The Ultimate Joshua Tree National Park Elopement Guide

Hey, lovebug! 🀩 I am so dang glad you’re here, because if you are… that means you’re thinking of eloping in Joshua Tree National Park (AKA: one of my faves). Let me just say: CONGRATULATIONS! Planning your epic, romantic elopement is so special. Whether you’ve been to Joshua Tree before or you’re looking to explore a new place with your honey, you’ve come to the right place! Known for its picturesque rock formations, endless night sky, and unique trees, Joshua Tree is one of the USA’s prettiest hidden gems. As a full-time wedding and elopement photographer based in California, I’ve been lucky enough to spend plenty of time exploring this vast desert with madly in love couples. So if you’re looking for The Ultimate Joshua Tree National Park elopement guide, look no further. Let’s dive in! 🏜

How to Elope in Joshua Tree National Park

Step #1: Pick your Elopement Date

This might be an obvious one, but that’s because it is a crucial step! Before you can do anything in your elopement planning process, narrowing down a date is key. If you are flexible on your date, here’s how to narrow it down a bit:

  • Summers in Southern California are brutal – especially in the desert. It might go without saying, but try to avoid a Summer elopement in Joshua Tree. Temperatures can exceed 91℉ from June-September if that tells you anything πŸ₯΅. Your safety is definitely something to consider when planning your elopement – and any guests that attend.
  • Summers are frequently busier in Joshua Tree, despite the scorching temperatures.
  • Keep in mind the facts of a desert: typically hot during the day, and frigid at night.
  • If you’re planning to have a sunrise or sunset ceremony, be cognizant of where the sun will be! Your photographer should be able to tell you the best times for either.
    • Sunrise or sunset ceremonies are a great way to work around a hot summer day.

The best times for a Joshua Tree National Park elopement are typically from February-May or October-November. If you’d like to avoid the crowds, opt for a weekday elopement or a sunrise/sunset ceremony.

Step #2: Pick a Location

One of my favorite resources for planning to elope in Joshua Tree is actually the National Park Service website; it’ll quickly become one of your fave resources, too! Believe it or not, couples are not allowed to elope just anywhere. There are certain areas of Joshua Tree National Park that do not allow ceremonies, photography, or a certain number of guests.

Once you choose your date for your elopement, consider how many guests you will want to attend. When planning an elopement, chat with the people you plan to invite. This allows you to gage how big of a space you’ll need; NPS is very strict on the number of guests and vehicles allowed in a certain area.

Here are some of my personal favorite locations to elope in Joshua Tree National Park:

  1. Cap Rock – 25 people maximum. Up to 8 vehicles.
  2. Live Oak Picnic Area – 5 people maximum. Up to 3 vehicles.
  3. Turkey Flats – 35 people maximum. Up to 8 vehicles.

Other areas to consider:

  1. Indian Cove Amphitheater – 100 people maximum. Shuttle required; 1 vehicle allowed.
  2. Hidden Valley Picnic Area– 35 people maximum. Up to 8 vehicles.
  3. Rattlesnake Picnic Area – 20 people maximum. Up to 8 vehicles.
  4. Quail Springs Picnic Area– 15 people maximum. Up to 8 vehicles.
  5. Split Rock – 15 people maximum. Up to 5 vehicles.
  6. Porcupine Wash – 12 people maximum. Up to 4 vehicles.
  7. Queen Valley Mine Intersection – 10 people maximum. Up to 5 vehicles.
  8. Lost Horse Parking Lot – 10 people maximum. Up to 5 vehicles.

Please note: Maximum number of people allowed includes the couple and officiant. I also highly recommend carpooling to avoid unnecessary traffic.

Step #3: Apply for a Permit

Yes, you absolutely need to apply for a permit. To get married at one of permissible locations above, a permit is required. You can find the application HERE, along with additional information about how to submit it. Once the application is approved, the park will provide you with information on how to pay the fee ($120). This does not include the permit required to have a photographer present. There is also a park entrance fee.

Please, please, please get your permit. Not only are you subject to a citation of $500 if caught without a permit, but money from the permit goes towards conservation of the park. Just be a good human, pay for the permit, and get married πŸ˜‰ Apply in advance. Some permits can take up to 6 months to obtain.

Step #4: Book Your “Must Have” Elopement Vendors

I promise I’m not being biased πŸ˜‚ After you’ve selected your date, chosen your location, and applied for your permit, it’s time to book your vendors! I highly recommend booking your photographer ASAP. Not only do wedding and elopement photographers book up quickly, but they will likely become your right-hand person along the rest of your planning process.

Finding vendors might be a bit overwhelming if you’re looking at a place you’re not very familiar with. Like I mentioned, your elopement photographer will become your right-hand person and can suggest some vendors in the area. But if you can’t wait, try searching for yourself in Instagram! Try searching for hashtags like: #JoshuaTreeNationalParkElopement #JoshuaTreeElopement #JoshuaTreeWedding. You might be surprised at the gems you can find!

