Elopements in Big Bend National Park: The Ultimate Guide

Welcome, friends! If you’re here, you’re looking for all the resources you may need to begin planning your Big Bend Elopement. You’re in the right place! I’m going to cover how to get to Big Bend, Texas marriage laws, and even activities to make the most of your time during your Big Bend Elopement!

Wild Desert for your Big Day

Big Bend is a gem in west Texas. Far west, just north of the Mexican Border lies Big Bend National Park: a stunning, diverse desert; one of the last remaining wild corners of the US. From an elevation of less than 1,800 feet along the Rio Grande to nearly 8,000 feet in the Chisos Mountains, Big Bend includes massive canyons, vast desert expanses, forested mountains, and an ever-changing river canyons to explore.

There are endless opportunities for adventure during a Big Bend Elopement, for this reason, it makes for such an epic wedding or elopement location!

Beginning to Plan Your Big Bend Elopement

This blog covers specifics for the Big Bend area, if you want a blog that completely unpacks the elopement planning process I’ve got you covered through this link.

Big Bend is a huge park – Additionally, this is a relatively remote national park. When planning an elopement at Big Bend, the logistics can seem overwhelming, but I’ve got you totally covered with this jam-packed guide to eloping at Big Bend National Park. Let’s dive in, and I’ll show you why you should consider your adventure elopement here in this beautiful, wild place.

Table of Contents

In this guide, we’ll cover:

  • Big Bend’s Location & Closest Cities
  • Why You Should Elope in Big Bend National Park
  • Permits & Entry Fees for Big Bend National Park
  • Texas Marriage Licenses & Requirements
  • Top Locations in big Bend for an Elopement Ceremony
  • Best Time of Year for an Elopement in Big Bend
  • Elopement Activities
  • Big Bend Elopement Photography Packages

Where is Big Bend National Park?

Big Bend National Park is (park) in far west Texas just north of the Mexican Border. 9 hours southwest of Dallas, this  stunning, diverse desert along the Rio Grande is home to massive canyons, rugged desert landscapes, forested mountains at the edge of the Rio Grande.

Big Bend Elopement Photography

Closest Major Cities and Towns to Big Bend National Park:

Big Bend is a relatively remote area, as a result, food, fuel, and other things you might need may be sparse. It’s important to know your way around the area and plan your stay or drive through the nearest towns.

  • Driving Time From Terlingua: 1 hour, 15 minutes
  • Driving Time from Alpine: 1 hour, 10 minutes
  • Driving Time From Lajitas: 1 hour, 25 minutes
  • Driving Time From El Paso: 4 hours
  • Driving Time From Dallas: 9 hours
  • Driving Time from Oklahoma City: 9 hours

How to Get to Big Bend National Park

Closest Major Airports:

The nearest airports to Big Bend that are served by commercial flights are El Paso International Airport and Odessa/Midland. If you are flying in, it is recommended to fly through these, and then rent a car. Both locations have car rentals available.

Additionally, there is a small airstrip inside the park. Traditionally this is only for private, chartered flights. You’ll need to speak the park directly to arrange an arrival time here.

Can You Drive to Big Bend National Park?

Highways to the Park

Several highways lead to Big Bend National Park: TX 118 from Alpine to Study Butte or FM 170 from Presidio to Study Butte (then 26 miles east to park headquarters), or US 90 or US 385 to Marathon.

Things to Keep in Mind When Driving

Distances between towns and services are considerable. Be sure you have plenty of gas, oil, food, and water for your trip. There are no electric vehicle charging stations in Big Bend National Park. The closest EV charging station is 130 miles away in Fort Stockton, TX. If you’re renting a car, I highly recommend a vehicle with four-wheel drive. Always check that your tires are in good shape and a spare tire or patch repair kit is handy.

The park has four camp stores, however, supply and selection can be limited. There are also small stores in the communities outside the park. The last major shopping areas (grocery and hardware stores) are Alpine, Fort Stockton, and Del Rio. For the most up-to-date maps and route information, always check out the National Park Services Maps page of Big Bend.

Why Should You Elope at Big Bend National Park?

It’s the ultimate rugged, untamed, and wildly romantic backdrop for your wedding day. With its jaw-dropping canyons, winding rivers, and enchanting desert landscapes, you’ll have nature as your perfect backdrop. Plus, nearby towns like Terlingua will give you and your guests plenty of places to explore. Don’t worry about accessibility or difficulty level either; Big Bend has trails for all types of hikers, from beginner to advanced. So why not break away from tradition and make your elopement truly and uniquely other-worldly? This is your day and you should do what feels right for you.

Best Wedding Locations in Big Bend

There are a few specific areas within the park that are approved for wedding ceremonies. Basically, it’s hard to go wrong with any of these!

Best wedding locations for a Big Bend elopement:

Sotol Vista 

Quick facts about Sotol Vista:

  • Capacity: 15 people
  • Great any time of day, but particularly spectacular at sunset.
  • Accessed along the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive.
  • Sprawling views into the desert of Mexico.

