Towering redwoods, rocky coastline, open prairies, and fern-covered forest floors, Redwoods National Park is full of majestic beauty. Located in Northern California, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to the tallest trees in the world, standing over 300 feet tall. Standing amongst these ancient giants, it’s almost impossible not to feel a part of something bigger than ourselves. If you’re thinking about eloping in Redwoods National Park, I can tell you, you most certainly won’t regret it!
As a Redwoods elopement photographer, I’ve explored the old-growth forests and adventured along the rugged coastline, and I can say that it’s one of my favorite places to shoot. So if you’re thinking about eloping in Redwoods National Park, I’m here to help. I’ve gathered my best recommendations and tips for how to have the most epic elopement in Redwoods National Park, and I’m excited to share them with you!
1. Decide when to elope in Redwoods
Redwood National Park’s climate is usually cool and wet throughout the year with temperatures hovering in the mid 40s to low 60s year round. However, you may see more rain between October and April. Generally, May through September are the best time to elope in Redwoods National Park. Here’s what you can expect during the different seasons:
You can expect generally rainy weather up until the beginning of May. However, late spring brings increasing temperatures, decreasing precipitation, and blooming wildflowers. Spring is also a great time to visit if you’re looking to beat the summer crowds.
Summers in Redwoods tend to be dry and warm with July and August known to be the driest months of the year. However, summers also bring another element—coastal fog. During the summer, fog from the water creeps along the coast and into the forest. If you’re looking for those moody Pacific Northwest vibes, summer might be your season.
Fall can be a bit unpredictable depending what month you choose. September is a beautiful time to elope with fewer summer crowds, warm temperatures, and lower rain chances. October and November may bring more rainfall and cooler weather as temperatures start to drop.
Due to the area’s temperate climate, snow isn’t too common in the Redwoods and daytime temperatures typically don’t drop below freezing. However, wet weather is abundant this time of year with December and January receiving on average 11+ inches of rain on average.
2. Choose where to elope in Redwoods
Unlike most U.S. National Parks, Redwoods isn’t just one big park. It’s actually made up of four separate parks that are co-managed with the state of California. The four parks include Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, and Redwood National Park. What’s great about this, is that you don’t actually have to pick a location within the National Park to get the quintessential redwood experience. All the parks offer an opportunity to see the ancient giants up close with each park as beautiful as the next. I’ve done lots of adventuring within the Redwoods parks and I can confidently say these locations are some of the best!
Jedediah Smith State Park
This is the most northern park of the four and encompasses 10,000 acres of old-growth forest. In fact, it’s home to seven percent of the world’s ancient redwoods. Just a few miles inland from the ocean, you can get the best of both worlds—the lush forest and the rocky coastline. Check out this romantic elopement I shot in Jedediah Smith State Park.
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
South of Jedediah Smith State Park, you’ll find open meadows, golden sand beaches, and gigantic redwoods in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Known for its elk population and iconic Fern Canyon, a small canyon with walls covered in a thick layer of lush ferns. Check out this fun campground elopement where we visited Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.
Although technically located in Oregon, Secret Beach no doubt deserves a spot on this list. Just a stone’s throw from California, Secret Beach is actually located in Samuel Boardman State Park near the southern Oregon border. Though not quite a secret, this hidden seaside cove is an epic elopement location surrounded by towering sea cliffs and breathtaking ocean views. Here’s a moody Secret Beach elopement I shot recently.
Another gem located in southern Oregon’s Samuel Boardman State Park is the miraculous Natural Bridges—a pair of natural arches carved into the rocky sea cliffs of the Pacific. Just to the south of Secret Beach, the Natural Bridges provide almost unimaginable views from what feels like the edge of the world.
3. Book your elopement vendors
Elopements may not require the typical vendors needed for a traditional wedding, but one vendor you definitely won’t want to skip out on is an elopement photographer! That’s me, of course 🙂 I won’t just be your elopement photographer, I’ll be your Redwoods tour guide, planner, and new friend! Check out some of my recent elopements here. Whether you decide to choose me or someone else as your elopement photographer, here are a few tips for finding the right photographer for you:
- Find your photography style: What style of photography do you prefer? Are you drawn to dark and moody photos or bright and airy? I highly recommend scrolling Instagram for inspiration. Try searching hashtags like #redwoodselopementphotographer to get an idea of different photography styles. After you’ve found a few photographers you like, check their portfolios or ask to see a full gallery of their work.
- Find the right fit: Elopements are incredibly intimate. When choosing a photographer, it’s so important to choose someone you can be yourself around. Before you book, hop on a call to see if you click. You’ll have a better idea of what it might be like to work with them, and they’ll be able to learn more about you too!
- Book early: These days elopements are more popular than ever. You may fall in love with a photographer, only to find out they aren’t available. Start your photographer search early so you don’t have to worry about their availability or lack thereof.
The state of California requires an authorized officiant to conduct your elopement (more on this below!). This could be someone you hire or it can be a friend or family member as long as they’re ordained (which is easy to do online). I also know some amazing officiants that I’d happily recommend.
