The Ultimate Palo Duro Canyon Handbook

Ultimate Palo Duro Elopement Handbook

How to get married, or how to elope in Palo Duro Canyon

So you are thinking about eloping in the second largest canyon in the United States? There are few places I have been that have the wild wonder of Palo Duro. The incredible views from the Canyon Rim, to the stunning Red Dirt makes a Palo Duro elopement a great choice for any couple who wants to get married somewhere truly unique. 

Hold your horses though, because it’s not as easy as throwing on your hiking boots heading down to The Lighthouse Trail- there are some things we have to talk about first. But don’t worry, we know Palo Duro like the back of our hand and we are here to share everything we know with you, soon you’ll be out running through the red dirt, getting ready to marry your best friend! 

Guide to the Guide: 

Best time to Elope in Palo Duro 

Best Palo Duro Elopement Locations

Legal Stuff: Permits, Officiants, and Marriage License 

Where to Stay near Palo Duro

Palo Duro Elopement Inspiration

Palo Duro Elopement Tips 

Palo Duro Elopement Packages 

Best Time to Visit Palo Duro Canyon for Your Elopement:

If you are wondering when the best time to visit Palo Duro Canyon for your elopement is, then look no further. Palo Duro Canyon is located 27 miles south of Amarillo and has a super diverse climate. Desert adjacent, but also pretty far north means that weather can find itself in the extremes. This is especially true during the summer months when temperatures can easily reach over 110º on the desert floor. On the flip side, Palo Duro often sees a generous amount of snow throughout the late fall and winter months. Because of these extreme temperatures, Palo Duro Canyon’s busy season will be October, November, March and April. We aren’t the only people who think Palo Duro Canyon is amazing in these months, in fact, it seems like everyone does. Tourism can be pretty high during these months while lodging inside the park easily booking out a year in advance. We are pretty familiar with Palo Duro Canyon and can help you find more private locations, even on the busiest of days (yes, even during spring break, we’ve done it before!) Below is a chart that can help you visualize the best time of year to visit the park, and when you should elope in Palo Duro Canyon. 

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Keep in mind that these are average temperatures and temps. on the canyon floor and easily be TWENTY DEGREES HOTTER THAN THE FORECASTED TEMPERATURE for the day. Practice hot weather safety and bring appropriate water and gear. 

Spring for your Palo Duro Canyon Elopement 

While March and April are still great times to elope in Palo Duro, at the beginning to mid of March you can often run into snow. In 2022 we shot an elopement on March 14th that was 11 degrees and in 2021 on March 15th there was snow.  If you would prefer to elope in cold weather, then March is a good option for Palo Duro Canyon. This can be a great time of year to visit but do be aware of spring break, as not only Texas is out but so is New Mexico. Because of this the park often sells out of entrance tickets and you can find yourself waiting in line to get in for up to an hour. We really advise to not pick a date around spring break times! April and May are my most favorite times to visit Palo Duro because everything is blooming and everything feels alive again! But also beware this is also the start of a severe weather season. April and May can bring lots of high winds, thunderstorms with hail and even tornados. While we don’t reschedule when there’s a little bit of rain, if the weather does turn dangerous we will meet with you individually to discuss postponing a day or 2 so that we can head out to the canyon in safe weather. The wind gusts can reach up to 80 mph, which can be very dangerous, especially when there is nothing blocking the wind. 

 Summer for your Palo Duro Canyon Elopement 

Palo Duro can get sweltering in the summer with the park temperatures possibly reaching into the 130º on the valley floor! And no, I’m not exaggerating. The sun hits the red dirt, bounces it back on you and the walls of the canyon, and turns the canyon into an oven. There are a few more options though for eloping in Palo Duro in the summer if that is really important to you. First, we recommend renting out one of the two Pavilions inside the State Park. We have lots of couples elope in the Canyon and rent this pavilion for their celebration afterwards BUT did you know there is a little patio out back that is perfect for a small ceremony? If you want to get married in the summer we definitely recommend this since you can slip into the air conditioning when you get a bit too hot, or one of our favorite airbnbs that allow small ceremonies. Around June 3-4th (dates differ each year but usually close to these timeframes) 24 hours in the canyon takes over the park. To learn more about 24 hours in the canyon please visit their website schedule, it is PACKED with bikers everywhere

Fall for your Palo Duro Canyon Elopement 

The last half of September through November are the “Fall” months in Palo Duro and we are air-quoting because it damn sure doesn’t feel like it. September + October are extremely bi-polar and can’t decide what they want to do. Are they going to let us have fall temperatures or will they only have 3 days worth and then go straight into winter mode? You can have super amazing temperatures ranging from 70s-80s, or still in the 90’s, or you can have snow. One year we had snow in the week of September 17th and in 2021 it was still in the mid 80’s. October you will be looking at possibly having snow towards the end of the month with the same for November.

