How to Elope in Death Valley National Park | Ultimate Guide

Couple walking hand in hand at zabriskie point in Death Valley National Park during their elopement.

Table of Contents

Why You Should Elope in Death Valley

Stunning Landscapes and Backdrops for Unforgettable Moments

In Death Valley, experience the awe of stunning desert landscapes and otherworldly backdrops, setting the stage for ceremonies and photos that will be etched in your memory forever.

The Perfect Setting: Natural Beauty in the Valley

The stark, natural beauty of Death Valley creates the perfect setting for an intimate and romantic elopement, where love blossoms against the backdrop of this breathtaking desert oasis.

Intimacy Amidst Vast and Diverse Terrain

Couples can choose from a variety of breathtaking locations for their ceremony, ranging from the mesmerizing salt flats to the sweeping sand dunes and the rugged charm of rocky canyons.

Choose Your Backdrop: Salt Flats, Sand Dunes, or Rocky Canyons

Death Valley’s vast and diverse terrain offers a canvas of options, allowing you to choose a backdrop that resonates with your unique love story, whether it’s the expansive salt flats, the soft curves of the sand dunes, or the dramatic allure of rocky canyons.

A Canvas of Options: Breathtaking Locations for Your Ceremony

Elope amidst nature’s grandeur, crafting your love story against the backdrop of Death Valley’s diverse and breathtaking locations, each offering a unique charm and beauty to make your ceremony truly special.

Secluded Serenity: A Remote Escape in Death Valley

Escape the ordinary and embrace the secluded nature of Death Valley, ensuring a private and peaceful wedding experience far from the hustle and bustle of traditional venues.

Freedom from Tradition: A Peaceful Wedding Experience

Experience the freedom of an elopement in Death Valley, where the serene desert landscape allows you to focus solely on each other, creating a wedding experience free from the constraints of tradition.

Embark on Adventure: Starting a New Chapter Together

Eloping in Death Valley is not just a wedding; it’s an adventure, a special and adventurous way to commence a new chapter in a couple’s shared life journey. The untamed beauty of Death Valley becomes the backdrop for your unique love story, ensuring a beginning that is as extraordinary as your journey together.

Getting Legally Married in Death Valley: Legalities

Death Valley National Park Wedding Permits

  • Obtaining the Special Use Permit

For your wedding or elopement in Death Valley National Park, securing a special use permit is essential. The permit, priced at $150, can be acquired by submitting an application to the park’s permit office. Ensure you plan ahead, as the approval process generally takes 3-4 weeks.

  • Planning Ahead: Timing is Crucial

To make your special day a reality in this breathtaking location, careful planning is essential. With the permit process taking a few weeks, advance planning ensures a smooth and stress-free experience.

  • Ceremony Locations and Group Size

The permit opens the door to exchange vows in designated areas within the park. However, bear in mind that the maximum group size allowed is 50 people, adding an intimate touch to your ceremony.

  • Additional Costs and Considerations

While the $150 permit fee covers the basics, there may be additional charges for site rental or staff attendance. Understanding the potential extra costs helps in budgeting for your dream wedding or elopement.

  • Navigating Restrictions: Equipment and Alcohol

Be aware of the park’s restrictions, which include limitations on certain types of equipment and the consumption of alcohol during the event. Following these guidelines ensures a smooth and respectful celebration of this natural wonder.

  • Straightforward Process with Guidelines

Overall, the permit process for a wedding or elopement in Death Valley National Park is straightforward. To make the most of this unique opportunity, carefully read and adhere to all guidelines provided by the park’s permit office, ensuring your ceremony is a seamless and memorable experience.

California Marriage License: Navigating the Guidelines

  • In-Person Application Requirement

In California, both partners must personally appear at the County Clerk’s Office, armed with valid photo identification, to apply for a marriage license following state guidelines.

  • Validity and Return of Marriage License

Issued marriage licenses are valid for 90 days. The officiant must return the original license to the County Clerk or County Recorder within 10 days of the ceremony. Additionally, one witness signature, apart from the officiant, is required.

  • Complexity for Death Valley Elopements

For eloping in Death Valley, the Inyo County Clerk’s Office, located in Independence, CA, poses a logistical challenge. A two-and-a-half-hour drive from Furnace Creek makes it inconvenient, especially given the vastness of Inyo County.

  • Considerations for Travelers from Las Vegas

For those driving in from Las Vegas, Inyo County becomes the sole California entry point. This underscores the need for strategic planning, given the considerable distance from Furnace Creek.

  • Alternative for California Residents

Couples originating from other parts of California can opt for a different approach. They can secure a marriage license from a County Clerk/Recorder along their route to Death Valley National Park and return it to the same office on their journey back.

