How to Elope in California

If you’re looking for a list filled with all the best places to elope in California, along with information all about how to elope in California, you’ve come to the right place. 

California holds some of the worlds most popular elopement locations. From Yosemite National Park to the Mojave Desert, thousands of couples from all the around world visit California each year to elope within these stunning elopement destinations. Known for their 9 national parks and 270 state parks, you have endless options to choose from when it comes to picking your dream elopement location.

Not only is California one of the most beautiful states in the U.S., but it’s incredibly diverse and has an array of unique places that you simply can’t see anywhere else. With huge cliffs, sandy beaches, tall redwoods, famous mountains, and so much more, California truly has everything to offer for your dream elopement.

How to Get a California Marriage License

You can get a marriage license at any County Clerk’s office in California by bringing a valid ID and $90-$100 cash.

The County Clerk’s office isn’t open on weekends, and it often closes early on weekdays.

The marriage license is only valid for 90 days.

In California, you don’t need to get married in the county you received your license in. For example, if you got your marriage license in Los Angeles County, you could get married in Orange County. There also isn’t a waiting period in California, so you can get married the same day you pick up your marriage license!

In order for your ceremony to be legally binding, you must have an officiant and two witnesses.

To see more details, check out this website to learn more about how to get a California marriage license.

The Best Time to Visit California

The best time to visit California is March-May. Within these months, the weather is warm, prices are low, and tourists have yet to make their way to the state. Not only will you avoid the summer rush, but you’ll also see some of the most beautiful sights California has to offer during this time. This goes for both Northern and Southern California.

The 20 Best Places to Elope in California

A bride and groom playing in the water on their elopement day.

Best Places to Elope in Northern California

Burney Falls

A bride and groom at Burney Falls on their elopement day in California.
A bride and groom at Burney Falls on their elopement day in California.

When I look at lists of all the best places to elope in California, I’m always surprised that Burney Falls doesn’t make the list. Burney Falls is located within the McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park and was nicknamed “the Eighth Wonder of the World” by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1954. It’s accessible by a 5 minute walk down a paved trail. It’s truly one of the most epic places in California you could say your vows at and deserves to be at the top of the best places to elope in California list.

When to Elope at Burney Falls

The best time to elope at Burney Falls is between April and October when the waterfall is at its peak. I recommend avoiding visiting from June to August because the falls get very crowded, especially during the day. The falls are open year round and make for a great elopement location in the winter as well (though be prepared for snow and ice).

What You Should Know

It’s very slick on the rocks near the base, so wear some shoes that have good traction. Second, it’s wet (obviously), so be prepared to get a little damp on your special day. Lastly, it’s loud, so get that voice ready to scream those vows.

Permit Information

There isn’t much information about permits within the park, but because it is a state park, you’ll more than likely end up needing a permit. To contact the office and receive more information about a special use permit, you can contact the office here.

Mt. Shasta

Mount Shasta in California, one of the best places to elope in California.

Mt. Shasta is another one of those elopement locations that not many people know about but should. It’s located in Northern California near Redding (which is where I’m from). It’s a huge snow covered volcano that’s bordered by lakes and pine trees. It’s a popular place for skiers and snowboarders in the winter, but in the summer, it’s an incredible place to visit.

When to Elope at Mt. Shasta

Spring or fall is the best time to elope in Mt. Shasta. It’s cool and avoids the large summer crowds. Mt. Shasta is also accessible during the winter, but it gets a ton of snow. Snow chains are required for the drive up, and you’ll feel like you’re in a winter wonderland the entire time. It truly is a beauty!

What You Should Know

Mt. Shasta is classified as a volcano and is potentially active, but there hasn’t been an eruption since 1786. 

Permit Information

If you have a wedding party of over 75 people, you’ll need to obtain a permit. If you have under 75 guests, no permit is required. View the information here.

Emerald Bay State Park

Emerald Bay State Park is located in Lake Tahoe and offers some breathtaking views. It’s surrounded with greenery and waterfalls, and it’s the perfect location for an elopement or a weekend getaway. When I think of relaxation, I think of Emerald Bay.

