Colorful landscape or Artist's Palette in Death Valley.

How to Elope in Death Valley National Park [2024]

Everything You Need to Know to Plan Your Death Valley Wedding

Death Valley National Park boasts a distinctive landscape, offering everything from salt flats to towering dunes. This complete guide offers everything you need to know on how to elope in Death Valley National Park, including selecting the perfect spot, understanding permit requirements, and planning around the park’s extreme weather conditions. You’ll find suggestions for accommodation and activities to make your national park elopement the best adventure.

A couple holding hands and running on a dirt path through the Artist's Palette area of Death Valley National Park.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions
Is it legal to elope in Death Valley?

Yes, it’s legal to elope in Death Valley National Park. However, you need to obtain a special use permit for your wedding ceremony. This permit ensures that your event complies with park regulations and helps preserve the beauty of the park.

What are the best months to elope in Death Valley?

The best months to elope in Death Valley are typically October through April when the temperatures are comfortable. Summers can be extremely hot, with temperatures often exceeding 100°F (38°C), making it uncomfortable for outdoor ceremonies.

Can I have guests at my Death Valley elopement?

Yes, you can have guests at your Death Valley elopement, but keep in mind that the number may be limited due to permit regulations.

What are some popular elopement locations in Death Valley?

Popular elopement locations in Death Valley include Zabriskie Point, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Badwater Basin, and Dante’s View.

What should I wear for a Death Valley elopement?

It’s important to dress appropriately for the desert environment. Lightweight, breathable clothing in light colors is recommended to help reflect sunlight and keep you cool. Don’t forget sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun.

Are there accommodations for guests near Death Valley?

Yes, there are accommodations available near Death Valley, including hotels, Airbnbs/VRBOs, and campgrounds.

How do I obtain a special use permit for my Death Valley elopement?

You can obtain a special use permit for your Death Valley elopement by contacting the park’s Special Park Uses office. Be sure to submit your application well in advance to allow time for processing and review.

Where is Death Valley National Park?

Death Valley National Park is located in the northern Mojave Desert, straddling the California–Nevada border. The park covers nearly 3.4 million acres, offering visitors a diverse range of landscapes including salt flats, sand dunes, badlands, valleys, and mountains.

Closest Major Cities/Towns:

The closest major cities are Las Vegas in Nevada, Bakersfield, Los Angeles, and Fresno.

  • Las Vegas, Nevada: Approximately 149 miles east, 2 hr 20 min drive time, offering the closest major airport and city amenities.
  • Bakersfield, California: Roughly 220 miles southwest, 3 hr 49 min drive time, serving as a gateway for those traveling from central California.
  • Los Angeles, California: About 260 miles west, 4 hr 28 min drive time, providing a large urban center with extensive services and another major airport option.
  • Fresno, California: Located about 328 miles northwest, 5 hr 25 min drive time, another significant urban area within a reasonable driving distance.

How to Get to Death Valley National Park

Closest Airports:

Getting into Death Valley for your elopement involves planning your travel to one of the closest major airports. Due to its remote location, renting a car is typically the most flexible option for reaching and exploring the park. Here are the closest major airports to consider:

  • McCarran International Airport (LAS) in Las Vegas, Nevada: Approximately 2 hours from Death Valley, it offers a wide range of domestic and international flights.
  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California: About 5 hours from the park, LAX is another major airport that often offers affordable flight deals and prices.
  • Ontario International Airport (ONT), Ontario, California: Nearly 4 hours from Death Valley, offering another option with fewer crowds.
  • John Wayne Airport (SNA), Orange County, California: Around 5 hours southwest, it’s a convenient option for those looking for a smaller airport. As an Orange County local, SNA is typically the most expensive of this list to fly in and out of.
  • Long Beach Airport (LGB), Long Beach, California: Also about 5 hours southwest, provides an alternative with easy access and less congestion than LAX. It’s a small airport that is very easy to navigate. You can also find some great deals for LGB flights.

