So! You want to elope in Sedona! As a Sedona elopement photographer, I fully support this decision (I adore Sedona) and it’s super easy to see why. Sedona is a fantastic spot for your desert elopement; it’s one of the more popular spots in Arizona and is bursting with color; insane red rocks, bright blue sky, green juniper and mesquite trees. Basically; Sedona is a stunner. It’s an amazing place and one of my favorite places in Arizona 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 and rugged scenery while not having to sacrifice access to cool places to stay or great places to eat.
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 essential 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 it heats up fast and 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.
Winter is an interesting thing in Sedona- I know when people think of Arizona they think constant heat but winter can get chilly enough for snow (if you are lucky)- 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 comfortable temps and smaller crowds.
Regardless of 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 will really struggle 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 2023: 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. The parking lot fills up early in the morning and then entire road leading the the trailhead closes- and the only way to access Cathedral Rock is via shuttle. 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.
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 making the rad decision to in Sedona you have tons adventure and fun right at your fingertips.
I know it can be overwhelming to try and think of things to do on your elopement day. If this is a struggle for you, here are some questions that can get your whees turning: What are your favorite activities to do together as a couple? What do you do for fun on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis? Is there anything you always wanted to do, but never gotten around to? How can you incorporate what you already love on your elopement day?
But if you want some ideas, here are a few options Sedona has to offer:
And check this post out for even more ideas on how to make your elopement special and unique.
If you were to ask me, Aimee, what are the most important things to remember and keep in mind when thinking about our Sedona elopement? Here’s what I would say:
So, cost. It’s a thing, right? I’m based out of Flagstaff AZ which is a cool 45 minutes from Sedona. So there won’t be any surprise travel feels or additional travel costs to get me from here to there. So what is included and what does it cost?
Four hours: $5000 | Eight Hours: $7000 | One 8-hr day + 4 hr day: $9500
Ready to chat about your dream Sedona Elopement?
Or, follow along on the gram for more Sedona inspiration, adventures across the west, and a lot of really random stories 🙂
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.
— Ryan + Styhiln