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Best Places to Elope in California

BestPlacestoElopeinCalifornia

Wondering if California is the right place to elope? Well, look no further because you’ve come to the right place! I have been calling California my home for the past 10+ years and I can’t think of a better place to not only visit but to say your vows. Since California is a long state, we often separate the state between Northern California and Southern California. The weather is completely different in these two areas and because of this, the golden state offers an amazing number of landscape options which makes it a little hard to pick (in a good way). California offers 9 national parks, and close to 300 state parks filled with amazing beaches, redwood forests, mountains, lakes, and deserts. No wonder California is considered one of the best destinations for an adventure! Hope this “Best places to elope in California” guide will make it a little easier for you to pick your absolute dream location for your elopement.

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When is the best time to elope in California?

This may be a biased opinion but every season is a good time to elope! We are famous for the 75 degrees all-year-round weather but Northern California offers beautiful 4 full seasons while Southern California offers the perfect 70-75 weather. Since California is a very popular state for tourists, keeping the peak months (June-Aug.) in mind will help you narrow down the best time to visit. Although even if you decide to elope during the peak season, there are still ways to have the “we are the only ones here” privacy. 

Best Places to Elope in California

Weather & Peak Seasons

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

Spring (March-May) Between 45-70
Full wildflowers bloom with fresh waterfalls from the melting snow. Beautiful and comfortable light jacket weather. Best for Mountain, Meadows, Waterfall, Redwoods, Lake & Coastal Elopements

Summer (June – Sept) 50-80
Even though the average temperature can be between 65-75, there are spikes of heat that can drive up the temperature to the 90s. This is the time to pick a cooler location like the coast and forest! Perfect for Mountain, Redwoods & Coastal Elopements

Fall (Sept-Nov) 45-75
You can expect mellow weather with beautiful fall foliage. The cooler temperatures will bring some fog in the mornings and afternoons.  The fall weather near San Francisco is sometimes called the “Indian Summer” since it’s warmer than other areas. Best for Woods, Mountains, Lake & Coastal Elopements

Winter (Nov – March) 40-65
It is a rainy Season but for the mountain areas, it is a snow season! Winter brings lots of visitors to the Ski Resorts. Keep in mind certain parks and trails will be closed due to heavy snow. This is the time to make your winter wonderland crave a reality!  Perfect for Mountain, Woods, Lake, Elopements  

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

Spring (March-May) Between 50-75
Spring is a great time to visit  famous for the super bloom poppy fields! You will enjoy this beautiful wildflower season with the perfect warm weather. Best for Mountain, Lake, Waterfall, Desert, Coastal Elopements 

Summer (May – Oct) 60-85
Enjoy our famous California weather! We have the perfect hot weather for anyone who wants to dip their toes into the water. This is a popular time for surfing or any other outdoor activities. Best for Coastal, Mountain & Redwoods Elopements

Fall (Nov-Dec) 50-70
Fall months are quite mild, so instead of the peak season, this is the best time to visit all the popular locations! It is perfect for Desert, Coastal, Mountain, Lake, & Redwoods Elopements

Winter (Dec – Feb) 50-70
Mild winter months offer perfect light jacket weather. With full blown snow in the dessert, winter looks totally different. This is the best time for Desert, Mountain, Coastal, Redwood Elopements 

 

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Where to Elope in California

Epic Elopement Locations

California is one of the best places to elope because it offers any type of location you can think of! It can be very tough to decide what where you would like to elope, so I’ve listed my top favorite EPIC locations that will take your breath away.

Yosemite elopement photographer 48 1

Yosemite National Park 

VIEWS: (MOUNTAIN, MEADOW, WATERFALL, LAKE, WOODS)

This is one of my favorite places to be, hands down! Yosemite has my heart since this is where I met my husband, but not only that, this is the first national park I’ve visited in the US.   Since then, I’ve been more adventurous than ever!

From the beautiful half-dome mountain to the gorging mighty waterfall, Yosemite offers such a variety of views from the bottom to the top! This is one of the most visited national parks in California because of their popular cliff edge mountains. It is hard to pick the best season to visit.  The meadows are filled with wildflowers in the springtime, the burst of colors are seen during the fall season,  and your soul will be filled with the winter wonderland when snow falls. Every season is different and offers a unique experience. The best time is to visit is during the off-season so you can enjoy the tranquility this majestic place offers. 

