Located in South Dakota, Badlands National Park offers unique views of the layered rock formations, towering spires, and plunging canyons – all formed from volcanic ash carved by wind and water over millions of years. The maze of rock is home to several species of wildlife, and is also a relic for the fossils of wildlife that used to call the Badlands home, including three-toed horses and saber-toothed tigers! The other worldly scenery and the captivating history makes a Badlands National Park elopement the perfect choice for a couple who wants their wedding day to be truly unique.
To learn how to get married at Badlands National Park, keep reading this guide – you’ll be an expert in no time!
The nearest airport is the Rapid City Regional Airport, which offers flights from most major airlines. Once you land in South Dakota, you will need a car to get to and around Badlands National Park – and after about an hour, you’ll arrive at the entrance. Most roads in the park are paved and easily accessible with any kind of vehicle, so you won’t have to worry about four wheel drive!
One of the first things you’ll need to do to plan your Badlands National Park elopement is to set a date for your ceremony – but before you do that, make sure you’re familiar with the weather, as it can get pretty harsh!
In the winter, temperatures at Badlands National Park are usually below freezing, and there is often some snow lying around. While it’s definitely chilly (to say the least), eloping during this time of year can be a great way to get the place to yourself, as most people will stay away! As long as you’re prepared with layers, hand warmers, and maybe some hot beverages, you can explore the park and spot the bison roaming around in the snow.
Come March, the temperatures start to warm up. Early spring can still drop below freezing occasionally, but by late spring, temperatures can come up to the 70s during the day! However, this season is also very rainy, especially in May. Wildflowers start to bloom in late spring and early summer, and this is the best time to spot wildlife – carefully and from a distance, of course.
June is usually still rainy, but temperatures rise steadily. By June and August, high temperatures are usually in the 90s, and the sun is relentless – so this may be a little too hot for most couples! It is also the most popular time to visit Badlands National Park, so you may run into some crowds this time of year.
The best time for a Badlands National Park elopement is fall! The weather starts to cool down, and there are significantly fewer crowds. October offers the most moderate weather, with daytime temperatures in the 60s. By November it can start to snow, so plan ahead!
For your Badlands National Park elopement, you will have to get a permit! The application can be found online here, and there is a $100 application fee along with it. The park doesn’t specify how long permit applications take to process, but I recommend filling this out as early as possible to ensure that you have enough time to get your permit!
Your wedding permit is separate from the park entrance fee, and you will still be required to pay this to get into the park! You can buy your pass at the entrance, and it costs $30 per car. However, if you visit national parks often, an annual pass may be a better option – at only $80, it will get you into any national park for a year! These can be purchased at the entrance as well, or online ahead of time.
During your elopement, you’ll need a place to stay! There are plenty of options just outside the park, but you can also find cabins and campgrounds right in the Badlands that offer some incredible views. Cedar Pass Lodge offers cabins amongst the pinnacles of Badlands National Park, so you can relax comfortably in the cozy wooden cabins, with views of bison grazing amid the landscape right outside your window!
Your elopement is all about the adventures – so plan something epic! There’s plenty to do in Badlands National Park, so here are some ideas for your elopement day.
The remote location of Badlands National Park makes it the perfect place to marvel at the night sky. The stars blanket the sky, and you could spend hours pointing out constellations and shooting stars!
The wildlife is one of the main attractions in Badlands National Park. Bison, bighorn sheep, and prairie dogs call the Badlands home, and can be spotted all around the park! Be sure to keep your distance, for your safety and for the safety and comfort of the animals.
For you Ross Geller types, Badlands National Park has its own fossil preparation lab! The park’s paleontologists prepare and identify fossils found in the Badlands, and you can watch it all happen, and learn the incredible history of the park.
If you’re ready to elope amongst one of the most unique backdrops the US has to offer, contact me! As an elopement photographer, my job is to make sure your elopement day is customized to fit the two of you, and that the entire process is stress free. I’m here to be your cheerleader throughout this whole thing, and to help you plan the adventurous wedding day of your dreams!