Eeeee, you’re thinking of eloping in Moab! I cannot tell you how much of an awesome idea this is. I’m hopelessly biased (I freaking love Moab) but it’s super easy to see why. Moab is an absolutely stunning place for an elopement; it’s a staggering southwest setting and is absolutely bursting with adventure and color; dramatic red rocks, bright blue sky, winding desert river, narrow paths and dirt roads cutting through the desert like veins, distant mountains sitting on the horizon (and capped with snow in the winter!) . Quite simply; it’s stunning. It’s an amazing spot, and though I’m hopelessly biased as a Moab Elopement Photographer, I will say it’s one of my top favorite locations for an elopement.
Moab is the biggest city in Utah’s Grand County and sits just south of the Colorado River. It’s home to two of Utah’s 5 National Parks, Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park. It’s also home to Dead Horse State Park and huge swaths of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. All of this to say- this place rules. For those with an adventurous spirit or those who just want to be adventure adjacent, this is your place. Home to rock climbing, white water rafting, river floating, ATVing, mountain biking, hiking, backpacking, BASE jumping and canyoneering… adventure thrives here.
Moab has a lot to offer – it’s a popular place and as such there’s loads of hotels (raged from the budget to the fancy), restaurants, spas, and shops. It makes a great home base for a small wedding or elopement; you have access to gorgeous scenery while also having access to more creature comforts if that’s what strikes your fancy.
Time of day as well as time of year are key components for planning your Moab elopement. In general, the sunlight can be pretty harsh on a clear day in Moab, and there isn’t a ton of shade. And the light at sunrise and sunset is truly spectacular- so I always suggest centering your day around one (or both) of those time frames. Sunrise can be pretty ideal, especially in warmer months, because it really helps minimize crowds in the more popular spots.
Summer in Moab is pretty hot- this can be thwarted by planning your elopement around sunrise and sunset- but even so June, July and August are wicked warm outside sunrise and sunset. A lot of folks wind up splitting their hours during summer (half their hours in the morning and half their hours at sunset) and really loving this setup. This allows for more locations, optimizing the best temperatures (and best light), and minimizing potential for crowds.
Summers in Moab are very, VERY hot (think upper 90’s and into the 100’s). Even sunset temps can be pretty scorching, so if you’re wanting to elope in the summer, sunrise is the way to go. And- BONUS!- that will also mean way less crowds.
On the other hand winter can get somewhat chilly but if you’re VERY lucky you can even get snow. I personally love winter Moab elopements- they may be cold but it’s the quietest season in Moab (which means less crowds!)
Shoulder season reigns in Moab; September-November and March-May are my favorite times for weddings in Moab because of the mild temps. But be warned- Moab gets wildly busy in the fall. It is absolutely possible to find spots where you can have privacy (I love treasure hunting for these spots) but be ready for traffic and lots of fellow adventurers!
No matter the time of year I *always* recommend having your elopement on a weekday. You have the best chance of having a more private and intimate experience, especially if you are drawn to a more popular Moab ceremony location.
Even as an elopement photographer who freaking loves Moab, I struggle to pick a favorite spot. One thing to prep for: more than likely you *will* need a permit. Both Arches and Canyonlands require a permit for a ceremony, and BLM land also requires very specialized permits. Think of it as your venue price- but instead of paying thousands of dollars for a hall or country club, you pay a couple hundred to help support our National Parks and public land. The permit process super depends on where you wind up selecting for your location- but don’t worry! I’m familiar with the process and can totally walk you through the steps!)
There are some really stunning spots with spectacular views both for sunset and sunrise. Some have super easy access (less than half a mile flat hike) and some either require a 4×4 vehicle to get to. There’s a perfect fit for everyone, whether you are a hardcore adventurer or consider more yourself adventure adjacent.
Canyonlands National Park is such a great spot for your Moab elopement. I love the La Salle mountains on the horizon and the way the canyons below snake through the cracked earth like the deserts veins. Canyonlands is epic and sprawling and huge and I love it. It’s on the west side of Moab and, fun fact, much bigger than Arches National Park but also gets way less visitation per year, which means, and this is key!-less crowds (yay!).
Island in the Sky
The first thing you need to know about eloping on BLM land is that your photographer *must* have a permit. If your photographer says anything differently, they are wrong. The permitting process is extensive and thorough- and I am one of those photographers who has such a permit. It opens up so many awesome doors to off the beaten path locations near and around Moab. If you are wanting a more rugged adventure or little to no crowds, then a location on BLM land might be a perfect fit.
