the best elopement locations in California.
Being a backpacker and outdoor enthusiast in the Los Angeles area, I know the Southern and Central California outdoor scene very well. During my adventures I'm always on the lookout for great locations to elope to. You can't just turn off being an elopement photographer. Over the years I've come across more than a few spots I thought looked like the ideal place for an intimate ceremony and felt it was about time I shared them. Some are popular places you might expect to see, others you might not of heard of. So if you are planning to elope but have yet to decide on a destination, might I suggest one of my favorite locations below. If nothing strikes your fancy send me a message and let me know what kind of scenery you're looking for. I'm sure I can help you find the perfect location for your love story.
Love something you saw below? Maybe you already found the perfect place, or perhaps nothing here was quite what you were looking for. Whatever it may be, I'm always delighted to help couples in love plan the perfect elopement. Send me a message and we can plan your next great adventure together.
Yosemite National Park
My great grandfather bought a cabin just outside yosemite before I was born so growing up I frequented the park. I attribute my love for the outdoors to the majestic granite peaks of this almost magical valley. Now while Yosemite may be a gorgeous location, It does have some flaws. The chief among them is the crowds of visitors. It can be hard to get lost in nature's majesty when there is a tour bus worth of people taking snapshots beside you. If you are eloping to Yosemite national park there are few tips I'd suggest following. If you are going to have your elopement in the spring or summer, when crowds are at their peak, avoid the main valley. Head up the 120 into the Tioga Pass and you'll find the same stunning landscape with a fraction of the crowds. Another way to do it is avoid eloping in the spring or summer and instead chose to go in the off season. While the Tioga Pass and Glacier Point might be closed, the valley itself will be almost empty by Yosemite standards.
So you want Half Dome in the background of your elopement photos but don't like the insane crowds of Glacier point? No Problem. The Sentinel Dome trailhead is located a few miles from Glacier Point and after an easy one mile hike you'll find yourself on a granite dome surrounded by pines with one of the best views Yosemite has to offer. If you're a fan of Ansel Adams you'll likely recognise the fallen tree here from one of his most famous photos. Talk about a picture perfect elopement destination.
For Yosemite elopements in the spring or summer Tenaya Lake is one of the best locations. The Tioga pass usually closes around September 30th. Sitting at over 8,000ft of elevation there may be snow still in the area. The crystal clear waters of the lake are surrounded by the pristine granite peaks of Yosemite you know and love making a picturesque backdrop for your elopement.
Continue on the 120 past Tenaya lake and you'll find the Tuolumne Meadows. Quiet expanses of grass dotted with creeks and ponds and filled with herds of deer. Sunset hear is as peaceful and magical as you can get in the Yosemite valley. If this sounds like the perfect location for an elopement, you're my kind of people. You can have you elopement ceremony at the Tuolumne Meadow Lodge on a slab of Yosemite granite beside the river.
El matador state beach
El Matador State Beach in Malibu California is a little slice of coastal heaven and easily one of the best locations for an elopement in Southern California. The unique erosion of the rocks has led to an array of towering sea stacks, spooky caves, and majestic stone arches. This natural beauty has led to this beach being featured in numerous movies and magazines. It's easily one of the most spectacular beaches in Southern California. If you're looking to elope to the beach, and say your vows in the warm light of the setting sun on California's coast, this is the place to do it.
If you've set your heart on eloping here, The golden hour reigns supreme here at El Matador State Beach. Plan on having your intimate elopement ceremony at or around sunset. If possible, shoot for a weekday. While EL Matador isn't a particular crowded beach, it is rather small and there can be a lot of other photographers running around on the weekend. Make sure you have plenty of time before or after to explore with your elopement photographer.
When I asked Nina and Miguel here what they were comfortable doing for photographs, they said whatever It took for amazing photographs. That's attitude makes me giddy as a photographer and I highly recommend all couples have that mindset. Climb on rocks, dip your toes in the ocean and jsut have a good time.
