Joshua Tree Elopement Guide – How to Elope in Joshua Tree National Park
Named after the bristled Joshua Trees, this national park is a haven for rock climbers, and those who want to experience the vast desert landscapes of Southern California! The neutral color palette, cactus gardens, unique rock formations, and desert foliage make this the perfect backdrop for an adventure elopement – and if you want to ditch the traditional wedding and spend a day exploring instead, a Joshua Tree elopement might be perfect for you! This guide will tell you all about how to elope in Joshua Tree, and everything you’ll need to know to plan a day that’s personal, meaningful, and one of a kind.
About Joshua Tree National Park
The Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert come together to create Joshua Tree National Park. Best known for the unique Joshua Trees, the region is also home to a variety of plants and animals that call this dry, sandy landscape home. The remote location offers miles of trails through the boulder piles and rock formations, and scenic drives through the wilderness!
Getting to Joshua Tree
If you’re traveling from outside of road trip distance, the closest major airport to Joshua Tree National Park is the Palm Springs International Airport, about 50 miles east of the park. Many visitors fly into LAX, which is about 150 miles east but typically offers cheaper flights. You’ll need a car to get around the park, but unless you plan to go off-roading, most of the main roads are accessible with any kind of car.
Weather in Joshua Tree National Park
Weather in the desert can get hot, to say the least! So it’s important that when you plan your elopement, you do some research before choosing a date.
Summer is the least popular time to visit Joshua Tree, which means you’re likely to get more privacy for your elopement – however, temperatures are often in the hundreds, which explains why it’s so empty! Sunrise and sunset can be a good way to beat the heat, but if you p;an to do any hiking or to spend a lot of time outdoors, summer won’t be ideal for most couples
Fall is a great time for a Joshua Tree elopement, as the weather is much more mild! It gets more crowded, but not as crowded as spring. You can enjoy the hikes and scenery that Joshua Tree has to offer, but keep in mind that night time can get chilly – so bring layers!
Winter is the best time for a Joshua Tree elopement, as it’s less crowded than spring and fall. During the day, temperatures are usually warm, hovering in the 60s. Mornings and evenings can be chilly though! If you live out of state, eloping here in the winter can double as a nice getaway from the cold! There is the occasional dusting of snow, but it’s pretty rare.
Spring brings desert wildflowers to Joshua Tree, and is the most popular time to visit. You can expect long wait times at the entrance, but perfect weather!
Even if you elope during peak season in Joshua Tree, you can avoid crowds by planning ahead! Weekends are always more crowded, so eloping on a weekday can help you find a private spot.
I also recommend planning your ceremony for sunrise, so you can get the views to yourselves while everyone’s asleep!
Choosing an Elopement Location
Joshua Tree is popular for elopements, so to preserve the natural beauty, the park only offers a few locations where you can have your ceremony. The most up to date information can be found on NPS.gov, but here is a list of places to choose from!
Indian Cove Amphitheater; No more than 100 people total and only 1 vehicle. You must shuttle your guest in and out of this location.
Hidden Valley Picnic Area; No more than 35 people total and up to 8 vehicles.
Turkey Flats; No more than 35 people total and up to 8 vehicles.
Cap Rock; No more than 25 people total and up to 8 vehicles.
Rattlesnake Picnic Area; No more than 20 people and 8 vehicles.
Quail Springs Picnic Area; No more than 15 people and 8 vehicles.
Split Rock; No more than 15 people and 5 vehicles.
Porcupine Wash; No more than 12 people and 4 vehicles.
Queen Valley Mine Intersection; No more than 10 people and 5 vehicles.
Lost Horse Parking Lot; No more than 10 people and 5 vehicles.
Live Oak Picnic Area; No more than 5 people and 3 vehicles.
It’s also important to know that if you want your dog to come to your Joshua Tree elopement, they won’t be allowed in some of these places. They can be at campgrounds and picnic areas, as well as parking lots – but the wildlife and cacti around the park can be dangerous for dogs, so consider leaving your pooch at home!
Getting Legally Married in Joshua Tree
There is some paperwork required to get legally married when you elope in Joshua tree!
A California marriage license is required to get married in the state – and you can get one at any county clerk’s office in California. The office closest to Joshua Tree is San Bernardino County, which allows you to apply online. It costs $89 to apply, and you’ll need to go to the office in person before your ceremony to pick up your marriage license – so plan ahead if you’re traveling for your elopement! There’s no waiting period, but the marriage license expires after 90 days.
An officiant needs to sign your marriage license for things to be officially official. You can hire a professional to create a personalized ceremony for you, or have a friend or family member get ordained at ULC.org!
You only need one witness in California! And if you aren’t having any guests attend your elopement, you can ask any person over 18 – including your vendors, or anyone you see at your ceremony location!
To have a wedding ceremony at Joshua Tree National Park, you will need a permit – even for a tiny elopement! You can find the application online, and there’s a $120 application fee as well. This money helps take care of the park, and ensures that you’ll be the only couple getting married at your spot.
Where to Stay in Joshua Tree
There are plenty of places to stay for your Joshua Tree elopement, from campgrounds to unique homes. Choose somewhere cozy to come back to after a day of adventures! The photo above is a listing on Airbnb – click here for the link!
The Joshua Tree House
The Joshua Tree House is a boho, expertly designed desert homestead. It’s the perfect place to spend a week, located just 10 minutes from the park and 10 minutes from downtown Joshua Tree.
Cabins in Joshua Tree
Camping in Joshua Tree
You can find a campground right in the park, or stay just outside the park in a glamping tent or an Airstream! For outdoorsy couples, camping during your elopement can be a lot of fun, and a unique way to celebrate the beginning of your marriage.
What to Do in Joshua Tree
Your elopement day should be an adventure – so this isn’t just a quick ceremony! Plan something amazing for your Joshua Tree elopement.
There are easy trails through the park, and more difficult trails in the surrounding mountains – so you can choose your adventure!
Joshua Tree is incredibly remote, and one of the best places in the country to see the night sky. For the best views, plan your elopement around the new moon for a chance to spot the Milky Way!
Rock climbing is popular at Joshua Tree, and there are countless routes for all levels. Whether you’re trying it for the first time or you’re an expert, there’s one for you!
Hiring an Elopement Photographer
As an elopement photographer, I’ve got your back with vendor recommendations, places to stay, things to do, and so much more! Because you deserve a wedding day that’s everything you want, and nothing you don’t. No stress, just a day spent exploring and an elopement designed just for you.
If you’re ready to elope in Joshua Tree National Park, contact me!
To see other places to elope in California, check out this blog!