When to Elope at Emerald Bay State Park

The best time to elope in this area is during the spring or fall. I personally recommend straying away from summer because this place gets extremely popular. I also don’t recommend winter simply because of the weather. They get a TON of snow.

What You Should Know

Emerald Bay gets lots of snow in the winter which can cause the roads the close.

Permit Information

The permit costs $200, and you’re only allowed to have 25 guests at your wedding. For more information on how to obtain a permit, contact the park office through their website.

Bishop

Bishop, California mountains.

Bishop is one of those cities in California that hardly anyone knows about. It’s located right between Yosemite and Death Valley and is truly a hidden gem. With mountains, lakes, and forests nearby, this is a great place for a super laidback or very adventurous elopement. It belongs on the list of the best places to elope in California simply because of those views!

When to Elope in Bishop

The best time to elope in Bishop is during the spring or fall. However, Bishop is a good place to elope year-round. If you choose to hike, I recommend spring, summer, or fall in order to avoid the snow the mountains get. 

What You Should Know

Bishop is pretty secluded, so don’t expect to have service or many indoor excursions.

Permit Information

The closest national forest to Bishop, the Inyo National Forest, requires a permit for your elopement. The permit costs $128, and you can read everything you need to know about obtaining a permit here.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Pigeon Point Lighthouse in California, one of the best places to elope.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse is located off the coast of California near San Jose and San Francisco. It’s one of the tallest lighthouses in America and sits right at the edge of a cliff. It’s a remote and beautiful area you have to see to believe.

When to Elope at Pigeon Point Lighthouse

The best time to elope in this area is during the late spring or fall to avoid both the rain and crowds. However, you can really elope here anytime of the year you want. Because the lighthouse is on the coast, the temperature stays practically the same throughout the year.

What You Should Know

There is a rainy season here, and it’s pretty foggy most of the year, but that only adds to the photos.

Permit Information

There is limited information online of how much the permit costs. Contact the station by email or phone to find out all the information you need. You can find their contact information here.

Patrick’s Point

Patrick's Point in Northern California, one of the best places to elope in California.

Patrick’s Point is a state park located near Trinidad in Northern California. It’s right along the coast and is surrounded with lush forest. It’s very similar to the Oregon and Washington coast with lots of fog and greenery. There are dozens of hiking trails and sea lions to check out. Plus, it kind of reminds me of the Isle of Skye in Scotland, but just in California.

When to Elope at Patrick’s Point

Patrick’s Point isn’t a super well known location, making any time of the year a great time for an intimate ceremony. Because Patrick’s Point is on the coast, the weather is consistently around 55-65 degrees, making it a more chilly location for an elopement.

What You Should Know

Patrick’s Point gets an average of 56 inches of rain a year during the winter months, higher than the US average of 38 inches, so if you’re not wanting any rain during your elopement, consider eloping here during the summer.

Permit Information

A permit to elope at Patrick’s Point costs $250 and can be obtained by calling the park office. You can find all the contact and pricing information for the park here.

Fort Bragg

Fort Bragg in California.

Fort Bragg is a smaller town on the coast of California right between Sacramento and Redding, and it’s one of the most beautiful places in California (in my opinion) that deserves to be on this list of the best places to elope in Northern California. It’s surrounded with dramatic cliffs, beautiful beaches, and giant forests. With this area not being as well known as the other coastal town in California, it makes a great place to elope.

When to Elope in Fort Bragg

Fort Bragg can be very foggy and misty in the mornings, so a sunrise elopement might not be the most ideal if you want the coast in the background of your photos. However, it’s great if you want your images to have the Pacific Northwest feel.

What You Should Know

The weather in Fort Bragg is pretty consistent year-round, but the best time to elope is from spring to fall in order to avoid the rainy season during winter.

Permit Information

I had a difficult time finding permit information. From my research, it looks like you might not need one. However, I recommend getting in contact with the City of Fort Bragg and inquiring about permits for your elopement, just in case.

San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge.

