How do you choose where to elope in Arizona? You have a few specific things you’re looking for, and the location has to be family friendly, but how do you narrow down choices? You don’t have time to visit all the vistas and trails you’ve saved on Pinterest and Instagram – and now you don’t have to! Below, I’ve detailed the Top 10 Family Friendly Locations to elope Arizona. Keep reading to learn more about each location, discover the best time to elope at each place, as well as what to consider when bringing along the kiddos for your Arizona elopement adventure!
These off-the-beaten-path elopement locations in Arizona are all tried and true family friendly adventures. Whether you’re looking for a waterfall, a desert scene, a lake, or a mountain peak – there are options below to satisfy any desired Arizona environment. My goal is to help you choose the elopement location that best suits your family’s needs while also being one of the most picturesque spots in Arizona that isn’t swarming with crowds. With a little planning, you can have the family friendly elopement of your dreams!
Eloping in Arizona with Family
Each of the below locations is suitable for families with kids. The hikes are on the shorter side and easy or moderate with no rock scrambling required. That said, depending on the age of your children, some will be more suited to your goals than others. Some have steep drop-offs so children should always be watched closely. It may help to designate an elopement guest as a child wrangler, if your chosen location warrants an extra close eye on your little ones.
Once you’ve picked a location for your elopement, we can discuss what specific things you’ll want to pack and prepare for that place. Every location is going to serve each family and elopement timeline a little differently. Below, I’ve outlined all the general things to consider when planning a family friendly elopement, and there are some rules that will apply to each family, every celebration, and all locations. For instance, you’ll want to pack A LOT of water! Arizona is hot most of the year and dry all year. When you think you’ve packed enough water, pack more. These locations also require a basic knowledge of Leave No Trace principles, so we can traverse the environment without negatively impacting it. An adventurous elopement is a perfect opportunity to teach children about protecting the environment, and you can set a positive example by including LNT education in your elopement planning!
There are dozens of stunning locations in Arizona perfect for eloping couples with kids. From secret slot canyons (Arizona is home to more than just Antelope Canyon!), to breathtaking vistas, Arizona has something for nearly every type of adventurous family. Even if you’re only adventure(ish), there’s a trail for that! The 10 locations to elope in Arizona listed below are some of my favorites, but if for some reason none have that Goldilocks-perfect feel, reach out, and we’ll find YOUR place!
Best Off-The-Beaten-Path Elopement Locations in Arizona
1. Watson Lake / Granite Dells
Closest City: Prescott, Arizona
Best Time of Year to Visit: May – October
Length of Hike: 100 Feet to 10 Miles (Hiking is optional)
Description: Rocky granite boulders give this lake a dynamic and dramatic landscape, especially when the water is still and the reflection gives the depths a sense of incredible beauty and mystery. The Boulder Creek Trail provides an optional up to 10 miles of hiking, if exploring beyond the water’s edge is of interest. This lake is accessible year-round, but does get pretty cold and possibly snowy in the winter months.
Fun for the Kids: The Highlands Center for Natural History and Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary are nearby. The site is also a popular location for camping, hiking, fishing, and boating. You can rent canoes or kayaks, or go rock climbing and bouldering.
2. Petrified Forest National Park / Painted Desert
Closest City: Holbrook, Arizona
Best Time of Year to Visit: Year-Round
Length of Hike: 100 Feet – 1 Mile (Hiking is optional)
Description: The Painted Desert overlaps with the northern part of Petrified Forest National Park, and the colorful striped mounds make this an incredibly unique backdrop for an elopement. The Blue Mesa Trail is a .9 mile loop trail that takes you through one of the most picturesque areas of the Park, but there are also many gorgeous drive-up locations within Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert.
Fun for the Kids: Rainbow Forest Visitor Center houses paleontological exhibits complete with skeleton displays of prehistoric animals. Little astronomers will undoubtedly enjoy visiting the massive nearby meteor crater, created about 50,000 years ago during the Pleistocene epoch.