Winter for your Palo Duro Canyon elopement 

Even though it’s in Texas, Palo Duro has winters unlike any other place in the state of Texas. If you are getting married in Palo Duro in the winter there is a good chance that you might experience snow, ice and wind chills in the negatives. It snows here several times a year and it’s unlike anything I have ever seen! It’s so beautiful and peaceful, and the fog that rolls in for sunrises can’t be beat. If you are lucky enough to experience this it will truly be an unforgettable day. If there isn’t snow, do still be prepared for it to be very cold, and I’m talking about negative 11º wind chill type cold (this week of December 28, we had -44º wind chill, and no, I’m not kidding). Especially if you plan on wearing a wedding dress, consider wearing sleeves or a coat shawl or something to wear over it. You might take it off for some photos but you will be wearing it for a lot of them, so make sure it’s something you like. In the last parts of November, December and January we had down to -30º with 60 mph winds (Today, December 28, 2022 our wind gust is 65 MPH). Winters in the upper part of Texas can be harsh and painful. Palo Duro Canyon also hold hunting within the canyon around the dates of Dec 05 – Dec 07 each year. Half of the park is shut down and you will only have limited access to certain trails.

Best Palo Duro Elopement Locations

There are literally endless amazing locations to elope in Palo Duro Canyon. Unlike many larger national parks, there is no pre-approved list of locations that you must stick to for an elopement.  You can do almost anywhere, you just need the appropriate permit (more on that later). Here is our list of our favorite, and most iconic places to elope in Palo Duro Canyon.

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The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse is probably THE most iconic location in Palo Duro Canyon. Because of this trails can get PRETTY busy. This trail is almost 6 miles roundtrip, and while the majority of the hike is pretty flat, the end involves some scrambling.  Camp in the park overnight and opt for a sunrise hike to get the amazing views without all the crowds. Also, please be aware that this trail has little to no shade. Pack extra water, and bring proper protection. Even in the fall months this trail can get pretty warm. Do your research and listen to your body and us when we warn you about the trail! Click here to see this particular gallery

 

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Foggy Bottom

This amazing canyon view is one of our favorite sunrise spots. Standing on the sliver of rock that slices between the vast expanse of Canyon you truly get a bang for your buck. A 20 minute hike from the car this trail offers incredible views without too much hiking. Want more privacy for your vows? Camp in the park and hike this at sunrise for the best view of the sunrise.

 

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Sunrise Dormant Waterfall

Located on our friends private property (Palo Duro Canyon ranges about 120 miles long and 20 miles wide so there’s LOTS of private property options), this view of Palo Duro Canyon cannot be beat. Start your morning saying vows on a dried up waterfall. Then hop with us in a ranger and explore the bottom of the canyon, hunt for geodes, experience some historical sites, and even feed some cows if that is up your alley! This is privately owned ranching land so LNT rules are a bit more lax. You can even pop champagne, and play music as loud as you want here! Sound like your idea of a good time? Reach out, we would love to get you connected.

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The Big Cave

Located in the heart of the Palo Duro Canyon floor, this location offers easy access from your vehicle. Visible from the road, this location is just a short 2 minute walk from the car. This is a popular spot for more traditional ceremonies as well, as the large amount of red dirt at the foot of the cave makes for a great spot for arches. Have your ceremony here, or just swing by for a couple of photos as you and your lover explore the rest of what Palo Duro Canyon has to offer.

Note: State Parks are public spaces, and even with a permit you cannot guarantee solitude. If this is something you are passionate about, reach out. We would love to share with you an extensive Palo Duro Locations guide, exclusive for booked couples, that details more than 15 hidden gem locations for you to elope in Palo Duro!

