Northern California is one of the most beautiful and underrated places in the United States for an elopement. I was raised and currently live in Redding, California, so I 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 elopement packages) filled with everything you need to know about planning your very own adventure elopement in this beautiful neck of the woods (see what I did there?).

Northern California Elopement Checklist

What Constitutes 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 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 countless 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.

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.

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.

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 towns 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 in the summer.

When Should I Elope in Northern California?

Note: The weather in Northern California is drastically different wherever you go. Before choosing your season, I highly recommend asking your elopement photographer or doing some Googling to see what the weather is like where you want to elope.

Summer

If you don’t mind the tourists, summer is a great time to visit Northern California, specifically in places a bit cooler like the coast. I recommend avoiding the inland areas during this time, specifically in towns like Redding and Mt. Shasta where the temperature gets into the hundreds. If you prefer a national park, I would hold off for awhile, as the parks can get extremely crowded.

Fall

Fall is my favorite time of year no matter where in Northern California you go. Want colorful leaves? Visit the national forests. Looking for less-crowded beaches? Hit up Santa Cruz. Not only is the weather nice, but prices are low, there are less tourists, and many locations in the area are absolutely gorgeous.

Winter

Winter is a great time of year to elope. Not only can you get 75 degree temperatures, but you can also get snow-covered mountain peaks. If you want tons of weather variety, I highly recommend the winter, though it’s important to note that this area of the state tends to get a bit of rain, so just be prepared for that on your special day.

Spring

The time of year to experience snow-covered peaks, roaring waterfalls, and wildflowers is the spring. This season is my second-favorite time of year for elopements. There’s truly nothing more magical than exchanging vows under a rushing waterfall with nobody around, or walking on the black sand beach with nobody but a few elk.

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

How to Get a California Marriage License

Getting a marriage license in California is a very easy process. You do NOT need to obtain a marriage license from the county you’ll be getting married in, though I usually recommend doing so, as more often than not, you’ll be required to set an appointment to pickup your license in person. California marriage licenses are valid for 90 days.

In this example, I will be using the County of San Francisco to demonstrate how to get a marriage license in California.

  1. Download and complete a public or confidential marriage license application (99% of couples will fill out a public application).
  2. Schedule an appointment online to pickup and complete the process. Be sure to bring all necessary documents (ID, birth certificate, etc.) as well as $113 in cash, money order, credit, or debit card for the application fee.
  3. Pick up your marriage license and have your ceremony!
  4. After your ceremony, you or your officiant will mail the completed marriage license back to the original county for processing.

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

Do I Need an Officiant and Witness to Elope in Northern California?

Yes, you will need an officiant and at least one witness, meaning yes, your furry friend can sign your marriage license!

Pro tip: Your friend or family member can officiate your ceremony by becoming ordained online for free!

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 different areas of Northern California.

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.

San Francisco

Filled with restaurants, shows, and iconic piers, San Francisco is paradise for big-city lovers who also love the coast and forest. With over 1,000 Airbnbs listed alone, there is no shortage of incredible places to stay here.

  • Love Nest in the Redwoods – A stunning, glass-covered cabin nestled in the redwoods for lovers all around.
  • Balinese Retreat – This Bali-inspired retreat is equipped with a lush garden and hot tub, just steps away from the city.
  • Pacific Heights Victorian – A standard, victorian-inspired home in San Francisco with clean, modern decor.
  • Half Moon Bay Home – Looking to splurge? Check out this luxurious home with sweeping views of Halfmoon Bay.

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 (we have a TON up here!)
  • Try the Railbikes in Sacramento
  • Stop for a burger at Yak’s on the 5 in Dunsmuir (absolutely amazing burgers!)
  • 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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