Moab Photographer Turret Arch from North Window blue hour

How to Elope in Arches National Park

Double Arch in Arches National Park
Let’s start from the very beginning…

What is an Elopement?

When I first heard this word I imagined 2 people running away from their homes to get married without their parents’ permission.

Eloping is about being intentional. It’s about choosing what feels right and not what you’re supposed to do and who you’re supposed to be. It’s your day, and it should feel like a celebration whether it’s just the two of you in your backyard or a small group of of people you love most in the world doing something wild at the end of the world.

An elopement and the celebration of your union should not be about pressure and expectations. It’s not supposed to feel heavy. it’s supposed to be fun, beautiful, and filled with joy. It’s about starting a new chapter of your life and feeling free. So, if eloping in Arches National Park is something that resonates with you I really hope you find this guide helpful. And – hey – congratulations. This is some really exciting stuff you’re doing.

How to Get to Arches National Park?

The town closest to Arches National Park is Moab and it’s just south of the Colorado River. It’s a stunning place that’s nestled between two of “the Mighty 5” National Parks: Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park. In this guide I want to cover how to elope in the latter and I hope you find it helpful! wonderland of eroded sandstone fins, towers, ribs, gargoyles, hoodoos, balanced rocks, and, of course, arches northwest.

Where to Fly in?

Moab and Arches are sort of placed in the middle of the desert and if you choose to fly to a bigger city (Salt Lake or Denver ) you’d have to cross at least one mountain pass. You’d definitely have an easier time flying to Grand Junction or Moab itself. There are definitely fewer options available. Here’s a list of the nearby airports.

  • Salt Lake City Airport (SLC) is about 209 mi from Moab which would be about 4hr drive through Hwy 6
  • Denver, CO (DIA) is about 400 mi from Moab. Which is about a 5 -6 hour drive.
  • Grand Junction, CO (GJT) is about 67 mi, 1-2 hr drive.
  • You can also fly directly into Moab, UT (CNY).

Moab Weather & Best Time to Elope

Arches National Park lies on the Colorado Plateau which is considered a high-altitude desert. What it means for the weather here is that you can expect pretty cold nights and really hot days. Of course, the weather changes throughout the season (you can look up the details here: LINK TO THE WEATHER IN MOAB). But the most moderate temperatures occur in the Spring (April-May) and in the Fall (September – November). These are also the best months to elope at Arches National Park as the highs reach 80 and the lows don’t go below 32 degrees. And, just for reference, the temperatures in the summer go well above 100, sometimes reaching 115 degrees.  The winters on the other hand could be a great alternative to the high season. In the winter temperatures range from 0 to 50. A lot of roads and trails do get closed during the off-season.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of seasons in Moab: Best Time to Explore Moab.

Arches National Park Opening Hours

Arches National Park is open 24 hours a day, year-round. The visitor center opening hours vary but there’s usually someone at the visitor center between 7:00 am to 5:00 pm. Something to keep in mind is that from April 1 through October 31 visitors are required to have a 2$ timed entry ticket to enter the park (on top of your regular parks pass). See more information below.

Arches is one of the most popular travel destinations in Utah it gets very busy March through October. Be mindful of the holidays, and any long weekends. Surprisingly (for me personally) the park tends to be *relatively* empty at sunrise and sunset.

Here’s the list of standard fees:

  • $30 – Private, non-commercial vehicle, up to 15 passengers (all occupants included)
  • $80 National Parks Pass (Allows entrance to all the parks, valid for 1 year)
  • $25 – Motorcycles
  • $15 – One individual with no car

Timed Entry

As I mentioned above, between April 1st and October 1st  You’ll need a timed entry ticket to enter the park. The first batch of tickets is released three (3) months in advance, and then some more will be available one day before entry at 7 pm MDT through on HERE. You can look up more up-to-date information on the park’s website: LINK HERE.  Visitors without a timed entry ticket can also enter the park before 7 a.m. and after 4 p.m. Please, please remember you can’t make a reservation at the park entrance station, you must have your timed entry ticket purchased through recreation.gov at least the day before. At the entrance, you can only pay the standard entrance fee.

What’s the Best Time of the Day to Elope in Arches National Park?

Privacy is something that my couples value a lot when planning their elopement. An intimate ceremony, a quiet place where you can whisper your vows would elevate this moment for you. Moab and Arches get pretty busy but there are a few ways you can make that happen. 

First, consider eloping on a weekday. Tuesday through Thursday are usually on the slower side as people tend to take Mondays and Fridays off to stay in Moab for a longer weekend. In the height of the season, I think we receive up to 15,000 guests coming to this area.

Is Sunrise or Sunset Better in Arches National Park?

While you plan your elopement or wedding you’re probably wondering what the best time is to hold your ceremony. As a photographer I would lean towards having your ceremony overlap either with sunrise or sunset. Sunrise and sunset are the optimal time windows for planning your wedding, elopement, or couples session.

During the sunrise the light is incredible, and there are usually very few people around which will give you a bit more privacy. So, if that’s important to you I would plan for an early morning. A perfect example of fewer people and a perfect light would be the windows section (Double Arch, Turret’s Arch, North and South Window).