Here are a couple of vendor recommendations:

Step #5: Choose Your Elopement Activities

Elopements are the freaking best. Period. But they’re also the best because you can do whatever the heck you want to do – including activities! While you won’t find whitewater rafting near Joshua Tree, don’t let that stop you from exploring the area. Whether you plan to go out for lunch before your ceremony, make a weekend of your elopement, or even a week, here’s some ideas for you:

  1. Backpacking
  2. Horseback Riding
  3. Stargazing
  4. Rock Climbing
  5. Fourwheeling

If you’re a big foodie like myself, here are a few of my favorite restaurants in the area:

  • The Natural Sisters CafΓ© – Yummy vegan options, organic treats, and smoothies. Located at the entrance of JTree! How perfect!
  • The Yucca Tree Eatery – Incredible breakfast options.
  • Joshua Tree Saloon – Bar food, tacos, seafood, steak, etc. I’m yet to have a bad meal here. The atmosphere here is my favorite! Also the perfect place for a well-deserved brew (or 2).

Step #6: Secure Your Joshua Tree Lodging

Joshua Tree and Palm Springs are both known widely for their incredible, quirky desert abodes. One of the best parts of planning for your Joshua Tree National Park elopement are the incredible accommodations available to choose from! Here are some of my recommendations:

  1. Moonstone Abode – A boho dream. Located 20-30 minutes from Joshua Tree National Park, this is the perfect little place to call home for awhile. The home is placed on 2.5 acres of privacy, featuring a hot tub, an outdoor fireplace, and hammocks to enjoy the sunset in.
  2. The Desert Daisy Haus – This vibrant yellow desert home is literally located off the beaten path, but worth every bump on the drive. Some of my favorite features of this gem include the outdoor shower + bath, the hot tub, the hammock swings, and the Western touches throughout.
  3. Purty Yurty & Mini Me – Is there anything more unique than staying in a YURT!? This is the best place to take in the night sky, as it is located in the “middle of nowhere”. The yurts would be best enjoyed by couples looking to “rough” it in comfort.

Step #7: Get Legal!

I know what you’re thinking, “Wait, there’s more besides my permit?!” Yes! Your permit allows you and your boo to tie the knot at the park. But you need your MARRIAGE LICENSE! πŸ₯‚ You can get your marriage license at any county clerk in California, with San Bernardino County being closest to Joshua Tree National Park. You can find more info on requirements HERE.

Southern California desert wedding inspiration

Step #8: Leave No Trace

Leaving no trace is key to having a respectful ceremony in a National Park (or anywhere in general). National Parks are even more specific on what kind of decor they allow. Here are some things to keep in mind:

PERMITTED

  • Free-standing arches
  • Guest book table
  • Cooler with water
  • Live florals
  • Flameless candles
  • Runner
  • Rug
  • Cake
  • Champagne

NOT PERMITTED

  • Drones
  • Dried florals
  • Flamed candles
  • Bubbles
  • Animals (doves, butterflies, etc.)
  • Confetti
  • Rice
  • Birdseed
  • Balloons
  • Smoke Bombs

All-in-all, be respectful of the land. Our National Parks are a privilege to use, especially for ceremonies. You know the drill: take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints. ‘Nuff said.

Step #9: Research, Pack, and Get Married!

As much as I hope The Ultimate Joshua Tree National Park Elopement Guide helps you plan your dreamy desert elopement, I encourage you to continue to research. As mentioned before, the NPS website is the best resource for up-to-date information, closures, and weather info. CLICK HERE and add the NPS website to your bookmarked tabs while you plan your Joshua Tree elopement!

As you near your beautiful day, here are a few things to add to your packing list (beyond your wedding goodies) that you may have forgotten about:

  • Insulated water bottles (with water, of course)
  • LiquidIV
  • Snacks (granola bars, trail mix, jerky, etc.)
  • Sunglasses
  • Wide-brimmed hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Hiking boots
  • Umbrella
  • Blanket (plan for all emergencies)
  • Bugspray
  • Headlamp
  • GPS
  • First Aide Kit
  • Pocket knife

My biggest tip is to be prepared for the unexpected. While you may be planning to just have a quick 30 minute ceremony, an emergency can occur in an instant. If I’m your elopement photographer, know that I can help you plan exactly what to pack for your specific elopement. But if I’m not, do your research! Even though you’re in the desert, accidents can happen where you’re stranded with an injury as temperatures drop into frigid temperatures. Be prepared.

Last step? POP THAT BUBBLY✨πŸ₯‚ Let’s get you two married.

Still searching for your elopement photographer? I gotchu, babe! LET’S CONNECTπŸŽ‰ And as always, let’s be bff’s over on Instagram (@sierrabrookphotography). Check out some additional resources below for more wedding and elopement planning tips!

Southern California desert wedding

Additional Resources:

Pros and Cons of Intimate Weddings
How to Book Your Dream Wedding Photographer
Ultimate Engagement Session Outfit Guide

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