Best places to elope in califonia

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!

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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?

  • Is there a place that holds special memories?
  • What time of year do you want to elope?
  • Is there a season that you love?
  • How accessible is the location?
  • How far are you willing to hike on the day of your elopement?

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!

Best Places to Elopem in California

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.

black wedding dress. black suit. holding hands and walking together while looking at each other. hope valley. lake tahoe. snow. trees.

Lake Tahoe

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 lake Tahoe?

Lake Tahoe is a national treasure surrounded by the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Within Lake Tahoe, there are two distinct regions: South Lake Tahoe, also known as Tahoe South, and North Lake Tahoe, also known as Tahoe North.

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.

Couple embraces on a large rock on the Lake Tahoe shore with beautiful landscape during their adventure engagement session in Lake Tahoe. Liz Koston Photography.
couple in the snow. posing. he's looking at her as she looks away in the distant.

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.

Zephyr-Cove-Winter-Engagement-Session. Formal outfit. long burgundy dress. leather jacket. boots in the snow for the winter

Lake Tahoe elopment 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!

Things to do in lake tahoe

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!

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is one of the best places to elope in California. In Yosemite you’ll find towering Sequoia forests that give way to granite mountains and cascading waterfalls. So, for adventurous, outdoorsy couples, a Yosemite elopement has to be on the shortlist!

Imagine getting married with a view of Half Dome in the distance, or surrounded by giant Sequoias! With such variety in the landscape, no two elopements are ever the same. I’m certain you’ll find a place to get married in Yosemite that perfectly fits who you are as a couple. But if you need help finding it, I’m here to help guide you through the process of planning your Yosemite elopement.

Where is yosemite National Park Located?

Yosemite National Park spans almost 1,200 acres in the High Sierra Mountains, about 140 miles southeast of Sacramento. The nearest airports are San Francisco International Airport (170 miles west of Yosemite), or Reno-Tahoe International Airport (223 miles north of Yosemite).

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 Elopment 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

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!

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.

5 places to elope in monterey California

Monterey is an underrated gem of the California coast, making it one of my top recommendations for couples wanting a California beach elopement. This spot is a perfect escape—especially during the summer! Wine lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, in particular, will appreciate everything that Monterey has to offer.

Couple embraces in a big hug on a bluff in Big Sur, California during their engagement photoshoot.

Where is Monterey located?

Monterey is located about halfway between San Francisco and San Luis Obispo, with Monterey Bay being the northernmost point of California’s Central Coast. This region is known for rugged coastlines, sprawling vineyards, and unmatched views of the Pacific. It’s the perfect place for eloping couples who want the scenic views of Carmel-by-the-Sea (about 10 minutes away) without the crowds. It’s also just a short drive from Big Sur, which is routinely ranked “Best Romantic Getaway” in the United States!

Best time of year to elope in monterey

The best time for a Monterey elopement, hands down, is in the summer. During the day, it’s typically warm and breezy, while the evenings and early mornings can be chilly and foggy. Don’t let the fact that it’s in California fool you! No matter the season, I recommend bringing layers, like a jean jacket to wear over your wedding dress or suit.

Places to elope in monterey

If you’re heading to Monterey to elope, you probably want to get married on or close to the beach. I recommend checking out Garrapata State Beach and/or Lover’s Point in Pacific Grove.

Garrapata offers 2 miles of sandy white coastline with interesting rock formations, allowing you ample opportunity to find a quiet place to exchange vows surrounded by the sound of crashing waves. How could you go wrong with eloping at a place called Lover’s Point? Plus, it is the perfect location for a sunset elopement!

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.

Couple walks along a bluff in Big Sur at sunset on their engagement photoshoot in California.

Monterey elopment 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!

5 places to elope in California Redwoods

There’s something indescribably enticing about the magical, romantic, and slightly mysterious California Redwoods. The experience is almost poetic, with the rays of sunshine dancing between massive trees! If you’re looking to elope in a place that feels enchanting, look no further than The Redwood National and State Parks!

Fun fact: Did you know that the Redwoods National State Park is dedicated as a World Heritage Site with the goal of preserving these trees for future generations? So cool!

Where are the california redwoods located

The Redwood National State Park is located on the northern coast of California, just below the Oregon border. The park is about a seven-hour drive north from San Francisco, a six-hour drive south from Portland, or about a four-hour drive west from Redding.

Outside of the Redwood National State Park, the namesake Redwood trees can be found in smaller groves throughout California including Big Sur, Santa Cruz, and even in the heart of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park!

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.

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.

top 5 places to elope in joshua tree california

If you dream of getting married in the heart of the desert, there’s no place like Joshua Tree! Known for its namesake Joshua Trees, this area couldn’t be more different than the city of LA, just a few hours away.

Where is Joshua Tree?

Joshua Tree National Park is located in Southern California, roughly 40 miles northeast of the city of Palm Springs and 130 miles east of Los Angeles, in San Bernardino County. Visitors can travel to the area via Los Angeles International Airport, Ontario Airport, or Palm Springs International Airport. There are three entrances to the park, and scenery can vary significantly between them!

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!

Things to do in Joshua tree

Both the Stagecoach Country Music Festival and the Coachella Valley Music Festival are held every year in the nearby city of Indio, which makes this location perfect for couples who love live music.

Looking for Desert Wedding inspiration? See this modern desert-themed wedding (or read about it here on Green Wedding Shoes)!

Maybe I am biased from being a Californian for almost my entire life, but California is absolutely beautiful and has so much diversity in its landscape. There truly is something for everyone. From mountains to the coast, it was so hard to narrow down the best of the best.

Are you looking to elope, but still don’t know where? Reach out to me here and I can help guide you through the process to find the perfect location for your elopement!

Sideview of couple wearing backpacks and wedding attire overlooking a viewpoint in Canyonlands National Park.

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Couple on their wedding day gaze lovingly at each other while embracing at sunrise in Canyonlands National Park.