Northern California Elopement Guide

Northern California is one of the most beautiful places in the United States for an elopement, though I’m a bit biased. I was raised in Redding, California, and feel lucky enough to know a lot of tips and tricks about this beautiful place I get to call home! Filled with giant redwoods, costal cliffs, towering mountains and more, Northern California has everything you’re looking for in an intimate elopement. As a Northern California elopement photographer, I created this guide (along with Northern California elopement packages) filled with everything you need to know about planning your very own adventure elopement.

Where Is Northern California?

This has been a debate for years amongst Californians. However, this map is what I would consider to be very accurate.

Northern California is compromised of major cities like San Francisco, Sacramento, and San Jose. Even Yosemite is mainly considered to be in Northern California!

The difference between the two sides of California is pretty drastic. In Southern California, you’ll find warm beaches, deserts, and experience very similar weather year-round.

However, Northern California is filled with giant pines, lakes, mountains, and experiences all four seasons, meaning yes, you can have a snowy elopement in California!

How to Get to Northern California

Unless you’re eloping near large cities like San Francisco or San Jose, getting to Northern California will require a bit of driving.

Most of the time, you’ll fly into the San Francisco International Airport or the Sacramento International Airport. If you’re eloping much more north than that, or along the coastline, the Medford Airport located in Oregon is another great option.You can also fly into smaller airports like the Redding or Arcata Airport, but they are a bit less accessible and more expensive.

The 13 Best Northern California Elopement Locations

Northern California has some incredible elopement locations that many people don’t know about. I’ve done over 100 hours of research on hidden gem locations that I share with my couples looking for an intimate elopement experience, but here are some of my personal favorite places to elope in Northern California. To see even more elopement locations in the area, check out this blog post.

Mt. Shasta

Mt. Shasta is the fifth largest mountain in all of California. I was lucky enough to grow up only an hour away from this stunning location, so I know a ton of secret lookouts and locations that will simply blow you away. It’s a beautiful place for an elopement and has the charm of a small town.

A bride and groom hugging by Palisades Reservoir in Irwin, Idaho on their wedding day.

Klamath National Forest

The Klamath National Forest is 1.7 million acres of pure perfection. It’s part of the PCT, meaning there are dozens of different hiking trails around the forest. Since this area is so large, it’s completely possible to find a jaw dropping location without anyone around. I highly recommend this area for your Northern California elopement.

Burney Falls

Also known as the “8th wonder of the world,” Burney Falls is a spectacular waterfall elopement location in Northern California. Pictures simply don’t do it justice. Wanting a waterfall on your elopement day? You’ve found the best one! And the best part? So many people still have no idea these falls even exist! It’s truly a spectacular destination.

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is a popular destination to visit for people all around the world. This elopement location is very popular for couples wanting to experience the luxury Tahoe has to offer. I personally love all the accessible beaches in the area, though it can get congested during the summer months, so keep that in mind.

Big Sur

Big Sur is a very popular elopement location for couples wanting dramatic scenery. Cliffsides, beaches, and quiet cafes are a few of the many wonderful things you can find within the area. The reason I love this area so much is its accessibility. Not only is it close to towns like Monterey and Seaside, but there are so many pull-offs on the side of the road with hidden hiking trails that make perfect ceremony spots.

Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park is one of the most breathtaking places to elope in Northern California. One of my favorite things about this location is its variety. Just 30 minutes outside the park, you can find the beautiful coast. There are so many hiking trails, beaches, and mountainous views around the area. Located all over Northern California, you don’t even need to go to the park to see some redwoods.

San Francisco

One of my favorite cities in the world, San Francisco, has various places for your Northern California elopement. From beaches and mountains to downtown shopping malls and skyscrapers, San Francisco truly has it all. Plus, they have some incredible restaurants and activities you can do before or after your ceremony. If you love big cities, you’ll love San Francisco.

The Lost Coast

The Lost Coast isn’t very well known by the everyday person. However, it’s a popular location for long-distance hikers. The Lost Coast is a stretch of coastline filled with beautiful cliffs, black sand beaches, and no people. Talk about a perfect place for an intimate elopement. If I could get married all over again, the Lost Coast would be near the top of my list!

Salt Point State Park

Salt Point State Park is located in Sonoma and is one of my favorite places for hiking, especially in the spring when the wildflowers have bloomed. Very few people visit this area, yet it’s close enough to Santa Rosa, making it possible to have an epic cliffside ceremony followed by a romantic dinner at an upscale restaurant downtown.

Santa Cruz

If you’re looking for a super relaxed elopement location, look no further than Santa Cruz. Not only are there beautiful beaches, but there are a plethora of fun activities and sights to see in this area. Definitely consider hitting up the famous pier for your elopement celebration and celebrate with their delicious funnel cakes.

Taft Point

Yosemite

I couldn’t not make a list about places to elope in California and not include Yosemite. Beautiful meadows and cliffs are just the beginning of this place. Keep in mind that this is one of the busiest places in California, so if you’re looking for a location with some privacy, I highly advise against this park.

Trinidad

Trinidad is a small costal town located on the coast of California near Patrick’s Point. This scenic town is known for their stunning beaches, hiking trails, and famous lighthouse. It’s one of my favorite cities and one of the best places for an elopement. It’s quiet, slow, and such a charming place for a honeymoon.

