Where to Elope in California

Thinking of eloping in California? Great choice! The Golden State rolls out the red carpet for you with its stunning 840 miles of beaches & coastlines, majestic mountains, & some of the most beautiful temperate forests in the world. Perfect for saying “I do” without the big to-do. Let’s cut to the chase & guide you to California’s best places to elope in my opinion as an adventure wedding & elopement photographer,- where love is grand, & the views are grander. Let’s dig in! No fluff, just the good stuff.

The Best Places to Elope in Northern California

Northern California is known for its rugged coastline, towering redwood forests, & diverse landscapes making it a wonderful spot for your elopement. From majestic national parks to charming towns, there’s something for every couple in this region. Here are a few of the best places to elope in Northern California…

Mount Shasta & the Shasta-Trinity National Forest

Mount Shasta is a stratovolcano in Northern California that rises dramatically from the surrounding landscape, standing tall above the national forest as a symbol of beauty & power. Surrounding Mount Shasta is the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, a vast wilderness of pristine forests, alpine lakes, & meandering rivers, providing many diverse elopement locations in California. The area is an excellent location to elope providing a peaceful setting, ideal for a nature-inspired elopement.

Permits: Permits are only required if your guest count is over 75. Non-commercial permits are available at no cost.

Best Time Of Year: May through October is a good time to explore these mountainous elopement locations in California. The winter months are a great times for a snowy elopement at higher elevations.

A couple goes stargazing in the mountains.

The remote mountains are a great place to go stargazing

California Redwoods

Immerse yourself in the beauty of the California Redwoods known for its towering old growth forests, vast landscapes, & peaceful surroundings. This is often one of many couples’ favorite places for unforgettable moments among these ancient giants. Throughout the area, there are many California state parks providing numerous elopement ceremony locations, ideal for couples looking for a fairy-tale elopement among these giant trees. Redwoods National Park. The Redwoods are a great location if you’re into fantasy books or movies & want that for your elopement day.

Permits: Permits for most locations are available for $100.

Best Time Of Year: April through June are good times for the warmer spring season, but winter in the California redwoods can be sooo magical.

Elope in the Redwoods in northern California- one of the best elopement locations in the state if you want beautiful forests.

Capture your love story in stunning Northern California landscapes. Lock in your date before spots fill up. Book your elopement photography package today

Lake Tahoe & Truckee

If lakes are your thing, an elopement experience along the shores of Lake Tahoe or some place overlooking the beautiful blue waters might be for you. The pristine blue waters & stunning views of the mountains provide a quaint setting for your elopement in California. Whether you choose a lakeside ceremony or a mountaintop celebration, Lake Tahoe offers a romantic backdrop for your elopement with plenty of opportunities for adventure or chill experiences.

Permits: Varies based on the specific location. A permit may be required depending on exact location (which I’ll help you with). 

Best Time Of Year: June through August, or brave the cold & have a snowy winter elopement!

Lakeside elopement location in California at Lake Tahoe.

The Best Places to Elope in Central California

Central California offers a diverse range of landscapes– from the unique granite cliffs of Yosemite, to some of the most beautiful coasts around Big Sur. With so many options in the central part of the state for places to elope in California, you really can’t go wrong with any of these spots. I’m always here to talk more & help you decide on what’s best for your day! And you can always have a full day or multi-day elopement to include even more locations & activities.

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is a classic & popular place for elopements. In fact, I’d say it could be one of the most popular outdoor locations for adventure elopements! And even though it is a popular place, there truly is a reason why. I remember driving into the Yosemite Valley for the first time & just taking in the towering granite monoliths that make this place so magical. Imagine exchanging your vows against the backdrop of granite cliffs, majestic waterfalls, & ancient sequoias. When you elope in Yosemite, you get the chance to experience one of the best places to have a California elopement with over 12 designated ceremony locations to choose from & an endless amount of photo locations.

Permits: $150 permit fee for elopements in the park.

Best Time Of Year: Late September or early October can give you access to higher elevation locations & there are fewer people. May is a great time to elope in the Yosemite Valley.

Yosemite National Park elopement at Tunnel View in California.