How to Legally Elope in Palo Duro

There are literally endless amazing locations to elope in Palo Duro. Unlike many other parks, there is no pre-approved list of locations. This is awesome but just means that we want to respect the park rules and regulations that much more so Palo Duro can continue to be an amazing place for folks just like you to g

Permits

If you are interested in Eloping in Palo Duro, you will need a Special Use Permit. Don’t Fret! Permits aren’t as scary as they sound. We can help you fill out your permit and send it to the appropriate people as soon as we have a location and timeline solidified. The permit cost is currently $250 and, if you are bringing a group of family and friends for your elopement, the park might require you to get event insurance. We have some preferred vendors for this and insurance can be secured for about $200. The permit cost goes toward maintaining the beauty of Palo Duro. Seriously, don’t let that freak you out- we have direct links for you to click on and make it super easy to gather these items!

Please note that if you are choosing to Elope in Palo Duro State Park you understand that you are eloping on public lands. It is imperative that we follow leave no trace principles while using these magnificent lands. Some things that Palo Duro requires of couples on their elopement day are as follows: 

 

  • Free standing arch allowed ONLY if noted on permit and approved by park ahead of time
  • Artificial flowers only, this INCLUDES dried flowers, especially pompous grass. 
  • Acoustic music is allowed if the sound will not impact wildlife or other visitors’ park experience. 
  • Scattering of Rice, bird seed, flowers, streamers, balloons, birds, butterflies, etc. is not allowed 
  • Drones are not allowed
  • Group size might be limited by location

 

By following these guidelines and making sure that we stay on allocated pathing and viewing areas we can help preserve these natural habitats for future generations. Maybe even one day, you’ll come back and share in the beauty of Palo Duro again together.  

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Marriage License 

To get legally married you will need a marriage license. If you are eloping from out of state, you are legally allowed to get a license from most Texas County Clerk offices, but it’s always good to double check ahead of time. If you are a Texas resident you can pick up a Texas Marriage License from your local county courthouse or you can pick one up from the Amarillo Courthouse, located 30 minutes north of Palo Duro. IF you do decide to wait to get your license in Amarillo please be aware that There is a 72 hour waiting period in Texas between when you can pick up your license and when you can get married so make sure you factor that time frame into your elopement travel plans.

If you are coming from out of state and you get your marriage license from your home state PLEASE check in with your local county clerk to see what requirements are needed. For example Texas does not require witness signatures while other states do. Also, make sure that they recognize online officiants if you are planning to use us to marry you.

Officiant

You have a couple of options when it comes to an officiant in Texas. You legally must have one sign your license to make your wedding official SO what can you do? Here are our top 5 options. 

  1. Have your ceremony at the Justice of the Peace ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about any legal ramifications or paper work on your wedding day. This will make your legal anniversary different that your elopement date but if this doesn’t bother you and you want things out of the way this is a great option. 
  2. We can sign your license! Yep! We are licensed officiants and can sign it for you. This can allow you to keep your ceremony as small as you would like it. Many of our couples who are eloping just the two of them choose this option so they can exchange intimate vows with one another without adding another person to the mix. 
  3. You can hire a local Officiant. If you want a little more structure to your day you can hire a local Amarillo officiant to come and host your ceremony for you. There are a few officiants in the area who we know and work with and will come out to Amarillo and hike with you! This is a great option if having a more traditional ceremony would be more meaningful to you! 
  4. You can have a family member do it! It’s pretty easy to get ordained online, so if it would be meaningful for someone who knows you and your partner to officiate your ceremony go for it! (also, if they don’t want to get ordained, they can just go ahead with the ceremony and we can sign off on the paperwork) 
  5. Finally, you can fly a religious official out to Palo Duro for your day! If you are religious, getting married in your tradition is important for you. Do it! We have had people fly Rabbis and Priests out for their ceremony. 

Where to Stay when you Elope in Palo Duro Canyon State Park 

After your amazing elopement day in Palo Duro you will need to find a place to get some rest. I would recommend booking lodging as soon as you know you will be eloping in Palo Duro because there aren’t very many places. ESPECIALLY if you are looking for a date near a holiday. 

