How to Elope in Sedona, Arizona
Sedona has long been described as one of the most beautiful places in America, and so it should come as no surprise that it has also become a highly sought after place for couples looking for the perfect elopement location. Surrounded by towering red rock formations, Sedona has a robust outdoor community for the adventurous at heart, including a seemingly endless trail system, off road adventure opportunities, helicopter tours, and so much more! For couples looking for a more relaxed visit, the local wineries, historical sites, arts and crafts center and award winning restaurants may be more your preference. Or why not do both! There are countless activities for you to see and do during Sedona Elopement visit.
This Sedona Elopement Guide has a TON of information to help you plan, so feel free to use the table of contents to skip around and please reach out if you have any questions.
Ready to start planning your Sedona Elopement?
The most common Sedona Elopement faq’s at a glance
Top Outdoor Elopement Ceremony Locations in Sedona
Iconic Sedona Hikes
For minimalist Elopements & Intimate wedding ceremonies with under 25 people
The following are just a few of the most popular and sought after locations in and around Sedona, Arizona for your elopement or intimate wedding. These locations offer incredible views and beautiful red rock backdrops that will make your head spin! With over 200 official trails, and many more social trails to explore, Sedona is an outdoor lover’s dream location for an elopement or intimate wedding.
We will start with THE most requested location to elope in all of Sedona. When you are searching for pictures of elopements in Sedona- it is almost guaranteed your search will include images of the iconic Cathedral Rock. While this location is definitely high on the popularity list, there is a reason couples are willing to brave the crowds. Whether you are choosing to tackle the short but steep hike to the top for those towering spires, or prefer taking a less traveled trail to have the peaks rising up behind you, the view is absolutely incredible. I highly recommend doing this hike during the week. It is usually busy anytime of year, even in the summer heat, so be prepared that privacy is not to be expected. Many couples choose a less traveled location for their actual vow exchange, and then go to Cathedral for the epic views for their couples portraits.
- Parking: Parking space in both the main lot and overflow lots fills quickly. I definitely recommend planning to be there early, and to carpool when possible. Parking is paid.
- Accessibility: The hike to the top of Cathedral is not for the faint of heart. It is shorter, at only 1.2 miles in length, but has some very steep slick rock spots. The way I describe it is a hike with a mild climb. Be prepared to use your hands and navigate some vertical sections that require light climbing. The slick rock is a different kind of balance game if you haven’t navigated it before. Good shoes with grip, plenty of water, sunscreen, and a secure bag to carry your items is a must. I would rate this as kid friendly- possibly dog (2 of my three can do it with no issue), but not good for people with limited mobility, struggle with incline, balance issues, or struggle with fear of heights. Alltrails lists this hike as Moderate.
- Time of Day: Although it is pretty at sunrise, the fiery views from the top are best shot at sunset for that gorgeous wrap around sun and starburst rays for your Cathedral Rock elopement images.
- Pro-tip: There are several trails that offer incredible views of Cathedral Rock as a backdrop including Templeton, Bell Rock, and Crescent Moon Ranch if you love the unique look, but don’t want to hike up the steep slick rock to the top. The main overlook looks best at sunset, but the hidden spire is best during sunrise.
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West Fork Trail
West Fork Trail is an oasis in the desert. Located along Oak Creek Canyon, you will wind in and out of greenery that makes you forget you are in the desert. In the late fall, early winter the trees and bushes along the trail burst into fiery gold, red, and orange. If you travel further down the trail be ready to get your feet wet and plan your footwear accordingly.
- Parking: Parking fills quickly and is limited.
- Accessibility: One of the easier hikes in Sedona, West fork is considered Moderate because of the length you can travel down the canyon, and is kid and dog friendly. Appropriate footwear and water is a must.
- Time of Day: West Fork is beautiful all day, with a canopy of trees and the canyon walls covering much of the harsh midday light.
- Pro-tip: Definitely bring shoes you are willing to get wet for this one! This trail is busy towards the beginning, but thins out the further down the canyon where you can find more privacy if you are willing to wade through a little water. Feeling super adventurous? There are campgrounds further up the canyon for an overnight backpacking trip!