3. Coal Mine Canyon
Closest City: Tuba City, Arizona
Best Time of Year to Visit: Year-Round, though March – May can be extra windy and winters are on the colder side, June – November best
Length of Hike: 1 Mile + (Hiking is optional)
Description: We’ve all heard of the Grand Canyon, but this remote canyon has all of the beauty and none of the crowds. Only 70 miles from the East entrance of the Grand Canyon, this location receives fewer than a couple hundred visitors a year. That’s good news for those who wish to elope here and want epic vistas, but also prefer intimacy. Here you will find gorgeous intricately eroded spires, hoodoos, gullies, and cliffs in an impressive array of colors. While there are no clear trails down to the floor of the canyon, the view of this location is stunning from the rim. Just be sure to steer clear of the edges, as the sandstone along the rim is soft and crumbly. A permit is required to visit here ($12 in 2020) and is available at the Navajo Parks and Recreation office in Cameron or online at https://www.navajonationparks.org
Fun for the Kids: Your budding paleontologists can visit some real dinosaur tracks (most dating to about 200 million years ago!) just West of Tuba City. Parking is free and tours are optional. It takes about 15 minutes to view all of the tracks, though with small children that like to explore it will likely take longer. The Navajo Interactive Museum is also nearby where kids can learn about Navajo culture, traditions, family systems, and see a traditional Navajo Hogan (home). Visit the Hopi Mesas (there are three) outside of Tuba City for a glimpse into ancient Hopi ways of life that still endure today. The settlement atop the Third Mesa, Oraibi, was established around 900 – 1000 AD making it the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the US!
4. Apache Trail / Lost Dutchman State Park
Closest City: Phoenix, Arizona
Best Time of Year to Visit: September-November or March-May
Length of Hike: 1.4 Miles +
Description: This is for you desert lovers! The red rock and wind-carved desert features combined with saguaro cactus give Lost Dutchman State Park a truly “Arizona” vibe. There are many trails to choose from and ways to access views of the Superstition Mountains. Driving along the 40 miles of Apache Trail gives dozens of options for short hikes or drive-up views.
Fun for the Kids: Goldfield Ghost Town is a reconstructed 1890’s gold mining town. Kids can visit an underground mine, ride a train through the town, pan for gold, see a reptile exhibit, and witness reenacted gun fights.
5. Oak Creek Canyon
Closest City: Sedona, Arizona
Best Time of Year to Visit: Year-Round, late September through mid-October for peak fall foliage, late October for apples
Length of Hike: West Fork Trail is a relatively flat 6 – 7 mile out and back trail, though families can hike as much or as little of that as they like.
Description: Home to ancient ruins and gorgeous red rock, Oak Creek Canyon is the perfect place to reconnect with nature. The pine lined canyon itself is 12 miles long with Oak Creek winding along its base. Though the hike is long, the stroll is easy, scenic, and absolutely family friendly.
Fun for the Kids: Located inside Oak Creek Canyon, Slide Rock State Park is rated one of America’s top 10 swimming holes by the Travel Channel, and is basically a series of natural red rock water slides. Sure to be a hit with water-loving kids, slide rock itself is an 80-foot long slippery shoot that is worn into the sandstone. You could easily spend an entire day enjoying the beauty of the red rocks that Sedona is famous for while cooling off in the nearby wading pools. Just be mindful of the summer crowds at all Arizona swimming holes and go early in the day to get a prime spot.
6. A Secret Slot Canyon
Closest City: Page, Arizona
Best Time of Year to Visit: Late March through early October
Length of Hike: Requires a kayak or paddle board to get into the canyon, but you’ll be rewarded for your trouble with very few other visitors and ample time to explore.
Description: Similar to Antelope Canyon but without the crowds! If you are a water-loving family, this may be your perfect location to tie the knot. The slot canyon is accessible only by kayak or stand up paddle board so it guarantees that your elopement is on the adventurous side. And since it’s a bit more difficult to get to, you can expect fewer visitors and more time to explore the nooks and crannies of this canyon on your own timeline. Conveniently, both kayaks and paddle boards can be rented right on Lake Powell.
Fun for the Kids: If your kids are anything like mine, they’ll find lots of fun exploring Lake Powell itself. Page is also home to Horseshoe Bend, a horseshoe shaped meander of the Colorado River. The view is astonishing, and honestly, slightly scary. It’s definitely a place to hold on tight to squirming toddlers who like to climb (or keep them in a carrier), but so worth a quick visit. Just across the Utah border, you’ll find the Big Water Visitor Center for Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument and the Dinosaur project. Here kids can learn about dinosaur fossils and receive their very own Junior Scientist badge.
7. Canyon de Chelly + Spider Rock
Closest City: Chinle, Arizona
Best Time of Year to Visit: Year-Round
Length of Hike: 100 Feet + (Hiking is optional)
Description: Right in the heart of Navajo Nation, Spider Rock is an impressive sandstone spire rising more than 700 feet above the desert floor! It was formed more than 230 million years ago and is the centerpiece of Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Guided tours are available by experienced Navajo guides, or you can visit on a self-guided tour along open and paved roads to take in impressive viewpoints.
