A desert elopement is one of my favorite ways to get married because it speaks to the adventurous nature of the couple. Anyone can go through a drive-thru chapel in Vegas but I love seeing a couple filled with love who want to go on an adventure in one of the incredible desert locations of the United States, such as Moab, Red Rock Canyon, Joshua Tree, Saguaro, Big Bend, and The Grand Canyon National Parks.
These weddings are small, intimate, and can take place at sunrise, sunset, or even under the stars.
If you’re planning a desert elopement, there are a few considerations for each of these locations.
Delicate Arch, Arches National Park – Utah
Moab is in eastern Utah. There are two of the Mighty 5 National Parks located here. These include Canyonlands and Arches National Park. Since there are two parks here, you will have to decide on one you prefer to focus on. Both provide you with breathtaking views for your desert elopement.
The sandstone arches of Arches National Park provide framing for ceremony photographs. At the same time, Canyonlands provides endless vistas of canyons, mesas, and buttes. These create the classic American West look.
If you’re getting married here, there are a few options for lodging. This includes camping, resorts, and bed and breakfasts.
Depending on when you’re eloping, you won’t want to miss out on various activities. These include whitewater rafting, zip lining, and horseback riding trails throughout the area.
Red Rock Canyon – Nevada
Red Rock Canyon
The Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is in the Mojave Desert of Nevada. It’s located outside of Las Vegas, which is a big draw. As the name suggests, the rock formations have a red coloring that is striking. There’s a 13-mile scenic drive with plenty of spots. They are great for amazing photographs and desert elopements.
There is camping on-site, but it can get very hot in the desert for overnight stays. You may want to consider staying in Vegas, at one of the hotels on the Strip, and then driving in for the nuptials. Red Rock Canyon (along with Seguaro NP) is unique among my other favorites. This is because you can get from airport to destination in under half an hour. It makes things easy if you have family and friends coming from far away. This is especially true for those who are not outdoor types. You could also have your ceremony at one of Las Vegas’ many unique areas and then head out to the canyon for photos. If you want an adventure, consider camping. Try it during the cooler months of September or October.
You can have all the desert adventures you want while here. Consider renting ATVs to use around the sand dunes. You can also backpack throughout the 13 miles.
Joshua Tree National Park – California
Joshua Tree National Park sprawls across a vast area of Southern California. It’s a couple of hours east of the Los Angeles metro area and right next to beautiful Palm Springs. There are two desert ecosystems (the Mojave and Colorado) and several mountain ranges. That’s part of what makes this place so interesting. The park is massive so you need plan things around travel times. The dark night skies and sunsets here are spectacular. It makes this place perfect for a gorgeous desert elopement.
The Joshua Tree itself is a very unique fixture of the park. It has become rather iconic because of the U2 album of the same name. What makes it special are hills of massive boulders scattered across the landscape. They create incredible pockets of light and shadow and places to climb and explore.
When you want to say “I do” in this National Park, you will want to consider where you are going to eat and sleep. There are campgrounds in the park, but no lodging or restaurants. Are you hoping for less of a rustic place to sleep and even have your ceremony? Then you may want to consider booking a night or two in nearby Palm Springs. You can then drive into the park or the neighboring Coachella Valley for sunset.
The good news is that there are a lot of things to do, with stargazing and nature walks at the top of the list.
There are so many different views and areas to explore. The options can seem overwhelming at first glance. The park also provides near endless possibilities for weddings. It can cater to any vision you might have for your desert ceremony and images. Of course, there are the standard canyon views that never disappoint. There are plenty of hidden gems in and around the park as well. Cape Royal Point, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, and Toroweap Overlook come to mind.
As with any National Park, there are application fees involved with getting married. This is going to add to your expenses. The wedding fee is $140. You also have to be cautious where you get married as the cost of the permit can change. Shoshone Point locations, for example, cost $420. There are also things that aren’t permitted. These include flowers, amplified sound, balloons, or tables and chairs.
As for your accommodations, you can have your choice of camping or various hotels nearby.
There is lots to do depending on the kind of adventure you want. Helicopter tours over the Canyon, biking, hiking, and even donkey rides are options.
Saguaro National Park – Arizona
Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park has many of those classic desert features you’d expect. It’s named after the giant seguaro cactus that thrives in this part of the Sonoran Desert. These cacti are striking and give this area a unique feel for a desert elopement. The park is in Southeastern Arizona, around the city of Tuscon. This makes things very convenient for a short trip. It’s also great for family and friends traveling in for nuptials. Tuscon has lots of great things to offer as well (Mexican food!), so it’s a wonderful compliment to your experience.
Big Bend National Park – Texas
Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park is the most remote and least visited of all the destinations I’ve listed. That is part of what makes the park so unique. One of the most popular places to stay, outside of camping in the park, is the quirky art centric desert town of Marfa. It’s located almost two hours away from the nearest park entrance. The distance from any major light pollution makes Big Bend one of the best places on earth to star gaze.
The name “Big Bend” refers to the bend in the Rio Grande River that runs through the park. This is the largest region of Chihuahuan desert in the United States. It features dramatic vertical walled limestone canyons, mountains, and even forest and waterfalls. Having your ceremony on one of the rocky river beaches below the canyon walls is a great option.
Because of its remoteness and large size, getting around by car is almost a must in Big Bend National Park. Hiking is also expected to get to many of the best spots. Some of the best and most scenic river rafting in this part of the country occurs in the park.
I hope you’ll look into some of these unbelievable locations. Especially if you are considering an adventure desert elopement or intimate wedding. I’d love to tag along and tell your story! Get to know more about my approach or go ahead and get in touch.