Bell Rock, Courthouse Butte, Baby Bell
The area off of Courthouse Vista Trailhead including Bell Rock, Courthouse Butte, and Baby Bell is one of the most sought after locations for elopements because it is easily accessible and has a ton of social trails branching off from the main trails. With several paths to choose from, including a few secret locals favorites, you can have a beautiful 360 degree view of red rocks with minimal effort.
- Parking: There are three parking lots, the first is to the south of Bell, the second is the main Courthouse Butte- Baby Bell lot, and the third is an overflow lot that requires a short walk up the main road if full. The first two fill up quickly on busy days, so like most of Sedona, carpooling and getting there early is key.
- Accessibility: This location requires a short hike and can be extended for a longer full day hike, with options for local trail offshoots. This trail is kid and dog friendly. Appropriate footwear and water is a must.
- Time of Day: This area is beautiful at both sunrise and sunset.
Arguably one of the top two most popular hiking trails in Sedona, Devil’s Bridge is a must see for many of the visitors every year. As such, I actually steer couple’s away from this location unless you are interested in sunrise couple’s portraits. While most people follow the shorter trail into Devil’s Bridge up the jeep path, my favorite is a slightly longer but easy-moderate hike that has many beautiful overlooks along the way for varied portrait backdrops and is considerably less traveled.
- Parking: The main lot for Devil’s Bridge is one of the larger lots in Sedona, but still fills up on busy days. Parking is paid. If you choose to take an offroad vehicle in, the parking at the base of the trailhead is extremely limited and can have a long wait for a space to open.
- Accessibility: The hike to the top of Devil’s Bridge is a bit rocky and a decent incline towards the end. The natural bridge is wide enough to walk across, but you definitely need shoes that won’t slip- no heels or flat soled shoes. Active kid and possibly dog friendly (had to help one of my pups in a couple spots). Good hiking shoes, plenty of water, sunscreen, and a secure bag to carry your items is a must. Alltrails lists this hike as Moderate.
- Time of Day: I 100% recommend this trail at sunrise. Although beautiful anytime of day, the lighting and privacy that comes with a sunrise ceremony is the ideal time for an elopement at Devil’s Bridge.
- Pro-tip: By taking the longer trail in (approximately 6 miles round trip- mostly mellow), you get the best of both worlds with privacy on the way in/ out to say your vows, along with the phenomenal views at the top of the bridge. Devil’s Bridge itself is actually against regulations to say your vows, so it gives the best of both worlds by still being able to take gorgeous pics there. There are also a couple offshoots with insane views along the way, including going under the bridge!
Doe Mountain is one of my very favorite picturesque hiking locations in Sedona. It is gorgeous, and seriously underrated, in my humble opinion. I love the diverse scenery with trees, cliffs, and red rock formations in the distance. Sometimes you can even get lucky and see a few hot air balloons rising with the sun.
- Parking: Like many of the Sedona trailheads, parking is super limited.
- Accessibility: This location requires a short somewhat steep hike up switchbacks to the top. Doe Mountain is kid and dog friendly. Alltrails lists it as Moderate. Appropriate footwear and water is a must.
- Time of Day: Doe Mountain is best at sunrise.
Merry Go Round Rock
Merry Go Round Rock, or Carousel Rock, is known as one of the most spectacular views in Sedona. It can be reached both by hike, or more commonly, by navigating the very bumpy, technical Schnebly Hill Road. Many jeep tours make a stop at this gorgeous overlook, but most have to be back down the high clearance 4×4 road before the best lighting sets in. While this is easily one of my favorite Sedona ceremony locations, the rough ride and limited access make it best for under 10 people.
- Parking: Limited at the trailhead, and super limited up the 4×4 road.
- Accessibility: This location requires a either a longer somewhat steep hike- or an experienced 4×4 driver with a high clearance vehicle. Kid and non-car sick dog friendly (the ride is VERY bumpy) If driving, there is still a short hike down to the overlook area. Appropriate footwear and water is a must.
- Time of Day: Merry Go Round is best at sunset.
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…and Many More off-the-beaten path areas to Explore for your Sedona Elopement!
Want more? I’ve have so many beautiful options in and around Sedona for your elopement, vow renewal, or engagement adventure session! I have spent the last 18 years exploring the Arizona desert, with many many hundreds of miles traveled in and around Sedona. I have hiked almost all of the well known trails, and explored even more of the “locals secrets” where we can have more privacy for your vows. I never tire of the gorgeous red rocks or finding new breathtaking places away from the crowds, and I am happy to share my locations with my couples who book their Sedona elopement with me.