  • Practical Recommendation: Preemptive Paperwork

To streamline the process, my recommendation is to complete the legal paperwork in your home county courthouse before your Death Valley trip. This ensures you are legally married as far as California is concerned. With this groundwork laid, you eliminate the need to find an officiant and witness, and avoid the back-and-forth trips to a County Clerk’s office.

The Best Places to Elope in Death Valley National Park

  • Zabriskie Point
    • Exchange vows against the stunning backdrop of Zabriskie Point, where the rugged Badlands provide a dramatic setting for a truly unique and memorable ceremony.
Portrait of a joyful couple facing each other with a breathtaking backdrop, captured during their adventurous elopement at Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park.
  • Breakfast Canyon
    • Immerse yourselves in the intimacy of Breakfast Canyon, surrounded by its narrow passages and distinctive rock formations, creating an enchanting atmosphere for an elopement ceremony.
  • Artist’s Palette
    • Choose the vibrant and ever-changing hues of Artist’s Palette as the canvas for your elopement, where the hills showcase a palette of colors, creating a visually striking and romantic setting.
  • Dante’s View
    • Ascend to Dante’s View to declare your love against the breathtaking panorama, symbolizing the vastness and grandeur of your commitment in the heart of Death Valley.
  • Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes
    • Experience the tranquility of Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes as the backdrop for your elopement, where the undulating sands provide a serene and picturesque setting for your intimate ceremony.
A delightful couple strolling hand in hand amid the sunrise, celebrating their elopement at Mesquite Sand Dunes in Death Valley National Park.
  • Badwater Road
    • Journey along Badwater Road to the lowest point in North America, Badwater Basin, and exchange vows surrounded by the unique landscape of expansive salt flats, marking the beginning of your journey at the lowest point in Death Valley.
  • Golden Canyon
    • Hike hand in hand through the golden-hued rocks of Golden Canyon, celebrating your love amidst the warm tones and unique geological formations of this captivating elopement location.

Death Valley Wedding Venues

  • The Ranch at Death Valley
    • Choose The Ranch at Death Valley for an elegant elopement, where the classic charm of the venue blends seamlessly with the desert landscape, providing a picturesque setting for your intimate celebration.
  • The Four Diamond Inn at Death Valley
    • Opt for The Four Diamond Inn at Death Valley for a luxurious elopement experience, surrounded by refined elegance and impeccable service, ensuring your special day is adorned with sophistication.
  • Sanders Family Winery
    • Delight in a romantic elopement at Sanders Family Winery, where the scenic vineyards create a backdrop of rustic charm, offering a perfect blend of nature and elegance for your celebration.
  • Cherry Clouds Oasis
    • Immerse yourselves in the tranquil oasis setting of Cherry Clouds Oasis, a hidden gem for an intimate elopement, where lush greenery and a peaceful atmosphere provide a romantic escape for your special day.

These enchanting venues in Death Valley offer a range of settings, from classic charm to luxurious elegance and rustic vineyard beauty, ensuring that your elopement is not only intimate but also uniquely tailored to your vision of a perfect celebration of love.

A playful couple joyfully running on the road at Devil's Cornfield in Death Valley National Park, embracing the adventure of their elopement.

Getting There: Your Journey to Death Valley

By Cars

  • Fun Fact About Death Valley
    • Did you know Death Valley is the largest national park in the lower 48? A car is your ticket to explore its vast wonders. For an extra adventure, consider a car like a Jeep, perfect for off-roading to some of the park’s most stunning, albeit bumpy, dirt road destinations. But fear not, even with a regular rental car, you can access most of the park’s hottest spots.
  • Local Drives to Death Valley
    • If you’re in Southern California or nearby, reaching the park is a breeze. Enjoy relatively quick drives from major cities:
      • Los Angeles: 4 hours
      • San Diego: 5 hours
      • Las Vegas: 2 hours

By Planes

  • Remote Beauty Requires a Flight
    • Given Death Valley’s remote location, flying is your best option if you’re not local. Keep in mind, if you plan to legally marry in the park, you’ll need to obtain a marriage license in the state of California.
  • Airports and Distances
    • Explore your flight options, considering the distance to the park entrance:
      • Harry Reid International Airport: 2 hours
      • St. George Regional Airport: 3.5 hours

Whether you choose the scenic route by car or opt for the convenience of a flight, your journey to Death Valley promises to be the start of an unforgettable adventure in one of the most remarkable national parks in the United States.

A blissful couple strolling hand in hand, happily gazing at each other during their elopement sunset at Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park.

