How to Elope in Moab – Your Moab Elopement Guide

Desert vibes are just calling for elopements. And I’m not talking about the dry, dusty, barren land shown in the Star Wars movies (although that’s awesome, too). Trade out all of that beige sand for red rock formations, gorgeous blue skies, and a river running in the middle, and you’ve got the perfect elopement destination—Moab. Many folks crave both the adventure and scenery that this unique desert provides, which is why many couples choose to elope in Moab, Utah. Consider this your ultimate Moab Elopement Guide!

Why elope in Moab, Utah? 

Honestly, there is no place like Moab to capture gorgeous images of you and your significant other with a unique backdrop. There are red rock formations to photograph near, in, on, or under—all while keeping both you and the surrounding area unharmed, of course.

In addition to gorgeous scenery, the area has many activities for you to do during your time. If you crave an adventure elopement, take a peek at the adrenaline-inducing activities below. Some of my elopement packages in Moab, Utah, include multi-day treks so that we can capture images from dawn until dusk.

  • Go rafting on the Colorado River.
  • Experience four-wheeling through the desert.
  • Head into water-filled canyons on a canyoneering adventure.
  • Explore the mountain biking trails.
  • View the river on a kayak or stand-up paddleboard.
  • Take an aerial tour of Moab from above.
  • Hike through the parks.
  • Test your skills on a ropes course.
  • Observe the gorgeous night sky in Moab.
  • Safely rappel the red rocks on a guided tour.
  • Go on a hot air balloon ride.

Best Time to Elope in Moab

Moab is quickly becoming one of the most popular places to elope right now, which means that avoiding certain times is necessary. If you want to stay away from crowds, the best times to elope in Moab, Utah, are the shoulder season months of October, November, February, March, and early April. However, avoid the holiday season and spring break weeks. Also, many of the roads that we could use for your elopement are closed in the dead of winter.

How to Get to Moab

Options on getting to Moab are car or plane. Canyonlands Field Airport (CNY) is the closest as it’s just 18 miles north, although you will have to fly United from Denver, CO to reach the airport. Another option is to fly into Grand Junction Airport (GJT), a two-hour drive from Moab. Vehicles are limited, so it’s critical to reserve a car ahead of time from Enterprise or Canyonlands Jeep and Car Rental. 

There are also a few notable sites that are within driving distance of Moab. These make great side trips, or you could start your journey in these locations. Monument Valley (2.5 hours south), Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (3 hours east), and Salt Lake City (4 hours north) are all relatively close. 

Getting married in Moab, Utah, truly is an adventure lover’s dream. Have I convinced you to plan a Moab elopement? Let’s go! And here are some fabulous places to do so.

Where to Elope in Moab

The town of Moab itself is relatively small, with a population of under 6000. So, although you probably don’t want to say, “I do,” in the town itself, there are many places to elope near Moab. They’re all about 45 minutes away, so be aware of that when booking travel and accommodations.

You will need a vehicle to get to the areas below, and I highly suggest renting a 4×4 so that you can have the necessary clearance to navigate through the red rock areas. Not only are the areas reachable by 4×4 gorgeous, but there are also fewer people, which means that we can take the time we need to get images without people in the background. 

Eloping in Dead Horse Point State Park

Moab elopement in black dress at Dead Horse Point State Park

Despite the somewhat awful name—sorry, horse lovers!—Dead Horse Point State Park is a spectacular place to elope. The park is 2000 feet above the Colorado River and offers river views and surveys the many formations in the valley below. 

Although it’s only open from 6 am to 10 pm, we can still capture perfect sunset and sunrise images at the park, depending on the time of year. Like the other Moab parks, Dead Horse Point has lots of trails to explore for the perfect elopement photos, and it’s 32 miles from downtown Moab.

One positive point about a Dead Horse Point wedding is that the park has wedding packages all laid out. Request your permit at least 30 days before your big day, and you need to abide by all of the park rules while on site.

Eloping on BLM Land

Eloping on BLM land, which stands for Bureau of Land Management, takes a bit of advance planning on the part of both you and your photographer (hint: me!). The permit actually comes through your photographer, and those permits are only given out to each photographer twice a year. So, it’s essential to ensure that your photographer is permitted to capture your images. You can also camp, climb, and hike on BLM land, making it worthy of a multi-day elopement.

Elopements in the National Parks of Moab

Eloping in Arches National Park

Arches National Park is about five miles above Moab proper, and if the name didn’t already give it away, it’s filled with stately, bridge-like formations. Arches, such as Delicate Arch and Landscape Arch, are easily accessible from the park’s hiking trails. 

One perk is that the park is open 24 hours a day, so we can definitely grab sunset, sunrise, and nighttime photos. Camping and hiking are also popular within Arches National Park, and you can even ride bikes—including e-bikes—on specific trails.

*As of 2022, Arches is testing out ticketed entry that requires advance reservations.