How to Drive to Death Valley National Park?

The journey to Death Valley National Park will take you through some scenic routes, regardless of the airport you choose. Make sure you have a reliable vehicle or reserve a jeep in the park if you plan on off-roading. Plan your route in advance to include any stops for supplies or sightseeing along the way. There are limited resources and services in and around the park.

Specific Driving Instructions: Take CA Highway 190 if traveling east to west, or North Highway or Badwater Road if traveling north to south. If you’re heading from Las Vegas, the fastest route is through Pahrump, Nevada.

Do I Need a 4X4 or 4WD to Visit Death Valley?

You do not need a 4X4 or 4WD to access the main attractions, however having one can enhance your experience. Death Valley National Park has well maintained paved and dirt roads where a standard vehicle is adequate.

A 4X4 is required if you plan to explore the backcountry roads or sites such as Racetrack Playa or Titus Canyon.

Death Valley NPS Wedding & Elopement Permits

Wedding Special Use Permit

If you are planning to have an elopement wedding ceremony with guests within the park, you’ll need a special use permit. Contact the park and check the permit website for any price updates, currently the non-refundable processing fee is $300. You will need to submit an application for this permit 30-60 days before your elopement (the earlier, the better!).

Processing your application will take between 30-60 days and urgent requests cannot be accommodated. The process is relatively simple:

  1. Complete the permit application.
  2. Email your application to
  3. After the Office of Special Park Uses reviews your application, you will receive information on how to submit payment.
  4. Pay your fee and a special use permit will be mailed to you for signature. 
  5. Upon receipt, you will sign and return the permit to Death Valley’s office for final approval.

In addition, weddings are subject to monitoring fees depending on the group size. The Office of Special Park Uses will determine if an NPS monitor is required depending on your permit activities. Be detailed in explaining the amount of people and what items will be used for your elopement when reaching out to DVNP rangers.

Note: A Certificate of General Liability Insurance in the amount of $1,000,000 listing the United States of America as additional insured may be required. As your photographer, I carry this insurance and will submit your permit for you.

Death Valley Entry Fees

There is a $30 entrance fee per vehicle that allows you to re-enter the park as many times as you’d like within a 7-day period. If you’re an avid National Park visitor, I highly recommend purchasing the “America the Beautiful” National Park Pass for $80!

Best Locations for Your Death Valley Wedding Ceremony

View my Google Map of popular pinned locations for your Death Valley elopement ceremony.

Use two fingers to explore and move around. Click “View Larger Map” to open up the map on your Google Maps app.

Landscape image of rock at Zabriskie Point in Death Valley.
Zabriskie Point

Zabriskie Point

Zabriskie Point offers an above view of the badlands below. Views of Death Valley’s salt flats are visible in the distance and the Panamint Mountains. It’s incredible to visit during both sunrise and sunset.

Colorful landscape or Artist's Palette in Death Valley.
Artist’s Palette

Artist’s Palette

The rainbow of Artists Palette is found along the Artists Drive Scenic Loop. Visitors are mesmerized by the variety of hues (red, orange, yellow, blue, pink, and green) across the hills. Volcanic deposits rich in chemicals like iron oxides and chlorite, which provide a rainbow effect, are the source.

I once photographed an elopement at Zabriskie Point, and it was one of the most beautiful weddings I’ve ever seen. The couple exchanged vows at sunset, and the view of the valley was breathtaking.

Close up photo of waves in sand and a rock.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes are the most popular and accessible of the six dunes in Death Valley National Park. This area is best enjoyed at sunrise and dusk when the dunes cast dramatic shadows. They are also an amazing location to stargaze within the park.

Check out this elopement at Mesquite Flat San Dunes.

Salt flats with salt polygon figures and mountain in the background.
Badwater Basin Salt Flats

Badwater Basin Salt Flats

Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America and known for the geometric salt polygons that form on the flats. It’s an easy 2 mile roundtrip walk to get to the best views!

