Table of Contents:
- How to Choose Your Elopement Destination
- Best Places to Elope in the U.S.
So you’ve decided to elope – hell yeah! Elopements have become super popular in recent years and I definitely understand why: the ability to focus on you and your partner and what you want to do, rather than what’s trending in the wedding industry, is super freeing & exciting. My wife and I even eloped this past year, so I’ve got firsthand experience. If you’ve decided to elope somewhere in the country, then you’re going to love this definitive guide to all the best places to elope in the U.S.
From the coast of Washington all the way to the mountains of upstate New York, this list goes through my personal favorite places in the U.S. that make for incredible elopement destinations. Of course there are many, many more awesome locations, but in an effort to keep this list from growing too big & giving you decision fatigue, I’ve narrowed it down to a list of the top 15.
If you’re looking to elope outside of the U.S. instead, I’ve got a couple of recent guides for that, too – check out my Guide to Getting Married in Santorini if you’re dreaming up a rad Greek wedding, or this Acre Baja Wedding Planning Guide if Mexico is more your thing.
How to Choose Your Elopement Destination
When it comes to choosing which elopement destination is right for you, there are a few main factors you’ll want to think about:
- Type of location
- Landscape + scenery
- Travel costs
Obviously weather is a huge one and should be one of the first things you consider when you dream up your ideal elopement destination. Do you thrive in warm, sunny weather or would you have a blast going skiing in the middle of winter? Pick a location + time of year that’ll give you the weather conditions you’ll enjoy most, whether that’s humid tropical weather and long days, shorter days with snowy conditions for your favorite winter activities, or brisk fall temperatures with warmer afternoons.
Type of location:
The great thing about elopements is that there are really no rules. So you’re totally free to get married at a full venue, out in the mountains in the middle of nowhere, in your backyard, or inside a cozy Airbnb in the woods. Consider whether you want to elope at a venue that offers planning services & multiple ceremony/reception sites, think through how many guests you’ll have (if any) and how you want to celebrate with them, and what your budget is for your venue/location. Eloping outdoors in a national or state park is typically much cheaper since you don’t need to rent out a venue space, but it’ll obviously be more simple + DIY since you won’t have access to large, decorated spaces.
Landscape + scenery:
Landscapes are the next big one that’ll help you narrow down your decision: what type of scenery do you want for your elopement? Do you want to elope at a wedding venue with a ceremony site in front of the mountains? On a beach right next to the ocean so you can say your vows with your feet in the sand? At a ski resort overlooking a snowy mountain landscape? Think about what type of scenery brings you the most joy, makes you feel most at peace, and/or is meaningful to your relationship. Maybe you and your partner love to hike in the mountains and want to say your vows at the end of your favorite trail, or maybe you love surfing and want to tie the knot on a tropical beach. The possibilities are endless!
One thing to keep in mind if you elope in a national or state park, or somewhere on public land, is that you may need a wedding-specific permit to hold your ceremony there. For national parks, you’ll usually need a Special Use Permit no matter what, and in many state parks you might need one depending on the size of your wedding. Do your research through websites like NPS and Recreation.gov to find out what type of permit(s) you’ll need for the location you choose, and find out how much it will cost, what’s allowed/not allowed with the permit, and how far in advance you need to start the permit process.
Figure out what your budget is for travel, including:
- Rental car
- Bus/Uber/public transportation
- Transportation for guests (i.e. limo, van, party bus)
- Accommodations (i.e. Airbnb, hotel, campsite)
Know what you can afford and what all you’ll be paying for, as well as what your guests will be able to realistically afford if they’ll be traveling for your elopement.
Brainstorm the types of activities you might want to do on your elopement day or during your trip, either by yourselves or with your guests, and that’ll narrow down your location options. E.g. if you want to go surfing, you’re obviously limited to locations near a beach; if you want to go wine tasting, you’ll want a location that has some awesome wineries; if you want to go skiing, you’re limited to mountain towns that have great ski resorts & winter opportunities.
