Best Places to Elope in California

Where to Elope in California in 2023: The Ultimate Guide

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California has endless location options for elopements… it is all so epic! I am incredibly grateful to get to call this beautiful state home. I have lived here my entire life and have adventured all over the state and yet I still have more to see! You can see the desert, mountains, forests, and ocean all in ONE day if you wanted to, need I say more?

From expansive deserts, majestic redwood forests, snow capped peaks, and stunning beaches - California has it all. And I mean that quite literally. There are hundreds of locations you could choose for your elopement. And while that may sound intimidating, you don't have to worry since you have me - your new adventure buddy, elopement guide, photographer, cheerleader and best friend! I will help you choose the best location in California for your elopement that fits your wants, needs, and wildest elopement dreams. 

Whatever it is you are imagining for your elopement day, California has the perfect location for it. Below I give some helpful tips for choosing your location, as well as all of my favorite spots in California for elopements! If you have any questions or need help, just send me a message - I'm here for you every step of the way!

Eloping in california

Why Elope in California?

California has everything to fulfill your elopement vision. Want to wake up in a rustic cabin in an enchanted redwood forest by the sea, then make your promises to each other under the towering redwoods followed by a romantic picnic on a cliff overlooking the ocean? We can make that happen! Or maybe you’d rather go camping and spend the afternoon at a brewery with your best friend, go surfing, and say your vows at sunset with your feet in the ocean. Or maybe we go on a 4 wheel adventure in the desert, or camp at an alpine lake and you spend the evening soaking in a hot spring under the stars with your new spouse. 

Whatever your favorite things to do together are, you can do them as part of your elopement in California!

tell me about your elopement viison

The Best Time of Year to Elope in California

You can find good weather somewhere in California at any time of the year, but when we are planning a specific activity or location for your elopement in California, it’s important to take the seasons into account. 

Winter

Spring

Summer

Fall

Northern California gets some chilly weather, rain and fog during the winter. If you venture into the mountains you will find yourself in a snowy wonderland where you can ski, snowboard, snowshoe, or snowmobile if you’re looking for an epic snow-venture for your California elopement. 

Southern California has very mild winters that don’t really feel like winter at all if you’re in San Diego or LA. But keep in mind if you head to the desert - the temperature drops below freezing during the night in winter. 

In Northern California, spring means beautiful wildflowers everywhere! The meadows bloom with colors from the snowmelt in the Sierras. It will also be rainier in Northern California during spring. If you’re lucky you can enjoy some spring skiing!

 In Southern California it gets slightly colder than summer but not by a whole lot.

Northern California doesn’t get too hot in the summer. It is drier than the rest of the year and has mild temperatures.

Southern California on the other hand is famous for its warm summers. Everybody will be rushing to the beach to cool off in the ocean and enjoy the beautiful weather!

In Northern California there will be different colored leaves in the mountains, and the temperature starts to cool down again heading into winter. 

In Southern California there is not a huge difference, just a light transition into winter from summer. 

How to Choose your Ideal Elopement Location

Have no idea where you want to elope? Here are some questions to help you start brainstorming…

What type of environment excites you? In what type of place do you feel at home? Mountains, desert, forests, ocean?

Do you want to elope somewhere familiar, or someplace new?

Do you want to hike in or have easier access to your elopement location?

What is a place that holds special meaning to you and your partner?

Do you want to spend the day adventuring or have a relaxed elopement experience?

Where have you and your partner talked about traveling to?

tell me all about your elopement vision

Where to Elope in California on the Coast

The California Coast offers a lot more than just sand and water… There are stunning coastal bluffs towering above the ocean, waves crashing against unique rock formations, sand dunes and bluffs above the sandy beaches, waterfalls, majestic redwood forests and of course the classic beaches as well. Whether you want an “epic” vibe or a more “chill” relaxed vibe for your California elopement, you can certainly find what you're looking for on the California coast!

