Best Places to Elope in California
The Ultimate Location & How-To Guide to the Best Places to Elope in California
Best Places to Elope in California | Why eloping in California should be your jam:
As you’re exploring the best places to elope in California, you’ll find the option to elope in California almost too good to be true!! With hundreds of gorgeous locations, the ease in which you can get legally married, and outdoor activities for any type of couple, you’ll be sure you find these best places to elope in California full of all the things you love! As Kalispell Montana Photographers who travel constantly for elopements, we decided to put together a how-to guide on how to elope in California for our couples featuring the best places to elope in California!! We’ll cover why you should elope in California, where you should elope in California, how you can elope in California legally, and our California elopement photography & planning packages! And bonus: we’ll list some of our fave Airbnb’s to stay in while you elope in California for you and any potential guests while providing some of our favorite Airbnb’s to lodge in at each location in case you’re looking for an Airbnb elopement!
Why choose one of these best places to elope in California?
Unlimited elopement location options
With power house locations like Big Sur and Yosemite, California elopements are quickly rising the ranks to become some of the most popular elopement destinations in the US! California also offers less known location options for while you elope in California! Channel Islands State Park makes you feel like you’ve hopped a plane to Hawaii, and Death Valley National Park is a rad place to get married for a unique elopement experience. These are only the beginnings of location options considered the best places to elope in California.
Other elopement destinations in the US that offer comparable beauty are only accessible in certain parts of the year due to weather conditions. From snow to rain or hurricanes, other elopement locations may prove to be difficult to work around if you have a certain month you’re trying to elope in. When you elope at one of these best places to elope in California, you can truly elope any time of the year. The state of California is so vast, choosing to elope in California allows you to choose elopement locations all over the state depending on the type of weather you’re looking to experience for your California elopement!
The Most “Road Trip Worthy” State
Choosing to elope in California would be amiss if you didn’t take advantage of all the varied sights and experiences laid out along the length of the state. Simply driving down the coast and veering off occasionally to check out Yosemite, the Redwoods, Joshua Tree, and yummy coastal food stops makes for an epic honeymoon experience while you elope in California! Choosing one of these best places places to elope in California is a no-brainer if you’re a chill type who loves a good vibe.
The Best Places to Elope in California
Best California Elopement Location List
- Yosemite National Park
- Joshua Tree National Park
- Big Sur
- Channel Islands National Park
- Redwood National and State Parks
We have these best places to elope in California in order from 1 to 6, but truthfully there is no real order of what’s best!! Choosing your elopement location for while you elope in California depends on what type of scenery you’re looking to experience, and that might change your order of favorites!! From tropical coasts, wild granite peaks, desert mood landscapes, or old-growth forests, you’ll have no issue finding the perfect location for your California elopement. We’ll give a quick summary on the best places to elope in California followed by an in-depth guide on each location.
All of these spots make our list of the Best Places to Elope in the US and will satisfy every need you have while eloping! Let’s check out some of the best elopement locations within each of these beautiful California elopement starting with the big dog: Yosemite National Park.
Best Places to Elope in California:
#1 | Yosemite National Park
Best Places to Elope in California: Yosemite National Park
Yosemite is potentially the most popular elopement location in California, thus making it first on our list of the best places to elope in California. With it being first on everyone else’s list of the best places to elope in California, we’ll have to work together to find that perfect date and time for your elope there so your experience is private and pleasurable.
Here are some of our favorite potential locations within Yosemite:
- Glacier Point | Glacier Point is one of the best places to elope in California as it looks otherworldly!! The beauty of the Half Dome granite jutting into the horizon line is sure to bring a sense of awe as you commit yourselves to one another!
- Taft Point | Taft point has all the expansive views of Glacier Point but with a more convenient walk!! It takes less than half an hour to get some of the most scenic viewpoints at Taft Point and is a great option for your elopement location.
- Meadow Views | It would be too difficult to list all the specific meadow and valley areas that will give you gorgeous views looking up at huge peaks and rock walls. Truthfully, this should be higher on the list of the best places to elope in California as you get stellar views with minimal effort. You’ll be peering up at Yosemite’s beauty and reminded just how tiny you truly are, which we think is super important as you seek to take your elopement ceremony seriously and with vulnerability.
When is the best time to elope in Yosemite?
You’ll want to work around the busy season in Yosemite which is typically peak summer months like June, July, and August. A spring or fall elopement in Yosemite would give you the same views with minimal crowding with the potential of added drama like gorgeous fall foliage or raging waterfalls from spring snow melt. Yosemite is one of the best places to elope in California, and since that’s no secret, we’ll help you navigate finding that perfectly private spot. We love recommending shoulder season elopements in Yosemite!
