Northern California is one of the most beautiful and underrated places in the United States for an elopement (perhaps the most underrated place, in my opinion). I was raised and currently live in Northern California, so I feel lucky enough to know a lot of tips and tricks about this beautiful place I get to call home! Northern California is filled with giant redwoods, costal cliffs, towering mountains, roaring waterfalls, and so much more, making it a phenomenal place for couples looking to experience a variety of different landscapes and experiences. As a Northern California elopement photographer, I created this helpful guide packed 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
- Step #1: Choose your elopement location
- Step #2: Choose the best season to elope
- Step #3: Hire your vendors
- Step #4: Get your marriage license
- Step #5: Book your lodging
- Step #7: Book your activities
- Northern California elopement packages
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.
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 definitely 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 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 is the fifth largest mountain in all of California and the second largest in the Cascade Range, right after Mount Rainier. The city of Mt. Shasta is quaint and quiet, with a downtown lined with cute coffee shops and historic Airbnbs. Mt. Shasta is close to numerous waterfalls, lakes, and hiking trails, making it the perfect place to experience all of Northern California’s beauty.
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.
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. These falls are extremely accessible and perfect for all ages. The only thing to note is the power of the falls. Don’t be afraid to get a little wet and get ready to scream those vows, as the water can be very strong.
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. While most people think the park is just forest, 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 actual park to see some redwoods.
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 both the beauty and luxury Lake 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 when you’re looking to plan.
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 minimal crowds. 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!
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.
Yosemite National Park
I couldn’t make a list about places to elope in Northern 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 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 to honeymoon.
Lassen Volcanic National Park
It’s not called a “mini Yellowstone” for nothing! This underrated national park has some of the most unique landscapes you’ll come across. From active volcanoes and pine trees to hydrothermal pools and alpine lakes, Lassen is the place to be for adventurous elopements in Northern California.
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.
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.
McCloud is a small, yet beautiful town in Northern California just outside of Mt. Shasta. 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! However, visit during the other seasons and be blown away by its endless beauty.
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.
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, and in places like San Francisco where its cold and windy. If you prefer a national park, I would hold off for awhile, as the parks can get extremely crowded.
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 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.
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 views of seals.
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!
That’s me! I live and 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.
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 San Francisco County to demonstrate how to get a marriage license in California.
- Download and complete a public or confidential marriage license application (99% of couples will fill out a public application).
- 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.
- Pick up your marriage license and have your ceremony!
- 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 one witness to elope in Northern California.
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.
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.
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.
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 Northern California and around the world. To see a list of all my packages offered, check out my pricing page here!
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 $6,500
DON’T FORGET YOUR FREE ELOPEMENT GUIDE!
An all-in-one planning guide for all things elopements! Whether you’re hoping to hike through the mountains of Washington or sip a margarita on the beaches of California, this comprehensive elopement guide has everything you need to know about how to plan the perfect elopement.
YOU? YOU’RE THE KIND OF PERSON THAT GETS A LIL’ TEARY EYED LOOKING AT AN EPIC VIEW.
That moment when you turn to the person you’re with and ask, “Are you seeing this?” I live for it. Places with trees and mountains and soft breezes that make you say, “I can’t believe this place exists,” I spend pretty much all of my free time searching for and exploring them.
These places have always felt like home to me. And if you’re the kind of person who also feels more at home surrounded by trees than by people? Then we’ll get along really well. The Pacific Northwest is full of secret spots that are too special to share with just anyone. But it would make me happy to share them with you on your wedding day.
(I promise you won’t regret it.)
P.S. I’m Brianna, and I plan, craft, and capture elopements around the Pacific Northwest. My mission is to create custom, one-of-a-kind elopement experiences in the Pacific Northwest that allow couples to fully immerse themselves in the highest levels of excitement and wonder on a day designed exclusively for them.