The top Sedona elopement reception and Intimate wedding Venues
If you are looking for the convenience of a venue for your elopement, intimate ceremony or reception to celebrate with family and friends, Sedona has many photogenic options available beyond the trail system. These options also give you more freedom to set up arches, chairs, etc… and have facilities like parking and restrooms.
Tlaquepaque is a gorgeous venue with old world charm and gorgeous amenities. They have four different venue options depending on the size of your wedding or reception.
- Fee: $850- $2000+
- Guests: 4-100
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Creekside Inn Sedona B&B
The Creekside Inn Sedona is an oasis located along Oak Creek Canyon, while still being close to the heart of Sedona. This lush green property is available as lodging, ceremony, and reception location.
- Fee: Ranges- contact for quote
- Guests: 2- 250
Sedona Heritage Museum
A wedding at the Sedona Heritage Museum and Jordan Historical Park is a great option for a small, easily accessible ceremony. They offer time slots during daylight hours both before the museum opens and after the museum closes for the day.
- Fee: $200
- Guests: Up to 50 (over 50 requires a parking monitor)
Special Use Permits in Sedona
One of the incredible things about Sedona is that most outdoor areas do not require a special permit for ceremonies with under 25 guests and without props (arches, tables & chairs, etc…) at this time. This can change depending on your specific needs, so we will always check with the local forest or land management agency for your chosen location to gain written confirmation prior to your event so you don’t get hit with any surprises on your wedding day.
If you do want an arch, seating, or other setup items, there are parks and properties that allow them with a permit/ reservation fee.
Leave No Trace
What are LNT principles, and how do they affect my wedding?
Leave No Trace (LNT) is a simple set of principles designed to help you leave public places as good as (or better!) than you found them. This means following common sense principles- like not popping confetti (yes- this includes those that advertise themselves as biodegradable!)on the trail or leaving trash behind, to principles you may not think of like not spreading non-native flower petals in an area or walking off trail on cryptobiotic crust. Don’t worry- I’m not here to be a party pooper- but I WILL help you find ways to have your perfect day while also helping ensure you can still come back and visit your wedding location 10 years from now!
Best time of year to Elope in Sedona
Sitting at 4,500ft above sea level, Sedona is known for its mild climate year round.
Spring and fall are the most popular times for Sedona elopements because of the mild temperatures and mostly sunny days, but don’t let that fool you! Sedona is incredible year round. In the winter we sometimes get sprinkles of snow that spend a day or two nestled upon the red stone, making for one of the most striking views you will ever witness. In the summer, sunrise elopements can beat the heat, monsoon storms- and the crowds! The sunsets are spectacular in monsoon season, but you have to be flexible with the chance of rain. (Side note- I LOVE the rain! If you want to dance in the rainy desert on your wedding day, I will 100% be there to photograph it with a cheesy hat and cover to protect my camera!)
There really isn’t a “bad” time to elope in Sedona, but I do strongly suggest fall-spring for anyone that is not used to the heat, and wants to avoid most of the monsoon storms. As your Sedona Elopement Photographer, I will help you choose the right place for the time of year you are hoping for, along with tips on what to wear, how to stay cool (or warm!) and other tips for staying happy and healthy in the high desert.
Legalities of getting married in Sedona
- Arizona requires an officiant and 2 witnesses to sign your marriage license.
- You will both need to go down to a courthouse anywhere in Arizona with your legal IDs to obtain a marriage license which will run you approximately $85. (be sure to look up current covid restrictions)
- There is no waiting period, so you can get married immediately after leaving the courthouse, or anytime up to 12 months after the license is issued. The nearest locations if you are staying in Sedona are the County Courthouse in Prescott, AZ or at the Clerk of the Superior Court in Camp Verde.
- You will need an officiant. This can be a friend, a family member, or a professional. Prefer your elopement ceremony to be just the two of you exchanging vows? Good news- I am ordained through Universal Life Church (non-denominational)- so I am able to sign your license as your officiant at no additional charge.
- You will need Two (2) Witnesses. If you are looking forward to an elopement day with just the two of you with no guests- don’t sweat it! We can always do the legal part before or after (witnesses could be your hair and makeup artist, caterer, guests at a restaurant), or anywhere along the trail we find a couple fellow hikers.