Eloping in Canyonlands National Park

Billed as the largest national park in Utah, one of Canyonland National Park’s most notable attractions is the Island in the Sky. It’s a colossal mesa that serves as a vantage point overlooking the landscape—you can see 100 miles in every direction. The park is also open 24 hours a day, which allows for the perfect images in any level of light. Plus, the night sky is fantastic!

Canyonlands National Park is about 30 miles from Moab, and there are a seemingly endless amount of places to elope. Additionally, the 20 miles of paved roads has many stops along the way to view the park and grab photos. Of course, we can explore off-road on the many trails within Canyonlands.

Moab Elopement Guide - Hurrah Pass

How to Elope in Moab, Utah National Parks

It’s relatively simple to get married in Utah in general. In fact, I have a handy page of info on the requirements to get married in each state. In Utah, a marriage license has no waiting period, is valid for 30 days, and requires two witnesses. 

How much does it cost to elope in Arches or Canyonlands?

In addition to paying the park entrance fee for your location(s) of choice, you do need to obtain a permit to have a wedding of any size. The permit’s total cost is (as of late 2022/early 2023) $385—a $150 nonrefundable application fee and a $235 administrative fee. Your ceremony is also limited to 10 minutes. Although a marriage license can be obtained quickly, you will need to apply for a permit at least four weeks before your intended elopement date. The good news is that you can apply up to a year in advance—cue cheers from everyone who loves to plan ahead!

My personal thoughts:

I, along with a lot of other adventure elopement photographers, have seen increased strictness for eloping in Moab national parks. It’s clear that a likely goal is to lessen elopements in these two parks. Personally, I feel there are a ton of other locations in Southern Utah that have significantly fewer crowds! For that reason, I’m currently not taking on any Moab elopements, but have availability for other locations in Utah.

Carina and Ian eloped closer to Monument Valley

The parks are open to everyone, so the time limit at each location is moderated by ten-minute breaks if other people are waiting to get to the area. We will need to take a ten-minute break every ten minutes to allow others to freely enjoy the landscape. Again, this is only a constraint if other people are present. However—trust me—we can find plenty of places where we can have time all to ourselves for photos after your elopement.

Approved Locations for Wedding Permits in Moab

There are many spectacular places to get married in Moab. Elopements that take place beyond the permitted locations below are taken on a case-by-case basis. You will need to clean up after your elopement (which shouldn’t be necessary unless you’re having guests) and abide by all park rules while you are on site.

  • Delicate Arch – up to 10 wedding guests
  • Delicate Arch Viewpoint – up to 25 attendees
  • Devils Garden Campground Amphitheater – up to 80 people
  • Landscape Arch – up to 10 guests
  • La Sal Mountains Viewpoint – up to 50 attendees
  • Panorama Point – – up to 50 people
  • Park Avenue – up to 15 wedding guests
  • Pine Tree Arch – up to 25 guests
  • Sand Dune Arch – up to 25 attendees
  • The Windows Section – up to 25 wedding guests

Vendors for a Moab Elopement

Of course, you already have your photographer—I’m familiar with (and love!) the area. Beyond photography, I would suggest Canyonlands Jeep for a 4×4 rental and Tellurian Events for planning and floral design. Manna Floral Design also offers lite planning packages, which is perfect for an elopement in Moab. Savanah Norman – beautiful black-owned business, this gal is a makeup artist based in Utah and frequently does makeup in places like Moab, Zion, etc. She also works with some kickass hairstylists! She can work on any skin tone. Check out her Instagram!

A Few Notes About Leave No Trace

Ok, if you know me by now, you realize that I’m passionate—as in former park ranger obsessive—about taking care of the land. Of course, that means not leaving trash or bothering wildlife, but Moab’s ecosystems are quite interesting. They’re also almost undetectable to the Utah newcomer. 

Part of any good Moab elopement guide should include info about Leave No Trace. While you are in Moab, it’s of the utmost importance to stay on the trail and durable surfaces. Although the desert may seem harsh and ultra-durable, the ground is covered in cryptobiotic crust. Basically, the area has a living organism on top of the soil—way scarier than it sounds—making certain areas look crusty and dry. Think dried mud after a rainstorm. This crust helps keep moisture in the ground, hydrates plants and helps lessen erosion.

Cryptobiotic soil can be green, black, or even almost invisible, which is why it’s so important to stay on the trail. Stepping on the ground with your foot does damage beyond your footprint—think about how a dry bread crust would crack. One step into the crypto crust can destroy decades of work done by microorganisms. 

Certain areas are also strict about other regulations for events, such as no alcohol and no amplified sound or musical instruments. Although, if you elope in Moab, Utah—instead of having a full-on wedding—the rules are simple to uphold. So, if gorgeous rock formations and a sea of red landscape sound perfect to you, let’s start planning your Moab elopement STAT. I’m ready for you to say, “I do,” with Moab’s gorgeous backdrop if you are!