San Francisco is probably my favorite big city in California and definitely deserves to be on the list of the best places to elope in Northern California. From the Golden Gate Bridge to Pier 39, you truly do have endless venues to choose from. Whether you want a city or beach elopement, San Francisco has everything and more you’re looking for.

When to Elope in San Francisco

San Francisco weather is very similar year-round. Although it rains during the winter, it’s still a great time to elope. If you’re wanting warmer weather, I would personally go during the summer.

What You Should Know

San Francisco has lots of traffic and lots of fog, so be prepared and plan ahead with a ton of extra time in between things.

Permit Information

This really depends on where you decide to elope. I can’t give you any exact information until you pick your elopement location.

The Lost Coast

The Lost Coast in California.

The Lost Coast is located near Eureka in Northern California and makes the perfect backdrop to any elopement. This place is pretty remote and not very well known to the public, making it a great spot for your intimate elopement. 

When to Elope at The Lost Coast

The best time to elope at The Lost Coast temperature wise is year-round. However, if you don’t want to risk the chance of rain, I recommend a summer, fall, or late spring elopement.

What You Should Know

It rains a ton near this area, and there’s also a ton of fog. If you want something a bit more moody, this is a great location for you.

Permit Information

The permit costs $105 if you have more than 50 guests, but if you have less than 50 guests, no permit is required! Check out everything you need to know about obtaining a permit for your elopement here.

Redwood National and State Parks

Redwoods National Park in California.

I couldn’t make a list about the best places to elope in California and not include Redwood National and State Parks. The Redwoods are located in Northern California near Trinidad, and it’s undoubtedly one of the coolest places you’ll ever visit. Within the park you’ll find lush greenery, dozens of hiking trails, thick fog, and those famous redwood trees that can grow up to 120 feet high.

When to Elope at Redwood National and State Parks

The best time to elope in this area is during the late spring or fall to avoid both the rain and crowds. One great thing about the parks here is that they’re open 24/7, making an elopement anytime during the year possible.

What You Should Know

The Redwood National and State Parks do get quite a bit of rain during the winter and early spring, with an average of 15 days out of the month being rainy. Always check the weather and plan to elope in a season you prefer.

Permit Information

For groups under 50, the cost of the permit is $200 and can be obtained by filling out and sending the forms found on the park’s website.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen National Park in California.

Lassen Volcanic National Park is one of the lesser known national parks in California, but it definitely shouldn’t be. The park is comparative to Yellowstone National Park, just with less people and more forest. It’s definitely one of those places to have to see to believe and for sure belongs on the list of best places to elope in California. It offers incredible views of Lassen Peak and has various volcanos that make for an epic elopement backdrop.

When to Elope at Lassen Volcanic National Park

The best time to elope in this area is during the late spring or fall. Even in the spring, only a fraction of the park may be open due to snow. It’s completely inaccessible and very dangerous in the winter.

What You Should Know

Lassen gets a ton of snow and shouldn’t be visited in the winter due to the dangerous road conditions. Wildlife sightings are also frequent within the park (mountain lions and bears), so caution should be taken.

Permit Information

The permit cost to elope in the park is $75. You can find all the contact information, rules, and application on the park website.

Best Places to Elope in Southern California

Sunset Cliffs

A bride and groom kissing at Sunset Cliffs in San Diego, California for their sunrise elopement, one of the best places to elope in California.

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is located in San Diego. It’s a very popular location for surfers, sunset watchers, and yoga enthusiasts. The park is an incredible 68-acres and is one of the best places to elope in Southern California.

When to Elope at Sunset Cliffs

In San Diego, it’s practically sunny and nice year-round. This means that in the off-season of winter, you’ll still be able to have a warm and sunny elopement without the crowds. While this place can be extremely crowded during the summer, and especially during sunset, you’re still bound to find a secluded spot for your elopement. If you really want to beat the crowds, sunrise is great option!

What You Should Know

If you decide to have your ceremony during sunset, be prepared for some heavy traffic and limited parking. I often have to park in a neighborhood and walk down to the cliffs.

