One of the greatest parts about being a photographer living in Alaska? Getting to visit the COOLEST national park with my couples for their Denali National Park elopements & weddings. This park is truly the most epic place you could visit during your time in Alaska. It’s no wonder it’s a popular destination for adventure elopements & intimate weddings!
If you’re considering eloping at Denali National Park, then you’ve come to the right place. I’ve put together the ultimate guide to getting married at Denali National Park. This way you can learn EVERYTHING there is to know! From the best locations within the park, to permits you need to get and even what to pack! This blog post will help you plan your dream adventure elopement at Denali National Park – happy planning!!
Where is Denali National Park?
Denali National park encompasses a massive 6 million acres of wilderness. Featuring Denali (North America’s highest peak!) smack dab in the middle. The entrance to the park is just over 4 hours north of Anchorage and a little over 2 hours south of Fairbanks. Making it a decent drive from the nearest major cities, but nothing extreme.
There are a few main ways to travel to Denali National Park: car, train, or bus! The only entrance into the park is at Mile 237 on Highway 3 (a.k.a. The George Parks Highway), which you can get to via car or bus. If you’d rather take a train, you can take a ride on the Alaska Railroad from Anchorage or Fairbanks straight to the entrance of Denali.
Take a look at park maps to get familiar with the layout of the park and to see where the road entrance is in comparison to spots you might want to visit within the park!
Best Denali National Park Wedding Locations
Where can I get married in Denali National Park?
Here are 5 of the most beautiful locations for an elopement in Denali National Park!
Horseshoe Lake Trail is a popular trail in the park because of how short & easy it is to hike! The 2-mile round trip hike takes you to a beautiful overlook of the lake, and then down to the shore where you can walk around the lake itself. It typically takes up to 2 hours to complete. Of course this depends on the pace you go and how many stops you make!
Since this trail gets a good amount of visitors especially in nice weather. Consider hiking it closer to sunrise or at least on a weekday to avoid tons of hikers around you! The mountains provide SUCH a gorgeous backdrop to the lake and looks super beautiful while the sun is rising over the water.
Unfortunately dogs aren’t allowed on this trail. Making it not a good option for couples who want to bring their pups along on their elopement day.
On that note, if you’re trying to find ways to include your pet(s) in your elopement, check out my blog post on How to Include Your Dog in Your Wedding for tons of ideas!
The Grande Denali Lodge is a wonderful option for couples looking to tie the knot AND have a gorgeous place to stay! Located right on Sugarloaf Mountain, you’ll experience rustic log architecture, vaulted ceilings, and beautiful interior design. The design is centered around the Alaska Native Heritage of the lodge’s owners.
When you look at the lodge from afar, it seriously looks like something out of a movie. Almost like an old lodge in the Swiss Alps. The lodge offers incredible views of the Denali wilderness & the Nenana River canyon. Making it a perfect destination for your vow exchange & for a cozy stay out in nature!
The Grande Denali Lodge does NOT allow pets except for service animals. Opt for another place to stay if you want to bring your furry friend(s) along!
Are you looking for a cozy-as-heck place to stay & host your elopement ceremony? Plus one that’s SUPER close to the park, the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge is your place! The entrance into Denali National Park is literally only a mile away from the lodge. You get amazing views of the park from the lodge’s deck. It’s truly the perfect place to relax with your loved ones and experience the Alaskan wilderness. You can even take part in excursions the lodge offers such as floats down the Nenana River or golfing under the midnight sun!
Sheldon Chalet is an unbeatable place to stay because its perched on a “nunatak,”. Which directly translates to “summit/ridge of a mountain protruding from an ice field or glacier,”. It’s just 10 miles from the summit of Ruth Glacier. Sheldon Chalet is one of the most unique lodging options you’ve got in the Denali wilderness. It’s not just a cool hotel or lodge. It’s a luxury chalet that literally sits on top of a mountain, surrounded by the epic Alaskan wilderness!
This chalet is the ideal place for couples who want to experience the wilderness from a unique perspective. Plus you can have the opportunity to go on planned adventures with the chalet staff. You can explore the 35-square-mile Don Sheldon Amphitheater with guides + attend “Glacier School,”. This adventure allows you to go snow cavern spelunking, aurora viewing, rappelling, and MORE. They seriously have so many options to help you experience the adventures of Alaska during your time at the chalet!
Mabel & Alejandro took a flight tour to Sheldon Chalet through Sheldon Air Services. A company that provides private flights & tours (and glacier landings) to multiple amazing locations around Alaska!
5. A glacier
Last but not least WHATSOEVER: you can elope on a glacier in Denali National Park!! Glaciers are one of the most incredible ways to experience the Alaskan wilderness. Who wouldn’t want to explore the thousand-year-old ice and explore massive ice fields?!
Whether you want to bring along your crampons & hike a glacier. Book a helicopter tour for a glacier landing, or ride a seaplane for epic aerial views of an ice field. Exploring glaciers is a MUST when you’re visiting Alaska.
I love glaciers SO much as an adventure elopement destination that I wrote an entire blog post about How to Elope on a Glacier in Alaska. Take a look at it here for all my best glacier elopement tips. You’ll also find out my top 8 favorite glacier locations in Alaska!!
