Elopement Photographer’s guide on How to Elope in Joshua Tree

A couple stares into each other eyes as they share a slow dance as the sun goes down behind them.

Your Elopement Photographer’s guide on How to Elope in Joshua Tree

(updated for 2024 )

A couple runs through the rocks of Joshua Tree together smiling ear to ear.

So you have decided to elope, heck yes!! Now you’re looking for the perfect elopement location. Let me tell you why Joshua Tree is the most magical location for your wedding day!

Joshua Tree is something special. There is a reason that this is a world travel destination. It is a place of calm, of adventure and of beauty. Tucked away in the desert is this beautiful place of granite and yuccas, the “Joshua Tree’s” the park is named after. It is a great place for a high activity adventure elopement or a relaxing wedding surrounded by nature.

A couple walks together holding hands towards the rock they are going to climb with all of their gear on their back.

How to Elope in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree Elopement Wedding Permit

If you are dreaming of having your elopement ceremony in Joshua Tree National park you will need to acquire a special use permit. The idea of reaching out to a National Park in order to obtain a permit for your wedding may sound intimidating up front, but do not let this stray you away from holding your wedding at this beautiful place! The permit process is simple and the rangers are super helpful. You will need to speak directly with the permit officer, Jeannie, to pull your permit. Her email address is jeannie_wilson@nps.gov.

You can always visit the parks website for the current information and contact for the ranger in charge of issuing permits. For a wedding permit, we would recommend that you begin the process of obtaining your permit a month in advance at a minimum. During peak season at the park always try to do things earlier than usual! While portraits are allowed to be captured of a couple anywhere throughout the park, the wedding ceremony must take place at a list of designated locations. Each spot only allows one ceremony to take place within a given time frame. If you have your heart set on one spot in specific, definitely reach out to reserve the location as soon as you know where you’d like to hold your ceremony.

Update for 2023: Still photography permits were once required for low impact photography within Joshua Tree National Park, however this is no longer true. The park has rolled back their restrictions on this activity in order to be in proper alignment with federal law. This has no effect on a couple holding their legal ceremony within the park boundaries, as they will still need to obtain a special use permit for their ceremony in the park.

Elopement Ceremony Locations in Joshua Tree

If you are wanting to get married in Joshua Tree with guests you can still do this. Joshua Tree is actually probably one of the most family friendly adventure elopement locations! A lot of the areas are a short walk making it very accessible. Below is the information listed on the Park’s website of locations you can get married with guests for the ceremony. These locations must be reserved through the park service permit system for usage.

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.

As you can see, and this is especially true for most national parks, the more people that are a part of the wedding party, the more limiting the choices quickly become. We always recommend a couple wanting to hold their ceremony with more than 15 guests to consider a micro venue or private property for the ceremony and then to head into the park for portraits. Depending on when you’re planning on having your elopement, traffic and parking can quickly become very real concerns, especially with larger groups, and so being mindful of this in the planning phase goes a long way in ensuring an amazing experience.

As always with elopements in the great outdoors you want to practice Leave No Trace principals, but this is a National Park so you also need to abide by any of there specific regulations. Be respectful of locations that have been closed for maintenance or raptor nesting and stay on the trail. Without us all working together to preserve the space for future visitors, then it wouldn’t be there for us to enjoy in the first place. It is also important to remember these items are not allowed in the park for a wedding: dried flowers, smoke bombs, bird seed, bubbles, drones and more. The park authorities also lay out things you can have at your elopement like a free standing arch and champagne!

Most of the park is out of cell range, so if you do have any guests or an officiant you want to make sure that they know exactly where to meet you ahead of time. I recommend asking your guests to arrive early or car pool since during season parking can be limited due with the crowds, especially on the weekend. Also note if you plan to have your fur baby with you as well that there are many restrictions on where your pups can be and they must stay leashed. Unfortuantely due to National Parks having stricter regulations for preservation policies, pets are only allowed in select locations. Dogs are allowed in the camping areas and parking lots.