Pro Tip: The road to Glacier Point and Taft Point is closed during November to mid-May due to snow,  so make sure to check the Yosemite National Park website for updates.

 

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UPDATE: Glacier Point Road leading to Glacier Point & Taft Point will be closed under construction in 2022. Book your elopement now if you don’t want to wait until 2023!

Special Use Permit: $150 (You can apply 21days minimum or 1 year prior to your date)  

Weather/Peak Season: Peak (June-August) The summer months are the most popular time for visitors to enjoy the trails and camping! The best months to visit the Yosemite are late May (when the road opens), and September and October (when the road leading to Taft Point & Glacier Point is open)! 

Although, if you are here for their waterfalls, visit in April! This is when the snow starts melting and you will see an amazing full gorging waterfalls!

Lodging & Nearest Cities: Yosemite Valley offers lots of lodging options, from tents, airstreams to amazing grand hotels! It is up to you to decide what type of experience you’d like to have.

Autocamp Yosemite
https://autocamp.com/guides/location/yosemite/

Curry Village
https://www.travelyosemite.com/lodging/curry-village/

Ahwahnee Hotel
https://www.travelyosemite.com/lodging/the-ahwahnee/

The Yosemite Cabin
https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/35963872?location=Yosemite%20Valley%2C%20CA&adults=2&source_impression_id=p3_1589436825_4Nk0%2B1%2FAmZuxQZog&guests=1

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Lake Tahoe 

VIEWS: (LAKE, MOUNTAIN, WOODS, WATERFALL)

This crystal blue lake, surrounded by the Sierra Nevada mountains, is one of the most popular lakes in California. The whole town of South Lake Tahoe is filled with pine trees,  and it makes you want to put on a flannel shirt and sip on some hot coco. Lake Tahoe is heavily visited during the winter months for the Ski/Snowboarding season although most trails may be closed due to tons and tons of snow! We have our go-to Plan B locations, so we’ve got your back! Besides the popular winter season, Lake Tahoe has an amazing fall season! Just imagine walking through the tall tan grass with bright yellow and orange fall foliage painted over the mountains. It literally sounds like I’m describing a painting, but it is seriously breathtaking. Fall is also a quieter time to visit, which gives you the “just us” experience.

Pro Tip: Snow conditions can change drastically! A flash storm is no joke (personally experienced and the snow will pile up quickly) and it can change your entire plan. Make sure to have a plan B and flexibility with your date if you are planning to elope in the winter season!

 

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Important Info: Since South Lake Tahoe is located on the California -Nevada border, make sure to apply for your marriage license in the right state.

Weather/Peak Season: Peak (June-August & Nov-Feb) Lake Tahoe has two peak seasons. During the summer, it brings all the vacationers to the blue lake,  and in the winter there is lots of traffic to the ski resorts. 

Lodging & Nearest Cities: The whole lake has tons of lodging options from the north side to the south side of this beautiful blue lake. Some popular locations on the lake include South Lake Tahoe, Kings Beach, Olympic Valley (famous ski resort) and Heavenly Valley (main ski resort). 


Edgewood Tahoe Lodge
https://edgewoodtahoe.com/lodge

The Cottage Inn
https://thecottageinn.com/

Dog Friendly Airbnb
https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/9488295?s=67&unique_share_id=c9cadf9d-0f15-463b-ae04-b47895699832

Mammoth Mountains Fall Hiking Elopement 15 1

Mammoth Lakes 

VIEWS: (LAKE, MOUNTAIN, WOODS, WATERFALL)

This is one of the hidden gems of the Sierra Nevada! The enormous mountain ranges to absolutely secluded the beautiful lakes. You cannot go wrong with having your elopement in Mammoth Lakes/Bishop area! This is a great location during off season to visit because it is further out from cities, which makes it a perfect place for an intimate wedding and elopement! It is also a popular destination for snow sports!

Pro Tip: This area gets heavily snowed and roads closed during snow season (November – March), plan ahead and choose your date ahead!

 

Best Places to Elope In California - Mammoth Lakes
Best Places to Elope In California - Mammoth Lakes

Weather/Peak Season: Peak (June-August & Jan-Feb) Same with Lake Tahoe, Mammoth Lakes also has two seasons! The major season is during summer where it is full of fishers, campers, hikers and lots of other activities. Winter season is mainly for snow sports! Best time to visit is May and September-October.

