Best Places to Elope in California

California Wedding Guide – Best Places to Elope in California


With the state’s diverse geography, there’s an endless list of places to elope in California. From the beaches along the Pacific Coast to the mountains of the Sierra Nevadas and the deserts in between, there’s a perfect place to satisfy any couple’s dream elopement destination. If you and your fiance are keen on trekking through hiking trails or taking a road trip through a state or national park for your elopement, look no further as the list below covers the most beautiful places the Golden State has to offer!

California Wedding Guide and Best Places to Elope in California

Where to Elope in California

Being a California elopement photographer, I’ve had the chance to photograph couples in front of nature’s most beautiful wonders and am always up for an adventure! Whether that be on a serene sandy beach, on epic rock formations in the desert, in the middle of a lush green forest, or in front of a snowy mountain top, your elopement photos can take place anywhere you want it to. Scroll through the photos and places below for some elopement destination inspiration!

California Wedding Guide and Best Places to Elope in California


Best Places to Elope in Northern California

  • Lake Tahoe

  • Yosemite

  • Mt. Shasta

  • Redwood National and State Parks

  • San Francisco / Bay Area

  • Big Sur

  • Santa Cruz


Best Places to Elope in Southern California

  • Sequoia National Park

  • Big Bear Lake

  • Lake Arrowhead

  • Red Rock Canyon State Park

  • Death Valley National Park

  • Joshua Tree National Park

  • Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area (Glamis Dunes)

  • Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

California Wedding Guide and Best Places to Elope in California


Best Places to Elope in California –

Northern California Elopement Destinations


Lake Tahoe

Nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Lake Tahoe is one of the best places to elope in California due to its surrounding pine and aspen forests. A stunning hidden gem easily accessible from Reno International Airport, Lake Tahoe is only one hour away from the big city but filled with so many things to do. Between skiing and snowboarding in the winter to mountain biking, kayaking, and numerous hiking trails in the summer – Lake Tahoe is a prime spot for adventurous and athletic couples who want to elope in the wild.

Among the most iconic spots are Emerald Bay State Park, Fallen Leaf Lake, and Sand Harbor. You’ll want to know the differences between North Lake and South Lake, as well as the locations available in the bi-state lake between California and Nevada. We wrote a guide for planning your Lake Tahoe elopement to help you achieve your dream elopement!

Along the outskirts of Lake Tahoe, Truckee is another popular elopement destination and is home to Donner Lake at Donner Memorial State Park.

California Wedding Guide and Best Places to Elope in California



Yosemite National Park is by-far one of the most magical photo-ops out there! From beautiful meadows, granite cliffs, giant sequoia groves, to waterfalls, Yosemite is the perfect spot for adventure junkies and admirers of majestic natural beauty. Eloping in Yosemite offers a plethora of dope locations to choose from:

  • Bridalveil Falls

  • Cathedral Beach (where to see the alpenglow hit the face of El Capitan)

  • El Capitan Meadow

  • Glacier Point

  • Taft Point

  • Tunnel View

  • Yosemite Falls

A lot of these spots are on a first come, first served basis and require permits, so be sure to plan in advance. Remember to bring hiking boots since the best views may require a bit of a hike.


Mt. Shasta

Mount Shasta is a go-to spot for the spring and summer. Located in the Cascade Range in Siskiyou County, California, there’s so much to see and do for a California elopement road trip. From stunning waterfall views to gorgeous lakes, Mt. Shasta does not disappoint when it comes to scenic hikes and epic mountain views. Some photo-worthy spots to visit include Burney Falls, Heart Lake,  Lake Siskiyou, and McCloud Falls.

Handfasting vows with Lake Tahoe Wedding Photographer and Elopement Photography

Redwood National and State Parks

If you want to feel the sheer immensity of nature, Redwood National and State Parks are a string of protected forests, beaches and grasslands along Northern California’s coast that are especially stunning because of their size. These ancient trees can grow up to 380 ft tall and 30 ft wide!

You have a lot of options as far as choosing the best places to elope in California – in the middle of a Redwood grove including but not limited to:

  • Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Preserve

  • Avenue of the Giants (scenic drive through giant redwood trees)

  • Big Basin Redwoods State Park

  • Humboldt Redwoods State Park

  • Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park (string of dense old-growth woods)

  • Lady Bird Johnson Grove

  • Portola Redwoods State Park

  • Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park (high, plant-covered walls in Fern Canyon)


California Wedding Guide and Best Places to Elope in California

San Francisco / Bay Area

San Francisco and the Bay Area offer diverse cuisine along with cool spots for elopement photos. From the Golden Gate Bridge to cliffside views and redwood trees outside the city proper, there is so much to do in so little time. If you and your fiance want the best of both worlds – delicious food and beautiful scenery, look no further!

Want to have the Golden Gate Bridge in the background of your elopement photoshoot? Go to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Marin Headlands.

Lake Tahoe Wedding Photographer and Elopement Photography

Pacific Coast Highway


Like views of the beach and Pacific Coast instead? Be sure to visit these photo-worthy spots!

