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Best Places to Elope in California – Your Ultimate Guide

Are you engaged and looking for a location to have an elopement or an intimate wedding? This golden state is a beautiful place to look! It’s home to a variety of gorgeous sceneries, and has some of the most beautiful, breathtaking locations to get married. From gorgeous mountain backdrops, coastal, cliff-side views, to towering redwoods – there are plenty of options to choose from. California is our home, and one of our favorite places to explore. Here are are absolute favorite places to elope in California!

 

*NOTE: Some locations may be inaccessible or temporarily closed due to COVID-19 Restrictions.

Where to Elope in California

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Looking for the best places to elope in California? We’ve made it easy for you! Check out our compiled list of beautiful locations in this sunny state to get married. Whether it’s for an elopement or a small intimate wedding, you’ll find the perfect location here.

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Yosemite National Park (Northern California)

yosemite, national park, california
 

About 3.5 – 4 hours east of San Francisco, you’ll find one of our absolute favorite places on Earth! Yosemite is home to some of the most gorgeous backdrops. From waterfalls, to towering sequoia trees, to serene lakes and golden meadows – your options are plenty. It’s arguably 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.

Views: mountains, lakes, meadows, trees, waterfalls

Elopement/Wedding Permit: $150 for the required Special Use Permit. (more information on the permit process here)

Where to Stay: There are a ton of lodges, cabins, tents and other fun options within the park that you can stay at! For a fun option, check out Autocamp Yosemite to stay in an airstream. If you aren’t trying to stay in Yosemite Valley, there are also a ton of local Airbnbs and hotels nearby. Take a look at Mariposa, Groveland, Wawona, Yosemite West, and El portal.

Big Sur, California (Northern California)

big sur, california, sunset

 

If you are looking for ocean views AND redwood trees, Big Sur is an amazing choice. It’s definitely one of the more popular places to elope in our golden state, especially if you love the coast.

Views: towering redwood trees, ocean views (with incredible sunsets!), beaches, cliffs

Elopement/Wedding Permit: Permit information and costs vary depending on the specific elopement location you choose within Big Sur. For our comprehensive guide on how to elope in Big Sur, click here.

Where to Stay: You’ll have a variety of gorgeous options. Check out the following lodges for some places to stay (bonus tip: some of these even offer their lodge as an elopement site!)

  • Big Sur Lodge
  • Glen Oaks Big Sur
  • Big Sur Roadhouse
  • Ventana Big Sur
  • Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn

Lake Tahoe (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, including towering trees and crashing, ocean waves. 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.

Views: Joshua Trees (of course), jumbo rocks & jagged rock formations, cholla cacti. There’s also beautiful sunsets & opportunities for star shots at night!

Elopement/Wedding Permit: $120 for the Special Use Permit required. Click here for information on how to obtain a permit.

Where to Stay: There are several hotels, Airbnbs, yurts and lodging options around the park. The Airbnbs in Joshua Tree are also typically gorgeous (win!).

Joshua Tree National Park (Southern California)

 

If you want to go for that desert vibe, consider eloping in Joshua Tree National Park! There are plenty of secluded locations to elope within the park, and it’s also easy to obtain a permit. Click here for our blog post on eloping in Joshua Tree National Park.

Here are the following places in the park where you can have your elopement at.

  • Indian Cove Amphitheater
  • Hidden Valley Picnic Area
  • Turkey Flats
  • Cap Rock
  • Rattlesnake Picnic Area
  • Quail Springs Picnic Area
  • Split Rock
  • Porcupine Wash
  • Queen Valley Mine Intersection
  • Lost Horse Parking Lot
  • Live Oak Picnic Area

Views: Joshua Trees (of course), jumbo rocks & jagged rock formations, cholla cacti. There’s also beautiful sunsets & opportunities for star shots at night!

Elopement/Wedding Permit: $120 for the Special Use Permit required. Click here for information on how to obtain a permit.

Where to Stay: There are several hotels, Airbnbs, yurts and lodging options around the park. The Airbnbs in Joshua Tree are also typically gorgeous (win!). Here’s one we LOVE (and it’s right by the entrance to the park!).

Palm Springs (Southern California)

 

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! We have also had couples opt for a retro, urban elopement by going around downtown. You can have a lot of fun styling a Palm Springs elopement!

Views: Most areas have a gorgeous view of the San Jacinto mountains. You can also opt towards a stylish urban elopement by adventuring downtown.

Elopement/Wedding Permit: Varies depending on location. You can also check Joshua Tree, which is less than an hour’s drive away!

Where to Stay: Stay at the Kimpton Rowan for a stylish, desert vibe (plus, they’re dog friendly!). Or opt to stay at the Saguaro Hotel for plenty of color and fun! Besides those two fun options, there’s plenty of local hotels, lodges and Airbnbs in the area to check out!

Mammoth Lakes (Northern California)

 

Mammoth Lakes is a beautiful location in Northern California! It’s about 5-6 hours away from San Francisco International Airport. There are plenty of activities to do year round here (from kayaking to snowboarding), and it’d be the perfect for the couple looking to include more adventure in their day!

Views: Mountain views and beautiful lakes

Elopement/Wedding Permit: Varies based on the elopement location you choose.

Where to Stay: There are plenty of options in the town right in Mammoth Lakes. A few other options are The Village Lodge, Juniper Springs, or Tamarack Lodge & Resort.

San Diego (Southern California)

A couple looking into the ocean at their San Diego Elopement in Sunset Cliffs
 

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 not too far away from town.

Views: Urban, downtown city feel, lakes, cliffside views, ocean

Elopement/Wedding Permit: Varies depending on location! Also, a note on Sunset Cliffs, it’s definitely a popular spot. If you elope here, choose a weekday for smaller crowds.

