5 Best Places to Elope in California
Updated: Apr 29
As if the beaches and sunshine that California is known for weren’t enough, this is actually one of the few states where you can find every landscape imaginable! California is filled with incredible scenery, and each new landscape is just a few hours away from the next. You can find rugged coastal cliffs, crystal clear alpine lakes, dense green forests, vast sandy deserts, and breathtaking mountains. So if you’re having trouble deciding where to elope, the Golden State is your one stop shop for every backdrop! Here are some of the best places to elope in California to get you inspired.
Yosemite National Park
First up is one of the oldest national parks in the United States! Visitors are drawn to Yosemite for its dramatic sunsets, towering granite cliffs, sequoia groves, and rushing waterfalls. This is one of the most popular parks for eloping couples, but for good reason! Whether you want an easily accessible overlook or a long hike that ends in sweeping views of Yosemite Valley, you’ll find the perfect trail. If you want to learn more about eloping at Yosemite, check out this elopement guide!
No matter where you go in Yosemite, you’re bound to be greeted with epic views. Waking up early on your elopement day for sunrise is the best way to ensure your elopement location won’t be too crowded, and staying out for the sunset will reward you with insane views of the granite cliff faces as they light up in the sun’s orange glow, as though they are on fire.
Even just driving down Highway 1 is an experience you’ll never forget. The (slightly terrifying if you’re afraid of heights) cliffs that drop down into the ocean, rocky beaches, rugged coastlines, and the occasional group of sunbathing seals make this a popular path for a scenic road trip. But, if you stop somewhere in the 90 mile stretch of coastline known as Big Sur, you’ll find one of the best places to elope in California.
Big Sur is sparsely populated, and made up of several state parks, all of which offer incredible scenery. You can’t go wrong with choosing the perfect ceremony spot, and you’ll have your choice of saying your vows on the beach, on a cliffside overlook, or on a hike through the coastal Redwoods. Check out this elopement in Big Sur for a peek at the incredible scenery!
A popular skiing destination in the winter and a strikingly blue alpine lake in the summer, Lake Tahoe is another incredible place to elope in California. There are so many trails around, and you can choose to hike on your elopement day like this couple, or find a lakeside spot that’s easily accessible. Or, do a little bit of both! If you have family along for your elopement who may not be into a long hike, you can have your ceremony by the lake, then take off for a day of adventures!
No matter when you elope, Lake Tahoe is beautiful. But, summer brings not only great swimming weather, but also fields of wildflowers! From the middle of July to early August (though it varies every year), you can elope amongst a rainbow of flowers. One of the best places to spot blooms is Carson Pass!
Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree is a unique desert landscape full of craggy rock formations, cactuses, distant mountains, and of course, the iconic bristled Joshua Trees. This national park is a popular destination for rock climbers, so if you and your love want to do a little climbing on the big day, Joshua Tree is perfect!
Unlike most other national parks, Joshua Tree is completely empty in the summer months. Temperatures during the day frequently go above 100 degrees, so I would recommend eloping in Joshua Tree in the winter! Spring and fall offer optimal temperatures, but winter is less crowded, and still warm during the day. Mornings and evenings can be chilly, but add some layers to your elopement attire, and you’ll be great!
Redwoods National and State Parks
There are several national and state parks sprinkled around northern California that feature the incredible redwood trees. These giant trees are some of the tallest in the country, and being surrounded by them on your elopement day will leave you feeling like you stepped into a storybook. In the mornings, when the foggy mist is still hanging around the tops of the trees, the Redwoods really look like a fairytale.
Many of the redwood trees can be found close to the coast, and there are several hikes that lead through the forest and open up into the rocky shores of the Pacific Ocean. There are countless trails you can choose from that offer views of the Redwoods, but Big Basin State Park is known for huge groves where many of the trees exceed 20 feet in diameter!
Ready to Elope in California?
If the bright blue water of Tahoe or the bristly Joshua trees are calling your name, let’s chat about your elopement in California! As an elopement photographer, I spend a lot of time exploring (for work and for fun), so I’m armed with all the best off the beaten path locations, and I love sharing them with my couples!