- Once your license is signed, you just mail it in to the court (I highly recommend sending with a tracking number) and they will send the official sealed document to the address you listed when applying for your license within 7-14 days.
Sedona Elopement Vendors
Some of my favorite local vendors to consider for your elopement or Intimate wedding
Mile High Florals
Wildflower Design Co
Hair and Makeup Artists
Hey Lo Beauty Bar
Baby Doll Weddings
AZ Main Events
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!
Getting to Sedona
Phoenix Sky Harbor is the nearest major international airport. You will need to rent a vehicle and drive 2 hours north to Sedona, but the drive is beautiful once you are up and out of the city. You can also spend a day exploring the Superstition Mountains (super underrated) with the wild horses along the Salt River banks at sunset, or Cave Creek where you might get lucky and see the wild burros traveling through some of the largest saguaros in the lower desert.
Flagstaff Airport is a small regional airport with limited flights in and out each day about 45 minutes north of Sedona. I always suggest checking pricing, because sometimes they run good deals that make it worth it, especially if you are planning to check out some of the attractions in northern Arizona on your trip like the Grand Canyon (hello- wonder of the world!), Page (Horseshoe Bend), the Vermillion Cliffs (the Wave and slot canyons), Flagstaff itself, or Monument Valley. There are car rentals on site.
Sedona Airport is a private airport if you have your pilot’s license and plane or wish to charter a flight in. It is also one of the most beautiful airports I’ve ever seen, set on the top of red rocks with one of my favorite restaurants in the area on site. Flying into the Sedona airport is a sight to behold, and I highly recommend it if you have a chance.
Things to do in and around Sedona
Sedona and the area of Oak Creek have no shortage of activity options for your elopement and honeymoon. Adventurous activities include hiking, biking, climbing, swimming (in summer months) helicopter tours, jeep excursions, hot air balloon rides, star gazing (Sedona is a certified dark sky community) or fishing in Oak Creek. More laid back activities including nearby historical sites, wine tasting at local vineyards, brewery tours, relaxing spas, and world class cuisine. There really is something for everyone!
Adventurous Activities during your Sedona vacation
Historic & Artistic Attractions in Sedona
- Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Center
One of my favorite places to visit in Sedona, the Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Center is gorgeous to just walk around for the day, or stop into one of the many restaurants to have a bite. This is a must see for me, and I always tell visitors if you don’t have time to do anything else- spend a couple hours enjoying this wonderful area.
- Sedona Heritage Museum
The Sedona Heritage Museum are the caretakers of Sedona area history. Visit them for personal enjoyment, entertainment, education and research.
- Sedona History Walk
A Self guided stroll through art, cinema, history, geology and nature. For more information visit https://walksedona.com/
- Chapel of the Holy Cross
The Chapel of the Holy Cross was designed by sculptor Marguerite Brunswig Staude (a student of architect Frank Lloyd Wright) in the 1950s and is studied by students of architecture. The main stained-glass window is held together by a giant cross and overlooks the Verde Valley.
- The Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park
Many people don’t realize that you can visit the Amitabha Stupa- a symbol of the Buddha- in the middle of the red painted desert for prayer, meditation, and the experience of peace and balance.
Have a few days? Here are a few day Trips you won’t want to miss near Sedona…
The Grand Canyon
There is a reason the Grand Canyon is considered one of the seven wonders of the world. There is this feeling you get while standing on the edge, peering into the vastness, that can never be described with mere words or experienced through an image. I believe everyone should go at least once in their lives.
Horseshoe Bend & Page, AZ
Nestled on the border of Arizona and Utah, Page has activities ranging from tours through slot canyons, kayaking up the Colorado River, to watching the sunset overlooking Horseshoe Bend. It is well worth a full day or more to explore.
Monument Valley, AZ
[Currently Closed- Covid] One of the most iconic desert views made famous by old western movies is even more breathtaking in person.
Montezuma Castle National Monument
Montezuma’s Castle is a FIVE (5) story, 20 room cliff dwelling high in the walls of the cliffs by the Sinaqua Indian Tribe in the early 1300s. A very cool visit.
Interesting Facts & History Of Sedona, AZ
I’m a sucker for learning about the history and tid-bits about an area I am visiting. If you are too, here are a few fun facts about Sedona and the surrounding area.