What if I told you that 250 million acres of U.S. territory are yours to use. For free*. Beautiful, expansive areas for hiking, camping, recreating, and…ELOPING!
*permits may apply to eloping on BLM land
That’s right! BLM land is undeveloped public land primarily located in the Western United States and Alaska that is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. It’s meant to be wide open for recreational use. This is your tax money being put to work, y’all!
In this post, I’ll cover some of the best-kept secrets when it comes to BLM land and dig into my favorite areas.
Once we start working together, I’ll let you in on all my favorite locations so we can choose together. I log hundreds of miles every month to find the best areas. And since we’re using public land, it’s our job to protect our surroundings and practice the 7 principles of Leave No Trace!
Eloping on BLM land gives you access to remote, unpopulated locations where you can recreate for free. Dispersed camping is allowed on BLM land, meaning you can park overnight and set up camp virtually anywhere, so long as it’s at least 200 feet from the nearest water source. Perfect for a vanlife elopement! Check out my Vanlife Elopement Guide here.
And even if camping in the middle of nowhere is not your style, there are hundreds of established campsites on BLM land as well as Airbnbs and vacation rentals surrounding it.
You really can’t go wrong with a BLM elopement! Just because it’s not a National Forest or National Park doesn’t mean that you can’t find the same natural grandiosity. And to be honest, some of my favorite elopement locations are on BLM land. It provides an opportunity to get out somewhere that isn’t overdone. To make it your own!
A public land elopement can be anything you want it to be. You can wear whatever you want to wear. Decorate however you want to decorate. Eloping on BLM land makes all of your wildest dreams possible – you can bring vendors, or keep it simple. You can minimally decorate your ceremony space, or stand out against a desert or mountainous background with no extra props.
To make all of this possible, we have to call the ranger station of the area we want to hold your elopement in advance. We will also have to fill out the Special Recreation Permit Application and pay any fees associated with the permit depending on the location. Look at it this way – instead of paying out the wazoo for a venue, you’re paying much less and supporting the public lands.
Now let’s get into the fun stuff…
According to REI, 10.5% of U.S. land is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. With this much to choose from, how do you find the very best spots??
For starters, HERE is a map you can reference to see the true expanse of BLM land. This map has features that allow you to find trailheads, camping areas, information centers, and more.
Here are some of the best BLM land areas perfect for your adventure elopement.
There are 1.8 million acres of public land surrounding beautiful Moab, Utah. Moab is a bright red, desert adventure hub with plenty of opportunities to dispersed camp or stay at established campgrounds.
I mean, think of how amazing your white (or black!) outfit will look against the desert backdrop!!! One of my favorite aspects of this area is the natural arches. Sure, you can go to Arches National Park to see them, but you can also hike to Jeep Arch or Corona and Bowtie Arch and elope under nature’s arbors.
For many, Moab is synonymous with adventure. We can add spice to your day by going base jumping (I’ve done it, and it was freaking awesome), going on a 4×4 offroad tour, scaling massive red rocks, mountain biking, canyoneering, rafting, and more.
Alabama Hills is a small stretch of BLM land located between Death Valley National Park and Sequoia National Park right at the base of Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the continental U.S.
And let me tell you, it’s spectacular. In every direction, you see the result of 100 million years of geological formations ranging from desert boulders to literal 14,000’ tall granite peaks.
Alabama Hills is the perfect elopement backdrop. Plus, it’s a gateway to summiting Mt. Whitney during your elopement! Sitting at a lofty 14,505’ above sea level (the highest mountain in the lower 48 states), Mt. Whitney is a grueling yet accessible hike that climbs 6,646’ of elevation across 11 miles or you can hire a guide and head up the shorter and more technical mountaineers route). And….since you can marry yourself in California….how amazing would it be to elope on the summit of the tallest peak in America! You’ll just need two witnesses to do this and I can be one of them!
If Whitney doesn’t scream your name (like it does mine!), there are tons of gorgeous trails in and around Alabama Hills that make for both perfect elopement spots and incredible hikes. And hey, if you are an old western film buff, SO MANY westerns were filmed here that they have a dirt road route called ‘Movie Road!’
Alabama Hills is also famous for bouldering. Hire a private guide from SWS Mountain Guide for an all-day bouldering adventure. The Buttermilks are the classics but don’t overlook the Druids or Happy + Sad boulders which are just north of Bishop. Bouldering not your thing? Tons of Trad and Sport climbing in the general area as well as Alpine climbing!
For more information, contact the Alabama Hills Field Office at 760-872-5000 or BLM_CA_Web_BI@blm.gov.
Located in southeast Oregon, the Alvord Desert is a 12-mile by 7-mile flat, crackled salt flat. It’s absolutely otherworldly! And? You can camp on top of it for free.
Imagine waking up to the sunrise with seemingly neverending salt flats on one end, and desert mountains on the other end. And when it’s time to get you married? We set up a gorgeous vintage rug and arbor for total Burning Man vibes.
Eloping in the Alvord Desert will make you feel like you and your wedding day crew are the only people on the planet.
On the outskirts of the desert sits Alvord Hot Springs, where you can soak in a mountainous desert backdrop for just $5. They also have camping spots and bunk houses for those who don’t want to camp right out on the desert.
This place is called Craters of the Moon for a VERY good reason. It’s 750,000 acres of preserved (but still active) volcanic landscape – think lava fields, lava rock caves, craters, cones, and more.
It’s located in southern Idaho, just 3 hours east of Boise, and offers tons of amazing hiking through a variety of volcanic terrain. Notable trails include North Crater Trail, Caves Trail (yes, caves!), and Craters of the Moon Scenic Loop.
Set up your elopement camp at Lava Flow Campground, a first-come-first-serve campground located at the entrance to the monument.
For more information on special use permits, contact Craters of the Moon National Monument at (208) 527-1335.
If remote is the name of your game, consider eloping in Terry Badlands, Montana. Located on Montana’s east side close to the North Dakota border, Terry Badlands is yet another geological playground filled with sandstone bridges, spires, gullies, and buttes.
While there isn’t much in the form of organized recreation, you can hike or offroad both Terry Badlands Scenic View Road (which will take you to a spectacular overlook) and Calypso Trail. Perfect for a backcountry elopement if you have a vehicle with 4WD!
Much of this road is BLM land, meaning it’s yours for the camping. You can also grab a delicious dinner in the 600-person town of Terry.
If you’d like to hike more in this area, check out Makoshika State Park just 45 minutes northeast of Terry.
Ever thought of sandboarding in…WYOMING? The Killpecker Sand Dunes are a 10,500-acre offroad haven located in southwestern Wyoming.
Much of this 100-mile by 40-mile stretch of dunes are open for ATVs and dirtbikes. But, if you want to experience sandboarding without the noise, head over to the Killpecker Sand Dunes Open Play Area Campground.
Pick up a sandboard from eBay before your elopement, and we can capture an incredible wedding day experience!
Ready to start planning your unforgettable North Cascades National Park elopement!? Nomadic Weddings proudly offers complimentary planning assistance from start to end, customized packages and timelines to fit any needs, and an experience that will make this adventure your best one yet! This thing won’t plan itself! Reach out today to get started.
This ain’t an all-day photoshoot, I’m not here to get you to grin at a camera all day long, that would suck. I’m here to capture all the natural and organic moments of a beautiful day filled with things you two love to do the most together. Whether that’s hiking, backpacking, camping, rock climbing, sailing, biking, exploring cities, or sipping on microbrews; whatever your heart desires.