Fun for the Kids: Hubbel Trading Post National Historic Site where kids can poke around to find treasures and souvenirs at the still-functional trading post, see old farm equipment and an old homestead, and make a trip to the visitor’s center where they can become junior rangers.
8. Cibecue Falls / Salt River Canyon / Apache Falls
Closest City: Whiteriver, Arizona
Best Time of Year to Visit: May – June
Length of Hike: 1 Mile – 5 Miles
Description: This is located on Apache lands and requires a permit to visit, but if you purchase the White MT Apache Salt River Canyon Recreation Permit, you’ll have access to Apache Falls (1 Mile Hike) and Cibecue Falls (4 Mile Hike). Apache Falls are breathtaking and at the heart of the Salt River Canyon.
Fun for the Kids: For little ones, Apache Falls will be the better hike. For older kids that can handle a bit of canyoneering, Cibecue Falls might be a great place to hike and also camp at one of the two primitive campsites in the canyon. You may even be visited by some wild horses.
9. Sycamore Falls
Closest City: Williams, Arizona
Best Time of Year to Visit: March – May
Length of Hike: ½ Mile +
Description: This impressive waterfall runs through a rocky canyon with steep cliffs and pillars of fractured basalt. The hike from the parking lot to the viewpoint is only .25 miles, but many other trails diverge to access the canyon itself or the rim. At the viewpoint, you’ll be able to witness two waterfalls about 70 feet tall pouring into a natural rock basin at the foot of the canyon.
Fun for the Kids: Bearizona Wildlife Park isn’t home to just bears. There are Rocky Mountain goats, elk, Alaskan Dall sheep, tundra wolves, arctic wolves, mule deer, American burros, bighorn sheep, white and brown bison, among other wildlife. There’s also a great birds of prey demonstration where the birds swoop right overhead.
10. Mount Lemmon
Closest City: Tucson, Arizona
Best Time of Year to Visit: March – May or October – November (the latter is peak leaf peeping season)
Length of Hike: 3 Miles +
Description: With a summit elevation of 9,159 feet (2,792 m), Mount Lemmon is the highest point in the Santa Catalina Mountains. There are many intermediate trails in and around this mountain, and the forests will look distinctly different with each season. This is a wonderful place to explore the beauty of Arizona on a hike, different from many of the viewpoint-specific hikes mentioned above. Driving up from Tucson, you will witness various ecological transition zones and see the flora that accompany them.
Fun for the Kids: Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum has an aquarium, zoo, natural history museum, extensive botanical garden, art gallery, and loads of exhibits that will appeal to even your littlest wanderer. Small star lovers will enjoy Kitt Peak National Observatory. Spelunking at Colossal Cave Mountain Park provides over 5 kilometers of passageways inside the caves that can be explored, and dwellings previously used by Apache Indians that can be roamed.
A Few More Things To Consider When Choosing Where to Elope in Arizona
Learn the History
Arizona is a culturally rich and dynamic physical landscape, and there is also an interesting indegenous history worth knowing before setting out on any adventure. Whether the location you choose is still within the boundaries of sovereign indigenous nations or not, they all were at one time.
Pay Attention to the Season
I’ve mentioned above the general best times to visit these locations. However, do your own research and stay up to date on any road closures, flood risks, etc. that could affect your chosen location during certain seasons or situations. You can rely on a few things from Arizona weather:
- Fall is generally the best time to elope in Arizona (unless you’re looking for stronger flow at a waterfall, then spring is best!)
- Winter is usually mild, but can cause flooding in canyons. It does snow in some areas, but don’t count on a typical “winter” by other state standards!
- Spring is perfect for wildflowers, don’t be fooled by the desert stereotype. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a colorful desert bloom!
- Summer is HOT, which means high-altitude locations will be some of your best choices for a summer elopement (and a great way to escape the heat).
If you’re getting legally married during your elopement ceremony have an officiant and two witnesses. Some couples choose to sign the paperwork beforehand or after and forgo witnesses and an officiant during the actual ceremony. Of course, we’ll go over the specifics of this during the planning process! A couple of things to note:
- Arizona has no waiting period after applying for your marriage license.
- You’ll both need to be present when applying.
- There is an application fee (around $80 in 2020).
Once you’ve selected your perfect Arizona elopement location, you may be wondering how to include kiddos in your elopement plans. There are loads of ways to include your children in even the most adventurous elopements, and this post will tell you all about it.
Feeling better prepared to elope in Arizona? I hope so!