How to legally elope in Yosemite:
You’ll need a permit to legally wed in Yosemite (and yes rangers will check to be certain of your permit)! In order to apply you will need to have already chosen your photographer, gotten their insight on location help and date help, and have alternative location options prepared in case you need to choose a backup location. The demand to elope in Yosemite is high, so you are more likely to get your first location choice when opting for a shoulder season date at sunrise with plenty of time in advance.
Helpful Links for Yosemite:
For Yosemite wedding permit information, click here.
For general information about visiting the park, click here.
For our favorite Airbnb near Yosemite, click here.
Best Places to Elope in California:
#2 | Joshua Tree National Park
Best Places to Elope in California: Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is what I like to call the land of the funk making it one of the best places to elope in the US. Funky trees and rocks are everywhere in this gorgeous desert landscape. Two deserts collide here making for a super unique ecosystem full of gorgeous plant life and adorable creatures. Say hello to the next destination on our list of the best places to elope in California! Your boho elopement will come alive in this gorgeous and easy to navigate landscape.
Great spots to elope in Joshua Tree:
- Arch Rock | Arch Rock is a gorgeous ceremony and portrait spot for your California elopement! This trail within the park is only 1.3 miles and an easy trek for you and any potential guests. The smooth stone and funky shapes bring this desert landscape to life and are perfect for a golden sunrise elopement making it one of the best places to elope in California.
- Fortynine Palms Oasis | This trail gets a bit more difficult in length and elevation but offers stunning expansive views! This would be a gorgeous elopement location for a couple that is comfy on a long walk, wants open views, and interesting rock formations.
- Willow Hole Trail | This trail gets a bit longer too but also with big payoffs!! This trail is one of the most biodiverse and contains palms, Joshua trees, cacti, and so many other fun plants! The good news is you can choose to turn around and cycle back if you get tired on the trail, but I don’t think you will! With an easy elevation gain, this hike is easily one of the best places to elope in California.
When is the best time to elope in Joshua Tree?
The best time to elope in Joshua Tree is Fall or Spring as the desert heat relents a bit! You’ll want to consider your guests and their abilities as well when thinking of the time of year, places to stay, and potential park crowding. However, eloping at sunrise or sunset always helps with temperatures and crowding. Joshua Tree is one of the best places to elope in California for a “just-us” elopement experience or for bringing guests along.
How to elope legally in Joshua Tree:
You will need a special use permit for your wedding and an additional photography permit (so I can get some crazy gorgeous pics for ya!). This adds up to $440 together, and is mega affordable compared to other wedding alternatives. You will need an officiant to elope in the park, but the good news is California permits friends or family to officiate for you making it one of the best places to elope in California due to its ease! We are also ordained and can officiate at no additional cost to your elopement photography packages, and we’d be stoked to officiate at one of these best places to elope in California.
Helpful links for your Joshua National Tree National Park:
For Joshua Tree National Park wedding permit information, click here.
For general information about visiting the park, click here.
For our favorite Airbnb near Joshua Tree National Park, click here.
Joshua tree also has Under Canvas, which we love! Check them out here!
Best Places to Elope in California:
#3 | Big Sur
Best Places to Elope in California: Big Sur
Big Sur is truly a giant in this list of the best places to elope in California! At almost no other place in the US can you find dense forest, black cliffs, and stunning sandy beaches all within a few miles of each other. There are so many potential California elopement locations in Big Sur ranging from state parks to private property and everything in between. Big Sur is one of the best places to elope in California for a “just us” elopement experience or if you’re wanting to bring guests along.
Great Spots to Elope in Big Sur:
- Pfeiffer Beach | Pfeiffer Beach is one of the best places to elope in California due to its beach views and rock formations. This location does not a require a permit, so that’s a major plus as well! If you’re looking for a stunning California elopement location with ease, this is the one!
- Garrapata State Park | This state park is easily accessible and known for its rippled green cliffs overlooking the dramatic shoreline making it one of the best places to elope in California. You’ll have easy access to redwoods as well in case you bring guests along and want a varied experience for them too! They’ll have no issue traversing from the parking lot to your elopement ceremony or exploring the nearby redwoods.
- Andrew Molera State Park | With its easy hike to the beach and affinity for surf-lovers, Andrew Molera is another great option for California elopement!! With a gorgeous rocky beach and beautiful green trails, you’ll find this to be high on your list of the best places to elope in California.
When is the best time to elope at Big Sur?
Big Sur is one of the best places to elope in California for year-round elopements! It should be noted, however, that some portions of Big Sur experiences heavy rain and flooding from March at Pfeiffer Beach and no weddings are permitted. When choosing your elopement photographer for your best places to elope in the California (oooo, das me!), you can nail down the best location for your desired date as each Big Sur location’s primetime will differ slightly.
How to elope in Big Sur legally:
Some locations require permits for your wedding and additional photography permits. This varies from location to location, but there are amazing options that do not require a permit. Even locations that require a permit are very inexpensive and a great option making Big Sur one of the best places to elope in California!
Helpful links for your Big Sur elopement:
For general visiting information in Northern California, click here.
For our favorite Airbnb near Big Sur, click here.
Best Places to Elope in California:
#4 | Channel Islands National Park
Best Places to Elope in California: Channel Islands National Park
This national park is my personal favorite on this list of the best places to elope in California! If you’ve ever wanted to elope in Hawaii but forego the plane ride, this state park might be the way to go! It is a long strand of islands only accessible by ferry off the coast of California and offers dramatic views and ample outdoor activity options making it one of the best places to elope in California for the anyone with their sea legs. Keep in mind, however, that the ferry is the only mode of transportation and island hopping can be difficult without the proper kayaking equipment. If you want to find one island to explore on, this would be one of the best places to elope in California for you.
Great Spots to Elope in Channel Islands National Park:
- East Anacapa Island Trail | This trail is the top trail to elope in Channel Islands National Park as it features the expansive view of the string of islands. You’ll have the best view of the entire park from this vantage point and have varied landscape to explore!
- Lobo Canyon Trail | Lobo Canyon Trail is easily one of the best places to elope in California as it shows off stunning turquoise waters, rugged cliffsides, and mountain ridge views! This stunning trail is an easy 4 miles and is worth every step to enjoy this island for your California elopement!
- Potato Harbor Trail | Don’t let the name fool you. This trail is the most popular in the entire park because of its Potato Harbor Overlook and wildlife viewing opportunities. It also features wildflowers and is wildly popular for all physical capabilities. This would be a great option in the park for bringing any elopement guests along.
When is the best time to elope in Channel Islands National Park?
The National Park service recommends visiting this park year round, but also reminds us of the varying seasons. With the park’s maritime climate, there is always a chance for rain and wind. Dense fog covers the park in late Spring, so if you’re up for moody vibes this is the time for your California elopement in Channel Islands National Park.
How to elope in Channel Islands National Park legally:
You will need a special use permit to elope in this national park, so be prepared to fill out the form and offer payment. Of course, your officiant requirements are the same as other locations in California, so you will be covered!
Helpful links for your Channel Islands National Park elopement:
For wedding permit information, click here.
For general traveling information, click here.
For our favorite Airbnb nearby, click here.
Best Places to Elope in California:
#5 | Redwoods National and State Parks
Best Places to Elope in California: Redwood National & State Parks
If you want to feel tiny on your wedding day, then how about eloping in California underneath some Redwoods at one of these best places to elope in California?! Redwood National & State Parks offer boundless opportunities to get married next to giants! These trees are the stuff of legends and make a perfect backdrop for your California elopement making it one of the best places to elope in California! You’ll also be centrally located to a lot of cool places in California and Oregon so you can adventure past the Redwoods during your elopement experience into mossy forests, under waterfalls, and on the sandy coast! The Redwoods are truly some of the best places to elope in California!
Great Spots to Elope in the Redwoods:
- High Bluff Overlook | This location is great if you want a coastal view while sauntering among the Redwoods. It’s more of an Oregon feel with crashing waves on huge black rock islands and is easily accessible, making it one of the best places to elope in California with guests. Eloping at sunrise would be best so you are less likely to experience crowding.
- Organ Donor’s Grove | This is one of the best places to elope in California if you’re wanting huge redwoods, a fern floor, and gorgeous sun-lit trails where the light dances all around you. This peaceful location, although with quite the name, is one of the many pre-approved wedding locations in the California Redwoods so you’re off to a good start.
- Zig Zag 2 Trail | This is one of the best places to elope in California if you’re looking for a dense forest! The trees are spaced close together as it’s a (relatively) newer growth forest compared to some of the other Redwoods.
When is the best time to elope in the Redwoods?
The Redwoods are accessible year round, but their wet season is October through April, meaning you’ll need to prepare accordingly for torrential downpour and have a backup plan in place. Some locations shut down entirely in these months due to rain including some of the pre-approved wedding sites in the park. No matter what season you choose to elope in California, the Redwoods will be one of the best places to elope in California if you’re ready for a little drizzle and some gorgeous views!
How to elope in the Redwoods legally:
You’ll have the same officiating requirements as the rest of the state of California, but you will also need a special use permit for your actual ceremony. Depending on which park you choose, there may also be a guest limitation or the need to upgrade to a more expensive permit to accommodate your guests. Since these locations are pre-approved, you’ll need to apply in advance (at least a month in advance) in order to procure your permit.
Helpful links for eloping in the Redwoods:
For wedding permit and location information, click here.
For general visiting information, click here.
For our favorite Airbnb nearby, click here.
