Avoiding Crowds in the National Parks

Overcrowding in National Parks has been slowly increasing in recent years. Numbers peaked since the spread of covid in March 2020. Since then many Americans have decided to stay in the states for their vacations and explore the national parks. There is something so sweet about being surrounded by massive mountains, trees, and roaring waters that make one’s problems feel so small and insignificant. When we hear that national parks are overcrowded we are not surprised. They offer accessibility for families, gorgeous views, and accommodations such as bathrooms, visitor centers, and food. We are thrilled that people are getting outside and exploring this land; however, we also understand that crowds can have the potential to put a damper on your elopement day. It is our goal to give you the best experience for your wedding day which includes avoiding crowds for privacy and intimacy. 

In September 2021 we drove from Pennsylvania to Utah and met up with some friends. For the next 8 days, we explored Utah’s 5 national parks. I had reserved campsites months prior and we had the National Park Seasonal Pass. After doing some research we realized that these parks are insanely packed. We even went in mid-September knowing that school had just started causing the crowds to be less. We started in Arches and got to the park at 7:30 am. That day the park had to close the gates by 8 am due to the number of people already in the park. Again, we are all for people exploring the beauty and we understand why the national parks have to place restrictions on volumes to protect the land. The issue is that with these high volumes comes increased foot traffic, off-trail stepping, littering, and lack of parking. Not to mention all of these things can affect your elopement plans. Many national parks have implemented reservations for entrance or placed limitations on tickets sold. For example, Going to The Sun Road in Glacier National Park has reservations now that are booked months in advance. This restriction is to alleviate traffic hazards on the road. 

If you are looking for a peaceful and private ceremony, here are 5 tips on how to avoid overcrowding on an elopement day

Elope anywhere but a National Park. 

There is a HUGE assumption out there that National Parks are the only option when it comes to eloping. We believe this is false. As elopement photographers and guides, we are passionate about finding unique and exciting locations for your elopement. There are so many locations outside of the national parks that are just as beautiful. Trust us! We have found them! 

When photographing in Glacier for a photography workshop we witnessed four photographers and couples come to our location in an hour. There was a ranger there keeping track of time, and people everywhere. It looked absolutely stressful and in my opinion the opposite of intimate. I don’t blame anyone, national parks are beautiful and are a hot spot for elopements, but it’s a flawed system due to the sheer volume of people in the parks.

Avoid Crowds by Eloping During the Off-season

Maybe you are dead set on eloping in a national park, understandable. If that is the case, adjust the date a little to cater to the off-season which is November through May. September and October will have fewer crowds than July but are still relatively busy. These times usually have fewer people but if you are planning on eloping at a higher elevation, you may be dealing with some unexpected snow on the ground.

Elope at Sunrise

The idea of getting up at 2 am to start getting ready to get married may not sound ideal but hear us out. You may want to consider getting to your destination early to be avoiding crowds. This way you can have a special and intimate part of your day.  

Adventure During the Weekdays

While weekdays are still packed during the busy season due to tourists, you still have the option to avoid the weekends. Weekends are always busier no matter where you are. When we say “plan for a weekday” we specifically mean Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Most people are at work those days and will travel to the parks on Wednesday or Thursday to have a long weekend camping. 

Go Deeper into the Wilderness

Another way you can be avoiding crowds is by hiking down longer trails and up higher mountains. Many parks provide easy access to views from overlooks and parking lots, however, these locations are always flooded with people. If you want to be avoiding crowds then traveling deeper into the park may be a better option to truly get away. 

As with anything in this life, there are no guarantees, but we hope this post helps you to plan ahead and be prepared for ways to avoid crowds on your elopement day. We are stoked that people are exploring outside and we hope that people continue to do so in ways that are sustainable and do not hinder the land. 

Read about the 10 Best Places to Elope in Maine

avoiding crowds in the national park
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