Best Places to Elope in California

Ultimate Guide to the Best Places to Elope in California

If you are wondering the best places to elope in California, you are in luck! Of all the states, California has one of the most diverse landscapes that encompass snow-capped mountains, massive lakes, old-growth forests, sandy beaches, and rugged sea cliffs. California is such a large state that the distance between all these locations can take a whole day of driving, so plan carefully! But if you are indifferent as to where in the state you have your wedding, the best places to elope in California are below!

If you are wanting to elope closer to the world famous Golden Gate Bridge, these are the best places to elope in San Francisco, all within a few miles from the City, that provide just as intimate and beautiful a setting as you need.

Best Places to Elope in Northern California

Muir Woods (Mill Valley)

Muir Woods is the perfect compromise between outdoor beauty and proximity to San Francisco. Centrally located between San Francisco and Napa, it my recommended destination for couples from out of town who want the best options after their wedding to explore northern California. 

If you are interested in reading more, check out my ultimate guide on “How to Plan a Wedding in Muir Woods

Muir Woods Mill Valley redwood trees and walkway
muir woods wedding trees and ramp in the foreground

Mount Tamalpais State Park (Mill Valley)

This popular recreational area can be found an hour away north of the Golden Gate Bridge. The drive to the park features panoramic views while the park sits at the center of Marin county. If you are planning to elope on a weekend, ensure you arrive early to avoid the heavy weekend traffic. The best time to visit is during the spring and summer as the temperatures tend to be warm and ideal for outdoor elopement and adventures.

mt tamalpais scenic overlook with pacific ocean in background
mount tamalpais wedding forest area with sunburst

Lake Tahoe (Placer County)

Lake Tahoe offers spectacular views whether you decide on North or South Lake Tahoe, making it a popular elopement location in California. If you opt for South Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay is one of the most popular locations with its view overlooking the lake. Quieter North Lake Tahoe is more geared towards locals and offers a more relaxed atmosphere without the hustle and bustle of casinos or nightlife activities. 

Check out my blog about the Best Places to Elope in Lake Tahoe for more details! And if a larger wedding is preferred, this list of Lake Tahoe Wedding Venues can help!

Spooner Lake
Lake Tahoe - Emerald Bay 9.25.20_5 web
Emerald Bay

Redwood National Park (Humboldt County)

This is where they filmed parts of the Return of the Jedi, so you know it’s amazing! A 6 hour easy straight drive from San Francisco, a trip to Redwood National Park offers one of the most scenic drives in California with the Avenue of Giants. Within the park, I especially love Fern Canyon, where you walk through a gorge and balance on logs to walk through to avoid the water.

Redwood National Park elopement girl in green jacket
Tall Trees Grove
Fern Canyon Redwood National Park girl in green jacket walking on a log
Fern Canyon

Best Places to Elope in Central California

Yosemite National park

This is the most epic elopement destination in California in my opinion. It features 1,200 square miles of famous waterfalls, mountain overlooks, valleys, and meadows stretching from the Yosemite valley to Taft Point. Yosemite helps you realize how beautiful and big this world is.

Plan to visit the park from Mid May to June when the wildflowers are in bloom and the waterfalls will be at their peak. Keep in mind this is one of the most visited national parks in the US, but with a little planning you can find a quiet area for a moment. 

man holding woman from behind smiling next to a waterfall at Vernal Falls in Yosemite National Park
Vernal Falls
best places to elope in california yosemite national park
Yosemite Valley

Big Sur (Monterey County)

Big Sur features a rugged coastline that is popular for its big cliffs, sandy beaches, and aqua water. You can have your elopement at the shores of the Pacific Ocean or climb the succulent covered hills that will give you spectacular views of the coastline below. You can also be adventurous by heading inland to the giant redwood groves, which will offer you amazing backgrounds for your elopement pictures.

After completing your vows, enjoy your evenings by booking one of the impressive AirBnB’s around, visit the quaint inns or have dinner in one of the world-class hotels you can access along highway one. I recommend you visit around September to October as it is the best time to visit.

Check out my Ultimate Guide to Weddings at Big Sur for more detailed information!

weddings at big sur coastline ocean and cliffs
Big Sur Cliffs
bixby bridge weddings at big sur
Bixby Bridge

Best Places to Elope in Southern California

Sunset Cliffs (San Diego)

This popular 68 acre natural park in San Diego has stunning views of the ocean and, as the name implies, stunning cliff and cave formations to act as backdrops for your wedding ceremony. Surprisingly, if there are no setup and decor needed, you do not require a permit for your elopement. 

Sequoia National Park (Tulare County)

Giant sequoia trees act as a ceremony backdrop at Parker Group, while granite rock formations around the parking lot overlooking the high Sierras at Beetle Rock prove that this location isn’t just about giant trees. You can see all the ceremony locations with photos to get a better idea if this park is the right fit for you.

Joshua Tree National Park (San Bernardino County)

This southern California staple is roughly a 3 hour drive from either Los Angeles or San Diego, and is well known for its more flat surface compared to Yosemite for example, where mountains and overlooks are the norm. Similar to Death Valley, you can probably drive through this park in one day and see all the major points of interest…but staying longer than that is definitely recommended!

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762 10th Ave San Francisco, CA 94118

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