Ernst Tinaja

Quick facts about Ernst Tinaja:

  • The roundtrip distance to this location is 1 mile.
  • Ernst Tinaja features a beautiful natural rock pool.
  • Shoes with good tread are highly recommended here since the rocks around the water are extremely smooth.
  • The trailhead is located along the primitive Old Ore Road–DO NOT attempt to reach this trail without a high-clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle.
  • Morning is the best time for this location.

Window View Trail

Quick facts about Window View Trail:

  • Located at the Chisos Basin trailhead
  • Capacity: 5 people
  • This is a very popular spot in Big Bend and has many visitors walking along the trail. During peak times, parking is limited.
  • Great views all around, especially at sunset.

Santa Elena Canyon

Quick Facts about Santa Elena Canyon:

  • One of the most accessible wedding locations, with easy foot access.Capacity: 30 people
  • This location is downstream of the canyon mouth on the banks of the Rio Grande and has gorgeous views upstream into towering canyon walls.
  • Sunrise and early morning are best at this location for cooler temperatures

Chisos Mountain Lodge

Quick facts about Chisos Mountain Lodge: 

  • This is an indoor venue with a full-service restaurant, bar, lodging and store.
  • Capacity: varies, you’ll need to contact the lodge!
  • The Lodge is operated by Aramark and it’s the only full-service lodging/dining facility inside the park.

Best spots to get married Outside of Big Bend

If you want the rugged landscapes of a Big Bend elopement with more amenities, don’t forget to check out these locations outside of the park. If you have guests who need lodging or just want to splurge on a nice stay for yourself, check these out! And remember, we can still go to Big Bend for photos!

Lajitas Resort
Terlingua Ranch Lodge
Gage Hotel & Gardens

The Best Times of Year to Get Married at Big Bend

Big Bend is best enjoyed from late fall through early spring. Winter months bring beautiful days, great sunsets, and pleasant daytime temperatures. Summer months are scorching, and outdoor recreation can be uncomfortable and unsafe.

You can always check real-time conditions and advisories in the park here: https://www.nps.gov/bibe/planyourvisit/conditions.htm

Track the real-time weather in the park, including a live cam, here: https://www.nps.gov/bibe/planyourvisit/weather.htm

Weddings during peak times like Spring Break, Thanksgiving week, and the week between Christmas and New Year’s are challenging. During these peak times, many popular areas will have limited or no parking, there may be traffic control efforts in effect like one car in, one car out scenario. Special Use Permits could be limited during these dates.

A big bend hiking elopement

Lodging & Accommodations: Where to Stay Near Big Bend

Most luxury villas, modern accommodations, and AirBnBs are in the nearby towns of Terlingua and Lajitas. These towns are pretty small and don’t offer much in the way of grocery stores, and the food selection is limited. If you’re camping or spending multiple days in the park, I highly recommend packing in your own food.

Alpine is the closest large town, and it’s about a 2-hour drive from the outside of the park (it could be up to 2.5 from your trailhead!). This town has much better cell reception, better food selection, and the creature comforts you may need for your adventure. It’s also home to some AMAZING accommodations!

Big Bend Airbnbs & VRBOs

Here are some of my favorite, stylish vacation home rentals in the area. If you need tips on how to select the best Airbnb accommodations for your wedding and getting ready for your day, check out my helpful post here!

Mirror Cabin
Stardust A-Frame Cabin
Willow House
Boca De La Roca Mountain Lounge

How do you Legally Elope in Big Bend?

Luckily, the process of getting married in Big Bend is pretty simple! You can find everything you need to know about obtaining your permit for the park and your Texas marriage license below.

Getting your Big Bend Wedding Special Use Permit

All weddings, elopements, and vow renewal ceremonies, regardless of size/amount of people, require a Special Use Permit issued by the National Park Service. Couples will need to submit a complete application that includes all the details of the proposed ceremony that will be reviewed by NPS. 

Here are some quick facts about getting your Big Bend Wedding Special Use Permit:

  • Your application must be submitted by YOU, not a planner or 3rd party.
  • Wedding ceremonies have to be held in an approved park location.
  • Applications are only accepted 1 year in advance of your planned date
  • Allow up to 30 days for the processing of your permit. DO NOT wait until the last minute to apply! They will not expedite applications.
  • A $100 non-refundable application fee for processing is due at the time of your application.

Getting your Texas Marriage License

A marriage license can be obtained from any county in Texas and the marriage can be performed anywhere. If the marriage is going to take place outside of Texas, contact the appropriate state office, consulate, or embassy to learn the marriage requirements for that state or country.

Quick facts about obtaining your Texas marriage license:

  • A marriage license can be obtained from any county clerk’s office.
  • If you’re from out of state, the license fee is $100. In-state couples will pay a $60 fee for a license – waived if you’ve had premarital counseling.
  • There’s a 72-hour waiting period after the license is issued before the marriage ceremony can happen.
  • In Texas, there is a “marriage license” and “marriage certificate”. The difference here is that a license is what you will need to be married, and a “certificate” serves as your proof of marriage and is offered as a copy for an additional fee.
  • A licensed or ordained minister, priest or rabbi; justice of the peace; and most judges can marry couples.
  • To apply for a marriage license, you both must have a valid form of ID, (driver’s license; a certified copy of a birth certificate; a passport, or Social Security card).