Lodging & Nearest Cities: There are so many great lnn and cabins throughout the Mammoth Lakes area! Although Mammoth Lakes is a bigger city, if you are coming from another state, fly into Bishop Airport! 

Tamarack Lodge 
https://www.tamaracklodge.com/

Mammoth Mountain Chalets (A-frame Cabins)
https://mmchalets.com/

Convict Lake Resort
https://convictlake.com/

Dog Friendly Airbnb

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/24847194?federated_search_id=18df5d15-d193-44b6-96e9-79ee5b507762&source_impression_id=p3_1648702728_BorHV2goIt%2BLW%2Fu8

 

Sneak Peak 49

Big Sur 

VIEWS: (CLIFF EDGE, OCEAN, BEACH, REDWOODS)

Just imagine walking through a trail surrounded by blooming succulents looking over the turquoise coast. This is what you will see in Big Sur. Or better yet, on the other side of the ocean lies the redwood forests.  Perhaps, this is why it is one of the most popular locations to visit on Highway 1! This is the destination for camping, backpacking, glamping or just staying in the cabins. Big Sur is one of the most sought out locations for an elopement because of the variety of state parks and beauty it offers,  and as a result, Big Sur has tons of small venues that deliver luxury experience. If you are looking to have an elopement with guests or an intimate wedding and looking for the ultimate VIP experience, Big Sur is perfect for you! 

 

Big Sur Glen Oaks Redwood Elopement
Best Places to Elope in California - Big Sur

Weather/Peak Season: Peak (April-October) Since Big Sur offers more than 300 sunny days a year, there isn’t really a bad weather season to visit this amazing sun kissed coast. It is heavily visited during the warmer months from June to August and the campgrounds can be booked up pretty quickly. This is another reason why it may be a good idea to have your wedding at a venue to have privacy for your ceremony and lodging for your guests! 

Lodging & Nearest Cities: Big Sur offers tons of lodging options near or in the state parks! From campgrounds, tents, cabins to luxury cottages…you name it. They’ve got it all! It can book up very fast, so reserve your lodging as early as possible!


Ventana 
https://www.ventanabigsur.com/

Treebones Resort 
https://www.treebonesresort.com/

Glen Oaks
http://glenoaksbigsur.com/

Ripplewood Resort
https://ripplewoodresort.com/

BestPlacestoElopeinCalifornia JoshuaTreeNationalPark

Joshua Tree

Views: (Desert, Cactus, Rock Formation)

To all the cactus & succulent lovers, this is your dream desert location! Joshua Tree looks like it is straight out of a movie set. The tall cactus trees and the huge rock formation make this place like no other place. In the Spring, cacti show their beautiful vibrant flowers which cover the whole park! During the fall months we can see an autumn sunset with the beautiful burnt orange sky. Even Though Joshua Tree is famous for its desert, some parts of the park are dusted with snow in winter, creating a whole new look to this beautiful bohemian landscape. This desert national park has lots of fragile ecosystems and the rangers have selected amazing eloping locations for you and your guests to have a safe and incredible elopement. 

 

BestPlacestoElopeinCalifornia JoshuaTreeNationalPark 1
BestPlacestoElopeinCalifornia JoshuaTreeNationalPark 2

Special Use Permit: Joshua Tree National Parks  requires two Special Use Permits. One for your elopement and the other for photography ($120 each).

Weather/Peak Season: Peak (March-May) Since summer temperatures are over 100 degrees, there’s more foot traffic during spring time. The best time to visit is during fall and winter months! The temperatures are comfortable and you will get the privacy to exchange your vows.

Lodging & Nearest Cities: Joshua Tree Has amazing Airbnbs near the park entrance and luxurious well- decorated lodging options to fill your bohemian soul. Palm Springs is less than  an hour-drive from the park!