Where to Stay: There are a few towns to consider if you’re eloping in San Diego! Depending on which location you’re considering for your wedding, you can easily find a place to stay either in downtown San Diego, Julian, La Jolla, etc.

San Francisco (Northern California)

Kristine and Charles, two adventurous wedding and elopement videographer and photographers in California, embracing.
 

Some of the best places to elope in California are found up north near San Francisco! Look at San Francisco City Hall for an urban feel. Mount Tamalpais is also a gorgeous spot (about 1.5 hours from San Francisco). It’s an amazing place for an elopement if you’re looking for tall trees, hills, and meadows overlooking the bay. For a forest feel, consider also Muir Woods. For an ocean view, look into Point Reyes Seashore! Both are about 45 minutes to 1 hour away from San Francisco.

Views: Varies depending on location, but you can get anywhere from city views with the golden gate bridge, or you can opt for the great ol’ outdoors with trees, greenery, forests, meadows and more! There’s plenty to choose from near San Francisco.

Elopement/Wedding Permit: Varies depending on location.

Where to Stay: You’ll find a surplus of options all around San Francisco! Depending on where you are looking to elope, you’re bound to find an Airbnb, VRBO, a cute inn, or other local hotels and lodges to stay.

Sequoia National Park (Northern California)

 

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

Views: Towering trees and beautiful, serene, greenery

Elopement/Wedding Permit: A Special Use Permit is required, but they are temporarily not accepting n ew wedding permit applications as of November 2020. Check here for updates and current restrictions.

Where to Stay: There are several Airbnbs and accommodations close to the park. Take a look at Three Rivers, CA. It’s a town close to the entrance of Sequoia National Park!

 

How to elope in California (aka the legal stuff!)

Decide on your legal name.

The very first step is deciding on our legal name. Will you be changing it to your partner’s or keeping it? It’s best to decide on your new name before applying for a marriage license. After you’ve decided, it’s time to obtain your marriage license!

Obtain a marriage license (and how much it costs).

Getting a marriage license in California is easy! You can apply for a marriage license in any of the California counties and they last for 90 days. Here’s a list of counties to find one near you. There is no waiting period in California, so you can pick up your marriage license whenever you apply. You also do not need to be a resident of the state to apply. Fees will vary depending on the county you apply at, but it can range anywhere from $35-$100.

What do I need to bring?

Make sure you bring a valid photo I.D. for both you and your partner! It should contain your full legal names, date of birth, and the issue date & expiration date (for example, a driver’s license or a passport).

 

Deal with Paperwork Beforehand!

If it seems like a lot to get your license signed in the place you’re hoping to elope, remember that you can deal with the paperwork beforehand! We have had couples who have signed and completed all paperwork before their elopement day, so they didn’t have to worry or stress about it then. 😉

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Frequently Asked Questions

 

When is the best time to elope in California?

California is easily one of the best places to elope, since it’s weather is almost always beautiful! Each season will bring slight changes in weather, but it is not hard to find a sunny day in the golden state. If you’re considering eloping in California, keep in mind the peak tourist season (June-August). The summer months bring the most crowds. That being said, if you have your heart set on having a summer elopement, there are definitely ways to elope and still have privacy in the summer!

Do I need witnesses to elope in California?

Witnesses are required in California. You’ll need the signature of one witness for your license. It can be a friend, a family member, or if you are eloping just the two of you, we can sign as a witness as well!

How many guests can I have at my elopement?

The amount of guests allowed varies depending on your elopement location! For example, some national parks allow groups of up to 40 people at certain spots, while other locations place a small limit on it. We recommend chatting with your partner & seeing how many people you’re hoping to take with you for your elopement! Is it just the two of you, or are you imagining the day with a handful of loved ones present? Decide how you’re imagining your elopement to go, and then look for a location within California that can accommodate the size.

Sources referenced: NPS.Gov (Yosemite), SanDiego.GovThe Saguaro Palm SpringsUS Marriage Laws\

 

15 thoughts on “Best Places to Elope in California – Your Ultimate Guide”

  1. Wow, there are so many amazing places to elope in California! Thanks so much for putting this great list together!

  2. This is such a great resource for couples who aren’t sure where they want to elope in California! It’s pretty incredible that California has so many amazing options for outdoor recreation and of course elopements!

  3. This is amazing guys! Short & sweet guide to best places in Cali to elope, thank you for also explaining how to obtain permits, that’s something that can get so overlooked!

  4. Oh my, your article really wants me to travel to Calefornia! I’ve never been there but it looks just stunning. Your Blog is so full of helpful informations! thats awesome

  5. This is such an informative guide on eloping in California! I think I would be most drawn to elope in Big Sur, but all of the locations you’ve listed are stunning!

  6. These photos are insane – such great captures. I never really hear of anywhere to elope in Cali outside of Yosemite. Thanks for sharing!!

  7. Your photos make it so easy to choose California to elope, I would surely not think about it twice. Maybe the hardest part would be only to choose where, cause these options are all incredible!

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Kristine & Charles

Meet Kristine & Charles

Heya! We’re Kristine & Charles, two wedding & elopement photographers based in Southern California. Los Angeles is home, but we travel all over our golden state and beyond. We’ve captured weddings & elopements all along the west coast, and have fallen so incredibly in love with what we do.

Storytelling is something we’re passionate about – from the large celebrations to the quiet moments in between. All of it is beautiful & all of it is meaningful. 

If you’re ready to start planning your elopement adventure or an intimate wedding with loved ones, reach out and let’s get the process started!

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