Bishop, California & the Sierra Nevada Mountains

Located in Central California, the town of Bishop is a hidden gem for elopements & one of my favorite places to be! Explore the unique landscapes & small but vibrant community that make Bishop a one-of-a-kind elopement location in California. Bishop’s rugged landscapes include the desert environments around Alabama Hills & towering peaks of the Eastern Sierras. The rugged terrain, alpine lakes, & panoramic views of the mountains are great places to explore for your adventurous day. There are shorter & easy to access locations here along with all-day & overnight treks if you want a backpacking elopement. The Sierra Nevada Mountains offer a more secluded & majestic elopement location in California, perfect for couples seeking a more intimate mountain elopement with stunning mountain views.

Permits: Cost may vary depending on the specific location, in some circumstances a wilderness permit may apply. 

Best Time Of Year: Fall, winter, & spring are great for eloping in the lower elevations in the deserts surrounding Bishop, California. Mid summer into early September or late October are good times for accessing the higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Big Sur, California

Nestled along the coast of California is the rugged Big Sur. If you decide to elope here, you’ll find majestic cliffs, pristine beaches, & beautiful redwood forests. You can say your vows overlooking the ocean or amidst the groves of ancient redwoods for your elopement in this stretch of coastal paradise in California.

Permits: A special use permit may be required depending on the exact location.

Best Time Of Year: May through August has the warmest & more mild coastal weather in Big Sur.

Couple kissing at sunset during their elopement on the coast in Big Sur, California.

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park is known for its otherworldly landscapes & striking contrasts. Imagine exchanging vows amidst unique salt flats, towering sand dunes, & colorful badlands of this desert paradise. The park features some of the most unique landscapes California has to offer & even some of the most unique & rare landscapes in the world. For more info, be sure to check out my guide to eloping in Death Valley.

Permits: $300 permit fee is required for getting married in Death Valley National Park.

Best Time Of Year: November through April. Trust me, you don’t want to do summer here for your wedding day!

Colorful sunset adventure elopement in Death Valley, California.

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

Immerse yourselves in the towering giants of Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks for a majestic elopement surrounded by deep canyons, ancient sequoia trees, & cascading waterfalls. These neighboring parks offer a serene & secluded setting for a nature-inspired ceremony that celebrates love amidst a wilderness setting.

Permits: $150 permit fee

Best Time Of Year: May through September are the best months to elope if you’re wanting warmer weather, but winter is beautiful here too!

Elopement location in Sequoia National Park.

The Best Places to Elope in Southern California

Are you dreaming of eloping in the stunning landscapes of Southern California? From stunning desert vistas to rugged coastal cliffs, Southern California offers a diverse array of breathtaking locations for couples thinking about a California elopement. Explore some of the best places to elope in Southern California that will make your special day truly unforgettable. Southern California has warmer weather, beautiful deserts, & some of the most popular beaches.

Joshua Tree & Palm Springs

The only place in the world where these Dr. Seuss looking yucca plants grow, Joshua Tree stands apart with its mystical Joshua trees, unique rock formations, & star-filled skies. You can exchange vows under the canopy of twisted Joshua trees or against the backdrop of rugged desert mountains. Palm Springs has a lot of fun & colorful locations in the town with unique architecture, great places to eat & stay at, & beautiful views of the surrounding desert. For even more detailed info, be sure to check out my Joshua Tree wedding & elopement guide.

Cost: $120 permit fee is required to get married in Joshua Tree National Park.

Best Time Of Year: October through May are the cooler seasons for better weather to elope in Joshua Tree & Palm Springs.

Catalina Island

Escape to the shores of Catalina Island for a romantic elopement by the sea. Catalina Island’s pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, & charming seaside town provide a romantic backdrop for couples who choose to elope here. Whether you opt for a barefoot beach elopement or a cozy ceremony overlooking the ocean, Catalina Island offers a perfect blend of relaxation & romance.

Permits: A special use permit may be required depending on the chosen location.

Best Time Of Year: February through March due to lower crowds, but a great place to elope in California most of the year.

Laguna Beach, California

Laguna Beach is one of the more iconic parts of California. This vibrant seaside town offers stunning coastal views, hidden coves, & stunning sunsets that make this town a romantic paradise on the ocean. From sandy beaches to cliffside vistas, Laguna Beach provides a variety of locations for an intimate seaside elopement ceremony in southern California.

Permits: $416-$517 permit fee required if choosing certain beach or park locations.

Best Time Of Year: April & May due to lower crowds, but great year-round.

Laguna Beach has many beautiful places to elope in southern California.

Imperial Sand Dunes & Kelso Sand Dunes

For a truly unique elopement experience, venture into the surreal landscapes of one of California’s sand dunes. The Imperial Sand Dunes & Kelso Sand Dunes are two of the more popular sand dune locations for couples planning to elope. Exchange vows amidst the serenity of the desert, as the shifting sands & golden light create a dreamlike backdrop while your elopement is happening.