Dove’s Rest

Dove Rest owns a number of Cabins that stretch along the rim of Palo Duro Canyon cabin. These cabins are truly a luxury stay with amazing amenities, comfortable stays, and incredible views of the canyon. Some even have hot tubs for your winter Palo Duro elopement! These are an especially great option if you are eloping with family and want everyone to stay in the same place. Be aware that Dove Rest does not allow events at your cabin rentals unless you book the entire row of cabins. They want to ensure all guests have a relaxing getaway so reach out to the owners if you are planning on having a reception or ceremony out here. Check out Ariel + Colins Doves Rest Cabin Elopement

Tiny Cabins

Located on the Rim of Palo Duro these Tiny Cabins are the perfect place to cozy up in for your elopement. These tiny hideaways have all the comforts of home with views of the canyon, sunrise, and the nature that surrounds. IF you are lucky you can even spot deer or wild sheep that roam the canyon!

Canyon

Located just 10 minutes outside of the entrance to Palo Duro State Park, Canyon is a small town with a super cute downtown. There are lots of cute airbnb’s in the area for your to pick from. 

Amarillo

Amarillo is located just 25 minutes north of Palo Duro and is home to many great accommodation options. From large chain hotels, to amazing Airbnb’s. There is a little something for everyone. We have a list of our favorite places to stay in Amarillo available in our How to Elope in Palo Duro guide exclusively for booked couples. Here is a direct link to our favorite one- https://airbnb.com/h/amarillo-loft-townhouse

In Palo Duro

If you want the full Palo Duro experience you can try to get lodging inside the park. It is recommended you book a year in advance for prime dates so be aware. Lodging inside the park that is booked on the TSPW website is pretty primitive and most Rim cabins don’t have electricity or running water. For another option for staying in the park we recommend Palo Duro Glamping. These accommodations are super nice, have lots of amazing amenities, and are located INSIDE the park. These are a great option if you are going on an early morning hike inside the park. 

Our Favorite Moments from real Palo Duro Canyon Elopements

These are some of our favorite moments from other real couples who decided to elope in Palo Duro. Each wedding is incredibly unique and fun! Follow us on Instagram or check out our blog for more inspo. 

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Our favorite blogs

SUMMER SUNSET PALO DURO CANYON ELOPEMENT

PALO DURO CANYON SUMMER INTIMATE PAVILION WEDDING

PALO DURO CANYON BOHO TENT WEDDING ON RIM WITH GUESTS

SUNRISE ELOPEMENT IN PALO DURO CANYON WITH 2 DOCTORS

BOHO RIM FREAKING AMAZING INTIMATE PARTY AT PALO DURO CANYON

5 REAL PALO DURO CANYON ELOPEMENTS

For a heck ton more visit- Palo Duro Canyon Weddings or Brit Nicole Photography’s Blogs

Palo Duro Elopement Tips and Tricks 

Physically Impaired Guests

Do you have someone in your family that can not get to certain places within the park? No worries. Check out this guide to help you navigate

Physically Impaired Guests Guide

Offline Maps

There is very little service once you get into Palo Duro Canyon, most people have zero service in most of the park (except for randomly at the top of certain trails). So make sure you download the Palo Duro Canyon offline map that we offer so that you can navigate your way around the park and surrounding towns. 

Invest in an Elopement Photographer

We have poured out hearts about Palo Duro Canyon in this blog! But did you know that this is only a fraction of the information that we have about the area. It’s so important to hire an experienced elopement photographer to help you plan your day. There are always things that can come up, or change the plans at the last minute (like the crazy severe weather season this year that closed down several roads and popular elopement locations). We are extremely familiar with the area and actually live out in the Palo Duro Canyon region. We have tons of tips and tricks to help bring your dream elopement day to life. Are you ready to get started?

Palo Duro Elopement Packages 

Photo Coverage

Options starting at 4 hours of photo coverage

All photographer travel included

4+ hours of meaningful, emotion-filled, memories captured

Planning Tools

Access to our Elopement Resource landing page with vow help, ceremony ideas, and access to our 90+ page How-to-Elope guide! 

Palo Duro Location Guide with tons of amazing locations to choose from

Custom timeline build for your special, stress-free day!

Optional officiant signing services

Great Photos

Your entire elopement story in hundreds of high-resolution digital files delivered in an online gallery for you to download.

Printing rights for all photos 

Access to our professional quality prints, wall art and albums 

Palo Duro Elopement Packages start at $4500

 

For more information check out our pricing page texaselopement.com/packages or reach out to us to schedule your free elopement consultation! 

Are you ready to Elope in Palo Duro? If so, reach out and lets get started planning your Texas Adventure Elopement.

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