Hair and Makeup
While hiring a hair and makeup artist isn’t a necessity, if you don’t want to stress about doing your own the morning of your elopement day, I would highly recommend hiring someone to do it for you. Also, it’s your elopement day, you deserve to be pampered!
With Mother Nature’s beauty as your backdrop, fancy florals definitely aren’t needed. However, if you want a bridal bouquet, flower crown, or other flower elements, you may want to enlist the help of a florist. You could even opt for something you can buy online. There are some really well-made faux florals that look like the real deal, or you could even DIY your own!
When it comes to elopements, there’s really not much else you need. After all, that’s one of the reasons they’re so popular! With that said, there are some really awesome and unique vendors you may want to include on your elopement day. A videographer, private chef, musician, live painter—really whatever you can dream up! If you’re looking for a particular vendor, I’m happy to provide you with some recommendations.
4. Book your Redwoods travel accommodations
When it comes to eloping, there’s a few logistics you’ll want to nail down before your big day. Here’s a few travel tips on how to get to the Redwoods and where to stay.
How to get to Redwoods National Park
Redwoods National Park is somewhat isolated, but that’s part of what makes it so special! If you’re flying in from out of town, the closest major airports—San Francisco, Sacramento, and Portland—are all about a 5-6 hour drive from the park. The closest airport to the park is Medford Airport (MFR) in southern Oregon, which is a 3 hour drive to Redwood National Park.
Where to stay in Redwoods National Park
From cozy cabins in the woods to beachside cottages, there are tons of amazing places to stay when you elope in Redwoods. Some nearby towns I recommend staying in are Crescent City, Brookings, Arcata, and Eureka.
- Airbnbs and VRBO rentals: Choose from unique airbnbs like this cute Crescent City bungalow, this private Brookings oceanfront cottage, this modern studio guesthouse in Eureka, or this cheery downtown Arcata home.
- Campgrounds: Popular options include Jedediah Smith Campground, Gold Bluffs Beach Campground, or Elk Prairie Campground. If you don’t want to tent camp, there are tons of great places to rent cabins too!
- Hotels and Resorts: If you’re looking for something a bit more boutique, check out The Inn at 2nd & C in historic downtown Eureka or the Beachfront Inn in Brookings for incredible oceanfront views.
5. Plan your Redwoods elopement activities
One of the best parts about eloping in Redwoods is being surrounded by nature and all the outdoor adventure that comes with it. While you’re in Redwoods, I highly recommend taking some time to enjoy the area. Here are a few activities I recommend:
Take a scenic drive – Drive down windy roads under a canopy of old-growth forests or along the edge of the dramatic coastline. These scenic byways are some of the best: Avenue of the Giants, Lost Coast Loop, and Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway. Driving through the parks is the perfect way to soak in the scenery and explore everything Redwoods has to offer.
Hike among the redwoods – This is a must when in Redwoods. Experience the magnificence of these mighty trees up close by meandering your way through the forest. Here are some of my favorite hiking trails in the area: Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail, Tall Trees Trail, Stout Grove Trail, and Boy Scout Tree Trail.
Sleep beneath a forest canopy – One of the best ways to experience these gentle giants is spending a night beneath them. There are plenty of campgrounds to choose from including Jedediah Smith Campground, Elk Prairie Campground, and Gold Bluffs Beach Campground.
Elk watch in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park – Known for its Roosevelt Elk population, elk watching is a popular activity within Prairie Creek. Having almost been hunted to extinction, conservation efforts have allowed the elk population to thrive once again.
Explore Fern Canyon — Another popular destination within Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is Fern Canyon. Made famous by its appearance in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, this lush fern-covered canyon follows a small creek which you can hike and explore up close.
6. Make your elopement legal
Now that you have all the planning out of the way, it’s time to get everything in order to ensure your elopement in Redwoods is legal. To legally elope in California, you’ll need three things:
1. A signed marriage license
You’ll need to visit a California county clerk’s office to apply for your marriage license. If you’re out of state, you may be able to start this process online. To apply, you’ll need to provide a government issued photo ID. You may also need a birth certificate and proof of legal separation, if you were previously married.The license is valid for 90 days and there’s no waiting period so you can wait or elope immediately. The cost ranges from $60 to $100 depending on the county. You’ll also need to make sure you submit the license to the same county that issued it once you’ve eloped.
2. One witness
The state of California requires at least one witness to be present for your elopement ceremony. You can choose whoever you’d like—a close friend, a family member, even your elopement photographer counts!
3. An authorized officiant
In addition to your witness, you will need to be married by an authorized officiant. I’m happy to recommend someone to fill these shoes, but this can really be anyone, as long as they are authorized, which these days, is super easy to do online!
Ready to start planning your epic Redwoods elopement?! I’d love to be a part of your special day. If you’re looking for a fun-loving and adventurous Redwoods elopement photographer, I’d love to hear from you!