Arches is the smaller of the two National Parks outside of Moab, but is jam packed with amazing locations to explore. Arches is great because you can really get amongst it- you can walk right up and into sooo many of the arches 🙂 And they look SO GREAT at sunrise and sunset. Pro Tip: If you are eloping during busy season (spring) and have your heart set on Arches- sunrise is a *great* option.
**2022 Update about Arches National Park: Arches is moving to a timed ticket entry system. This means that from April 3-Oct 3, visitors will need three things; a timed entry ticket, a photo ID, and a park entrance ticket. Timed Entry Tickets will not be required for those with camping, backcountry, Fiery Furnace, or special use permits (ie: elopements, elopement guests, and vendors). Tickets are released in three month blocks as follows:
A limited number of tickets will be available for purchase one day prior to entry at 6 pm MDT through Recreation.gov, though those will sell out very quickly.
So what does this mean for your elopement? This is a net good thing. Arches was getting very very crowded and this is a good thing for the park and visitors (even folks getting married). It does mean that planning ahead will be essential for visiting Arches whether for fun or for an event like an elopement.
La Sal Mountains Viewpoint
The Windows Section
Sand Dune Arch
Delicate Arch Viewpoint
Pine Tree Arch
Devils Garden Campground Amphitheter
Dead Horse State Park is a great spot for elopements- you get absolutely KILLER views of the goosenecks in the Colorado River. There are 8 overlooks- some facing east and some facing west so you are able to get amazing views no matter time of day. Another fun thing about Dead Horse is that your dogs are allowed (as long as they are leashed)- so if you want your fur baby to be a part of your day, this is a great option.
PRO TIP: Live or cut flowers are not allowed in Dead Horse (this includes dried flowers), so plan on using artificial flowers if you have your heart set on a bouquet!
While Moab and luxury are not necessarily synonymous, the Sorrel River Ranch is a great resort if you want to balance your adventure with some high class pampering. It’s in a gorgeous spot (and has a spa!).
Under Canvas is one of my favorite lodging options, anywhere. There are locations all over the western US, and the one in Moab is so incredibly beautiful. Under Canvas Moab is glamping at it’s finest! It has lots of amenities of a typical hotel, but you get to stay in a stylish and well appointed canvas tent. It’s also a great option venue option if you want to have friends and family present for your ceremony and celebration, but also want to have some time just the two of you in a nearby park.
Or you can always airbnb it at a cool airbnb like this one or this one. Airbnb’s are a great base because you have access to a kitchen and have a living space to chill- but often if you’re in Moab you’ll be out adventuring anyway!
It’s important you know that your elopement day is not just an all day photo shot. Your experience is super important to me, and if you’re making the rad choice to elope in Moab you have so much adventure right at your fingertips.
If you’re trying to figure out what you want to do on your elopement day, think about some of these questions: What are your favorite activities to do together? What do you do for fun on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis? What have you always wanted or dreamed of doing, but never gotten around to? How can you incorporate what you love to do on your elopement day? Hell, what just sounds *fun*?
But if you want some ideas, here are a few options for elopement day activities!
There are so many amazing things you can do during your elopement; this is just the tip of the iceberg. Check out this blog post for even more ways to make your elopement unique and special.
While I’m based out of Flagstaff, Arizona, I’m in Utah super, super often, and travel all over the southwest (so I basically consider places like Moab, all of Southern Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, etc to be my backyard.) It’s also important for you to know that don’t charge travel fees for any stateside elopement or adventure wedding. That way you don’t have to worry about additional travel costs to get me from here to there. Here’s whats included:
Four hours: $4500 | Eight Hours: $6500 | One 8-hr day + 4 hr day: $8700
Wanna see a whole shindig? Are you *also* a visual learner? I get it- there’s so many amazing places on earth (and even just in Moab!) that it can be tough to pick just one place to elope. So here ya go: an epic as hell two day elopement to see from start to end.
And if you crave more Moab inspiration, here’s a few recent elopements:
Or! Follow along on instagram for more Moab inspiration, southwest adventures, and ridiculous and silly stories:
If you want to hear more about how to elope in a national park, this is the blog post for you! And if you’re looking for some other national park inspiration, check out this yosemite elopement planning guide!
— Ryan + Styhiln