopement photography has become a pretty popular thing in the last few years – ditch the popular instagram spots and check out the Needles.
The Maze is the MOST remote section of the park, it’s literally in the middle of nowhere, and you won’t find many paths. This is an AWESOME section of the park to go backpacking – if you’re looking for a truly remote experience for the two of you after your ceremony, consider spending your first night married tenting it in some of the most beautiful untouched land Moab has to offer.
Elopement Ceremony Location Guide
All of the permitted ceremony locations within the park are located within Island in the Sky. These areas are:
- Grand View Point (up to 25 people)
- Green River Overlook (up to 25 people)
- Mesa Arch (up to 25 people)
Logistics for Your Canyonlands National Park Elopement
The logistics for having your Moab elopement ceremony within Canyonlands is very similar to Arches. The $185 Special Recreation Permit needs to be obtained MINIMUM 10-20 days before your ceremony. Again, this is something we recommend doing sooner than later, because being prepared is better than rushing last minute.
All of the approved ceremony locations are within Island of the Sky – with that being said, it’s important to have your timeline locked in and know exactly where you want to explore the park. Island in the Sky is a good 2 hour drive from the Needles District, so if you want to explore the Needles after your ceremony, make sure you account for driving time. When you hire us as your Moab Adventure Elopement Photographers and Guides, we get down to the nitty gritty and make sure you have a timeline that isn’t rushed, that gets you to the most epic locations at the perfect time, and leaves you room to just explore. It is SO important to us that your day feels like an adventure, and not just quickly going through the motions.
To learn more about the details of eloping in Canyonlands, you can visit their page here.
Dead Horse State Park
Dead Horse State Park is located about 45 minutes outside of Moab – it’s main trails are the East Rim Trail (1.5 miles) and the West Rim Trail (2.5 miles). There are multiple spur trails off of the Rim trails that take you to some pretty beautiful overlooks. This is a great option for people who want beautiful views with minimum effort to get there – you can drive within less than half a mile to most of the overlooks, and they are truly beautiful. The trails here are very well maintained and well marked, and you are never too far from the road. You can take a virtual tour of the multiple spur trails here.
Elopement Ceremony Location Guide
There are 5 different approved ceremony locations within the park:
- Shade Shelter Site (up to 100 people)
- Cliff Side Site (up to 20 people)
- Point Bench Site (up to 5 people)
- West Bench Site (up to 50 people)
- La Sal Site (up to 25 people)
Logistics for you Dead Horse State Park Adventure Elopement
There is a $60 Special Use Permit Fee that must be obtained 30 days prior to your Moab Utah elopement within the park. An important thing to keep in mind is that Dead Horse State Park does not allow for any live or cut florals of any kind – artificial flowers are the go to for elopements here. If you’d like to stay within the park, they do have campsites available to reserve (super convenient!). If you want to check out some photos of each ceremony site, and look over the Special Use Permit application, click here!
We love BLM land – which is basically public lands open for respectful recreation. Moab has TONS of BLM land (1.8 millions acres), and yes, you are allowed to elope in certain areas of their BLM land. Canyons, arches, sand, cactus – it’s a true desert wilderness. BLM land will almost always have far less foot traffic than any of the more developed areas of the state and national parks, and there is an infinite amount of exploration to be done in these areas.
Ceremony Locations on BLM Land in Moab
BLM is very protective of the public lands, as are we. They must approve any area you wish to have your ceremony, and are looking for locations that are in drainages, on slick rock, or developed land. There is a pre-approved list of locations that we have from BLM lands, but out of respect for the wild and other people enjoying public lands, we don’t want to name all of the locations – we’ll leave that up to BLM. For those serious about eloping in Moab, we’d love to share this list with you, or help you come up with your own unique location located on BLM land! Some of my most FAVORITE places are located on BLM land.
Moab Utah Elopement Photography Logistics on BLM Land
We’ve heard of photographers giving the advice that “if you go far enough into the wilderness, you don’t really need a permit.” This is absolutely 100% inaccurate (as well as disrespectful to local land management and Mother Nature y’all). To get married on Moab BLM land, you as a couple will need to apply for a permit (it’s free!). You will receive a letter of acknowledgement and the local authorities will be advised that you will be having your ceremony on BLM land. There is no point in risking not asking for this letter of acknowledgement. All they need is some basic information from the both of you, including where you plan to be, etc.
Your photographer will also need to have a Special Recreation Permit in order to conduct business on BLM land – this is also very important as it directly helps fund BLM. (spoiler alert – we have our Special Recreation Permit to conduct business on Moab BLM and renew it annually!) Moab, Utah elopement photography is our specialty and we’d love to chat with you. Hit us up with any other questions you have about getting married on BLM land in Moab! You can get a hold of us here.