When to Elope in Denali National Park
What is the best month to visit Denali National Park?
This is a hard question to answer, because each season at Denali National Park provides a totally different, unique experience! So it depends on the weather & atmosphere you’re looking for.
Want to try and see the northern lights on the night of your elopement? November-February will be your best bet, as winter is prime aurora borealis season on Denali! Of course, if you do choose to elope in the winter, be prepared for all kinds of winter weather and make sure you’re ready to be cold!
If you’d rather have an all-day elopement where the sun barely runs out, you should elope during the months of May-August. That’s when you’ll get that midnight sun! Summer is an amazing time to elope in Alaska if you want milder temperatures for outdoor adventures (especially if you want better temperatures for a glacier elopement). You’ll still be able to see beautiful snowy mountain peaks at the highest elevations.
If you want a balance of mild temperatures, sunny days, and cooler evenings, elope in the spring or fall. Days & nights in the spring and fall are usually pretty well-balanced. As far as your chances go for a good viewing of the northern lights! You’ll get sunny days PLUS dark skies in the evenings. If you elope in the fall, be prepared just in case snow arrives earlier than expected. Watch for snow at higher elevations in the spring even if you thought it would have melted by that point!
Denali National Park Wedding Permits
The first fee you’ll have to pay is the entrance fee into the park. The fee is $15 per person (not per car, like many other national parks!) and is valid for 7 days. You can either pay your entrance fee in-person at the Denali Visitor Center in the summer or the Murie Science & Learning Center the rest of the year. You can also just pay it online before you head to the park.
If you plan to visit the park more than 3 times in the year. I’d opt for the $45 Denali Annual Pass instead. The annual pass covers up to 4 adults! Making it more cost-effective just to get 1 annual pass per 4 adults than pay 4 separate $15 entrance fees!
To get married in Denali National Park, you’ll need to get a Special Use Permit. A Special Use Permit is a permit that covers any short-term activity in the park area that benefits an individual or group. This includes groups for an elopement or wedding! The park asks that you apply at LEAST ten days in advance. I strongly recommend doing it as soon as you can so the park has plenty of time to process your application and permit!
If your elopement will have 5 or fewer participants & minimal equipment:
- Fill out this application form.
- Send the completed application to the address below:
Denali National Park and Preserve
PO Box 9
Denali Park, AK 99755
- You can pay the $200 application fee via check (made payable to the National Park Service), include the check along with your application.
- To pay the $200 application fee online, pay it at pay.gov as soon as you mail your application.
- If your permit request is approved, you’ll get a permit sent to you.
- Sign & return your permit for final approval, and voila – you’re all set!
If your elopement will have 6+ participants or substantial equipment needs:
Follow the same process as above, but fill out this application form instead.
If you have any questions about Special Use Permits at Denali National Park:
Contact the permit coordinator here, with “SUP” in the subject line!
Denali National Park Elopement Packing List
Packing the right items is super important to make sure you have a smooth, comfortable, & safe experience eloping in Denali National Park. What you need to pack will obviously depend on the season, weather, and location(s). Here is a general packing list to start with!
- Layers layers layers! (undershirts, long underwear, etc.)
- Jackets as needed – sweatshirts, fleeces, down jackets, heavy winter jackets, etc.
- Closed-toed hiking shoes
- Crampons/Yaks if needed
- Extra socks
- Extra change of clothes
- Outfits (packed in a garment bag and/or backpack)
- Shoes, if wearing different ones for your ceremony
- Vows/vow books
- Hair pieces
- Marriage license & pen
- Hair brush/ties/pins
Safety items + miscellaneous:
- Hand/feet/body warmers
- First aid kit
- Safety pins
- Lip balm
- Water + other drinks you may want
- Trash bags
- Poop bags if you’re bringing your dog(s)
- Stain remover pen
- Lint roller
- Climbing gear if needed
- Blankets/towels to sit down on
- Permit info
FAQ’s About Denali National Park
Can you drive a car in Denali National Park?
You can drive in your car as far as mile 15 on the Denali Park Road. From there, you’ll need to walk or take a bus.
How much does it cost to camp at Denali National Park?
Camping is a fantastic option for couples! Especially those who would rather sleep out in the wilderness on the night of their Alaska elopement in Denali National Park!! Fees vary by campground but usually range from $19-50 per night. Except in the winter (usually late September through early May), when all camping is free.
You can make campground reservations online if you know in advance when & where you want to camp. You cannn risk it and make a reservation right before you arrive if you decide your location at the last minute.
Pets ARE allowed at campgrounds in Denali National Park, as long as you follow the park’s pet rules!
Ready to say YES to the greatest adventure of your life?! I’m so ready to tag along with you and be not only your Denali National Park elopement photographer. But also your friend, supporter, and cheerleader!
Take a look at my base Denali National Park elopement packages below. Then reach out here to start chatting about what YOUR perfect day could look like.
Looking for more resources to help you plan your dream Alaska elopement? I gotchu!! Here are some of my fav recent blog posts that are jam-packed with info & tips: