If you’re thinking about eloping in California and searching for the perfect location to say your vows, you’ve come to the right place! Whether you’re dreaming of saying “I do” in the Southern California desert, on the Northern California snow-capped mountains, or at a romantic beach somewhere in between, this state has you covered! Keep reading to discover the best places to elope in California.
As a California elopement photographer, avid traveler, and outdoor enthusiast, I’ve visited tons of great California elopement locations. I’m excited to share them with you in this post, along with other tips to help you plan your dream elopement!
Hi, I'm Liz!
I believe that the connections we build with those in our lives is what makes life worthwhile. I am truly a people person. I thrive being around others, and being part of a couples’ wedding day feeds my soul!” My couples aren't just my clients, they are my friends and we are building a friendship through your whole wedding journey.
As an elopement photographer – and avid traveler and outdoor enthusiast – I’ve visited tons of great places for elopement ceremonies. I’m excited to share them with you in this post!
How to Decide Where to Elope
Once you decide you want to elope, the next natural question is, “Where?” With all the options in the world open to you, making this choice can feel a bit overwhelming. You could get married on a bluff overlooking the ocean, in a small town, deep in the forest, or on the other side of the world!
To help you decide where to elope, there are a few important questions to ask yourselves. I have created a free guide that will help you decide on the perfect place for you to elope. It includes tips and idea prompts such as:
What type of scenery inspires you?
These questions will help you arrive at an elopement location that suits who you are as a couple, how you want to feel on your wedding day, and what your intentions are for your new adventure together. Most of all, choose a location that excites you as much as your love story itself!
Now that you have an idea of the time of year and the environment you’d like to elope in, let’s dive a bit deeper into where you might want to elope in California.
Best Places to Elope in California
In my opinion, Lake Tahoe is one of the best places to elope in Northern California. It really has it all: a never-ending list of fun things to do, great restaurants, and jaw-dropping scenery! If you are an adventurous couple who enjoys outdoor activities and epic landscapes, Lake Tahoe is a no-brainer for your elopement short list!
Imagine exchanging vows from a vantage point overlooking emerald blue water on a perfectly clear day; or maybe while surrounded by a fresh blanket of snow at the top of a chair lift, before skiing back to the lodge for apres-ski! No matter what your vision, Lake Tahoe can make those dreams a reality.
Don’t know where to start your Lake Tahoe elopement? I can help guide you through the planning process!
Where is Tahoe?
Why is Lake Tahoe Perfect for Elopements?
Great news for couples hoping to elope in Lake Tahoe: any time of year is a good time to elope here!
Whether you dream of getting married in a rustic cabin while there is a blanket of white snow outside or overlooking Lake Tahoe as the summer sun sets, this location is beautiful all year round. Spring and fall are also perfect times to elope in Lake Tahoe, as the weather is fairly mild.
BEST time of year TO ELOPE IN CALIFORNIA
California FALl Elopement
Northern California and Central California are the best places to elope if you’re searching for an autumn vibe. Places like Lake Tahoe, Mammoth, and Yosemite will see stunning bursts of color as the leaves change. And if you want to head off into the desert, temperatures will be much milder at this time of year.
California winter Elopement
If you want to embrace winter in California for your elopement, head to the mountains for a winter wonderland wedding.
However, if you don’t want to get married in winter weather and have decided on a desert elopement, then you can travel to Southern California for places like Joshua Tree and Death Valley. Temperatures will be much more comfortable in the desert in winter.
A third option for a California winter elopement is a city like San Francisco. While weather in San Francisco is mild year round, sunsets are gorgeous at this time of the year. You also have a better chance of missing that massive blanket of fog during winter months.
California Spring Elopement
Spring in California is a beautiful time of the year to elope. Wildflowers are starting to bloom, snow still coats the mountains, and temperatures remain mild in the desert. California really becomes your elopement playground in the spring!
California SUMMEr Elopement
I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that California summers are a dream. If you love hiking, head to the mountains to elope on your favorite trail or at your favorite viewpoint. Or, if you want a California coastal elopement, head to the beaches of Southern California! It’s important to note that this is definitely not the time of year to plan a boho desert elopement, as temperatures routinely soar into the triple digits.
Lake Tahoe Elopement Permits
Depending on your specific location and guest count, you may need a special use permit to elope at Lake Tahoe. Don’t forget to pay close attention to whether your Lake Tahoe elopement location is in California or Nevada, as you’ll need a marriage license from that state!
Lake Tahoe is a perfect place to elope because there are endless activities to do year round! After your ceremony, you can hit the slopes for skiing, sledding, or snowboarding in the winter; in the summer, you can head to the crystal clear waters of the lake for kayaking, sailing, or water-skiing!
But no trip to Lake Tahoe is complete without a stop at Aleworx for pizza cooked in a wood-fire oven. After Kristina and Jordan’s elopement, they grabbed dinner here, and it was the perfect end to an incredible Lake Tahoe elopement!
Things to Do in lake Tahoe
Yosemite National Park
Top 5 Places to Elope in California
Where is Yosemite National Park located?
BEST time of year TO ELOPE IN Yosemite
California winter Elopement
The park is beautiful year-round, with each season creating a unique experience in Yosemite.