Where to Stay in Moab
Whether you like a bit more luxurious stay, or completely dirt bagging it (like us), Moab has tons of accommodation opportunities for your elopement. Keep in mind there are MANY other options that what is listed here. This is just a list I’ve compiled of some of my favorite locations to stay in Moab!
Sorrel River Ranch
Sorrel River Ranch is a gorgeous resort backdropped by red rock mesas – the ranch building itself is gorgeous. We think this is a great option for a couple who wants a beautiful and relaxing place to call their home base during their adventure elopement. Just because you’re choosing to get married in the great outdoors doesn’t mean you have to forgo amenities. This place has a spa, farm to table dining, swimming pools, horseback riding, etc. Yep. You can even rent the whole place out for your wedding and explore the rest of Moab for couple’s portraits. Click here to check out their location.
Option 1 (click here)
A rooftop deck with a private hot tub – uhhh yup. Hot tubs after a long day of hiking are life. ALSO – the exterior of the place is very “desert-esque” (looks cute in photos!). There’s a few rooms and beds in this ones so split it with your buds!
Option 2 (click here)
This airbnb is a little more rugged, but adorable. It’s a tiny little cabin with a loft that’s budget friendly and charming. This would be a great little place to rent out for just the two of you….AND your dog (yep, it’s dog friendly!)
Option 3 (click here)
This airbnb has a super clean aesthetic and we love it for getting ready photos. The interior is thoughtfully designed and well lit with natural light (bonus points). There is also a hot tub and fire pit. You should definitely let us photograph you snuggled up around the fire after chilling in the hot tub.
I am only going to link one specific campground here, because it’s unique. It’s so easy go on google and type in “camping Moab” and come up with a million options, so I’ll let you do that. BUT, I did want to point out one spot in particular.
This place is more of a glamping experience – I’ve never personally been “glamping,” but they have beautiful tents set up that would also be super fun for photos! They also offer a few extra amenities such as a campfire with s’mores, boxed lunches for your adventures, and wood burning stoves! Click here to check out their tent options.
Ioverlander isn’t a campsite, but rather an amazing app that can help you find free dispersed campsites all over the country. I use ioverlander all the time to find some of the coolest camp spots I’ve been to. It’s super easy to use as well! Just download the app, or visit their website here, and search for Moab. You will see a filter labeled “Place Types” with a drop down menu. From there, I usually uncheck everything except “wild camping.” After you press search, little pins will show up on a map showing you wild camping spots in the area! Ioverlander won’t show every single dispersed camping site available, but it will show you some more off the grid camping spots rather than just the commercial spots! Bonus – you can use it for not just Moab, but literally the entire world.
Best time of year to plan your elopement in Moab, Utah
In my opinion, there really isn’t a wrong time of year to elope in Moab. Our photography style + your adventure wedding in Moab will be epic no matter the season. It really just depends on what kind of Moab Utah elopement photography style you’re looking for!
Spring in Moab is when things start warming up. Temperatures usually hit around 70 degrees and people start migrating to Moab after enduring a cold winter. Snow will be disappearing at lower elevations and you’ll be able to explore many of the trails! Snow will most likely still be present at higher elevations in the La Sal Mountains, so if you’re planning on climbing the mountains, it’s best to wait until later in the summer. The sun will be rising between 6 and 7am, and setting between 7-8pm. These are nice long days with plenty of hours of daylight to get out and explore.
Summer in Moab is HOTTTT – but also amazing. There are plenty of beaches along the Colorado River, and hikes that lead you to swimming holes or waterfalls. The National Parks will be the busiest during the summer months. It’s best to visit them early in the morning (we love sunrise ceremonies!) or later in the evening (golden hour is our favorite.) For couple’s wanting a more remote experience, we recommend avoiding the National Parks during their busiest months. Hit up BLM land instead! Also, please do yourself a favor and hit up Moab Kitchen (the cutest food truck ever) for some bomb vegan eats.
We personally love fall in Moab because of the colors of the trees around the Manti-La Sal National forest are in full autumn mode. The higher elevation trails in the area are also much more accessible because they’ve had time to thaw over the summer. Temperatures are a bit cooler (70s) and it’s easier to spend a day outdoors without getting fried. It’s awesome to be able to spend one day in the desert, and the next day in a completely different mountainous landscape.
Call me weird, but winter is actually my favorite season to visit Moab. The number of tourists plummets during the winter months, and the white snow blanketing the red rocks just looks so unreal. It doesn’t get too cold during the day either – 40 degrees is pretty normal. This is a great time to take advantage of some more solitude at the national parks. Keep in mind that the days are a bit shorter in winter. The sun generally rises around 7:30am and sets around 5pm. This is still plenty of daylight for photos, but just not quite as much as you’ll get in the warmer months.
We hope you found this Moab Utah Elopement Photography Guide to be helpful! If there’s anything you think we missed, please don’t hesitate to let us know! If you are currently on the search for an elopement photographer, we would love to help you out!
Check out our Moab Utah Elopement Photography Pricing Package here!
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