Death Valley is one of those places you don’t easily forget. It is one of the most unique and interesting places for an elopement adventure. The scenic views, the unique, one-of-a-kind landmarks and sights, the multitude of hikes to take and routes to drive and things to explore make this one of my personal favorites. It is the lowest, hottest, and driest National Park, and it has some of the most unique landmarks and views. You can’t go wrong exchanging your vows in this desert. Read on to learn How to Elope in Death Valley National Park in 2023, top spots to check out, permits, weather, accommodations, and anything else you’re searching for.
Table of Contents
- Where is Death Valley National Park?
- Wedding & Elopement Permits
- Best Locations for Your Death Valley Elopement
- The Best Time of Year to Get Married at Death Valley National Park
- Where to Stay
- Elopement Activity Ideas at DVNP
- Elopement Packages
- Final Tips for Eloping at Death Valley National Park
Where is Death Valley National Park?
Death Valley National Park straddles the California–Nevada border, east of the Sierra Nevada. It’s located right by the Sequoia National Forest and southern California.
Closest Major Cities/Towns:
The closest major cities are Las Vegas in Nevada, Bakersfield, Los Angeles, and Fresno.
- Driving Time From Las Vegas, NV: 2 hr 20 min; 149 miles
- Driving Time From Bakersfield: 3 hr 49 min; 218 miles
- Driving Time From Los Angeles Proper: 4 hr 28 min; 258 miles
- Driving Time From Fresno: 5 hr 25 min; 328 miles
How to Get to Death Valley National Park
Closest Major Airports:
The Harry Reid (formerly named McCarran) International Airport in Las Vegas is the closest major airport to Death Valley National Park at about 2 hours away from the park. Due to the remote location of the park and lack of public transportation at this time, driving is necessary to visit. There are a few other airports located nearby such as, St. George Regional Airport, Ontario International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Long Beach Airport, John Wayne Airport.
- Harry Reid International Airport (Las Vegas) – 2 hours
- St. George Regional Airport – 4 hours
- Ontario International Airport – 4 hours
- Los Angeles International Airport – 5 hours
- Long Beach Airport– 5 hours
- John Wayne Airport– 5 hours
How to Drive to Death Valley National Park?
Driving to Death Valley National Park is a breeze. 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.
Death Valley National Park Wedding & Elopement Permits
Wedding Special Use Permit
If you are planning to have an elopement wedding ceremony with guests within the park, you will need to obtain a special use permit. It is important to contact the park and check the permit website for any price updates, but currently the 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:
- Complete the permit application.
- Email your application to DEVA_Permits@nps.gov
- After the Office of Special Park Uses reviews your application, you will receive information on how to submit payment.
- Pay your fee and a special use permit will be mailed to you for signature.
- 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. A National Park Service monitor is to ensure park safety. The Office of Special Park Uses will determine if an NPS monitor is required depending on your permit activities. At this time, the hourly rate is about $50 and is specific to the employee’s salary. Death Valley also currently charges $.55/mile on government vehicles used for monitoring.
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, adding the permit cost to your package fees.
For self-uniting ceremonies without guests, you will not need a permit.
Entry Fees & Passes
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 Elopement
Zabriskie Point offers an elevated vista from which to marvel at the badlands below. Even during dry periods, it is clear where the path that the water carved through these yellow and brown striped hills. These hills have been sculpted by the strong force of water. Views of Death Valley’s salt flats are visible in the distance while looking past the badlands, and the Panamint Mountains’ bulk rises above them. It’s incredible to visit during both sunrise and sunset.
The rainbow of Artists Palette is the standout sight along the Artists Drive Scenic Loop, hidden beneath a subdued yellow backdrop. Visitors to this location are mesmerized by the variety of hues (red, orange, yellow, blue, pink, and green) that are splashed across the hills. Volcanic deposits rich in chemicals like iron oxides and chlorite, which provide a rainbow effect, are the source of these hues. Artist’s Palette is beautiful at any time of the day, particularly sunrise and sunset.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes are the most popular and accessible of the six dunes in Death Valley National Park. They give a sense of being transported to a secluded other world. 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.
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!
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.
If inviting guests, Breakfast Canyon is the only location in Death Valley National Park that can host larger ceremonies. It is fenced off, making it a secluded portion of the park to have all for yourselves.
Given the size and isolation of Death Valley National Park, 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
Death Valley is known for being the “land of extremes.” Sitting at below-sea-level, it is one of the hottest places on earth! Safe to say that Summer is not the best time to elope in Death Valley. Temperatures average well above 100 degrees fahrenheit, both day and night, from late May to September. Due to the scorching temperatures, the best time to visit Death Valley is between October and late April.
Springtime brings mild weather during March in the high 70s during the daytime and cold evenings in the 50s. In April, Death Valley temperatures increase into the 90s and low 60s. May is considered to be the last month with bearable weather, depending on the season and what time of the day you’re traveling. At night the temperatures lower into the 70s and soar up to 100 during the day.
Winter is an optimal time to visit Death Valley as well. The average daytime temperature hangs out in the 60s and dips into the high 30s at night. It’s important to note that while it rarely rains in Death Valley, when it does it can cause flash flooding.
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 is at its busiest during Christmas to New Year’s, MLK Day weekend in January, and Presidents’ Day weekend in February.
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 within the park available for booking, but all Airbnbs will be at least 45 minutes outside of Death Valley.
Hotels, Lodges, & Resorts:
Primitive Campgrounds accessible by high clearance 4×4 vehicles only:
If you are looking to stay outside of the park, there is ample lodging in the towns of Beatty and Pahrump, Nevada, as well as in Las Vegas. There is also lodging available in Lone Pine, Ridgecrest, and Bishop California, on the east side of the park.
Death Valley Elopement Activity Ideas
- Sand board at Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes
- Take a scenic drive on Artists Drive to witness breathtaking hues
- 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 ghostly lit salt flats
- Explore the volcanic crater, Little Ubehebe Crater
- Walk Under the Natural Bridge
- Book a guided jeep tour of the park
Death Valley National Park Elopement Packages
I offer personalized adventure elopement packages for you to help you create the best elopement experience at Death Valley National Park.
- 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
- WEAR SUNSCREEN!
- There is no cell service in the park so be sure to download offline maps before you travel.
- 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!
- Be sure to pack PLENTY of water. And then more.
- Stay on designated driving roads and practice Leave No Trace principles.
For more tips on planning an adventure elopement, such as what to wear, what to pack, how to plan, reach out to gain access to my exclusive tips and tricks!
I’m Karen, a California adventure elopement photographer who empowers couples to create memories that will last a lifetime. I am dedicated to providing the tools you need to push the boundaries of tradition and create an unforgettable experience.
I help all couples worldwide by providing personalized location lists, planning resources, vendor recommendations, permits, timeline-curation, and much more to curate elopement days that will be cherished forever.
Here's to co-creating an unforgettable elopement experience.