Best Times for a Death Valley Elopement: Weather Considerations

  • Ideal Elopement Window: October to April
    • Choose the optimal time to elope in Death Valley between October and April for comfortable temperatures. The shoulder seasons offer highs in the pleasant 70s-80s and lows in the 50s.
  • Winter Chill and Valley Floor Warmth
    • Experience chillier temperatures in winter, with highs in the 60s and lows in the 30s-40s. Note that these temperatures are on the valley floor, where most attractions are located. If venturing into the mountains, elevation will significantly impact these numbers.
  • Summer Heat Warnings: May to September
    • Avoid eloping during the scorching summer months from May to September, where extreme and uncomfortable heat prevails. June-August, in particular, witness high temperatures, reaching a staggering 130 degrees Fahrenheit in 2021.
  • Monsoon Season and Flash Flood Risks
    • Be cautious of monsoon season risks in summer/fall, bringing about the potential for flash floods, particularly in June-August. Acknowledge these general ranges, understanding that Mother Nature follows her own course.
  • Wind: A Lesser-Known Element
    • Be prepared for windy conditions during your stay, ranging from a light breeze to gusts of up to 65 mph. Regularly check the forecast, adjusting plans as needed. Embrace the wind, as it can contribute to stunning photographs, adding a unique touch to your outdoor celebration.
  • Adapting to Outdoor Risks
    • Acknowledge that outdoor weddings inherently come with some risk, whether from heat, wind, or other natural elements. The key is a willingness to adjust plans and go with the flow, ensuring a beautiful and memorable elopement experience in the heart of Death Valley.
A tender moment as the couple is about to share a kiss during their elopement at Mesquite Sand Dunes in Death Valley.

Activities for Your Elopement in Death Valley

Hiking: Endless Trails for Every Level

Immerse yourselves in the vast beauty of Death Valley with endless hiking options. From easy strolls to challenging treks, there’s a trail for every ability level, allowing you to connect with nature on your special day.

Jeeping Adventures: Explore the Backcountry Wilderness

Dive into the remote wilderness of Death Valley’s backcountry with a Jeep adventure. Whether self-guided or with a tour guide, this thrilling experience adds an extra layer of excitement to your elopement celebration.

Indulge in Relaxation: Massages and Spa Treatments

Treat yourselves to ultimate relaxation with massages and spa treatments. After the outdoor festivities, unwind and rejuvenate, enjoying the serenity of Death Valley in a more tranquil setting.

Horseback Riding: A Majestic Journey

Embark on a majestic journey through Death Valley on horseback. This unique experience allows you to explore the terrain in a leisurely and romantic way, creating lasting memories on your wedding day.

Golfing: A Leisurely Celebration

Enjoy a leisurely round of golf amidst the stunning backdrop of Death Valley. For couples who appreciate the sport, this adds a touch of sophistication to your elopement celebration.

Celebratory Meal: Delight in Culinary Delights

savor a celebratory meal at one of the park’s dining spots. Whether a casual picnic or a more formal dining experience, indulge in culinary delights to mark the joyous occasion.

Stargazing: Embrace the Night Sky’s Splendor

As the day transitions to night, revel in the enchanting beauty of Death Valley’s night sky. Stargazing adds a magical touch to your elopement, creating a celestial backdrop for your celebration.

You can also ask your elopement photographer to do astro-wedding-photography.

  • Your Death Valley adventure elopement is a canvas, and these activities are the brushstrokes that make it uniquely yours. Whether seeking a thrill, relaxation, or a bit of both, Death Valley offers a myriad of options to tailor your wedding day to perfection.
A beautiful flower arrangement complemented by a wedding vows notebook and wedding rings.

Hiring Vendors: Your Choice, Your Day

Minimalist Approach: DIY Elopements

  • Death Valley welcomes a minimalist, DIY approach to elopements. With no significant population center nearby, a DIY celebration allows you the freedom to create an intimate ceremony without the need for additional vendors. If opting for vendors, consider those from Las Vegas, understanding travel costs may apply.

Minimalist Approach: DIY Elopements

  • The Inn at Death Valley offers fabulous spaces for receptions, providing a seated private dinner option. Alternatively, consider bringing your own food and drink for a rustic reception in Breakfast Canyon or one of the park’s picturesque picnic areas.

No-Frills Magic: Embracing Simplicity

  • Death Valley, a no-frills elopement destination, captures its magic in simplicity. Embrace the lack of necessity for frills, resulting in less stress, minimal planning, and more opportunities for awe-inspiring moments.

