So! You want to elope in Sedona! As a Sedona elopement photographer I’m hopelessly biased (I freaking love Sedona) but it’s super easy to see why. Sedona is an amazing place for an elopement; it’s the quintessential southwest setting and is absolutely bursting with color; insane red rocks, bright blue sky, green juniper and mesquite trees. Quite simply; it’s stunning. It’s an amazing spot, I will say it’s one of my favorite places for an elopement.
Sedona sits snuggly between Flagstaff and Phoenix, a little pocket of ridiculous red, almost like the heart of the desert, beating brightly and happily. It’s famous for its red rocks (red from iron in the soil), hiking, and jeep tours (my favorite is the easily spotted Pink Jeep tours– it was one of the things I did when I first visited Sedona and it was a freaking delight).
Sedona offers a lot- it’s a pretty popular place both for elopements and just in general as such there’s loads of hotels (ranged from the budge to the super fancy), restaurants (like one of the top rated mexican restaurants in the country), 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.
This is *the* question to ask about eloping in Sedona. Time of day, time of year are key, and which day of the week are key components for planning your Sedona elopement. Sedona is a touch more temperate than Phoenix, however still gets pretty hot in the summer (think temps hovering in the 90’s and even low 100’s). You could still pull off a sunrise shoot for sure, but mid day can be brutal. It’s also exceptionally busy in Sedona during the summer months due to summer break and loads of folks coming up from Phoenix for a break from the triple digit heat.
On the other hand winter can get somewhat chilly but if you’re VERY lucky you can even get snow- but this is rare and usually only happens a couple times a year. If you want to elope in Sedona, fall, winter and spring are your best bet. Mid-September-November and March-May are my favorite times for an elopement in Sedona because of the mild temps and smaller crowds.
No matter the time of year I *always* recommend having your Sedona elopement or wedding on a weekday. I *cannot* overemphasize this enough. Sedona has seen tremendous growth in popularity over the past year or so and weekends there, even during shoulder season, are packed full of tourists. Like, you have trouble finding parking, there’s 3 other elopements happening at that spot not to mention the other hikers, busy. 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 Sedona ceremony location (which are busy even on weekdays in shoulder and off season).
Even as an elopement photographer who freaking loves Sedona, I have a hard time picking a favorite spot. When you elope in Sedona, the world is your oyster. With the exception of Red Rock State Park, you don’t need a permit to get married there. 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 just more adventure-ish.
You can hike Bear Mountain (a 5 mile round trip hike rated as difficult) or you can use Bear Mountain as a beautiful backdrop. You can also hike to the top of Doe Mountain (one of my favorite hikes in Sedona) for some great views but a less intense hike. I like this spot because it’s not as heavily trafficked as other, more well known spots, but its every bit a pretty.
This one is pretty popular and for good reason- it’s probably the most iconic mountain in all of Sedona. Cathedral itself is a lovely backdrop and has great trails snaking around the base but the real show is when you hike to the top for sunset. It’s a total show stopper and completely breathtaking (and heart-stopping!). The hike is short–but *challenging* (rock scrambling is definitely a part of it- and part of the fun!)
Updated for 2021: Cathedral rock is gorgeous- but it has grown in popularity an immense amount. So much so that even in the off season on a weekday there are lines to take photos out at this iconic view and you have to wait 20 minutes just to battle for a parking space. If you love this spot- I have a place a few hours north that looks veeeery similar (see below: the one on the one on the right is Cathedral Rock, the one on the left is my secret spot).
Courthouse Butte is one of my favorite spots in Sedona. The trail can be super gentle while still being super pretty. If you want a little more adventure in your day, you can hop over to Bell Rock ( also a great spot) and do some hiking/scrambling there.
This one is for sure for those who love wild places but don’t want a grueling hike OR want to include a couple locations in their elopement day. Lover’s Knoll is literally a pull off on the side of the road and has the BEST views of Cathedral Rock at sunset. It’s not very big so it really is best as a pit-stop… but the views can’t be beat.
One of the hands down prettiest places in Sedona- and also the hardest to get to. You can walk the 6.4 mile moderate hike, or you can drive. If you opt for the latter you will 100% need a 4×4 vehicle. Like, a legit one (believe me, my husband and I tried in our Subaru just to see how far we could get. Spoiler alert: not very far). Think a jeep or maybe a 4Runner. There are several companies in Sedona that offer private tours that are experts at that drive because it is rather technical.
And this is literally the tip of the iceberg. There’s also Seven Sacred Pools, Fay Canyon, Devil’s Bridge…throw a dart at a map of Sedona and you’ve landed on somewhere gorgeous.
This is super key- I mentioned before that Sedona is seeing a huge increase in visitors. Popular locations like Cathedral Rock and Devils Bridge will have a straight up line (like at Disney World) to get out to the famous overlook. For this reason I spend a lot of time scouting in Sedona, finding spots that are not as crowded that still have spectacular views. I love location scouting and finding amazing new, never before photographed spots to bring my couples to. Having privacy makes such a huge difference and while a Sedona elopement makes that a hair harder to come by, it is absolutely doable.
As a general rule, no matter where you’re thinking of eloping, the permit situation and rules change regularly. So it’s super important to double check with your photographer (I stay super on top of this for all my couples so there’s never any uncertainty) what the rules are.
Okay with that out of the way- the rules and permit process in Sedona depends on what area you’re in. Red Rock State Park and Wilderness areas are going to have specific rules to follow. No matter where you are in Sedona, following Leave No Trace is super important. Staying on trails, avoiding the crypto, and packing out any trash is super important.
Sedona has tons of housing options. I’m super partial to Airbnb I once stayed in an adorable airbnb RV for a few nights during an elopement! They also have glamping next to Oak Creek for all your Red Rock yurt fantasies and lovely, light filled ranches that would be a dream to get ready in.
Love the look of Sedona but curious what else is out there? Want a place that is more desert, or more adventure? Or a place where it’s easier to find a place all to yourself? Check out Moab! I’ve got a Moab Elopement Planning Guide (just like this one) that is super helpful to look at!
Friends! You can do so many things!!!! If you are choosing to elope in Sedona 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 we 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?
But if you want some ideas, here are a few ideas for elopement day activities!
So, cost. It’s a thing, right? I’m based out of Phoenix, Arizona but I travel all over the southwest and consider Sedona my backyard. Also! I don’t charge travel fees for any stateside elopement or adventure wedding so you don’t have to worry about additional travel costs to get me from here to there. So what’s included and what does it cost?
Four hours: $4000 | Eight Hours: $6000 | One 8-hr day + 4 hr day: $8500
Not sold yet? Need a little more visual aid? Look, I get it. There are soooo many amazing places to elope. It’s hard to pick. Here’s what I’ll say about Sedona; it’s a colorful, classic desert space. It’s got a little bit of everything. Rad hikes? For sure. Luxurious hotels? Too many to pick from. And if seeing a full story helps you get your head around things, here’s a full Sedona elopement story to get your wheels turning even more. And if you need even more inspo? Here’s another epic jeeping Sedona Elopement.