Winter in Yosemite is a truly magical sight, but snow closes most of the roads in Yosemite starting as early as October and ending as late as May. With that being said, while Yosemite elopement locations may be limited due to road closures, you will have less of a crowd to contend with, and accommodations will be a bit more budget-friendly.
California Spring Elopement
As Spring approaches and the snow melts, the waterfalls will be powerful, temperatures a bit warmer, and places you may want to elope more accessible.
California SUMMEr Elopement
Summer in Yosemite brings increasingly warmer temperatures and a spike in the crowds. The influx of visitors will cause not only the cost of accomodations to spike, but also the likelihood for onlookers during your elopement.
California FALl Elopement
Fall is my favorite time of year for Yosemite elopements. Crowds are thinning out from the summer and temperatures are a bit more mild, which makes a hike to your elopement location a bit more comfortable. While there will be no snow yet and the waterfalls may be dried up, you will have the breathtaking fall colors to enjoy!
Yosemite Elopement Locations
There are 13 approved Yosemite elopement locations. Glacier Point elopements are some of the most popular in Yosemite, particularly if you’re planning to invite guests. Between the convenient amphitheater and the view of Half Dome, your guests will have the time of their lives…and you will, too!
If you prefer a waterfall elopement, Lower Yosemite Falls or Bridalveil Falls are beautiful and easily accessible options. And if you envision saying “I do” surrounded by sequoias, you can hike to Merced Grove or Tuolumne Grove for an intimate elopement experience.
Just make sure to have a prioritized list of places you’d want to elope in Yosemite, as your first choice may not be an option. For a complete list of all of the possible Yosemite elopement locations, as well as how many guests can attend at each location, visit nps.gov
permits to elope in Yosemite
A special use permit is required for any Yosemite elopement, no matter the location. The permit costs $150 and must be on hand at the time of your elopement ceremony. It does not cover National Park entrance fees and takes approximately one month to complete, so make sure you plan ahead.
Things to do in Yosemite
Yosemite is for those with an adventurous spirit. After your elopement, you can head out rock climbing, hiking with your new spouse, or simply relaxing in your cabin surrounded by nature. Choosing to spend some extra time in Yosemite around your elopement will serve as the perfect beginning to your next adventure as a married couple!
Where is Monterey Located
Best Time of year to elope in monterey
Places to elope in monterey
Monterey Elopement Permits
A permit is required to elope in most California state parks. You can find important permit information for Monterey here. I’m happy to assist you with this process as well!
Things to do in MONTEREY
Every year, my family and I make a trip to Monterey in June. We spend the days hiking (here’s one of our favorite spots - Asilomar State beach), driving the Scenic Highway 1, and eating! The restaurants in Monterey are amazing. Some of my family’s favorites include Il Vecchio for unforgettable fresh pasta, Paris Bakery — a local favorite – for fresh bread and pastries, and Dametra Cafe for casual date nights with live music and tasty Mediterranean dishes.
Where are the california Redwoods Located
BEST time of year TO ELOPE IN the redwoods
Temperatures in the Redwoods stay around 40-60 degrees year-round. Even on a warm day, the temperature will be cooler under the shade of these giants, making any time of year a great time to elope in the Redwoods.
Fog may roll in on summer mornings, but it usually clears by the afternoon. However, if it decides to hang around during your Redwood forest elopement, it will only add to the mystical feel. Summer is when most people pay a visit to the Redwoods, but since there are so many locations to choose from, you’ll easily be able to find an intimate location for your celebration.
Fall brings cooler temperatures, fewer crowds, and perhaps a bit of rain, so be sure to check the forecast and bring layers!
The temperatures continue to drop in the winter, but there will also be very few people to contend with, which is definitely a perk.
Spring is a beautiful time to elope in the Redwoods, as well, because of the rhododendron blooms in May. Talk about a photographer’s dream!
Places to elope in the redwoods
Since the Redwoods are found all over California, there are many locations to choose from. If you want a Redwood National Park elopement, there are 60 miles of forest to choose from, extending well into Oregon!
Another favorite Redwood forest elopement location is in Big Basin in Santa Cruz. Not only will you be able to get married in a Redwood grove, but you can also enjoy coastal views and waterfalls.
Redwoods Elopement Permits
To obtain your special use permit for a Redwood National Park elopement follow the steps outlined here.
Each state park has its own permit rules and regulations. Be sure to allow enough time for your permit to process before the date of your elopement.
Things to do at the Redwoods
Depending on which Redwood park you choose, there is sure to be a variety of things to do in the area. Drive the Avenue of Giants, hike down to a beach, or head into town for a celebratory dinner.
Joshua Tree National Park
Where is Joshua Tree?
Best time of year to elope in joshua tree
Avoid the intense desert heat in the summer months by eloping in the winter instead! Temperatures will be milder, possibly reaching into the mid-80s, allowing for a much more comfortable (and safe!) Joshua Tree elopement.
Spring will also yield milder temperatures, as well as the chance of seeing wildflowers bloom.
places to elope in joshua tree
Joshua Tree National Park has 11 locations for elopements.
Cap Rock is a great location to elope in Joshua Tree because of its interesting rock formations and large Joshua Tree. Split Rock would be an equally memorable elopement location; it’s a 2-mile hike to Split Rock, but there are lots of places to elope along the way!