Overlook of salt flats from a hill with clouds in the sky.
Dante’s View

Dante’s View

Dante’s View Trail offers breathtaking views of the salt flats and the Panamint Range at just a 1 mile out and back hike. During a new moon, you may be able to catch a glimpse of the Milky Way.

Sand canyon with partial sun at sunset.
Breakfast Canyon

Breakfast Canyon

If inviting guests, Breakfast Canyon is the only location in Death Valley National Park that can host larger ceremonies. It’s fenced off, making it a secluded portion of the park to have all for yourselves.

Hidden Locations

One of the best things about Death Valley is that it’s a very large and remote location. This means that you’ll have the park all to yourself on your elopement day. Also, there are a ton of hidden, lesser-known locations that would be ideal for exchanging vows in total seclusion. As an adventure elopement photographer, part of my job is to discover secret locations to offer my couples looking for a more private location to exchange their vows and capture wedding portraits.

I will provide you with a customized list of suggestions for your elopement so you can pick the setting that really feels right! To find out more about planning your Death Valley Elopement Wedding, get in touch.

The Best Time of Year to Get Married at Death Valley National Park


The best time of year to get married in Death Valley National Park is during the winter, spring, or fall months when temperatures are most tolerable and mild. Death Valley is known for being the “Land of Extremes.” Sitting at below-sea-level, it is one of the hottest places on earth. One of my favorite dad jokes is that DVNP is the most intelligient national park because it holds 134 degrees!

Avoid planning a wedding in Death Valley during the peak of summer (June to September) when temperatures are generally well above 100°F (38°C) and the heat becomes extreme. If you’re open to warmer temperatures, late spring (March to May) can be an option. Here’s a breakdown of the seasons:


Death Valley National Park sees the least amount of visitors between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This is the best time to visit for a more quiet and exclusive experience. It’s at its busiest during Christmas to New Year’s, MLK Day weekend in January, and Presidents’ Day weekend in February.

Wedding dress hanging on string of lights between two palm trees in front of a restaurant door.

Where to Stay Near Death Valley National Park

If you are looking for a place to stay while you are in the area, there are several great places to choose from. There are a few hotels and ccampgrounds within the park available for booking, but all Airbnbs will be at least 45 minutes outside of Death Valley. I like to check HipCamp for private land campsites, but these are some official hotels and campgrounds inside the park:


If you are looking to stay outside of the park, there’s lodging in the towns of Beatty and Pahrump, Nevada. There’s also accommodations available in Lone Pine, Ridgecrest, and Bishop California, on the east side of the park.

Secluded Mojave Desert Eco-Pods

Death Valley House of Desert Gold

Pahrump Glamping Unit

Secluded Ancient Rock Retreat

West Wind on Lone Starr

East Wind on Lone Starr

Death Valley Elopement Activity Ideas

  • Sand board at Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes
  • Take a scenic drive on Artists Drive
  • Stargaze and catch a glimpse of the Milky Way
  • Rent a bike and explore Death Valley on two wheels
  • Reserve a campsite and grill up some burgers
  • Have your first dance under the full moon at the moonlit salt flats
  • Explore the volcanic crater, Little Ubehebe Crater
  • Walk Under the Natural Bridge
  • Book a guided jeep tour of the park
  • Off-road Death Valley’s backcountry

Bride and groom holding hands overlooking a canyon.