El Matador State Beach has more to offer than just stunning seascapes for your elopement, Atop the cliffs you'll find a rugged but beautiful landscape of brush and shrubs. Combined with the golden light of the setting sun it makes for a stunning backdrop for your romantic portraits. It's why it is such an amazing location. Bring a blanket and have romantic picnic like these two.
Joshua Tree National PArk
Joshua Tree National Park is a magical place. It is a landscape where to distinct desert ecosystems come together and form a truly unique landscape. From the parks namesake vegetation, to the surreal geologic features, and the world class sunrises and sunsets, it's easy to see why Joshua Tree is such a popular place for elopements in Southern California. if you do chose to elope to Joshua tree keep the heat in mind. Summer days can be rather toasty. When visiting the park don't forget to stay till after dark as Joshua Tree is the 10th US National park to be certified as an International Dark Sky Park. That alone makes it one of my favorite locations in California for photography. So cozy up to your loved one and gaze at the vivid light show put on by the stars.
If you are eloping to Joshua Tree plan to make good use of the stunning sunrises and sunsets here. If your elopement is in the summer months, my advice is to have your elopement ceremony at either sunrise or sunset, and a portrait session at the other. The average temperature during the summer is around 100 degrees fahrenheit. You don't want to be in formal attire in that kind of heat.
Joshua Tree is a rock climbers paradise. If you've selected this location make sure to bring some shoes with good traction as you will likely be scrambling up a few rocks. You can always change into your more stylish shoes for the photographs.
If you live in Southern California Joshua Tree is only a two hour drive from Los Angeles. Making it a wonderful elopement destination that's close to home. Perfect for those adventurous heart who still want a few friends and family to attend their ceremony.
Big Sur is a stretch of rugged coastline along California's central region that is nothing short of magical. With dramatic sea cliffs, towering redwoods, and a never ending barrage of awe inspiring views. Just what you want for a elopement photography. The Big Sur region receives the same number of visitors annually as Yosemite, and anyone who has been there can attest as to why. It is without a doubt a national treasure of the united states and I highly advise you go if, you've never been. If you're eloping in California, and love the ocean, or redwood forests, I can think of no better place.
Imagine you and your loved one standing on the rocky shoreline gazing off into the sea at sunset. The warm light twinkling in your eyes as the two of you hold each other close among the crashing waves. Can an elopement location even get more romantic? Big Sur is for romance and is among the most popular places in California to elope to. While it can be crowded, there are some secret spots that provide the very best scenery without the crowds.
As you drive along the Pacific Coast Highway in Big Sur you'll quickly discover that stunning vistas are the norm here. It's an absolute wonderland for elopements and photography. There's a reason I travel here as often as possible.
Once you've gotten your fill of stunning seascapes, well at least for the moment, you can head inland and explore the majestic redwood forests that fill the valleys here. Redwoods, ferns, and babbling creeks make a majestic backdrop for any elopement.
Red rock canyon State Park
Here's one off the beaten path. When people think of desert landscapes in california for their elopements they typically think Joshua Tree or perhaps Death Valley. But those aren't the only two stunning desert landscapes California has to offer. Just two hours north of Los Angeles lies Red Rock Canyon State Park. The park features towering rock formations with a stunning display of vivid colors, perfect for photography. Each canyon in the park is unique and beckons to be explored. The dramatic cliffs of the park make it one of the best locations to elope to for those adventurous hearts with a weak spot for desert landscapes.
The stunning red rocks that are the parks namesake make for a unique and romantic desert backdrop for elopements. Image you and your lover kissing among the rocks above, as a photographer I absolutely adore this place.
Red Rock Canyon is not only just two hours from Los Angeles, it's right off Highway 14. This park is easy to access so you, and any guests don't have to hike to find stunning scenery for your elopement. Though hiking to see more of it is more than ok with me!
If you were think about eloping to Joshua Tree, but wanted something a little different from what everyone else is doing Red Rock Canyon is the place. Not only does it too have Joshua Tree's but the Vivid colors of the canyons here are just as scenic as anythign you'd find in Joshua Tree.