Permits: The Imperial Sand Dunes permit is $35 & the Kelso Sand Dunes permit is $91.

Best Time Of Year: November through May. These sand dunes in California get HOT in the summer!

Places to elope in California with Sand Dunes.

Explore the beauty of California while I capture your elopement memories & reflect back on those memories for years to come. Talk to an elopement photographer!

What Are the Best Times of Year to Elope in California?

The possibilities for eloping are endless in California. However, nailing down the best time of year to elope can be a challenge. Let’s dive into the best times of year to elope in the Golden State to make your special day truly unforgettable.

  • Spring (March-May): Picture saying “I do” in Joshua Tree or along the dramatic Big Sur coast. Mild weather, blooming flowers – spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s party.”
  • Summer (June-August): Beach wedding without the sandy mess? Yes, please. Summer is prime time for a sunny, breezy vow exchange on California’s iconic beaches. Just a heads-up: it’s also tourist season, so you might have unexpected wedding crashers.
  • Fall (September-November): The air gets crisp, the leaves turn all shades of color, & places like Yosemite become even more magical. It’s the perfect season for cozy, scenic “I dos.”
  • Winter (December-February): Fancy a winter wonderland wedding without the frostbite? California’s got you. Snowy backdrops in Yosemite or a lodge-side ceremony offer a chill vibe in more ways than one. The forest & mountains of California offer beautiful snow covered landscapes for your California elopement. Snow lovers, rejoice; beach bums, maybe sit this one out. Winter is also a good time to elope in the desert if you like the desert but are more sensitive to the heat.

Pro Tip: March, September, & October are the “Goldilocks months”: not too hot, not too cold, & you can mostly dodge the tourist hordes. Peak eloping season, if you will. So, grab your lover, pick a date, & let California do the rest.

Cherish every moment of your elopement with timeless photographs, full of color. Get in touch to discuss your vision & secure your date. Let’s talk about your elopement.

Bride and groom jumping up and down celebrating their elopement in Joshua Tree National Park in California.

How to Plan Your California Elopement

Those who want to elope in this beautiful state are met with a diverse selection of unique & one-of-a-kind elopement locations. Beyond the places to elope in California, it’s important to understand the other aspects of how to plan the rest of your elopement. Let’s dive into how you can plan the perfect elopement in the state of California.

Many elopement locations in California are national parks. For a more detailed look at how to elope in a national park view my full guide here.

Benefits of Having Your Elopement in One of These Beautiful California Locations

California offers a variety of benefits as an elopement destination which can help you decide if it’s the right place to elope for the two of you. And if you’re still looking at different places to elope, be sure to check out my blog for other elopement locations.

  • Scenic Locations: California’s got it all, vineyards for wine lovers, ocean cliffs for epic views, & cozy mountain lodges for the snow lovers. Whatever your vibe, there’s a spot in California where you can say “I do” without breaking the bank. Let’s find your perfect backdrop!
  • Mild Climate: California’s mild climate allows for year-round outdoor elopements, whether you prefer a sunny beach ceremony or a mountain vista with a dusting of snow.
  • Adventure Opportunities: California’s diverse terrain provides endless opportunities for adventure, from climbing in Yosemite to surfing in Laguna, allowing you to incorporate exciting things to do into your elopement celebration.
  • Easy to Get To: California is a large state with many major airports & interstate systems. This makes it relatively easy to travel to California & throughout the state with many places having more affordable flights into California’s major airports.

Hiring a California Elopement Photographer & California Elopement Packages

Capturing your special day is crucial & hiring a skilled elopement photographer can make all the difference. Picking the right elopement package will help you make your elopement day everything you ever wanted it to be. Talk to an elopement photographer & secure your date.

Permits To Elope: Location Legalities & Permit Information

Before embarking on your California elopement adventure, it’s important to understand the permit requirements & legalities involved. While California offers a relatively straightforward process for obtaining most elopement permits, certain locations may have specific regulations that you need to adhere to such as not allowing certain types of florals or not being pet friendly.

You will also want to apply for a California marriage license to make their marriage legal. This is a relatively easy process that can be completed online or couples can appear in person & secure a license, which is valid for up to 90 days after it has been issued to you.

Need help planning the perfect elopement day? Planning assistance is included in every elopement package. Talk to an elopement photographer


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