Death Valley Elopement Timeline Samples

8-HR Private Elopement Timeline (without guests)

12:00 – 1:15 Get ready at Desert Gold Airbnb in Beatty, NV

1:15 – 1:45 Exchange first looks

1:45 – 2:30 Drive to Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

2:30 – 3:30 Explore the sand dunes

3:30 – 4:00 Drive to Artist’s Palette

4:00 – 4:30 Ceremony and enjoy a Leave No Trace – approved sparkling water toast

4:30 – 6:00 Explore the area and capture wedding portraits

6:00 – 6:30 Drive to Badwater Basin Salt Flats

6:30 – 8:00 Enjoy a first dance, take moody lantern photos, and read letters from family

8-HR Intimate Elopement Timeline (with up to 15 guests)

12:00 – 1:30 Get ready at The Ranch At Death Valley with guests

1:30 – 2:00 Exchange first looks

2:00 – 2:10 Drive to Breakfast Canyon with guests

2:10 – 2:30 Find a beautiful ceremony area

2:30 – 3:00 Ceremony

3:00 – 3:30 Portraits with guests

3:30 – 4:00 Drive to Artist’s Palette for wedding portraits and vow exchange

4:00 – 4:30 Private vow exchange

4:30 – 6:00 Explore the landscape and capture wedding portraits

6:00 – 6:30 Return to The Ranch to meet with guests

6:30 – 8:00 Enjoy a private dinner at The Oasis At Death Valley

Death Valley Elopement Packages

I offer personalized Death Valley elopement packages to help you create the best elopement experience.

Experience-motivated elopement packages starting at $3,800:

  • 4 hours to 1.5 days of adventuring through Death Valley
  • Personalize location research
  • Customized elopement timeline
  • Vendor/activity recommendations
  • Full-resolution, edited digital images
  • Private online gallery with printing rights
  • Sneak peeks delivered within one week
  • Photographer travel expenses included
  • Support with securing your permit

Final Tips for Eloping at Death Valley National Park

  2. There is no cell service in the park so be sure to download offline maps before you travel.
  3. Fill up on gas before entering the park. There are only 3 gas stations and more than 800 miles of road. Gas inside the park is also much more expensive!
  4. Be sure to pack PLENTY of water. And then more.
  5. Stay on designated driving roads and practice Leave No Trace principles.
  6. Double check your spare tire is in working condition; have a good jack; and jumper cables.
  7. Be careful when placing your hands on rock as scorpions, snakes, and spiders like to hide in cracks and holes.

Alternatives to Death Valley

California offers plenty of alternatives to Death Valley. Here are a few other desert locations you might consider for your wedding:

1. Joshua Tree National Park

  • Highlights: Iconic Joshua trees, unique rock formations, and stunning sunsets.
  • Why Elope Here: It’s known for the unique Joshua Trees, large boulders, beautiful Airbnbs, and hippie-esque town. The park has several accessible spots that are perfect for small gatherings.

2. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

  • Highlights: Wildflower blooms in the spring, slot canyons, and the charming town of Borrego Springs.
  • Why Elope Here: As California’s largest state park, Anza-Borrego offers secluded spots for a private ceremony with the added advantage of diverse landscapes including slot canyons and palm oases.

3. Mojave National Preserve

  • Highlights: The Kelso Dunes, Joshua trees, and volcanic cinder cones.
  • Why Elope Here: For those seeking solitude and open spaces, the Mojave National Preserve offers a less crowded alternative with diverse desert scenery.

4. Alabama Hills

  • Highlights: Unique rock formations and stunning views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
  • Why Elope Here: Known for its dramatic landscape that have been the backdrop for numerous films, Alabama Hills offers a magical desert setting with the bonus of breathtaking mountain views.

If you’re planning an elopement in Death Valley, I would be honored to be your photographer. I have the experience and expertise to capture the beauty of your special day. Contact me today to learn more about my services.

Here's to co-creating an unforgettable elopement experience.

Here's to co-creating an unforgettable elopement experience.

I’m Karen, a Southern California Elopement Photographer who empowers couples to create memories that will last a lifetime. I am dedicated to providing the tools you need to create an unforgettable experience. 

I help couples by providing personalized location lists, planning resources, vendor recommendations, permits, timeline-curation, and much more to curate elopement days that will be cherished forever.

Your Southern California Elopement Photographer, planning expert, and adventure pal.

I'm here to empower you to create memories that will last a lifetime.

About Karen

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