Table of Contents:
- Where is Death Valley National Park?
- Best Time of Year to Elope in Death Valley
- What to Wear for Your Death Valley Elopement
- Death Valley Wedding & Elopement Permits
- Getting Your California Marriage License
- Best Places to Stay for Your Death Valley Elopement
- 10 Fun Ideas for Your Death Valley Elopement
- Final Death Valley Elopement Tips
- Death Valley Elopement Photographer
- More California Elopement Planning Resources
Did you know that Death Valley is the hottest, driest, AND lowest national park in the country? And that it’s actually the hottest place in the WORLD?! It’s also a super epic place to elope thanks to its crazy cool scenery, diverse landscapes, and endless opportunities for hiking, walking, climbing, even sandboarding on the giant sand dunes. This guide is going to tell you everythingggg you need to know to plan a rad Death Valley National Park elopement, including the best places to stay near the park, how to get your elopement permit, and 10 fun ideas for your trip. Pack that water & sunscreen and let’s gooo!
Where is Death Valley National Park?
Death Valley National Park is an epic desert valley located east of the Sierra Nevada mountains, straddling the California-Nevada border. It covers over 5,000 square miles and has some of the coolest, most diverse desert scenery in California, boasting all sorts of colorful rocks, vast canyons, salt flats, pine trees, spring wildflowers, sand dunes, and even a waterfall or two!! It’s about 2 hours from Las Vegas and 3.5 hours from LA, making it a great place to for a day trip from either city – or you can head from Death Valley to Vegas/LA for a day trip to the city!
Getting to Death Valley National Park
The nearest major airport to Death Valley National Park is the Harry Reid International Airport in Vegas, about 2 hours from the park’s main visitor center. Death Valley is best explored by car, so I recommend flying into Vegas, then renting a car for your elopement so you can go wherever you want to, whenever you want to! There’s no public transportation that takes you to the national park, so renting a car is pretty much your only option anyway.
Best Time of Year to Elope in Death Valley
Because Death Valley holds the record for the HOTTEST PLACE ON EARTH, you miiiight want to elope during the winter, when it’s a bit more comfortable. I know, who could’ve guessed? The summer heat in Death Valley can be unbearable, which is why it’s actually recommended by the National Park Service that you don’t do any hiking in the summer in order to stay safe. Wanna know what the highest recorded temperature in Death Valley is? 134 damn degrees Fahrenheit – it’s the literal world record!
Sooo if you’re looking to avoid the heat as much as possible, the best time of year to elope in Death Valley is winter, between November-February. Temperatures typically range between 39-90°F, which is much more bearable for hiking and outdoor exploration – although it can get surprisingly chilly once the sun goes down, so make sure to bring a light jacket along just in case! Since winter is the most comfortable time to visit Death Valley, it’s also the most crowded time to visit. If you want to avoid crowds as much as possible for your elopement I recommend eloping early in the morning and/or on a weekday for more privacy.
Spring (between March-April) is also a great time to elope in Death Valley thanks to the possibility of spring wildflowers after a rainy winter! Just make sure you’re prepared for warmer temperatures if you want to do lots of hiking or outdoor activities.
What to Wear for Your Death Valley Elopement
Because of the insane heat of Death Valley, my main tip for your Death Valley elopement is to wear something that will keep you COOL. Anything!!
If you want to wear a dress for your Death Valley elopement, pick a dress that’s made up of a lightweight, breathable material such as chiffon, tulle, organza, lightweight silk, or crepe, and that has minimal layers. Avoid heavy fabrics like satin, heavier silk blends, jersey, & mikado that will make ya sweat. You should also pick a dress that allows you to move around freely on the desert terrain, not one that restricts your movement or will make it hard for you to walk around on rocky, jagged, or slippery terrain!!
For more elopement dress tips, check out the whole Hiking Elopement Dress Guide that I put together for ya.
If you want to wear a suit for your Death Valley elopement, you should also try to pick a lightweight, breathable material like linen, and keep layers to a minimum. Make sure to buy the right size so that you don’t feel super stiff or restricted on your wedding day, especially in case you have to step over any rocks or walk on jagged, uneven terrain.
As far as shoes go for your Death Valley elopement, I recommend wearing hiking boots that will do well in the desert + on loose, sandy terrain, and that will let your feet breathe in the heat!! Split-grain leather hiking boots paired with nylon are a great option for lightweight, breathable boots that don’t necessarily need a lot of water resistance (since you’ll be in the driest national park in the country). Here’s a full guide to the Best Hiking Elopement Boots for more tips on choosing the right boots for your elopement + what to take into consideration!
And no matter what you’re wearing, make sure that you’ll be able to easily pack it into your backpacks to take out into the desert! And don’t be afraid to get a little dirty, you won’t be able to avoid it in this sandy, rocky desert landscape, so it’s best to just EMBRACE IT!
Death Valley Wedding & Elopement Permits
Now let’s talk about permits, because you know by now that getting married in a national park means you have to get a Special Use Permit ahead of time!
Do I need a permit to elope at Death Valley National Park?
