The 5 Best Locations to Elope in California | California Elopement Photographer



From the ancient redwoods of the northern coast to the dry desert of the southern interior, California’s diverse landscape is home to some of the most breathtaking elopement destinations in the country. For the adventuresome and outdoor-loving couple looking to elope, it doesn’t get much better than California.


Whether you’re seeking an intimate mountain-top elopement or a bohemian desert ceremony, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for. Here are five of the best California elopement locations that you’re bound to fall in love with (and may even have a difficult time choosing between!).


1. Yosemite National Park

the 5 best locations to elope in california with yosemite national park elopement photographer naomi levit


A true national treasure, Yosemite National Park makes up 1,200 square miles of magnificent natural beauty. Located in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, the park is best known for its impressive granite cliffs and cascading waterfalls.


A vast wilderness of deep valleys, sprawling meadows, and ancient sequoias, Yosemite is a place of grandeur. With jaw-dropping views around every corner, there’s no shortage of amazing spots for a Yosemite elopement. If you’re searching for a tranquil and awe-inspiring place to tie the knot, you’ll find it in Yosemite.  Check out a Yosemite engagement session at Taft Point and an adventure elopement exploring Tunnel View and Yosemite Valley meadows.


the 5 best locations to elope in california with yosemite national park elopement photographer naomi levit




Best Time of Year to Elope: Spring and Fall


Summer is Yosemite’s most popular season due to little precipitation and warmer weather. Although early spring and late fall bring greater chances of rain, spring and fall is an ideal time to elope in the park. In the spring, temperatures are mild, crowds have lessened, wildflowers are in full bloom, and the waterfalls are gushing. Fall is one of my favorite times in the park.  The air is crisp, the leaves are changing, and it’s easier to find private locations throughout.  


Getting There: About a 3.5 hour drive from Sacramento, a 4 hour drive from San Francisco, and 2.5 hour drive from Fresno.


Nearby Cities: Mariposa, El Portal, or Groveland


Where to Stay: Airbnb, VRBO, Ahwahnee Hotel or Yosemite Valley Lodge both located inside the park, campgrounds in Yosemite, or spend the night in a luxury airstream trailer at AutoCamp.


Top Nearby Activities


  1. Discover the Yosemite Waterfalls – The park is home to some of the most beautiful (and tallest) waterfalls in the country. Don’t miss out on favorites like Bridalveil Fall and Yosemite Falls!
  2. Admire the Rock Formations – Witness the rugged beauty of the park’s iconic granite rock formations including Half Dome, El Capitan, and Cathedral Rocks.
  3. Hike Mist Trail and Half Dome – This 7 mile round trip hike takes you to Vernal and Nevada Falls. If you’re ambitious enough, you can continue on to hike to the summit of Half Dome (just be sure you have the required permit).
  4. Take in the Views at Glacier Point – Positioned on the south wall of Yosemite Valley, this viewpoint offers unbeatable views of Half Dome and the valley below. This is a great place to visit during sunrise or sunset!
  5. Stop at Tunnel View – A popular overlook that offers an extraordinary vista of the park. You can see Yosemite Valley, Bridalveil Fall, Half Dome, and El Capitan all from one vantage point.


2. Redwood National Park

the 5 best locations to elope in california with redwood national park elopement photographer naomi levit


Home to the tallest trees in the world, Redwood National Park is simply magical. Located along the coast of Northern California, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is unique in that it actually consists of four parks co-managed with the state of California. The parks include Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, and Redwood National Park, each memorable in their own way.


With towering trees, vast prairies, winding rivers, and 40 miles of rugged coastline, Redwood National Park is an unforgettable elopement destination. Standing beneath the 2000 year old trees as they reach to over 300 feet above, you’ll be in awe of the beauty that surrounds you. If you’ve ever dreamt of running away together to a majestic, far-away forest to elope, Redwood National Park is the place for you.


the 5 best locations to elope in california with redwood national park elopement photographer naomi levit




Best Time of Year to Elope: Summer


With a mild climate, temperatures in the park range between 40 and 60 degrees year round. The winter season tends to bring more precipitation, whereas summers are drier, although “summer fog” that forms from the ocean mist is common in this season. Even though summer draws more visitors, because of the park’s extensive size, it rarely feels crowded, making summer one of the best times to plan an elopement.


Getting There: About a 6 hour drive from both San Francisco and Portland.