McCloud

McCloud is a small, yet beautiful town in Northern California. There are numerous lookouts of Mt. Shasta and tons of beautiful waterfalls and hiking trails. This town gets quite a lot of snow during the winter months, making driving almost impossible! This is a popular spot, specifically for cliff jumping.

Northern California Weather

Northern California weather is very different depending on where you go. For example, Redding, the town I’m from, is one of the hottest cities in all of California, but an hour north gets a ton of snow in the winter.

If you decide to elope in Northern California, I recommend doing so in the late spring (May) or fall (October), as the weather will be cooler, tourists will be gone, and you’ll experience the two most stunning times to visit the state in my opinion. I also recommend asking your photographer, as they should know when the best time to visit for pictures will be.

California Marriage License and Laws

Getting a marriage license in California is a very easy process. All you need to do is set an appointment at the County Clerk’s Office, bring a few documents such as an I.D., and pay the marriage license fee. Some counties charge $45, some charge up to $100. There is no waiting period in California, and you need to have at least one witness, meaning yes, your furry friend can sign as a witness at your elopement!

If you want more details about getting a marriage license, check out this article, or the official marriage license information website here.

Best Places to Stay in Northern California for Your Elopement

Northern California has some of the coolest off-grid locations in the United States. Below are some of my all-time favorite Airbnbs for elopements throughout various different cities.

Mt. Shasta/Redding

These two quiet mountain towns have some of the best hiking trails, restaurants, and scenery around the state. If you want something more off-grid, visit Mt. Shasta. Want the beauty but with modern stores? Redding is the place for you!

  • Shasta A Frame Cabin with a View – One of my favorite Airbnbs nestled within the trees overlooking Shasta Lake.
  • West Face Place – A luxury chalet on 41 acres, equipped with hiking trails, creeks, and beautiful views of Shasta.
  • Modern Mountain Chalet – A white chalet with scandinavian-inspired decor and hot tub.
  • The Nest – This earthy sanctuary is perfect for the plant-lover. Off the beaten path, this Airbnb is incredible for a romantic getaway.

Trinidad

Located along the coast, this small town is quaint, charming, and close to beautiful attractions like Redwood National Park.

  • Forest Creek Lodge – A two-story retreat snuggled around the redwoods, perfect for elopements with guests and it has a hot tub!
  • Dream House in the Redwoods – This modern home is located in the forest just moments away from the rugged coastline.
  • Camel Rock Home – Perched on a cliff with ocean views, this home provides tons of natural light and beautiful sceneries.
  • Bungalow in the Redwoods – This off-grid bungalow is just a short walk from the town of Trinidad, yet it’s secluded, quiet, and cozy.

Northern California Elopement Vendors

Being based in Northern California, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to work with some incredible vendors. Below are just a few throughout Northern California who are incredible at what they do!

Photographers

That’s me! I specialize in outdoor elopements in Northern California. I help plan and perfect elopements in beautiful places by providing personalized location lists, timelines, permit assistance, and more. You can learn more about me here, or take a peek at my Northern California elopement packages below.

Officiants

Florists

Hair and Makeup Artists

Northern California Elopement Activities

  • Hike to the top of a stunning mountain to exchange vows
  • Visit Alcatraz in San Francisco
  • Go swimming in the nearby lakes
  • Hit the slopes at Mt. Shasta ski resort
  • Go on a waterfall tour
  • Try the Railbikes in Sacramento
  • Stop for a burger at Yak’s on the 5 in Dunsmuir
  • Spend the night at the Railroad Park Resort
  • Go stargazing at Lake McCumber
  • Take pictures next to the trees in Redwood National Park
  • Take a scenic drive along the Pacific Coast Highway

Northern California Elopement Packages

I’m Brianna, a Northern California elopement photographer who specializes in planning and photographing elopements in California and around the world. To see a list of all my packages offered, check out my pricing page here! Below is what is offered in all my Northern California elopement packages.

Elopement Packages in Northern California Pricing

  • 4 hours – 1.5 days of elopement coverage anywhere in California
  • A personalized elopement planning experience with unlimited assistance
    • Personalized elopement location recommendations
    • Vendor, lodging, and activity recommendations
    • Assistance and information to help you with permits, licenses, etc.
    • 90+ page elopement planning guide filled with tips and tricks
    • Customized elopement timelines
    • Optional complimentary officiant services
  • Online gallery with full resolution images and printing rights
  • 24-48 hour sneak peeks to share with the world
  • Travel fees to anywhere in California are already included
  • Starting at $5,500

Want more elopement inspiration? Check out this Olympic National Park Wedding Guide, Mt. Rainier Wedding Guide, and Alaska Elopement Guide.

NEED HELP PLANNING YOUR DREAM ELOPEMENT?

Snag your FREE elopement guide to help you plan your dream elopement in California, Alaska, or even Spain! Learn everything you need to know about how to plan a “just us” experience.

A free guide all about how to elope, created by a California elopement photographer.
A girl holding a camera and smiling.

ARE YOU READY FOR AN ELOPEMENT EXPERIENCE LIKE NO OTHER?

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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