What is the closest county to Big Bend to get a marriage license?

Brewster County is the county that encompasses Big Bend National Park. 

For the most detailed, up-to-date information, always visit your county’s website or the Marriage in Texas website.

FAQ’s About Eloping at Big Bend National Park

The cost to enter the park is $30 per vehicle. For more information on park fees, visit the NPS site.

Pets and dogs aren’t allowed in the park.

Yes, any sort of wedding ceremony, elopement ceremony, vow renewal, or photo session must have a Special Use Permit.

The maximum number of guests allowed on trails at any given time is 30. Depending on the location within the park, some locations only allow up to 5.

You’ll need a special use permit and a Texas marriage license. Always ensure you follow National Park rules by adhering to Leave No Trace Principles.

Yes, Texas requires an ordained minister, priest, rabbi of justice of the peace to perform a marriage ceremony. Here are a few recommendations:

No! There are many easily accessible by foot locations within the park, and most scenic locations are accessible by car. Big Bend certainly offers much more challenging hikes and climbs, but rest assured that you do not need to be a hiking expert to enjoy the scenic views and rugged vistas that Big Bend has to offer.

Big Bend National Park Elopement Photographer

Are you two ready to embark on an adventure like no other? I’m Lexi, an elopement & micro-wedding photographer based in the heart of the Midwest, Oklahoma City. I specialize in curating unforgettable experiences for couples who have a deep connection to each other and to nature, and who yearn for a wedding day with wild, untamed landscapes. 

Whether it’s the rugged beauty of Big Bend National Park or anywhere else in the US, I help craft personalized elopement experiences that reflect the unique stories of each of my couples no matter where they are.

My passion for nature and my wanderlust spirit drive me to seek out the most awe-inspiring and remote places, creating the perfect setting for your intimate celebration. Get in touch today so we can turn your elopement dreams into a reality and make your wedding day an unforgettable experience!

 Big Bend Elopement Packages

There are variety of elopement photography packages I offer to make sure your day is perfect and everything you need is covered. 

Manchego | Full-Day Coverage

This collection is the luxury of time and more candid moments. There is time for your day to naturally unfold, and to document the special moments and details leading up to your ceremony, everything after, and more as you wind down your day. This collection offers time to explore multiple locations while traveling and is for those craving a true documentary experience of their day (or multiple days) together.
Collections begin at $8100

Fontina | 8 hrs of coverage

Perfect for days that crave a leisurely pace. Allowing the day to unfold and time for getting ready, details, candid portraits, and exploring multiple locations for couples’ portraits.
Collections begin at $6200

Asiago | 4 hours of coverage

Perfect for just the basics. This typically includes the finishing touches of your getting ready time leading into your ceremony time.
Collections begin at $3200

Big Bend Elopement Activity Ideas

Choosing the activities and areas you want to visit during your elopement will help decide the overall flow of the day. Whether its something like a breakfast at your cabin, a soak in a hot springs together, or a sunrise hike, here are a few popular activities in Big Bend that you could incorporate into your wedding celebration:

  • Hike one of the 67 trails in the park
  • Drive through the park stopping at your favorite spots 
  • Have a picnic on the river
  • Soak in Langford Hot Springs
  • Float the Rio Grande
  • Go horseback riding
  • Star gazing–With less light pollution than any of the other national parks in the lower 48 states, Big Bend is the perfect spot to gaze out under the stars.

Big Bend Guided Tours & Itineraries

Need a little help planning a whole day or week? Check out these Itinerary ideas.

Adding a guided tour can be an epic way to spend your elopement day. Some of the most exciting ways to experience Big Bend are through guided tours! You can explore the river, go horseback riding, or take to the more primitive roads through a jeep tour company.

Some Guided Tours in Big Bend:

River Tours  
Horseback riding
Mountain Bike Tours
Jeep Tours

Final Tips for Eloping at Big Bend

My very best tip for planning your elopement is to think about the things you really want to experience during your wedding day… Is it a slow morning making breakfast and writing vows together to be married at sunset? Is an early morning hike to see the sunrise something you crave? Do you want to be near the river and the canyons of Santa Elena? Think about the experiences that would mean the most to you two, and plan your time around those things–you won’t regret investing this time for yourselves.

More Elopement Planning Resources

So, now that you’re a Big Bend aficionado, making your day your own in the rugged desert of West Texas should be a breeze! 

If you’re looking for more inspiration, or help getting started on your elopement planning, be sure to check out my helpful articles below.

When you’re ready to book your dream Big Bend Elopement Photographer, get in touch with me!

“Hiring Lexi was the best decision we made for our wedding. Not only did she provide us with a thoughtful timeline, but she felt like a friend.

-Kaitlyn + Zach

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