Permit Information

There are a few different parks within the Sunset Cliffs area that all take different permits. The cost of the permit is around $187. You can find all the information and forms you’ll need for your elopement by visiting The City of San Diego website.

Big Sur

Big Sur cliffside in California

Big Sur is definitely another one of those elopement locations that always seems to make the list of best places to elope in California. Big Sur is right on the coast in the middle of California and holds a ton of different state parks such as Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, and Andrew Molera State Park. It’s known for its turquoise water, dramatic cliff line, and rolling hills.

When to Elope in Big Sur

Big Sur is best to visit between May and September, but just like Yosemite, this location is very popular in the summer, which is why I recommend eloping in the fall or during sunrise on a weekday if you want to beat those summer crowds.

What You Should Know

If you decide to have your ceremony or take photos on the beach, definitely be prepared for high tides. Other than this, be mindful of the amount of tourists and plan with extra time to find parking and be stuck in some traffic.

Permit Information

Big Sur does has very specific guidelines for obtaining a permit and what qualifies as an elopement. The permit costs $300. You can read all about the requirements and learn more about the fees here.

Catalina Island

Catalina Island in California.

Catalina Island is definitely one of the best places to elope in Southern California. The island is an absolutely beautiful area filled with beaches, palm trees, and fun activities to do. It’s right near Long Beach and is a perfect place for a romantic elopement and honeymoon. It’s remote and almost feels like a little slice of Hawaii in California.

When to Elope at Catalina Island

Like almost all other locations, the spring and fall are best times to visit this beautiful island to avoid both the crowds and rainy weather.

What You Should Know

After it rains, the island can get quite muddy and sticky making driving difficult sometimes. During the winter, the boat ride to the island can be quite choppy depending on the weather.

Permit Information

Catalina Island does require a permit, but fees differ depending on the location, amount of guests, etc. Be sure to check out everything you need to know about obtaining a permit here.

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park.

This one is a given. Look up any list about the best places to elope in California, and Yosemite National Park is sure to be on top. It has become a very popular area for elopements recently, and it’s no surprise why. With large valleys, dramatic viewpoints, and huge forests, it’s not hard to find that picturesque elopement location within Yosemite.

When to Elope in Yosemite

Yosemite is best to visit between May and September, but keep in mind that tons of tourists flock to this area of California every year, I’m talking 5 million people every year, so if you’re interested in this elopement destination, look into either eloping within the park during late fall or early winter. The winter is limited in terms of what areas of the park you can visit, but some of the park and its valleys are still accessible with a 4WD vehicle. Plus, there are hardly any people!

What You Should Know

If you bring more than 11 people to your elopement, your options for ceremony locations within the park will be a bit limited. However, there are plenty of gorgeous spots within the park to elope at if you do have a larger crowd.

Permit Information

The permit costs $150. You can find everything you need to know about how to obtain a permit here.

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park in California.

I couldn’t make a list about the best places to elope in California and not include Sequoia National Park. It’s very similar to Redwoods National Park, but also has a Yosemite feel to it. It has various mountains, lookouts, and fields that will make you feel as small as an ant, especially if you stand next to those huge Sequoias.

When to Elope at Sequoia National Park

The best time to elope in this area is during the late spring or fall to avoid both the rain and crowds. It’s often snowy and dangerous to visit in the winter.

What You Should Know

The park does get quite a bit of rain and snow during the winter and early spring. The temperatures during the winter reach around 36 degrees and doesn’t start warming up until around May.

Permit Information

The permit for the park costs $50, and it can be obtained by filling out the application on the park website.

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park in California, one of the best places to elope.

Joshua Tree National Park is another one of those locations that are expected to be seen on lists all about the best places to elope in California. Joshua Tree is located in Southern California near Palm Springs. It’s famous for its rugged rock formations and named for its twisted and bristled Joshua Trees.

When to Elope at Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree is the most popular among tourists during the spring and fall. I personally think late November or December are great months to elope in this gorgeous desert. Not only will you avoid the heat, but you’ll avoid a majority of the crowds who tend to visit in September and October.