Death Valley National Park
While the name Death Valley doesn't exactly sound like an ideal place for intimate elopements and romance, you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. Death Valley National Park is in fact a place of great natural beauty. With gorgeous slot canyons, enchanting sand dunes, and dry lake bed with elegant simplicity, It is a wonderland perfect for eloping. Just maybe not in the summer. Every trip I've made to the park has been a photography dream come true.
Ancient gnarled trees, sprawling sand dunes, and towering mountains. This spot in death valley is just begging to be the locations of a intimate elopement ceremony. If you plan on eloping to death valley try to avoid the summer months as the temperature can be unbearable. If summer is a must, have your ceremony at sunrise or sunset to escape the heat. Fall and Winter is the Ideal time to elope to Death Valley.
Located in the heart of Death Valley, Painted Canyon offers an accessible but truly unique slot canyon experience in the park. It's a great place for portraits after the elopement ceremony, or for the more adventurous the site of a ceremony itself.
I've always found sand dunes to be hauntingly romantic. What could be a better backdrop for your elopement photos in the desert? Being as beautiful as they are, the sand dunes do attract a lot of visitors. If possible try to avoid the weekend crowds. And if having difficulty choosing between sunrise and sunset, sunrises usually have far less in the way of crowds.
Mt San Jacinto
This one is truly unique. Mountain tops aren't well known for their accessibility but Mt. San Jacinto is the exception. Thanks to the aerial tramway in Palm Springs, a ten minute ride takes one from the desert floor below to 8,516 feet. It's a whole lot easier than Hiking from the closest trailhead in Idyllwild, trust me on that one. Depending on the time of year the scenery ranges from meadow filled forests to snowy winter wonderland. So if you want your elopement above the clouds surrounded by pines, without the backpacking trip, this is the place.
In the summer the you'll find the peak of Mt. San Jacinto to be a pleasant escape from the scorching heat below. Making Mt San Jacinto perfect for summertime elopements in California. Just hop on the tram with your loved one and elope into the clouds.
Springtime can very greatly here. It might be warm and sunny at lower altitudes but still cold and Icy at the peak. But don't let that deter you, seeing forests covered in ice is a magical experience. If eloping in psring just keep an eye on the weather.
Winter transforms the mountain into a white wonderland of snow and ice. It is obviously the most difficult time to travel into the wilderness here, but can be the most rewarding. Bring lots of layers for your elopement attire!
June Lake area
You want to elope but are having a tough time deciding where to go. You love the mountains, but you also adore the deserts, and volcanoes are pretty cool too, oh and don't forget crystal clear lakes with waterfalls! Well you're in luck, you can have it all! June lake in and of itself is a gorgeous location, but the surrounding area is just as spectacular. Just driving the June Lake loop will take you through diverse landscapes, but go a little further and you'll find the volcanic Mono Craters, the bizarre Mono Lake and endless of options for mountain views. Oh, and there also that one spot nearby that's pretty popular, what was it? oh, right! Yosemite National Park. You can be in the park exploring the Tuolumne meadows in the Tioga pass(when it is open) within an hour, and a two hour drive puts you in the famous valley itself. The June Lake area is turly a dream come true for couples lookign to elope.
Near the end of the June Lake loop you'll find a turn off for Parker Lake. Take it and drive along the bumpy dirt road and you'll soon find yourself at the trailhead. A two mile hike through the gorgeous sierra foothills drops you off in this pristine valley. The clear waters of Parker lake is surrounded by pine forests and the towering peaks of the Eastern Sierra. For the adventurous couple who doesn't mind a little hiking, I can think of no better place for an intimate elopement ceremony. Say your vows of love in the shadow of these ancient snow capped mountains.
East of June lake you'll find the high deserts sprawling out into the horizon. From lonely dirt roads, to towering volcanic peaks, this place was made for romantic wanderers. This high desert is especially beautiful in winter with its snowy winter coat.
In the valleys of the eastern Sierra you'll find no shortage of woods growing up along the creeks and rivers flowing from the peeks above. Early june is often the best time of year to visit as the mountains are shedding their winter snow. So waterfalls and creeks are at their prime, and the vegetation is lush and green.