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 Best Places to Elope in California on the Coast

Do you dream of getting married on a gorgeous cliff overlooking the waves crashing against the rocks below, or in a beautiful forest with redwood trees towering above you? Big Sur has the best of both!

As one of the most sought after California elopement locations, Big Sur offers many venues for luxury intimate weddings, or you can opt to say your vows just you and the love of your life at the edge of the ocean… what’s more romantic than that?!

Tip: Book your lodging early! Big Sur has tons of great places to stay from campsites to luxury cabins but they do book up fast.

1. Big Sur

2. Half Moon Bay

I rarely see Half Moon Bay come up online as one of the best places to elope in California, and I find that so surprising! With stunning cliffs overlooking sandy beaches, it is an amazing coastal location to elope in Northern California.

Plus, there is so much to do in this area! You can enjoy some seriously amazing fish and chips in Half Moon Bay, or head North to San Francisco or South to Santa Cruz. In either direction, the highway is very scenic and it’s a fun experience just to drive it!

While it’s often foggy, this is not a bad thing at all for photos! Just make sure to bring layers, that fog can be chilly and come in fast.

3. Pigeon Point

Pigeon Point is a coast area with a really cool lighthouse right off of the scenic highway 1. It is North of Santa Cruz but South of Half Moon Bay. If you elope here, you have lots of cool options for what to do with your day! I know the cutest farm to get some sweets at they have the absolute best strawberry shortcake ever. You can also head to Santa Cruz and spend the day on rides at the Boardwalk, or up to Half Moon Bay to find some seals and enjoy fish and chips by the water. There is often fog here which can add some awesome dramatic mood to your photos, but also some beautiful warm sunny days as well! The best time to elope here is early fall to avoid crowds and potential rain, but it is accessible all year round. 

Where to Elope in California in the Mountains

The mountains in California offer a ton of activites. Whatever it is you want to do - hiking, climbing, mountain biking, skiing, soaking in hot springs... you can do it in the Sierras!

In the Eastern Sierras, you can find high desert, stark granite peaks such as Mt Whitney towering above you, and awesome rock formations all around. 

In the Northern & West Sierras, you will find many ski resorts and more forests and trees instead of desert. 

Keep in mind the activities and environment you want for your elopement when choosing a date - the seasons change what you are able to do and where you can get to so you need to plan accordingly.

1. Yosemite National Park

Best Places to Elope in California in the Moutnains

From Half Dome to Yosemite Falls this place never ceases to amaze. Yosemite holds a special place in my heart because not only have I been adventuring here since I was a little one running around camp with my brother, but it is actually the place that inspired me to become an elopement photographer in the first place! 

Yosemite offers a variety of scenic spots from the bottom of the valley looking up at the magnificent granite walls, to the top of those walls overlooking the entire valley making it without a doubt one of the best places to elope in California, if not THE best place to elope in California!

The best time of year to elope in Yosemite is between Spring and Fall , it is quite cold in Winter! That being said,  if you're looking for a magical snowy elopement then Yosemite Valley would be an excellent choice, and I am always up for a winter adventure!

Note: The road to Glacier Point and Taft Point closes Nov-May due to snow. 

2. Lake Tahoe

Dreaming of having your California elopement in the mountains? Tahoe might just be the perfect spot you’ve been waiting for. 

Tahoe offers a variety of locations so whether you want to be tucked away in the forest with mountains in the background or on the beach next to the lake, you have many great options!

There are also some great venues for intimate weddings and lodging. 

Keep in mind, there are two peak seasons in Tahoe: The summer (June-August) and the winter (November-February). The weather can bring lots of surprises during the winter so make sure you have a backup plan if you prefer a snowy elopement! Tahoe is also gorgeous during the fall, and generally less busy during this season.

