Planning a National Park Elopement

While planning a national park elopement can have a lot less moving parts, there are still plenty of things to take into consideration when planning! In this post I go over location, permits, weather, guidelines, and more to best prepare you for your adventure.


What permits do I need?

A special use permit is required to get married in any national park.

I suggest submitting your permit request before the recommended 4 weeks since there is a processing time and the permit will require approval as well. The employees that handle these permits often get swamped with applications and can be difficult to get ahold of during the busy season. The more time you allow, the more likely your date will be available and your permit will be processed.

Typical permits require a non-refundable application fee – most parks start at around $150. I have included links to popular parks at the bottom of this post!

The permit process is always changing so it is important that you check with your National Park. Some parks do not allow permits on holidays or holiday weekends due to high traffic. Popular locations are booking up fast for 2022, so it is best to plan ahead.

How do I find the best location?

Location is such a personal preference and will be different for every couple! Do you enjoy climbing to the top of mountain peaks for epic views? Do you spend your summers at alpine lakes or searching for hidden waterfalls? Or maybe you prefer spending your time in a foggy, redwood forest. Think about what best suits your vibe and go from there!

Once you have decided on the national park that you want to elope in you will want to figure out a specific location for your elopement! Some national parks only allow certain locations for weddings and many even provide a list of these locations on their page. It is also important to consider how far you want to hike/travel to get married!

AllTrails is an excellent app that shows hiking trail conditions, lengths, elevation changes, and reviews. I use this app all the time for reference. Another great tool is Google Earth – you can look up potential locations and estimate where the sun will rise/set and how the surrounding views look. Feel free to reach out, I am more than happy to help with location scouting!


What are the rules?

Rules for every national park will vary, but in general the following rules will apply wherever you decide to go.

  • Leave No Trace – this is an important policy to follow to preserve our public lands so that we can continue to enjoy them!
  • No Pets – Unfortunately pets are not allowed on the majority of the trails within national parks. Most parks allow them in the parking lot areas and on certain designated pathways, but for the most part your furry friend will have a difficult time joining you for your epic elopement! Consider eloping in a national forest or wilderness area instead!
  • No Drones
  • Practice Trail Etiquette – This can include not veering off the trails, no trampling wildflowers and native vegetation, no smoking, and no loud music.

Sunrise or Sunset?

Sunrise and sunset offer the absolute BEST lighting for photography – there is a reason why photographers love the golden hours and blue hours of the day!

The golden hour provides beautiful warm, golden light in the evening and a stunning, more white light in the morning. This lighting happens about an hour before the sun dips below or rises above the horizon.

On the other hand, the blue hour is the hour before the sun rises above or dips below the horizon. This lighting has a more moody effect, but is incredibly beautiful.

Sunrise is often most recommended for high-traffic locations in popular national parks as most people will try to catch the sun setting later in the day!



All national parks experience high and low seasons that are often dependent on weather. In general, the better the weather the more people there will be. This is something to consider in your planning, are you worried about there being a lot of people around? Another option to consider is to plan for a weekday rather than a busy weekend and definitely avoid holiday weekends! If you opt for the low season, be prepared for any and all types of weather. In my opinion, a little rain or a little snow just makes the day THAT much more magical!


What to Bring

I have a whole list on my site for this! You can find that here! But typically you will want to come prepared for both your wedding and a backcountry adventure, so pack accordingly!


Elopement Attire

Generally for elopement attire, you want your dress and/or suits to be lightweight and comfortable. Depending on the location, you may be packing in your attire. AND more than likely – you will be hiking in your attire! Plan for your dress to get dirty!


Inform your guests

This only applies if you are, in fact, inviting guests to your elopement. Make sure to tell them what they need to bring and what your schedule looks like for the day. Also, the location is important to discuss! Is your location accessible by vehicle or will you be hiking a few miles?

Looking for more information on guests and whether or not you want to invite them? Check out this blog post where I discuss this!


Common National Parks & Fees

Yosemite National Park – Special Use Permit $150

Olympic National Park – Special Use Permit (fee unknown)

Mount Rainier National Park – Special Use Permit $60

Redwood National Park – Special Use Permit $200

Joshua Tree National Park – Special Use Permit $120

Yellowstone National Park – Special Use Permit $75

Glacier National Park – Special Use Permit $125

Grand Teton National Park – Special Use Permit $200

Day passes to most national parks are around $30

National Park Annual Pass – $80

Additional permits and fees may apply depending on your unique situation.


Let’s plan your adventure!

Planning is a part of what I do, from location scouting to applying for permits, I got you covered!