Eloping in a National Park :: Utah’s Mighty Five
The Hearnes :: Adventure Wedding Photographers
It’s no secret that we love National Parks! Callen and I have been visiting parks since we were little children (throwback) and since creating an adventure wedding photography company centered around the outdoors, National Parks have become some of our favorite places to have couples get married! While the western US (and the world) has so much beautiful land outside of the parks, we both agree the National Parks snagged the best of the best, it just can’t be denied that Yosemite Valley is the most epic valley in the sierras, that Arches National Park contains the most epic arches in the Moab area, and that Zion National Park is home to the most beautifully sheer and narrow canyon in Utah!
While the US National Parks do count as “public land” under the Department of the Interior, they are some of the most regulated sections of public land, mainly due to the high volume of visitation and fragility of the lands. They often have paved roads through the park, paved and/or well-maintained trails to significant view points and features, shuttle systems for getting around, facilities such as visitor centers, food vendors, and so on. Some people criticize the more developed parks such as Yosemite and Yellowstone for being “too much like theme parks” but the high visitation the parks face calls for more development — some are even similar to small towns. That being said, one thing we love about even the most busy parks, is how easily you can escape the crowds and feel all alone if you know where to go! Because we essentially live and work in these parks for a majority of the year, we spend a ton of our free time exploring and finding new spots, beautiful views, and even different sections of more popular views that have less tourists, even during high season. While this article won’t come anywhere close to covering every National Park in the United States, we will list a few of our favorites and information we’ve learned after years of exploring and photographing couples in them.
Please note, the permitting policies in National Parks and Public Lands are always changing! We are not offering any legal advice, and encourage every couple to seek a confirmed answer directly from the Park concerning their event. This also goes for any photographer visiting and shooting in National Parks. Do not trust what you hear from others, always contact the Park directly.
Having your wedding in Zion National Park
With it’s relatively close proximity to Las Vegas and it’s iconic striking canyon views, Zion National Park is one of the most visited parks in the National Park Service. Unfortunately, the canyon is quite small and can’t hold so many people and cars, so the park runs a shuttle system a majority of the year and can be quite crowded. Lucky for you, we know of quite a few rad places in the park that don’t have as many people, especially if you’re willing to hike! Zion National Park is a really good place to get married because you and your guests can easily fly into Las Vegas, rent a car, and have access to hotels, restaurants, and other amenities in Springdale right outside of the park. Zion also offers a huge variety of adventure, from easy paved hikes to technical canyoneering and rock climbing!
If you’re planning to get married in Zion National Park, we highly reccomend staying at Under Canvas Zion, and hiring Zion Adventure Company for guided rock climbing, canyoneering, or mountain biking!
Here are a few weddings + elopements we’ve photographed in Zion National Park:
Sue + Mike’s Intimate Family-Only Elopement in Zion Canyon (full blog post to come)
Hanae + Michael’s Sunrise Spring Elopement in Zion (full blog post to come)
Having Your Wedding in Arches National Park
This is a good time to address a common misunderstanding: Moab is not a national park. Moab, Utah is a small town surrounded by a lot of big adventure, including Arches National Park just north east of town and Canyonlands National Park coverage a large amount of land west of town. There is also a few State Parks and lots of BLM land surrounding the area, so when people say “Moab, Utah” they’re often referring to anywhere within a 100 mile radius of the little town! By far the most visited and popular spot near Moab is Arches National Park. Arches is most commonly known for Delicate Arch (which is on the Utah license plates!), although there are over 2,000 arches within the park boundaries!
We love Arches and often reccomend it for Moab weddings because it’s a short drive from Moab (and thus, hotels, restaurants, cute airbnbs, etc) and has great access to some of the most striking landscape views and features in the Moab area. It’s also what we reccomend for couples inviting more than 10 or so guests to their wedding because they have a great list of ceremony locations, most of which have easy access from parking and facilities like restrooms and picnic tables. Arches is also a great place to get married if the weather is “bad” because the features are large and nearby, so fog, rain, and snow can’t hide them or pose as much of a risk as more cliff-side locations. Bonus: our roommate is a ranger in Arches, so we have a special connection to the park :)
Here are a few weddings + elopements we’ve photographed in Arches National Park:
Having Your Wedding in Canyonlands National Park
While Arches is certainly a more popular park near Moab, the closest access to Canyonlands National Park is under one hour away from town and the views are absolutely unmatched! We love Canyonlands for it’s easy access to sweeping cliffs and long, desert views over the vast land of canyons (the name is quite fitting)! Canyonlands has a few designated wedding ceremony locations, but it’s very important to note that the cliffs here do not have guardrails or anything to keep you from falling off. It’s a wild place, and if you or your guests have an intense fear of heights (or are prone to falling, tripping, etc) I would not reccomend Canyonlands for your wedding. That being said, if you want epic sunset views and huge cliffs, this is the place for you! If you’re feeling extra adventurous, we highly reccomend considering a tandem skydive over the canyons from the Moab Airport. It’s incredible!
Here are a few weddings + elopements we’ve photographed in Canyonlands National Park:
Bryce Canyon National Park and Capitol Reef National Park
The final two Utah National Parks are certainly less visited, and sadly we haven’t spend near as much time in them as Arches, Canyonlands, and Zion! We absolutely love Bryce Canyon National Park for the rad views, unique hoodoos, and beautiful trails. Bryce Canyon does not have designated ceremony locations, but we are happy to help you select a rad spot and help you get your permit! The same goes for Capitol Reef National Park, and we have a few spots in mind that would be super epic for a wedding ceremony.
One of the biggest benefits of getting married in one of these final two Utah National Parks would be the privacy! There are way less tourists around, especially in Capitol Reef, and you can easily escape the crowds even on a busy weekend. They’re also both close to some of Utah’s most epic BLM lands and secret areas that we love exploring. If you’re considering eloping in one of these parks, I’d reccomend renting a camper van and making a road trip out of it so you can see some of the incredible places surrounding the parks as well! Which brings me to my next idea…
The most epic way to get married in Utah
Utah is truly one of the coolest states and has so much diversity! After reading this blog post, you might be wondering how the heck you could ever choose one Utah National Park for your wedding, and my question for you is — why pick just one? So many of our couples that elope in a beautiful place end up skipping the big wedding and just combining their wedding with their honeymoon — they’ll get married somewhere beautiful and then turn that into a trip for their honeymoon immediately after! I really believe the best way to travel Utah is by car, preferably a VAN you can sleep in! It’s super easy to rent vans these days, though websites like Outdoorsy and Escape Vans, so you could fly into Salt Lake City (or Vegas, or Denver) and rent a van, then road trip through all five of Utah’s epic National Parks! Pick one to get married in, and if you have super rad adventure elopement photographers like us (hey hey) that have their own van, hire them to tag along and take epic portraits in all five of the parks!! This Mighty Five Wedding Trip is totally on my bucket list, so reach out if it sounds like something up your alley :) Callen and I are pros at planning road trips and would be so stoked to help you with your itinerary, finding showers and laundry, and anything else you may need.
I sure hope this blog post was helpful and inspiring! We love helping couples dream big and plan their elopement and Utah is such a great place for it. If you made it all the way through this post, be sure to comment and let me know — which Utah National Park seems the most “wedding worthy” to you? Which one would you get married in if you were planning a Utah adventure wedding right now?