  • Bean Hollow State Beach

  • Gray Whale Cove State Beach

  • Lands End Labyrinth

  • Point Reyes National Seashore

  • San Gregorio State Beach

  • Seascape Park Beach

Not a fan of either of the above? No worries! Get out of the bustling city and enjoy the serene nature the Bay Area has to offer. You will find yourselves surrounded by redwoods in the following areas:

  • Big Basin Redwoods State Park

  • Mt. Tamalpais State Park

  • Muir Woods National Monument

  • Portola Redwood State Park


California Wedding Guide and Best Places to Elope in California

Big Sur

As you drive down Highway 1 from Carmel, you’ll start to see the stunning coast of Big Sur the moment you leave town, starting with Garrapata State Park. Known for its rolling golden hills, coastal cliffs, and Redwood trees, Big Sur is the perfect place to start your elopement adventure. If you want coastal views and to elope in Big Sur, you’re in luck!

Andrew Molera State Park or Point Lobos State Park are both amazing locations for your Northern California elopement. You can catch breathtaking views of the Central Coast from Asilomar State Beach and Carmel River State Beach.

Continuing down Highway 1, you’ll cross the iconic Bixby Bridge (that one Death Cab song!). Once over the bridge, you’ll start to see the giant redwoods in Pfeiffer Big Sur and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Parks. There you’ll catch views of aqua blue waters from Pfeiffer Beach and the oh-so beautiful McWay Falls. Almost all these state parks require permits for elopements, so be sure to check with the individual park to fill out the paperwork ahead of time.

Santa Cruz

While San Francisco and Big Sur are amongst the more popular elopement destinations, Santa Cruz is a wonderful alternative to consider. Filled with lush redwood forests and dramatic cliffs along the coastline, this small coastal town is the perfect getaway. If you plan on eloping in Santa Cruz, be sure to visit Coast Dairies State Beach and Henry Cowell State Park.

California Wedding Guide and Best Places to Elope in California

Best Places to Elope in California –

Southern California Elopement Destinations

Sequoia National Park

South of Kings Canyon and west of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Sequoia National Park is home to the beautiful sequoia trees. Get lost within the enchanted trees of the Giant Forest and  feel small next to the world’s largest General Sherman Tree! This area is perfect for couples who want a more intimate elopement surrounded by mother nature’s greatest gifts.

Big Bear Lake

Nestled in the San Bernardino National Forest, Big Bear Lake is known for its ski resorts and beautiful snow capped mountains. It’s a great rustic elopement destination for couples looking to tie the knot by a lake and get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Be sure to check out the restaurants at Big Bear Lake Village, we recommend Tropicali for delicious California-Hawaiian dishes!

First Look with Lake Tahoe Wedding Photographer

Lake Arrowhead

Known as the “Alps of Southern California”, Lake Arrowhead is another desirable elopement destination for couples who want a lakeside elopement getaway. With the myriad of outdoor activities available – fishing, kayaking, hiking, backpacking, skiing, and more – there’s lots to do in this small mountain town. This is also the perfect place for couples looking for a winter wonderland photoshoot!

Red Rock Canyon State Park

As stated in the park’s name, Red Rock Canyon showcases incredible red rock formations and desert cliffs. Located outside of Las Vegas, this area is well-known to rock climbers and avid hikers alike. It’s an easy drive for those in the Greater Los Angeles area looking for a desert elopement destination.

California Wedding Guide and Best Places to Elope in California


Death Valley National Park

Thinking of eloping in sand dunes and being miles away from civilization? Death Valley is the place to be! Located in the northern part of the Mojave Desert, this below-sea-level basin is by far an epic camping getaway for those who want to stargaze after tying the knot. What’s a better way to celebrate the beginning of marriage than seeing the Milky Way with the love of your life?

Joshua Tree National Park

Not feeling the redwoods or sequoia trees? Joshua trees are twisted, spiky trees that look like they came straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. Located east of Los Angeles and near Palm Springs, Joshua Tree National Park is a classic California desert destination. There you can find yourself surrounded by interesting rock formations, prickly Joshua trees, and colorful sunsets.

California Wedding Guide and Best Places to Elope in California

Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area (Glamis Dunes)

Looking for an epic elopement destination that will make you seem like you’re in another country? Glamis Sand Dunes is the place to go! There, you will find yourself surrounded by hills of golden sand, perfect for frolicking through barefoot with your significant other.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Interested in some off-roading in the desert for your elopement? Check out “California’s Badlands” in San Diego County at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. This park features a rugged landscape with beautiful blooms of wildflowers in the spring.


Kimmi Cranes is a Lake Tahoe wedding photographer who offers all-inclusive wedding photography packages, engagement photoshoots, elopement photography and family portraits. Based in South Lake Tahoe, she’s more than happy to travel and capture your special event wherever you choose to hold it. Whether that be in the boonies of the desert, somewhere in the forest, or along the coastline, she will be there to make your elopement photography dreams come true! She loves to explore the outdoors and take photos of people in front of breathtaking landscapes. Her photos craft a beautiful story of love, excitement, and emotions to be remembered for years to come.


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