Guide: How to Plan a Canyonlands National Park Elopement

Bride and Groom face each other holding hands and saying vows with the Canyonlands landscape in the background.

Canyonlands National Park Elopements

Everything You Need to Know to Plan a Canyonlands Elopement

Canyonlands National Park in Utah, with its dramatic desert landscape and canyons formed by the Colorado River and its tributaries, make it a stunning place to elope! Canyonland Park’s four distinct districts are divided by rivers—Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and the rivers themselves are also considered a district. Each district has something unique to offer in terms of sightseeing and activities, and each one makes for a unique experience for couples looking to plan a Canyonlands elopement!

Located in southeastern Utah, Canyonlands National Park rests about 30 miles from Moab, Utah. But if you’re planning a destination Canyonlands elopement, the first big question is always “where are the airports?” As with most National Parks, it takes a bit of travel to get from any of the nearby airports. The most popular airport for visitors flying in is Salt Lake City International Airport, which is about a 4-hour drive. Still, travelers could also come through McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas (6.5 hours away) or Denver International Airport (8 hours away).

So when is the best time to plan a Canyonlands elopement? I find the best time to visit Canyonlands National Park is fall or late spring. During the moderate transitional seasons, daytime temperatures range between 60 and 80 degrees, and nighttime temperatures fluctuate around 30 to 50 degrees. Summers can be quite hot, reaching over 100 degrees on some days. Winters are cold with low temperatures often below freezing.

Because of the weather, the most popular months to visit Canyonlands are April/May and September/October. Usually, crowds aren’t too big of an issue, but I’d recommend eloping during the week rather than a weekend day if possible. The winter is the least busy time to visit, which can be a plus for couples who want to ensure there are no crowds but keep in mind some hikes and roads may be blocked off.

Where Should You Plan Your Canyonlands Elopement?

With so many incredible locations to choose from, it can be hard to settle on the Canyonlands elopement spot for you. Here are a few of my favorites to help you narrow down your options a bit!

Island in the Sky is by far my favorite place to photograph elopements in Canyonlands National Park.  The trails around Grand View are intimate – there usually aren’t too many people around and tons of space, making it perfect to set up for a styled elopement ceremony. And it’s an easy hike to see some fantastic views. We only had to walk about a half mile to get to the Grand View overlook!

Mesa Arch is another great spot for your Canyonlands elopement photography. It’s a bit less intimate since it’s near the entrance and one of the most popular attractions in Island in the Sky. The view through the archway is breathtaking and totally worth braving those obstacles, though. You can see the canyons and rock formations through the arch, and it’s perfectly backlit at sunrise, which makes for truly stunning photography. There might not be enough space there for a fully-styled ceremony, but it’s great for portraits. Plus, there’s only a short scenic drive separating Mesa Arch and Grand View, so it’s easy to hit both locations!

What Time of Day is Best for a Canyonlands Elopement?

Sunrise is definitely the best choice for a Canyonlands elopement. It’s absolutely gorgeous, and with fewer tourists, it has an otherworldly, untouched feel. You get all the beautiful views without the crowd, so it’s that much more intimate.

I do have one small warning, though! Island in the Sky Trail and Grand View don’t currently have any railings or coverings, which make the photos awe striking (and the editing a bit easier), but be mindful if you’re hiking while the light is still low at sunrise.

Best Hikes in Canyonlands

Looking to plan a few extra hikes while you’re in town for your Canyonlands elopement? Wonderful! Canyonlands offers a wide range of hikes suited for every skill level. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Mesa Arch is an easy ½ milk hike perfect for beginners. There are a few switchbacks, but it’s not too bad, and there’s a spectacular viewpoint. It’s truly no surprise that Mesa Arch is one of the most visited spots in the park!
  • Lost Canyon is an 8-mile loop hike great for those with a moderate skill level. Located in the Needles District, Lost Canyon offers some of the best scenery in Canyonlands.
  • Gooseberry Trail is a difficult 5-mile hike that descends 1,400 feet to end up at the famous White Rim. It’s the steepest trail in the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands. If you’re a very experienced hiker, I highly recommend it—the views can’t be beat! 

What Else is There to Do Near Canyonlands?

Moab, Utah, is actually home to multiple famous national parks. In addition to Canyonlands National Park, you can also visit Arches National Park, just a short distance away. Arches National Park is the better-known of the two and typically gets about twice as many visitors per year compared with the Canyonlands. It’s definitely worth seeing if you’re making the trip! They are only about 30 minutes from one another, and it’s a beautiful drive!

If you’re feeling particularly adventurous and are lucky enough to visit Moab in the summer months, try whitewater rafting on the Colorado River or going on a zipline adventure. Or, for a more low-key option, give paddleboarding a try on a calmer stretch of the river. 

The city of Moab is pretty small, but there are some restaurants and shops on the main strip, as well as options for lodging. For dinner and drinks on South Main Street, I’d recommend giving Moab Brewery or Moab Diner a try!

More Tips for Your Canyonlands Elopement

  • Pack accordingly, which means bringing options. It can be really chilly in the morning before the sun comes out and get hot during the day, so wear layers!
  • Get your permit early. The whole process usually takes about a month, so definitely try to plan ahead and keep wait times in mind.
  • Have a list of places you would like to elope at so you can work with the park. Sometimes your first pick isn’t an option due to inclement weather or other unexpected factors, so it’s always a good idea to have a backup plan (or two!) just in case.

The beauty of elopements is that it’s truly just about you and your partner. There are no rules on what your day should look like. You can omit any traditions you don’t love and add anything that truly feels “you.” For example, one couple I photographed, Emily and Carter, had a sunrise breakfast Charcuterie board at their Canyonlands elopement, complete with bagels and lox, and of course, coffee! I loved that they put their personal touch on the day. Check out this blog post for more ideas on how to make your elopement extra special.

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