Best Places to Elope in California

A couple embracing and staring into each others eyes as they prepare to get into their Volkswagen Beetle during their adventurous desert elopement in Joshua Tree California.

Best Places to Elope in California

Discover the Best Places to Elope in California

Engaged and looking to elope? California offers some of the most beautiful, breathtaking locations to get married! From gorgeous mountain backdrops, to coastal, cliff-side views, to towering redwoods – there are plenty of options to choose from. Continue reading to find the best places to elope in California!

First things first, what is an elopement?

Before we dive into the best places to elope in California, let’s quickly cover the meaning of an elopement! Over the years, the definition of elopements have evolved. It used to be defined as something quick & cheap. It has also been associated as a shameful and secret way to get married. None of those are true. Nowadays, eloping just means that you are choosing to have an intimate, non-traditional wedding day.

Here are some fun facts about elopements!

  • Elopements can be just the two of you OR with a small group of your closest loved ones. We have seen elopements from 2 people all the way to 30.
  • Elopements can take place either on private land or public land. Sometimes, elopements are held at an inn, an airbnb, or other private land that can accommodate a small group. Other times, it’s held on public land, such as a national park.
  • Elopements tend to be more non-traditional. It doesn’t always incorporate a garter or bouquet toss, father/mother dances, wedding parties, etc. Although, you certainly can include those things if desired!
  • You can incorporate activities you love into elopement days! Couples have gone zip-linking, hiking, camping, canoeing, champagne pop, etc. There are so many ways to make an elopement unique and true to you.
  • You do not have to elope in secret. You can share the news with family & friends beforehand! Some couples do. All eloping means is that you are choosing to have an intimate, non-traditional wedding day that gives you the freedom to make this day all about what’s most important to you.
A bride's bouquet with a flowing ribbon during a windy intimate beachside elopement in California.

Why choose to elope?

Choosing to elope is a very personal choice. While it isn’t for everyone, some people choose to elope because of the flexibility & intentionality that it allows. Here are some reasons that folks have decided to elope:

Eloping is more intimate in nature. If you are a more private couple, eloping could be a great way to get married! Typically, eloping allows for a more intimate vibe than a traditional wedding (which will naturally have more guests).

More intentional time to spend together. On a traditional wedding day, you will typically have a timeline that takes up your whole day. It is filled with activities, traditions, and mingling with your guests. Some may love this! If so, that is completely okay. On the other hand, if you want to spend more of your day with your person, an elopement certainly allows for that.

Eloping is more intimate in nature. If you are a more private couple, eloping could be a great way to get married! Typically, eloping allows for a more intimate vibe than a traditional wedding (which will naturally have more guests).

Eloping can be more budget-friendly! Typically, the most you will spend will be on your photo and/or video team. Permits to elope on public land are fairly inexpensive.

Eloping allows for new experiences! You can spend your elopement day exploring somewhere new, doing your favorite activities, or traveling. You have a lot more freedom in how you’d like to spend your wedding day.

Talk it through with your partner and see if it’s right for you both!

Wondering where to go? Here are the Best Places to Elope in California

So you’ve decided you want to elope! Here are some of our favorite places to elope in California!

Yosemite National Park (Northern California)

About 3.5 – 4 hours east of San Francisco, Yosemite is home to some of the most gorgeous backdrops in Northern California. From waterfalls, to towering sequoia trees, to lakes and meadows – your options are plenty. It’s diverse options easily makes it one of our favorite places to visit, and one of the best places to elope in California. Permits are easily obtainable, and the park can accommodate a small group if you’d like to elope with a small number of family and friends. For more information on eloping in Yosemite, read our blog post here.

A couple holding hands as they walk down towards Glacier Point at Yosemite, California.

California Deserts (Southern California)

If you want to go for that desert vibe, consider eloping in Joshua Tree National Park or in Palm Springs! These are just two of stunning places in California to elope. There are plenty of spots both on public land and on private land in Palm Springs, which features a gorgeous backdrop of the San Jacinto mountains. Some favorites to check out are the Moorten Botanical Gardens, the Aerial Tramway to the San Jacinto mountaintop, the Saguaro Hotel, or the windmills! If you are looking for jumbo rocks, cacti, or Joshua Trees themself, consider Joshua Tree National Park! There are plenty of secluded locations to elope within the park, and it’s easy to obtain a permit. Click here for our blog post on eloping in Joshua Tree National Park.

A couple reading their vows during a desert elopement in California.
A couple embracing at during their elopement at Joshua Tree National Park, one of the best places to elope in California.

Big Sur, California (Northern California)

If you are looking for coastal views and redwood trees, Big Sur is an amazing choice! It’s definitely one of the best places to elope in California if you are looking to get a variety of views. Whether you are choosing to elope on a private spot, or one of Big Sur’s public lands, you’ll be able to have an intimate and incredible experience.

San Diego (Southern California)

The best places to elope in California are not all up north. Located in Southern California? Consider eloping in San Diego! You can opt for a cliffside elopement at Sunset Cliffs or have a beautiful lakeside elopement. However, a note on Sunset Cliffs, it’s definitely a popular spot. If you elope here, choose a weekday for smaller crowds.

A couple looking into the ocean at their San Diego Elopement in Sunset Cliffs
A couple reading their vows during their lakeside San Diego elopement.

San Francisco (Northern California)

Some of the best places to elope in California are found up north. Look at San Francisco City Hall for an urban feel. Click here for a city elopement we did at city hall. On the other hand, if you are looking to elope somewhere outdoors, there are also plenty of locations to choose from. Mount Tamalpais is a gorgeous spot about 1.5 hours from San Francisco. It’s an amazing spot for an elopement with its tall trees, hills, and meadows overlooking the bay. Aside from Mount Tamalpais, there’s also Muir Woods for a forest feel or Point Reyes Seashore (both about 45 minutes to 1 hour away from San Francisco).

Sequoia National Park

If you love tall trees or a forest feel, definitely check out Sequoia National Park! It’s home to some of the largest trees, which makes for an incredible, quiet and intimate elopement day.

A couple kissing after their San Francisco elopement in the Redwoods
Click here to watch a film we created for a Redwoods Elopement.

Just a note: So grateful you made it this far! We hope this guide on the “Best Places to Elope in California” was helpful. California is our home, and while we have visited a lot of these places, we have not planned an elopement at every location. As always, if you have any questions for us, you are welcome to reach out! We are happy to help.

Sources referenced: NPS.Gov (Yosemite), SanDiego.Gov, The Saguaro Palm Springs

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