Here’s a list of potential elopement activities to get your ideas flowing:
- Rock climbing
- Swimming (ocean, lake, river, waterfall, pool, hot springs)
- Stand up paddle boarding
- River floating
- Wine tasting
- Helicopter tour
- Glacier hiking
- Cave exploring
- Spa day (massages, facials, etc.)
- Private dinner party at a restaurant
- Night out in the city
Finally, keep in mind what crowds will be like at different locations. Figure out what peak season is at the location you choose (especially at popular outdoor locations such as national parks) and decide if you want to elope during peak season when the weather is usually best, or if you’re down for cooler/less ideal weather to avoid crowds. If you want to elope during a busier season, see if you can find a more secluded/harder to access location to have your ceremony at, so you don’t have crowds around you.
Best Places to Elope in the U.S.
What are the best places to elope in the U.S.?
- Washington State
- Northern California
- Southern California
- Northern Arizona
- Southern Arizona
- Southern Utah
- New Mexico
- Upstate New York
- New York City
1. Washington State
Let’s start off with my home base, Washington state. It’s pretty freaking hard to beat the incredible diversity that Washington has to offer: mountains, beaches, deserts, rainforests, you name it. It’s a hiker’s dream, and is ideal for couples who love exploring the outdoors + want to elope in front of some of the best scenery on the west coast.
Best time of year to elope in Washington: June-October
Best elopement locations in Washington state:
- Mount Rainier National Park
- Olympic National Park
- North Cascades National Park
- Skagit Valley
- Rattlesnake Lake
For even more stunning Washington elopement locations, head to my guide to the 10 Most Beautiful Places to Elope in Washington State!
The next PNW gem south of Washington, Oregon is another absolutely incredible state to elope in thanks to its huge diversity in landscapes + scenery, from the iconic beaches of the Oregon Coast to the golden desert of Bend to the epic waters of Crater Lake National Park. You’ll love eloping in Oregon if you thrive outdoors, with opportunities to explore a wide array of breathtaking landscapes and drive along one of the most scenic highways in the country, the Historic Columbia River Highway.
Best time of year to elope in Oregon: June-October
Best elopement locations in Oregon:
- Oregon Coast
- Mt. Hood Organic Farms
- Bridal Veil Lakes
- Columbia River Gorge
- Crater Lake National Park
- Smith Rock State Park
- Painted Hills
- Alvord Desert
If you want to elope in a state that has two of the most stunning national parks in the country with high mountains, pristine alpine lakes, and super cool glaciers, Montana is the place. The natural beauty of Montana’s landscapes is insane, and there are a ton of adorable mountain towns that you could stay in for your elopement, too.
Best time of year to elope in Montana: June-August
Best elopement locations in Montana:
Wyoming is obviously home to Yellowstone National Park & the Grand Tetons, as well as some of the best hiking, biking, climbing, and skiing in the country. Jackson Hole is a super fun place to explore, too, but no matter where you go in Wyoming you’ll be gifted with stunning scenery.
Best time of year to elope in Wyoming: July-September
Best elopement locations in Wyoming:
- Brush Creek Ranch
- Grand Teton National Park
- Yellowstone National Park
- Diamond Cross Ranch
- Jackson Hole
For more of the best places to elope in Wyoming, check out this list of the Top 10 Most Beautiful Wyoming Wedding Venues!
Along with Washington and Montana, Colorado is one of the best choices if you want to elope in an epic mountain range. The Rockies are absolutely phenomenal, encompassing a wide array of mountain environments, and offers a lot to see (and do) even if you’re not a big hiker – waterfalls, scenic lakes, views of gorgeous mountain peaks, and so much more!
Best time of year to elope in Colorado: June-October
Best elopement locations in Colorado:
6. Northern California
Northern California is home to an insane amount of epic landscapes & incredible places to visit, from warm beaches to sprawling vineyards to forests of massive, lush redwoods. You’ll love eloping in northern California if you want to explore a beautiful, rugged section of the coast like Big Sur, the epic views of Yosemite, or the otherworldly desert landscape of Death Valley,
Best time of year to elope in northern California: September-October
Best elopement locations in northern California:
If you’re thinking of eloping in Cali, you won’t want to miss this Ultimate List of the Best Places to Elope in California!