Photographer: Capturing the Essence

  • In a place as stunning as Death Valley, a photographer is a must. Capture your special day with a photographer who can tailor their services to your preferences, covering the ceremony, reception, prep, or any combination. An experienced photographer familiar with the park aids in planning the best times for photographs, considering drive times and unique lighting.

Other Vendors: Tailoring Your Elopement Aesthetic

  • The look and feel of your elopement are entirely up to you. Consider vendors for catering, florals, jewelry, perfume, small decor items like rugs and pillows, and more. Keep in mind that Death Valley’s remote location may limit vendor options, and travel charges may apply. Pack out everything at the end of the day to leave no trace in this pristine natural setting.

Your Death Valley elopement is a canvas for your unique vision. Whether opting for a DIY celebration or involving vendors for specific aspects, the key is to create a day that reflects your love and the extraordinary beauty of this desert landscape.

Where to Stay in Death Valley National Park

Within the Park:

  • The Inn at Death Valley
    • Experience the epitome of luxury in Furnace Creek with The Inn at Death Valley, offering upscale accommodations within the park.
  • The Ranch
    • Opt for standard lodging right in Furnace Creek at The Ranch, providing a comfortable stay in close proximity to key attractions.
  • Stovepipe Wells
    • Choose Stovepipe Wells for standard lodging and campground facilities, conveniently situated about 30 minutes from Furnace Creek, near Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.
  • Panamint Springs Resort
    • Consider Panamint Springs Resort, an hour from Furnace Creek, for standard lodging and campgrounds amidst picturesque surroundings.
  • Various Campgrounds
    • Explore the diverse campgrounds within the park; check the official website for information on open sites and RV hookups.
  • Dispersed Camping
    • If seeking a more back-to-nature experience, explore dispersed camping, but ensure compliance with backcountry camping rules for a safe and respectful stay.

Outside the Park:

  • Glamping at Tarantula Ranch in Amargosa Valley
    • Indulge in a unique glamping experience at Tarantula Ranch in Amargosa Valley, offering a blend of comfort and adventure.
  • Glamping at Cherry Clouds Oasis in Tecopa
    • Experience the charm of Cherry Clouds Oasis in Tecopa with glamping options, providing a cozy and intimate stay.
  • Amargosa Opera House at Death Valley Junction
    • Opt for a quirkier stay at the Amargosa Opera House in Death Valley Junction, adding a touch of eccentricity to your accommodations.
  • Hotels or Motels in Beatty, NV
    • Consider lodging in Beatty, NV, around 50 minutes from Furnace Creek, for a convenient stay with various hotel and motel options.
  • Hotels or Motels in Pahrump, NV
    • Explore accommodations in Pahrump, NV, an hour from Furnace Creek, offering a range of hotels and motels for a comfortable stay outside the park.

Choose the accommodation that suits your preferences, ensuring a delightful and memorable stay while exploring the wonders of Death Valley.

Dressing for a Death Valley Wedding

Selecting Your Attire: Style Meets Practicality

  • Dresses: Short and Sweet or Long and Adventurous
    • Embrace the outdoors with your choice of attire. Short dresses are popular, providing ease for hiking, while long dresses add a touch of adventure. Expect a bit of dirt and snagging – consider it a badge of honor for your outdoor celebration.
  • Suits: Classic or Cool Vests? The Choice is Yours
    • Suits are a timeless choice, but for a breezier option, opt for a vest. It maintains the classic vibe while offering some breathing room. Experiment with colors like maroon, forest green, light purple, or deep blue to match or contrast. The possibilities are limitless.
  • Accessories and Shoes: Flair and Functionality
    • Ensure a sturdy pair of shoes, with boots or wedges featuring decent tread being popular choices. While heels work for the ceremony, practicality rules the day on jagged rocks and soft sand. Add flair with hats, flower crowns, and jewelry to complete your outdoor ensemble.

Be Prepared: Navigating the Elements

  • Weather and Wind: Outdoor Realities
    • Acknowledge the elements. Death Valley’s wind is known for its strength. Prepare for temperature shifts with jackets or blankets, providing protection from both cold and sun exposure. Stay hydrated in the dry desert – have water and electrolytes on hand.
  • Adventure-Ready Essentials: A Checklist
    • Outdoor weddings offer a unique experience, but nature can be unpredictable. Prepare with essentials like water, electrolytes, jackets, and blankets to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable celebration amidst Death Valley’s breathtaking landscapes.

Your Death Valley wedding attire isn’t just about style; it’s a reflection of your adventurous spirit and readiness to embrace the beauty of the outdoors as you say “I do” in this extraordinary desert setting.

Meet Your Death Valley Elopement Photographer.

The Best Death Valley Elopement Photographer