Nearby Cities: Crescent City, Klamath, and Orick


Where to Stay: Airbnb, VRBO, or campgrounds in Redwood National Park


Top Nearby Activities


  1. Hike Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail – Standing at the top of a ridge in Redwood National Park, you’ll walk through an ancient grove of redwoods and douglas fir trees on this 1.5 mile hike.
  2. Visit Trillium Falls – A short hike to the falls, you’ll pass through meadows and make your way into an old growth redwood forest. You may even spot a few elk on your way!
  3. Explore Fern Canyon – Tucked away in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, walk this lush fern-covered canyon that follows a small creek, made famous by its appearance in The Lost World: Jurassic Park.
  4. Drive or bike Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway – A 10 mile drive that winds its way through old growth redwoods. The road will lead you to Elk Prairie, where you can admire the Roosevelt elk in their natural habitat.
  5. Camp at Gold Bluffs Beach – Nestled in the coastal dunes, this drive-up campground lies on a 10 mile stretch of golden beach. A perfect place to camp and catch the sunset over the Pacific!


3. Lake Tahoe and Donner Lake

the 5 best locations to elope in california with lake tahoe elopement photographer naomi levit


Situated between Nevada and California in the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains, Lake Tahoe is a nature-lovers paradise. The largest alpine lake in North America and the second deepest lake in the U.S. (just behind Crater Lake in Oregon), the beauty of its crystal clear blue water will take your breath away.


Surrounded by boundless wilderness, the scenery of Lake Tahoe is truly captivating. From the tall rocky cliffs to the sandy shores, every spot in Lake Tahoe is effortlessly beautiful, making this picturesque alpine lake an ideal setting for a romantic and intimate elopement. Check out this rock climbing adventure wedding day-after session in Truckee, California near Donner Lake. This shoot was a highlight of my life!  I’m always down for doing something different and going on an epic adventure!  Enjoy this Donner Pass adventure elopement inspiration as well!


the 5 best locations to elope in california with lake tahoe elopement photographer naomi levit




Best Time of Year to Elope: Late Spring, Summer, and Fall


Although lovely in any season, Lake Tahoe is a popular destination in both the summer and winter. Fortunately, the shoulder seasons are just as wonderful since the area sees over 300 days of sun a year. With fewer crowds and more affordable prices, late spring brings warmer temperatures ranging from the high 40s to low 60s. Fall sees similar temperatures in the high 40s to low 70s along with a spectacular show of fall foliage. 


Getting There: About a 1 hour drive from Reno and just under 2 hours from Sacramento.


Nearby Cities: South Lake Tahoe, Incline Village, Kings Beach, Tahoe City, Truckee, or Donner Lake


Where to Stay: Airbnb, VRBO, campgrounds in South Lake Tahoecampgrounds in North Lake Tahoe, or campgrounds on Donner Lake.


Top Nearby Activities


  1. Visit Emerald Bay – Nestled in the southwest corner of Lake Tahoe, this iconic bay is definitely worth a visit. Take the mile long hike down to the beach where you can see Vikingsholm castle up close.
  2. Explore Sand Harbor – With its pristine turquoise water, gorgeous mountain views, and granite outcroppings, Sand Harbor is a popular spot for sunbathing, swimming, and water activities like paddle-boarding and kayaking.
  3. Day Trip to Truckee – Just a short drive from Lake Tahoe, this charming historic railroad town is perfect for a day trip with cute shops, good food, and a ton of character.  Donner Lake is just outside of Truckee and is small, quaint lake with camping, day use, and another great location for a California elopement!
  4. Kayak on Lake Tahoe – Rent a kayak or take a kayak tour to see the lake from another perspective. You can even rent a see-through kayak and wonder in awe at just how far your eye can see beneath you.
  5. Hike Eagle Rock – Take this short hike to get the most spectacular panoramic view of the west shores of Lake Tahoe. Definitely worth a visit!


4. Joshua Tree National Park

the 5 best places to elope in california with joshua tree elopement photographer naomi levit


Named after the tree that calls this park home, this southern California gem is almost otherworldly, often said to resemble that of something out of a Dr. Seuss book. Defined by its prickly cacti, towering rock formations, and the twisted branches and spiky leaves of the iconic Joshua tree, the uniqueness of this National Park is indescribable.


