Glamis Sand Dunes elopement planning & Inspiration

Have you ever watched a movie set in the Sahara Desert, and thought that looked like an amazing, exotic place to plan a wedding? What if I told you that there was a desert worthy of the Scorpion King (which is one of a long list of blockbusters filmed in this area) just across the southwest Arizona border in California? Well known by adventurous OHV drivers, Glamis Sand Dunes, also known as the Imperial Sand Dunes, is an incredible backdrop for a unique elopement or intimate wedding ceremony!

Glamis Sand Dunes is an outdoor recreation area managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) with rippled dunes as tall as 300 ft high, across a 40 mile long, 5 mile wide area. It is formed by windblown sands of ancient Lake Cahuill.

The main area is well traveled by OHVs, and has vendors set up from October 1- April 15th, including tours and rentals. The North Algodones Wilderness area is off limits to vehicles, so is perfect for a remote ceremony for couples willing to walk across the desolate dunes for a more quiet and private location.

Elopement couple walking hand in hand down Glamis Sand Dunes as the sun sets behind them

Glamis Sand Dunes Elopement Planning Information at a Glance

Will I need a Special Use Permit (SUP) to Elope at Glamis Sand Dunes?

You will need a recreational use permit for all vehicles from from October 1 through April 15 each year, as well as a written approval from the Bureau of Land Management for your event. As of writing this post, they are not

Can I have guests at my Glamis Elopement?

Yes! You can even bring your pups (the must stay on a leash), or your horses if you choose to go to the North Algodones Wilderness area!

Can I have an arch or table setup at Glamis Sand Dunes for my elopement or intimate wedding?

Setups require prior permission from the BLM field office

How long is the hike should I expect at the Glamis Sand Dunes?

It is honestly up to you! Hiking in the sand is a decent work out, so we can go as far into the wild or stay near the parking area as you like.

What is the parking like at Glamis?

There are several entry points, so parking availability depends on the area you are accessing. All vehicles require a parking permit- visit isdpermits.net.

Quick pro-tip:

There are no convenience stores or towns near the dunes. Bring WAY more water than you think you need, along with snacks, sunscreen and any other items you may need during your adventure. Bringing a small rug can give you a nice place to sit when the sand is hot or cold.

What time of year is best for a Glamis Elopement?

October through mid April when Glamis opens for OHV permits for a reason. While you can still visit and plan an elopement or wedding in May-September, be ready for 100-110F scorching hot summer days that turn the sand into a hot bed. Sunrise is highly suggested for hot months, plus you will have the vast dunes mostly to yourself!

When is the best time of day to plan my elopement at Glamis/ Imperial Sand Dunes?

Early morning or Sunset is the best lighting for your elopement portraits any time of year. During the cooler months, those golden sunsets that lead into epic dark skies filled with a sea of stars above you are ideal. If you choose a hotter month, then sunrise is the way to go.

What should I wear? And bring?

Personally, I like to wear sandals and take off my shoes as soon as my feet hit the sand. Sun protection, light loose clothing will help keep you cooler in the warmer months. In the winter, a jacket or other covering will shield you from the wind and blowing sand that can feel like a thousand little pins during heavy gusts. Always bring more water than you think you will need. The desert will suck all of the moisture out of your skin, lips, and hair, especially if you are traveling from somewhere with more moisture in the air. During the hotter months having drinks or food with electrolytes to replenish the salt your body loses while sweating is highly recommended.

Get Inspired…

Hannah and Marcus’s Elopement adventure editorial

Hannah and Marcus are a laid back, fun loving couple from Phoenix, Arizona. With a casual but bold style, with a bit of Bohemian flare, this elopement adventure editorial at Glamis Sand Dunes was an absolute joy to help capture.

We met on a warm November day, with clear blue skies and a blazing afternoon sun that heated the sand below our feet (and between our toes!). With mountains of rippled sand as far as the eye could see, we followed ridgelines that dipped into valleys and peaks kissed by the golden glow of the sunset.

Hannah and Marcus said their vows, as the breeze across the desert sprinkled them with grains of sand. They enjoyed a first dance, some well covered snacks (because- sand… everywhere!) and ended the evening by relaxing as the sun set in the distance.

Every beautiful wedding day is made possible by the hard work and talents of amazing vendors!

Below are the wedding vendors who brought this vision to life.

Incredible boho, vibrant bouquet by Wildflower Design Co.

Pro-Tips from wedding planner Miranda Reyes:

  • Osborne Look out is where most of the portrait shoots are held. There isn’t much parking but it is the only parking that Glamis offers to its guests. The views from wherever you set up are one in a million and you can get insane shots seriously every single place that you shoot from.
  • Definitely take your shoes off, we did a full shootout at Glamis and honestly it was a lot easier to walk around when we all had our shoes off.
  • Account in for some of the walk time between dune to dune. It is pretty far after you really clock it out.
  • Watch out for is the ATVS, Dirt bikes & UTVs that are hauling over those sand dunes. Definitely something that you do not want to get hit over.
  • The dunes are pretty windy. So if you are conducting a photoshoot definitely get a flowy dress or something that is going to flow in the wind nicely.
  • All in all, enjoy Glamis… it is definitely one of those locations to put on your bucket list!

You can reach her at Miranda Madison Events

Shannon Durazo- Arizona Elopement Photographer

Hello! I’m

Shannon Durazo

and I want to be your Elopement or Intimate Wedding Photographer!

I wholeheartedly believe that elopements and intimate weddings are the best way for couples wanting more freedom and spontaneity for their wedding day. I love helping couples visualize and craft an experience that feels true to you. The way your marriage begins matters. Set your marriage up for success by allowing yourself to get married your way!

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16 Comments

  1. Such a helpful blog about eloping at the Glamis Sand Dunes! Your photos are absolutely gorgeous – such a dreamy spot to get married!

    1. Shannon Durazo says:

      Thank you! I love it too.

  2. Are you sure these two aren’t models?!?! I mean, DANG. That maroon suit, those smiles…this is just a dream couple and location.

    1. Shannon Durazo says:

      Right? They are such a sweet, beautiful family. And boy do they make pretty babies!!!

  3. I really love those pictures! Sunddunes are a wonderful spot to elope it gives me the feeling of freedom like beeing on a boat in the middle of the ocean

    1. Shannon Durazo says:

      Thank you! There is definitely something freeing about the dunes.

  4. What an incredible place! Thank you for sharing your knowledge and what stunning images! BRAVO!!

    1. Shannon Durazo says:

      Thank you so much! I am always in awe that this is only a few hours away.

  5. Drooling over the dunes…such a dreamy place…and when you embrace what it has to offer it gives us the fresh breath! Absolutely stunning!

    1. Shannon Durazo says:

      Agreed! It is like being on another world!

    1. Shannon Durazo says:

      Thank you! Glad you enjoyed 🙂

  6. Sand Dunes never cease to amaze me! It is crazy how much sand can be in one random place at a time. This is such a great resource for couples looking to have a desert-felt elopement experience!

    1. Shannon Durazo says:

      Same! I was in love with the desert vibes from Aladdin as a kid, and having Glamis so close really hits those magic carpet ride feels 😉

  7. Wooow! Your editing style is beautiful and I love the color palette of this elopement! So pretty!

    1. Shannon Durazo says:

      Thank you so much!

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