Yup! To elope at Death Valley National Park you need to get a Special Use Permit. You need to apply for this permit at least 30 days in advance, but because the park handles applications in the order they’re received, it’s best to apply as early as you can!! Your photographer won’t need a separate permit like many other parks require, so you won’t need to worry about getting any kind of Commercial Use permit for them.
How much does it cost to elope at Death Valley National Park?
It will cost you at least $330 to elope at Death Valley National Park, which includes the $300 Special Use Permit application fee and the $30 park entrance fee. Your elopement may also be subject to an hourly monitoring fee of around $50/hour if the park deems it necessary! Keep in mind that all of your guests will also have to pay the regular park entrance fee, so carpooling will save you money since it’s a per-vehicle fee.
How do I apply for a Death Valley wedding permit?
Here’s how to get a Death Valley National Park Special Use Permit for your wedding or elopement:
- Complete this permit application
- Submit your completed application via email to DEVA_Permits@nps.gov at least 30 days in advance of your requested date
- Wait for instructions from the park to pay the non-refundable application fee online
- Sign & return your permit to the park for final approval
- Follow instructions from the park to pay any remaining costs if applicable
Do I have to pay to park at Death Valley National Park?
Yes – to visit Death Valley National Park, you need to purchase an Entrance Pass. This pass costs $30 for private vehicles & grants you park entry for 7 consecutive days! Or if you plan to visit the park again during the same year, you can get an annual pass for $55 instead. And if you’re a big national park-goer, the $80 America the Beautiful interagency pass is also valid at Death Valley National Park!
Getting Your California Marriage License
In addition to getting a Special Use Permit, you’ll need a California state marriage license to elope in Death Valley. You must be at least 18 years old to get a California marriage license, and you need to have 1 witness present to make your ceremony legal! The license will be valid for 90 days once you receive it and there is NO waiting period, which means you can get married as soon as you want to!!
You need to apply for your marriage license through a county clerk’s office in California. Death Valley is primarily a part of Inyo County, so their office will be the closest one for you to visit before your elopement. Make an appointment to apply for your license in person via this website, and then you’ll pay the $52 licensing fee to get your license. Easy peasy!
Best Places to Stay for Your Death Valley Elopement
Because Death Valley is such a popular tourist destination, there are tonssss of awesome places to stay for every type of couple! You can find a luxurious resort, a uniquely-designed Airbnb, or a spacious campsite in the actual park itself. Below are some of the best places to stay in Death Valley for your elopement!!
Hotels & Resorts Near Death Valley National Park
Airbnbs Near Death Valley National Park
Camping in Death Valley National Park
10 Fun Ideas for Your Death Valley Elopement
There are SO many epic things to do in Death Valley that it can be reallyyyy hard to choose how to spend your time. You really can’t go wrong with any hike or part of the park, but I narrowed down 10 of the best things to do in Death Valley that would be super cool to incorporate into your elopement, from sandboarding to hiking through canyons to visiting waterfalls!
1. Hike through Mosaic Canyon
2. Check out Ubehebe Crater
3. Go sandboarding in the Eureka Dunes
4. Hike to Natural Bridge
5. Watch the sunrise from Zabriskie Point
6. Hike to Darwin Falls
7. Visit Artists Palette
8. Walk along the Badwater Basin
9. Enjoy the scenery from Dante’s View
10. Go stargazing at the end of the night
Want some fun ideas for your Death Valley elopement ceremony? Check out these 8 Unique Elopement Ideas that I put together to help you have the most meaningful ceremony possible!!
Final Death Valley Elopement Tips
Before I letcha go, I wanted to give you some final tips for your Death Valley elopement to make sure you have the smoothest, safest day possible.
- There’s not much cell reception in Death Valley National Park, so make sure you download offline maps & trail routes beforehand!!
- You should also get gas before entering the park, since you reallyyyy don’t want to run out in the middle of the desert, and gas inside the park can be pretty expensive.
- Wear LOTS of sunscreen, even if there’s a cloud covering.
- Bring as much water as you can carry – there’s no such thing as too much when it comes to visiting the hottest, driest place on Earth! Oh, and don’t forget some snacks too!
- Protect the canyons, salt flats, sand dunes, & rolling hills by following the Leave No Trace Principles (learn more about them here!!).
- Rent a car that’s good for off roading through the desert so you don’t get stuck anywhere.
- Bring light layers to keep you warm in the early mornings/late nights, and in case you visit any cooler, higher elevations.
Hey that’s me!! If you want to say your vows to your partner in the middle of this epic desert in southern California, I WANT TO HELP that dream become a reality. I’m here to empower you to do whatever the hell you want for your big day, whether that means staying in a spacious Airbnb with all your friends and fam or eloping in private out in the sand dunes!! You deserve an incredible experience and I am so ready to make it happen for you. Take a look at my Death Valley elopement packages + pricing and then if you’re ready to start this epic adventure + give me all the deetz, you can fill out my contact form here!! I can’t wait to talk all about what you’re envisioning!
More California Elopement Planning Resources
Don’t quite have your mind set on Death Valley yet for your California elopement?? I’ve got a couple of other California elopement guides for ya to check out, featuring more of my fav locations in the state!