California Elopement Packages
Woah nelly, that was a lot of good info!! But we’ve got even more coming your way! We’ll look at California elopement packages quickly and then hop to the overall legalities of how to get married in one of these best places to elope in California and be legit! We’ll also have some final considerations to help you choose which elopement location may be best for you so stick around!
California Elopement Packages
As traveling elopement photographers, we (my cutie hubs and I) offer elopement packages anywhere, but we especially love the state of California! Here is our most basic California elopement package that will apply to all of the best places to elope in California!
includes all California elopement locations
6 hours of elopement photography with 2 professional photographers
unlimited planning assistance
personalized full vendor referall list (so you hire folks you can trust)
elopement timeline assistance and drafting
unlimited, online high resolution gallery
ceremony officiant included
permit assistance if applicable
personalized elopement location scouting and referal list
personalized packing list
online, personalized print store for your gallery
all photographer permit and travel fees included
California Elopement FAQ’s
What is the legal process of eloping in California?
Depending on the county in which you decide to elope in California, you may be able to apply for your marriage license online. To be eligible to apply for the marriage license, you’ll need to be older than 18 and be prepared to pick up the marriage license together with proper documentation. California marriage laws apply to all of these best places to elope in California.
Here is the documentation you’ll need to elope in California:
- Full name, address, place of birth, and date of birth for both partners
- Both partner’s parents’ birth places, dates, and any prior maiden names
- Valid photo ID (including driver’s license, passport, or military ID)
- If either partner has been divorced, you’ll need documentation that the former marriage has been dissolved
A note about obtaining your actual license: you’ll both need to plan to pick it up together with your documentation. The county clerk you’ve chosen to use (depending on the county your elopement location is in) will only be open on the weekdays, and it is advised that you make an appointment to pick up the license if at all possible. This keeps your time in the office down and your time exploring California more plentiful!
The license is valid in California for 90 days with a $90 fee at your license pick up. You’ll then need to return the license to the county clerk signed before your marriage will be valid in the state of California.
But who are you going to get to officiate while you elope in California?
Who can officiate my California elopement?
California permits judges or ordained ministers 18 years or older to officiate your ceremony. This means you can find and hire an officiant for when you elope in California or you can have someone meaningful ordained online to officiate your ceremony when you elope in California.
If you’re wanting a “just-us” elopement experience, you can use my hubby and I to officiate while you elope in California.
As elopement photographers, we are also ordained and can legally perform your marriage ceremony in California. You will also be required to have one witness sign your marriage license, and we would be honored to provide that as well. We’re all about serving our couples in any way we can to make the experience as close to their vision as possible at these best places to elope in California, so we’d be stoked to chat about photographing your elopement and officiating!!
How do we choose the perfect elopement location in California?
This might be one of the most difficult questions that will arise while planning for your California elopement!! The options are limitless, and you cannot choose a bad elopement locations when deciding between one of the best places to elope in California. However, there are a few questions to consider when choosing that help most couples:
- Do we want to go somewhere new or familiar to us?
- What ammenities or experiences are important for us to have during our elopement experience?
- Are we bringing guests along, and do they need an easy-access location?
- Are location’s permits unattainable right now due to limited time or budget constraints?
- Which of these locations gets us most pumped for our elopement day?
- Where can we have privacy in order to be vulnerable?
Once you’ve taken time to answer these, choosing which of these best places to elope in California for your elopement location will flow seamlessly!
Additional Notes on eloping in California:
Plan your date around your location’s popular season. As eloping in California rises in popularity, accessibility to major locations dwindles during peak seasons. Yosemite, for example, may have up to 20 couples per day eloping at one location staggered throughout the day. You will not want to fight crowds when you elope in California, so we recommend planning around to elope in California during your location’s shoulder or off season.
You’re likely choosing to elope in California because you value intimacy, beauty, and the ability to be vulnerable. Eloping in California during a peak season can take away from the experience, and we’d love nothing more than for you to live out your wildest elopement dreams by choosing the appropriate date for your elopement.
This may seem daunting, but as elopement photographers we have all the tools to help you choose the perfect date to fit your location needs and privacy needs.
Choose your California elopement location based on your wedding vibe. A wine-country elopement will look wildly different than eloping in a Northern California during fog season. You can truly accomplish any type of wedding vibe from classic to indie to adventurous to glitzy when you elope in California so prepare to work alongside your vendors to create a vibe and coordinate your date and location around it.
California is so vast it can become a little daunting to couples choosing to elope in California, but we know all the tips and tricks to get your planning started on the right foot. This will involve lots of brainstorming, location perusing, and creative thinking to really create a one-of-a-kind California elopement experience.
Plan to create an elopement day (or days) that stewards California’s beauty well while you elope in California. This means coordinating with all your vendors and/or guests as to best craft a day that leaves no trace on the natural environment you choose to elope in California.
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