3. Mammoth & Alabama Hills

Imagine eloping under these mountains and then spending the next day soaking in natural hot springs with stunning views… I can’t think of a better way to say I do to your best friend! Alabama Hills is up there with Yosemite for my favorite places in California. It is at the base of these towering mountains including Mt Whitney! Such a crazy landscape for desert and mountain lovers. Mammoth Lakes is actually 1hr 45min drive from Alabama Hills, but I group them together since many people like to do both in one trip. 

If you’re not up for the drive, Mammoth has tons of beautiful lakes to elope at, as well as woods areas and that’s where the natural hot springs are located which are a must if you’re in the area. 

If this sounds like your dream elopement, click here to inquire and we can start planning the perfect Mammoth elopement trip for you and your fiance! Don’t worry, I know where all of the best hot springs are ;)

Note: Many of the roads in Mammoth Lakes are closed in the winter due to snow. 

Where to Elope in California in the Forest

California's forests are quite diverse throughout the state. You can find giant sequoias, or towering redwoods. There are so many amazing places whether you want to hike in, drive up, be on the coast or in the mountains, you pick!

California has some goegeous places to camp in the forests, or you can even find unique airbnbs in the forests of Northern California!

LETS PLAN THE FOREST ELOPEMENT OF YOUR DREAMS

Best Places to Elope in California in the Forest

1. Redwoods National & State Parks

With the golden light filtering through the towering redwoods and the lush green foliage all around it’s hard to go wrong choosing these parks for your California elopement.

The best time of year to elope in these parks is spring or fall. That being said, these parks usually have fewer tourists in general compared to other parks in the state due to where they are located so it is much easier to find a secluded spot for your special day.

2. Henry Cowell State Park

Right in the heart of the Santa Cruz mountains, Henry Cowell State Park is a favorite of mine because it’s easy to access and you are quickly surrounded with towering redwood trees. It does not have as much seclusion as Redwoods National & State Parks which is why it isn’t listed as #1, but it is SO beautiful.

3. Sequoia National Park & Kings Canyon

Home to some of the oldest sequoia trees, Sequoia National Park is a magical place to elope. The park is located in the Sierras in Southern California and boasts beautiful forests, epic cliff views, and awesome rock formations all around.

King’s Canyon National Park is adjacent to Sequoia National Park so it’s super easy to visit both in the same day!

Where to Elope in California in the Desert

The desert in California is incredibly underrated, and incredibly awesome! Sand dunes, epic rock formations, cool plants, interesting textures, and stunning views, you name it! 

A visit to the desert in Southern California is sure to make you feel like you’re on Mars, and provides such an epic elopement experience.

contact me about your desert elopement

Best Places to Elope in California in the Desert

1. Death Valley National Park

Death Valley is one of the most underrated locations in California. It has stunning, very unique landscapes if you know where to look! You can find incredible desert textures and formations at Zabrinsky Point, unreal colors at Artist’s Pallette, or feel like you’re on another planet in the vast sand dunes.

2. Anza-Borrego State Park

Did you know there were Badlands in California? A lot of people have no idea it exists, but this hidden gem is one of my favorite places in California. The incredible rock formations were once under water, and full of awesome geological features. If you want to spend the day off roading in the desert and enjoying an epic desert sunset at an amazing view point, then this is the elopement location for you!

3. Joshua Tree National Park

This classic desert elopement location in California is so unique and fun to explore. The Joshua Trees look straight out of a Dr Seuss book, and there are SO many awesome airbnbs in the area.

There are many. many more places to elope in California,, these are just a top few spots.

If these places don't spark that excited feeling for you, contact me and I will help you find the best spot for your California elopement!

Ready to start your adventure?

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More Resources for Eloping

The ultimate guide for how to elope in California, but it can be applied to any location you want! If you don’t know where to start, I highly recommend this guide!

Decided on a California elopement but not sure which location to choose? This post is for you! The best locations to elope in California from the perspective of a California elopement photographer.

Budgeting can feel overwhelming, this guide will help navigate budgeting for your California elopement as well as tips for being cost-effective.