What You Should Know

Joshua Tree is a beautiful place, but should be avoided during the middle of day in the summer. It’s definitely possible to elope during this time, but it often reaches 100 degrees, and in recent years, this temperature has steadily increased over the years. It also gets super cold at night during the winter, so be prepared for cold temperatures.

Permit Information

The permit costs $120, and you can get it by filling out the application and simply emailing it to the NPS office. Check out everything you need to know about permits within the park here.

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon in California, one of the best places to elope.

Red Rock Canyon is a state park near Bakersfield and is surprisingly not as well known as the other state parks. It’s another desert area in Southern California that’s filled with dramatic shapes and vivid colors. There are even Joshua Trees here, making it a great alternative to Joshua Tree National Park if you’re wanting something a bit more intimate and unique.

When to Elope at Red Rock Canyon

Just like all deserts, you’ll want to elope here during the spring, fall, or winter when the temperature isn’t as hot. I recommend a winter elopement if you want to beat the minimal crowds that visit here each year.

What You Should Know

It gets super windy in this area of California, so always check the weather before planning an elopement near this spot.

Permit Information

Although I couldn’t find an exact cost of the permit, you are required to have one for your elopement. The permit looks to be around $150. You can find contact information and how to obtain a permit here.

Glamis Sand Dunes

Glamis Sand Dunes in California, one of the best places to elope in California.

The Glamis Sand Dunes, also known as the Imperial Sand Dunes, are located in Southern California near the border of Mexico and are over 40 miles long. The dunes are like a little slice of Morocco in California and make for the prettiest, simple background for any image.

When to Elope at Glamis Sand Dunes

The best time to elope in this area is during the spring, fall, or winter in order to avoid the summer heat. I personally recommend winter, as that’s when it’s the coolest and most enjoyable.

What You Should Know

It gets extremely hot in this are during the summer, I’m talking over 100 degrees hot almost everyday. I definitely don’t recommend eloping here during the summer.

Permit Information

The permit is $100. You can obtain one by filling out the application found on this website.

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park in California, one of the best places to elope.

Once again, I couldn’t make a list about the best places to elope in California and not include Death Valley National Park. I mean, I couldn’t make a list and not include almost every national park in California. Can you blame me?

Death Valley National Park is located right on the border of California and Nevada and is in fact the hottest and driest national park in America. Not only is it one of the most extreme national parks, but it’s also the most unique and has various shapes, colors, and textures throughout the park.

When to Elope in Death Valley National Park

The best time to elope in this area is during the late fall or winter. In the spring and summer, the park reaches over 100 degrees almost every single day and definitely isn’t the safest time to visit. In the fall and winter, you’ll have cooler temperatures and a much more enjoyable time.

What You Should Know

Like I stated before, the park is extremely hot and not safe to hike or visit for a long period of time in the winter. 

The park is also very desolate, so prepare for days without cell phone service, and make sure the gas in your car is full and stocked with food and water.

Permit Information

The cost of the permit is $210. You can find more information about the permit and how to obtain one here.

Want more elopement inspiration? Check out this blog post all about the best mountain wedding venues, along with California elopement packages, and a California elopement that took place at Sunset Cliffs.

FAQ

How much does it cost to elope in California?

It costs $100 to elope in California. The $100 cost is from the California marriage license.

What do you need to elope in California?

To elope in California, you need a marriage license, which can be obtained through a government-issued photo ID.

Where can I elope in California?

You can elope anywhere in California. The best places to elope in California include Yosemite National Park, Big Sur, and Joshua Tree National Park.

Can you get married the same day in California?

Yes, you can get married the same day you get your marriage license in California. There is no waiting period.

How many witnesses do you need to get married in California?

You only need one witness to get married in California.

Can I get married anywhere in California?

As long as you have a marriage license, you can get married anywhere in California.

Do you need a blood test to get married in California?

No, you don’t need a blood test to get married in California.

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I’m Brianna, a California elopement photographer who inspires, encourages, and empowers couples to push traditional boundaries and create experiences they’ll remember forever.

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