Listen: we totally get why some places have been getting all the attention lately in the elopement industry. Locations like Yosemite, Rocky Mountain, and Glacier National Parks; Hawaii; the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee; and of course the Pacific Northwest in Oregon and Washington are all absolutely stunning, especially as places to start of your marriage. But we’re here to say, “You don’t know what you’re missing!”
Our team has done some pretty significant cross-country road trips and explorations, and we know a few fantastic spots that just aren’t getting the attention they deserve. Here are some of our favorite (yet totally underrated!) spots in the US you should consider for your elopement, especially if you want to avoid the crowds and find your own destination for a completely unique wedding day.
If you didn’t already know, Nevada is home to more mountain ranges than any other state, and has over 80 percent of its land designated as “public land”. This means that there are dozens of mountaintops just waiting for an eloping couple to celebrate on, and tons of land to explore — most of which will have hardly any crowds at all.
Between places like the Valley of Fire, Great Basin National Park, Black Rock Desert, Lake Tahoe, and a few fantastic hidden gems hardly anyone knows about (but we do!), Nevada is an amazing place to have an adventurous elopement. One of our favorite parts? It’s also one of the darkest spots in the country, meaning it’s absolutely perfect for stargazing, too!
Another region that we’ve seen and are hoping to explore more of someday are the Ozark mountains, an area mostly in the southwest portion of Missouri, but also overlapping parts of Oklahoma and Arkansas. Among these mountains and plateaus are some springs, waterfalls, rivers, and caves. In fact, Missouri is even known as the “Cave State” with over 7,300 recorded caves and many of them found in the Ozarks.
This area may be a fantastic alternative to those who love the idea of eloping to the Smoky Mountains but want fewer crowds and more privacy for their big day, since it has many of the same characteristics! However, keep in mind that the Lake of the Ozarks does get very busy during summer, so spring or autumn may be your best bet here.
PS – If you want to combine history, architecture, and the outdoors for your elopement, look into the Ha Ha Tonka Castle Ruins near Camdenton, Missouri!
This one is surely to surprise you, but after one of our friends moved to Birmingham and showed us some amazing waterfall hikes in the northern part of the state, we fell in love with the idea of capturing elopements here.
Alabama actually has more mileage of waterways than any other state, and with plenty of hills and small mountains in the north, these streams and rivers have formed some of the most stunning waterfalls we’ve ever seen. And the best part? Many of them are such truly hidden gems that you’re bound to have the whole place to yourself for most (or all) of your elopement day.
Yellowstone definitely gets plenty of attention in this big state, but it’s surely not the only feature worth checking out. Although eloping to the Grand Tetons is becoming more popular, there are still plenty of beautiful hikes in these mountain ranges that most of the locals know about but tourists don’t.
This same mountain range extends farther south of the National Parks, but you also have the Bighorn National Forest in the north, Thunder Basin National Grassland in the east, and the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest on the southern border near Colorado — all of which are totally worth considering for an adventurous elopement experience. On our bucket list is the hiking and camping areas along the Snowy Range Scenic Byway.
The Great Lakes
If you live in the Upper Midwest and think you need to travel far away to elope to somewhere epic, think again. Between all the inlets, bays, and wide open lake views, you can practically feel like you’re on a coastal beach, especially during summertime. There are even tall sand dunes at Sleeping Bear, giving you a unique combo of desert and beach vibes.
One of our personal favorite areas near Traverse City, Michigan, not only has some beautiful wineries nearby for an intimate and romantic elopement, but also looks super dreamy in autumn! And if you prefer features like ice caves and snowshoeing, the regions around Lake Superior are perfect for winter elopements.
Although our favorite parts of the Appalachian Mountains are in western North Carolina, the region in north Georgia also has plenty to offer with fewer crowds. Areas around Blue Ridge, Helen, and the Chattahoochee National Forest are beautiful in summer and fall, with plenty of small mountains, waterfalls, and creeks to explore. It’s a popular area for tubing down the river, especially on weekends, so a weekday elopement is definitely a good idea for this spot.
In the Southwest, it seems like Arizona and Utah tend to get most of the attention. But if you’re seeking a less crowded area that combines some of the same desert landscape characteristics with the Rocky Mountain views of Colorado, New Mexico is a great option.
Just north of Santa Fe, Carson National Forest offers some tall peaks and high alpine lakes for a mountaintop elopement. South of town you can visit the newest National Park for a desert-style elopement: White Sands. Or for a more canyon and rock formation vibe, the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is totally unlike anything else in the region.
Planning an Elopement in the US?
Skyewater Photo + Film is a photography and videography team that specializes in destination weddings and adventure elopements in Colorado + worldwide. Whether you’re looking for a meaningful wedding video or an adventurous elopement photographer, contact Skyewater Photo + Film for your big day!