Legally getting married in California

Joshua Tree National Park is in California, therefore, you will need an officiant to perform the ceremony married and two witnesses over the age of 18 to legally get married. You will need to obtain your marriage license from a local clerk’s office in California. For phone numbers, address and information you can visit the Joshua Tree Clerk Office District, which is the closest clerk office. Special Note: Be careful with your paperwork! Some office’s in this area will not take paperwork that is bent or creased. They also can have specific requirements on ink color. Also, some days in Joshua Tree can be super windy, so be sure to keep the marriage license safe and to keep two hands on the paperwork at all times so it doesn’t blow away.

Best time to Elope in Joshua Tree

The most ideal months to elope in Joshua Tree based on weather are late February, March, early April, late September, October and early November. I do not recommend the summer months due to the desert heat, it can be brutal up against the light colored rocks on a hot day. While the white granite can bring some much desired warmth in the winter, it reflects all of the heat during the hot summer days. I always recommend eloping in the park on a week day, not on a holiday or a weekend to avoid crowded trails and parking areas. Since Joshua Tree is so close to LA it is a very popular weekend spot. Sunrise or Sunset in the park is so peaceful and stunning with colorful skies and the light pouring through the Joshua Trees. If you are worried about crowds then I recommend sunrise for sure!

Winter in the park is often a wonderful time to get married in the park. It can be chilly if it’s windy or the clouds are blocking the sun. The weather can be in the 40’s on an off week or even in the 70’s on an equally rare evening, but typically expect somewhere in the high 50’s. It is honestly a great Winter escape if you aren’t into winter sports. There has been snow in Joshua Tree in the winter, but it is not common and it doesn’t stick around for long. The park is for sure quieter during this time which can be nice.

A couple gets ready for their elopement day in an airbnb on different sides of the house.

Logistics of Eloping in Joshua Tree

How to get to Joshua Tree National Park?

There are several airports you can fly into to easily access the park. The closest is Palm Springs international, second closest in LAX then followed by San Diego and Phoenix. No matter which airport you fly into you will need to rent a rental car to easily get around the area. For renting a car, you can rent from any airport of course, but there is also a platform called Turo where you can rent a car from a car owner, which can be a fun way to get an old classic car, a sports car/luxury car or off road option for your drive through the park. It is a great place to drive around with the top down!

Where to Stay in Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree is home of some of the most beautiful, well designed Airbnbs. These places are meant for relaxing, restoring and just being present together. A lot of these Airbnb’s are totally used to events happening or people getting married in the park. I still 100% recommend before booking your stay, getting permission from a home owner if a photographer can be on property or if you can host a dinner there. A lot of these Airbnb’s also have pools, hot tubs, fire pits or other unique perks, so keep your eye out for what you would love to have in your stay. Also, do not forget to check out VRBO when looking for a stay. As far as what area to consider there are several towns to consider:

  • 29 Palms – home of the military base, there are restaurants and a store here, this is closest to the Indian Gardens area
  • Joshua Tree – right outside of the park, less amenities in town
  • Yucca Valley – not far from the main park entrance, several stores and more restaurants, biggest closest town
  • Palm Springs – this is about 1-1.5 hours away but closest to an Airport and main civilization

If you do not want to stay in an Airbnb or VRBO here are a few other recommendations: AutoCamp, Pioneer Town, Sacred Sands

Extra Tips for your Joshua Tree Elopement

Joshua Tree is in the heart of the desert, so you want to bring sun screen and lots of water in re-usable water bottles. There is zero water access in the park so it is important to bring as much water as you’ll need and then some into the park. The rock at Joshua Tree can be very sharp, we recommend approach shoes or hiking boots. If you plan to be on the trails after sunset or out for night photos/star gazing you should bring head lamps with you.

If you’re lucky enough to be in the park during a full moon and near the white granite walls, it’s so bright you don’t even need a light and can see a surprisingly large amount of details in everything! Since you can get deep into the park I suggest bringing snacks/a packed lunch. Since this is a desert, if you are going to be in the park in the evening hours or early morning hours the temperatures can be extremely different from the day, so you will want to bring jackets/layers. Also, do not forget your National Parks pass!