 

Secluded Airbnb Surrounded by Boulders

Modern Luxurious Airbnb

Edgy Rockstar Airbnb

Cute Secluded Airbnb with views

Open Modern Minimal Airbnb

Modern Tinyhouse with views

Open Retreat Airbnb

Redwoods elopement brookings oregon 874 2

Redwoods National & State Park

VIEWS: (THE REDWOOD FOREST, BIGGEST REDWOOD TREES)

Warm sunlight peeking through the towering ancient Redwood trees, huge green ferns filling in the gaps between the redwood trees, cool but perfect Pacific Northwest weather are perfect for your cozy clothes.  It doesn’t get any better! This is the mother of all Redwoods Forests, the ultimate place you can experience the 2000-year-old Redwoods trees! The 38,000 acres of lush green old growth Redwoods forest will make you feel like you are in a fairytale. Since Redwood National Park is on the far north end of California, there is a lot less foot traffic compared to other National Parks and this gives eloping couples ultimate privacy! 

 

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Redwood national park ceremony

pecial Use Permit: The Special use permit is good for all 4 parks (1 national & 3 state parks) and they cost $200

Weather/Peak Season: Peak (July-August) The best time to visit this beautiful park is in spring and fall! July, which is the peak season, brings out the heaviest traffic of the year. The city of Arcata hosts an Oyster Festival in June and it  

Lodging & Nearest Cities: The park has lots of campgrounds! There are tons of cabins and Inns surrounding the area in the Redwood forests and by the coats. Arcata (south of parks) and Crescent City (north of parks) are the closest cities,  located within a 40- minute drive from the parks!!

Elk Meadow Cabins
https://elkmeadowcabins.com/

Emerald Forest Cabins
https://www.emeraldforestcabins.com/

Fern Hook Cabin 900
https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/42457399?s=67&sharer_id=48591305&unique_share_id=e406e157-4f4b-4f11-a976-3b892dc02cad

Conveniently Adventurous-Gasquet Glamping
https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/34310890?s=67&sharer_id=48591305&unique_share_id=36928be5-be9d-4669-abfb-3b8c2aaa8f2d

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California Marriage License

Here’s the fun legal stuff! Getting married in California is a breeze. I have listed below a few pointers for obtaining a marriage license:

 -Your marriage license fee will vary from $35-$100 depending on the county, so check several offices near your ceremony locations before you apply!

-There is no waiting period between application and pick-up! You can apply at any of the 58 county clerk’s offices in person. Many counties allow you to download the application online so you can fill the form beforehand! Just bring a valid picture identification for your in-person appointment.

-Marriage license is valid for 90days. You can relax and not worry about the timeframe!

-You will need an officiant. You could either hire an officiant, have a friend or family member ordained, or we can officiate your ceremony! (we are ordained) 

-You will need a witness. You can bring a friend or a family member! Want to have “just us” experience? No problem! We can officiate and sign as a witness 🙂

Ready to plan to your epic day?

Best Places to Elope in California

21 Responses

  1. This is such an awesome post! You gave couples great information and guidance to help them pick the perfect place and time and even lodging!

  2. As someone who spent the first 25 years of their life in California [and I’m only 28, haha!] this article made me miss it so bad! There’s nothing like a Californian elopement, because the state has a little something for everyone! Super helpful article.

  3. This breakdown of weather is 100% my jammmm. I’m always looking up weather wherever I travel, and it’s super super helpful for couples eloping!

  4. This is such a useful guide, I particularly like the weather breakdown! All of these locations look amazing and there is so much variety, something to suit everyone.

  5. This guide is so helpful as I’ve been wanting to visit Yosemite and Big Sur for so long now! Definitely some great ideas that I’ll be implementing into my planning!

  6. Excellent advice and tips! We just moved to California last year because we knew it was the place for us <3

  7. I’ll be shooting my first Big Sur wedding this weekend and I can’t wait to scout this location and have some alone time on this beautiful beach.

  8. This is so informative and helpful! I want to get married all over again just so I can say “I do” in all the places in CA! Beautifully done.

  9. this is such a great resource for couples planning their elopements! Such an informational article!

  10. California is such a magical place for weddings and elopements! It was so helpful that you broke down northern and Southern California temperature wise because it really does vary so much!

  11. These are such great places to elope in california! Couples really can’t go wrong – great resource on everything they need to know!

  12. Holy cow you have SOOOO much great information here (plus great photos to boot!). Can’t go wrong with all this info and scheduling, location, plus your expertise. Amazing work!

  13. Big Sur and Yosemite are my absolutely favorites…..nothing can quite compare…stunning locations and stunning state to elope!

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