Updated: Aug 8
HOW TO ELOPE IN SAGUARO NATIONAL PARK, ARIZONA
RAE ANN PHOTO | ELOPEMENT & WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER | NEW ENGLAND & BEYOND
(Photos from Saguaro Park West)
If you're looking for a beautiful and unique location to elope, Saguaro National Park may be the perfect choice for you. With its stunning desert landscapes and iconic saguaro cactus forests, this park offers a breathtaking backdrop for your special day. However, before you start planning your elopement, it's important to know what permits and restrictions are required in order to ensure that your day goes smoothly.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!!
There are so many hiking trails around the park with beautiful backdrops of mountains and of course the iconic Saguaro cacti which only grow in parts of Mexico and southern Arizona! The park is set right outside of Tucson, Arizona and is accessible year round. Let's get into the nitty gritty about where/how and when to elope in Saguaro National Park.
(In photo, Saguaros in Saguaro Park East)
There are two parts of the park, a west side and an east side. Saguaro Park West aka Tucson Mountain District is on the west side of Tucson and Saguaro Park East aka Rincon Mountain District is on the east side. Both districts are an hour apart from one another.
HOW TO ELOPE IN SAGUARO NATIONAL PARK
You will need a special use permit to elope in the park. The cost of the SUP is $100 and you can apply up to one year in advance for it but the park requires a minimum of 4 weeks. The park only allows ceremonies, no receptions.
There may also be a monitoring fee of roughly $35/hr.
Saguaro National Park Restrictions:
- No flowers - in order to keep the flora and fauna safe and healthy in their environment, the park does not allow outside flora. But you can still use fake or dried flowers which are available on Etsy.
- No arches, tables, chairs, decorations, speakers, signs or generators are allowed in the park.
- Exclusive use of any area of the park isn't permitted which means other visitors may also be in attendance. But not to worry, I have specific spots in mind and do offer location scouting in my elopement packages so can find the best spot that works for you both.
It's also important to note that park entrance fees are required for all wedding guests in attendance as well as the couple. The fee is $25/vehicle and is good for up to 7 days.
Another important piece of information that applies to restrictions is LNT (leave no trace). You can find the 7 principles of LNT here. It's essential when hiking around wilderness areas to leave things as you found them. This means stay on trail, don't leave any food/trash behind (pack in, pack out) and don't leave food scraps. I know what you're thinking, well Rae, my apple is compostable. It actually takes awhile for an apple to fully compost which leaves it as food for the animals.
Locations, locations, locations!!
Saguaro Park West
Bajada Loop Drive
Valley View Overlook Trail
Signal Hill Petroglyphs
Desert Discovery Nature Trail
Wassen Peak - only hike during colder temperatures to minimize risk of heat stroke
Saguaro Park East
Cactus Forest Drive
Mica View Trail
Sonoran Desert Overlook
Things you can do during your elopement
Go hiking - start early to avoid hot temperatures
Have a picnic
Walk around the garden at the Red Hills Visitor Center
Watch the sunset together at Saguaro Park West
How do we elope in Saguaro?
If it's just the two of you you will need a marriage license and two witnesses. I'm an officiant so I can officiate + sign your marriage license. In order to get married/elope in Saguaro National Park you will need a special use permit of ($100). This permit allows any wedding that is on a trail or uses a trail for access to be limited to 18 people.
When should we elope?
Soooo, I have been to Arizona during 2/4 seasons, Summer (July) and Fall (November) so here are my thoughts!
Fall - Probably one of my favorite times to visit Arizona, it's similar to Winter even into November it gets up to 75 during the day and is generally dry like Winter. There isn't much foliage in the desert but it's still a beautiful time.
Winter - Usually warmer places are better to visit during Winter. There are milder temperatures as well as dryer weather. While this is a great time to visit, just know that it's peak time so many other visitors will be around.
Summer - With temperatures getting up well past 100 degrees it's not an ideal time to visit. If you're set on Summer we can plan activities focused around sunset or sunrise!
Spring - The desert is a beautiful time to visit in the Spring. All the beautiful desert wildflowers will be blooming! One thing to be aware of is the hibernating animals/bugs that have been dormant over the Winter coming out for the sun! The cactus bloom is in May!
What if the weather is not great?
The only thing I would be worried about is temperature. Hiking in Saguaro National Park can be very dangerous especially in Summer when temperatures can get above 100 degrees. I wouldn't worry about rain, it does rain in the desert with the highest rainfall month being August but other than that it's usually too dry!
Full Coverage Example Timeline:
9am Breakfast + coffee at a local cafe in Tucson
10am Back to Airbnb to get ready for ceremony
11am Meet at Red Hills Visitor Center (make sure to bring a picnic lunch)
12pm Picnic Lunch at Visitor Center - explore garden and take photos
3:00pm Head out for photos along Bajada Loop Drive
6:00pm Head back to airbnb for a break, change of clothes, dinner/drinks, etc.
7:00pm Head back out to Saguaro Park West for sunset (adjust for sunset time)
8:00pm Back to Airbnb for dessert and after-party
9:00pm Head back out again for starry night photos
Spud Rock Spring
Happy Valley Saddle
List of Airbnbs:
Venues/Vendors to consider
Planning + Catering:
How do we book you for photography?
Just head to my contact page and fill out a form or you can email me at email@example.com when you're ready to start planning. If you're planning for a weekday there's no rush but if you would like a weekend date, let me know ASAP!