With its desert landscape and airy feel, Joshua Tree National Park radiates bohemian vibes. It’s an effortlessly romantic and one-of-a-kind place for a destination elopement. Between jagged rocks and desert plants, you’ll find the barren landscape of Joshua Tree to be full of wonder. This place is perfect for the free-spirited couple in search of an eccentric elopement location.


the 5 best places to elope in california with joshua tree elopement photographer naomi levit




Best Time of Year to Elope: Late Spring and Fall


Situated in the Mojave and Colorado deserts, it’s no surprise that summers in Joshua Tree can be harsh with temperatures easily rising into the 100s. Outside of the summer season, temperatures are more moderate, usually hovering between 60 and 80 degrees, which is why I’d recommend eloping sometime between October and May. 


Getting There: About a 40 minute drive from Palm Springs, 2 hour drive from Los Angeles, and 3 hours from San Diego.


Nearby Cities: Yucca Valley or Palm Springs


Where to Stay: Airbnb, VRBO, or Joshua Tree campgrounds


Top Nearby Activities


  1. Wander around Arch Rock – Although a short hike, you’ll find yourself stopping to admire the unique rock formations as you make your way towards this natural rock arch.
  2. Hike Ryan Mountain Trail – Take this 3 mile moderate hike to the top and soak in the panoramic views at the second highest point within the park.
  3. Drive the Pinto Basin – Take a scenic drive on the Pinto Basin to admire the natural beauty of Joshua Tree. Be sure to stop off at Cholla Cactus Garden and Ocotillo Patch if you have the chance!
  4. Climb the Boulders – Joshua Tree is a popular spot for rock climbing. Experienced or not, there are plenty of great places to try out including Hidden Valley or Hall of Horrors.
  5. Spend a Night Stargazing – As an International Dark Sky Park, Joshua Tree is an amazing place to stargaze. Head to Cottonwood Campground for the darkest skies!


5. Big Sur

the 5 best locations to elope in california with big sur elopement photographer naomi levit


Situated along California’s central coast, Big Sur makes up 90 miles of mountainous coastline. Bordered by the Santa Lucia Mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Pacific Coast Highway winds its way through the area and is well-known to be one of the most scenic drives in the U.S. 


This dramatic coastline is characterized by rocky seaside cliffs, hidden sandy beaches, and deep turquoise blue water. With its diverse terrain and breathtaking ocean views, Big Sur is a coastal-loving couples dream elopement destination.


the 5 best locations to elope in california with big sur elopement photographer naomi levit





Best Time of Year to Elope: Fall


Although Big Sur’s peak season runs from April to October, the best months to visit are from September to November. After August, crowds begin to lessen, but the weather is still mild and the rainy season hasn’t yet begun. Temperatures vary with lows in the mid 40s and 50s and highs in the 60s and 70s.


Getting There: About a 2 hour drive south from San Francisco.


Nearby Cities: Monterey, Carmel, San Francisco


Where to Stay: Airbnb, VRBO, or Big Sur campgrounds


Top Nearby Activities


    1. Visit McWay Falls – Take a quick walk to this gorgeous waterfall that spills right into the Pacific Ocean. The viewpoint from above provides the most incredible views of this hidden cove.
    2. Stop at Pfeiffer Beach – Known for its purple sand, this popular beach is also home to the famed Keyhole Rock, a large rock formation with a natural archway.
    3. Explore Point Lobos – Located at the north end of Big Sur, walk through lush forests and alongside rocky coastline as you admire the nature and wildlife that encompasses you.
    4. Catch a Big Sur Sunset – Don’t miss out on the opportunity to watch the sunset over the stunning California coastline. Some good places are McWay Falls and Pfeiffer Beach but really any location is great!
    5. Surf at Sand Dollar Beach – On the southern coast of Big Sur, this crescent-shaped beach is the region’s longest stretch of beach and a popular spot to go surfing.


Ready to book your California adventure elopement and have a life changing experience that will deepen your relationship with each other and the earth?!
Contact me!




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WOww! This is a great post full of information! California has such gorgeous places to elope at!

California has so many gorgeous places to elope! Love the diversity between the coast and the inland.

Thank you for all the useful info. Big Sur is beautiful! I would add Muir Woods to this list 🙂 your images are really beautiful, I like the mood and simple yet beautiful edit!

I’m OBSESSED with Yosemite National Park! You included so many great tips for those looking to elope at one of those spots. SO great!

Oh my gosh this is such a great blog post!! So much helpful info and great recommendations!

This list is great and so helpful! California is just stunning. It’s no surprise to me that there are so many incredible places to elope there!

Thank you for the very informative blog post. I liked the images from each locations and the tons of details like accommodations, best time to elope.

YES!! I 100% agree with this list and the images you’ve taken in each of these places are STUNNING!

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