7. Southern California
SoCal has to be one of my personal favorites, since it’s where my wife and I eloped, and I’ve photographed a ton of couples in Palm Springs & Joshua Tree. It’s one of the most awesome places for year-round sunny weather, outdoor adventures, amazing beaches, and rugged desert landscapes. Stay in a 5-star luxury resort or Airbnb in Palm Springs and lounge by the pool, or go stargazing in the epic Joshua Tree desert!
Best time of year to elope in southern California: March-May
Best elopement locations in southern California:
I absolutely LOVE northern Arizona and its incredible desert scenery, from the vast canyons of Page to the red rocks of Sedona. Every season in northern Arizona is beautiful and offers opportunities for outdoor adventure, plus there are a ton of luxurious spas to enjoy as well as rad desert Airbnbs. It’s also home to one of my all-time favorite elopement destinations, Horseshoe Bend!
Best time of year to elope in northern Arizona: June-September
Best elopement locations in northern Arizona:
9. Southern Arizona
Southern AZ is a world of its own with a much more wild-west vibe than the northern part of the state, and is home to one of my favorite parts of the state, Tucson + Saguaro National Park. There are multiple beautiful national monuments you can visit, tons of wildlife, and even some super cool archeological sites if that’s your thing.
Best time of year to elope in southern Arizona: September-October
Best elopement locations in southern Arizona:
10. Southern Utah
Southern Utah is probably one of the most breathtaking parts of the country, with blue skies pretty much year-round and desert scenery that truly makes you feel like you’re on another planet. Plus, it’s super doable to drive between multiple incredible locations, especially in the Moab area, so you can hit up a few different places during your time in the area!
Best time of year to elope in southern Utah: August-October
Best elopement locations in southern Utah:
- Lake Powell
- Bryce Canyon National Park
- Arches National Park
- Zion National Park
- Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
- Dead Horse Point State Park
11. New Mexico
New Mexico is the perfect location for any couple who is at their happiest in the desert, whether that be exploring the wilderness through epic hikes, witnessing the white sands of one of the most epic national parks in the country, or lounging at a luxurious desert resort & spa.
Best time of year to elope in New Mexico: September-November
Best elopement locations in New Mexico:
- White Sands National Park
- Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
- The Desert Compass
- Pecos National Historic Park
- Santa Fe National Forest
Looking for wedding venues in New Mexico to host your elopement? Check out these Top 10 Best New Mexico Wedding Venues!
I absolutely love Nashville and think that it has SO much to offer to eloping couples. From the super great nightlife & music to the cultural landmarks to the many delicious spots to eat, Nashville is definitely one of the most fun places to visit with your best friends and family!
Best time of year to elope in Nashville: April-October
Best elopement locations in Nashville:
13. Upstate New York
I love a good east coast wedding – specifically, I can never get enough of upstate New York. Being that my wife is from that area, we love visiting the Catskills & surrounding regions, and can never get over the stunning rolling hills + luscious forests. Upstate NY truly has some of the most epic wedding venues on the entire east coast, in my opinion!
Best time of year to elope in upstate New York: May-August
Best elopement locations in upstate New York:
Upstate New York is definitely one of my favorite places to visit, so I put together a separate Upstate New York Wedding Planning Guide for you, which includes the best venues, Airbnbs, and boutique hotels in the area.
14. New York City
And I can’t forget about the great New York City, a phenomenal place to elope for couples who love being in the big city and exploring shops, restaurants, and some of the best museums in the country. If you’re eloping with a few guests, exploring NYC with them would be such a fun way to spend the days before & after your elopement.
Best time of year to elope in New York City: April-June
Best elopement locations in New York City:
Last but not least, Orlando is another beautiful elopement location if you want to be close to some of the country’s best theme parks, get beautiful views of palm trees & rolling green fields, and have access to an array of beaches for a relaxing trip.
Best time of year to elope in Orlando: September-November
Best elopement locations in Orlando:
Ready to take your pick of these best places to elope in the U.S., and need a photographer to document the day for you? I’d love to chat!
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