Arches Ceremony Locations

There are so many beautiful spots to hold your ceremony in the park. Here are the ones that comply with the park’s rules organized by the number of guests:

  • Park Avenue – 15 guests
  • Double Arch – 25 guests
  • The Windows – 25 guests
  • Panorama Point – 50 guests
  • La Sal Mountains Viewpoint – 50 guests
  • Devils Garden Campground Amphitheater -80 guests

Here’s the link to the map of all of these wedding locations in the park: Wedding Locations. You can also try to hold the ceremony in a different spot within the park, and those will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Fun fact: There are only a few fire pits provided within the park. One of them is Devils Garden Campground.

Leave No Trace While Eloping in Moab: General Rules of How to Be a Person in the Desert

Moab is a very popular wedding and elopement destination. And this causes an influx of tourists exploring the land. And, for all of us to be able to enjoy the outdoors here it’s super important to follow LNT rules (LNT info link) This concerns not only couples and their guests but all of us who choose to spend time outdoors. By following some of the simple LNT rules, we’re protecting wildlife and the natural landscape. Here are the 7 principles:

  1. Plan and prepare (this saves your life and others!)
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces ( my rule of thumb is that if it’s squishy, don’t walk on it)
  3. Dispose of waste properly
  4. Respect Wildlife
  5. Leave what you find
  6. Minimize campfire impact (put out your fires thoroughly, when the fire is really out your supposed to be able to touch the coals with bare hands)
  7. Be considerate of other visitors

The biggest takeaway is best to stay on all established trails & roads or stick to rocks. Utah desert’s dirt is very much alive, and it’s called Cryptobiotic soil (more here). It looks like little raised black piles of soil and it’s hard to tell apart from regular dirt if you’re not familiar with it. The same goes for sand dunes, they’re super important for the landscape and help sustain life and prevent erosion. Your photographer and crew should really know how to navigate the landscape. As fragile as it is.

It’s also super important to get the right permits and always carry a copy on you.

How to Apply for a Permit

Parks website says you need to fill Form 10-930s LINK HERE  (fillable PDF document) and send your payment confirmation from pay.gov to: seug_commercialservices@nps.gov.

The park requires a wedding permit at least 4 weeks ahead of your wedding or elopement date. Arches wedding permits are $385 and ceremonies are limited to 10 minutes. Here’s all the most up-to-date information: Offical Park’s Website.

Elopement/Wedding Relevant Permit Conditions

Below Permit conditions are taken directly from the park’s website.

  • Natural Resource Protection: Wedding activities are restricted to slick rock, dry washes, or maintained areas of the park to protect fragile biological soil crust and plant life.
  • Bouquets: To prevent the introduction of invasive species into the park, dried plants, including grasses, are prohibited in bouquets.
  • Releases: Butterfly releases, and all other living and/or inanimate object releases or dispersal, including birdseed and rice, are prohibited. The permittee is responsible for site cleanup.
  • Decorations: The use of balloons, arches, or any other type of decorations will not be authorized.
  • Obstructions: Permittees may not obstruct sidewalks, trails, parking lots, or other visitor facilities. This includes the use of tents, tables, or other furniture. The park will evaluate folding chairs on a case-by-case basis.
  • Food: The establishment of caterers or any food service is prohibited.
  • Audio Disturbance: No public address system is permitted and music volumes are highly regulated (Re: 36 CFR 2.12). Noise levels must not exceed normal speaking volumes.
  • Vehicles: All vehicles must be parked in designated areas only; no off-road traffic. Carpooling is recommended and may be required at specific locations.
  • Pets: Pets are typically not allowed at ceremony sites, particularly those areas off the pavement or in other undeveloped locations.
  • Drones: Operating a drone is prohibited.
  • Monitor: Activities will be monitored or spot-checked by NPS personnel for compliance with the terms and conditions of the permit and to ensure that no resource damage or visitor conflicts are occurring. A cost recovery monitoring fee will be charged to the permit holder. Monitoring fees are based on the employee’s salary, time spent on site, and travel to/from duty location and permit site.
  • Time limit: All permits will be written for one hour.
  • Parking Plan: Groups larger than 25 participants will be required to create a parking plan.
  • Photography: The permit holder and ceremony participants can take photos at all locations in the park and are not limited to the locations listed above. This activity is not monitored because it is not part of the permitted activity.

Marriage Licenses in Moab

If you fulfill all the requirements, the marriage license will be issued on the same day and valid for 30 days. You can fill out the form online (LINK) but DON’T sign it – both parties have to sign in in person County Clerk’s Office. Be mindful that to complete the application you’ll need the date of the ceremony and the officiant’s name must be provided (but the officiant is not required to appear in the Clerk’s Office).

The Count Clerk’s office is open: 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Address:

  • 125 E. Center St
  • Phone number: (435) 259-1321
  • Cost: A non-refundable license fee of $50.

When you get your marriage license in Grand County, it is valid throughout the state of Utah, not just Grand County. After your elopement ceremony in Moab, whoever officiated your ceremony will need to sign, date, & return the marriage license to the Grand County Clerk within 30 days. Learn more about marriage licenses in Moab.

You can find more detailed information here. And the list of designated marriage officiators here. Remember you can also choose your own! You can have a family member or a friend to officiate.


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