A groom dips his bride as her dress catches the wind as the last bit of light is left at the top of a mountain.

Things to do in Joshua Tree for your Wedding or Elopement Day

  • Hike
  • Backpack
  • Rock Climb
  • Boulder
  • Stargaze
  • Picnic
  • Chef Dinner
  • Get Tattoos in Town
  • Off Road
  • Read letters from family
  • Camp
  • Horseback Ride
  • Visit Pioneer Town
  • Visit Nearby adventure areas

A man kisses his partner as they repel down together on a rock in Joshua Tree.
A romantic up close images of a couple almost kissing overlayed with the sunset at Keys view.

How much does it cost to elope in Joshua Tree?

A wedding in Joshua Tree National Park can cost on average anywhere between $8,000 – $13,000.

  • Stay (Airbnb nightly average in J Tree is currently $250)
  • Travel (flights/car/gas)
  • Food – there are several stores in the area and restaurants or you can look into a private chef
  • Attire
  • Florist if desired
  • Photographer/Video/Officiant – not always priced together but here they can be 🙂

Here at Adventure and Vow we are here to give you all of our recommendations on Hair and Makeup, Chefs, places to stay and more. We also specialize in planning, walking you through getting legally married, officiating for our couples, capturing the day and making sure the day is everything you’ve envisioned!

How long should you hire your elopement photographer for a wedding in Joshua tree? The short but honest answer is it really depends on what you have envisioned for your day.

  • If you’re looking for a quick escape with your partner to find a quiet nook, share your vows, and then explore on your own the rest of the day, then a half day elopement could be a good fit.
  • If you want more time to adventure + explore throughout the day and it is just you two the full day package may be a great fit for you. If you have guests coming to your elopement we typically recommend booking a full day. This allows for you two to get some quality time alone together on an adventure and quality time with your guests. Not to mention – starting and ending the day together in the best light and getting a full day of the best experience.
  • If you want to do some rock climbing + have guests we may recommend doing the two day package so you can focus each day: one day on adventure and the other on getting married and spending time with your loved ones. This can also be a great if it is just you two and you want to back pack or do a few bigger adventures.
A man and woman sit together among the white granite of Joshua Tree at sunset.

Your Joshua Tree Elopement Photographer!

Hey, we are Traci and Bill! Traci first fell in love with J Tree in 2016 and since then she goes back every chance she gets. It is Bill’s favorite National Park – mostly due to climbing. We have spent many sunrises and sunsets there on trails, on the side of rocks and in the camp sites. Our goal is to help you plan the most epic day that truly reflects who you are as you start off your marriage. We are a two person, husband and wife team and we offer officiating, planning assistance, photo and video as options for all of our packages. We are always stoked for an adventure and helping put a plan together where you two connect with your love and the environment as we document this special day!

We’d Love To Hear More About Your Joshua Tree Elopement!

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A couple holds each other close under a joshua tree and the stars as a car drives by.
“We had a tiny wedding at JTNP in Spring 2021 and Traci + Bill were absolutely incredible! I didn’t realize when we hired Traci for photography that she would also essentially handle all of the wedding planning for our day. Traci is extremely detail-oriented, organized, and professional, and her knowledge of the wedding day process and planning abilities made sure that our day went exactly the way that we had envisioned. Even though all we did was a ceremony in the national park with a private dinner afterwards (with a group of ~10 people), Traci still put together a schedule/itinerary and did an amazing job of keeping everybody on track to make sure that the day went smoothly. She and Bill did a scouting trip for ceremony sites for us the week beforehand (we had a permit for a general area in JTNP but hadn’t picked out a specific site), and they also stopped by our AirBnB the day before the wedding to scout out lighting for our portraits. They really invested a lot more of their time and energy into our day beyond the photography package that we had paid for. We also got our wedding photos back with very quick turnaround, and we absolutely love them. Beyond their professionalism and photography products, Traci and Bill are just genuinely wonderful people to spend time with and were a real joy to work with. If you’re looking for some incredible photography for your elopement or tiny wedding, I really can’t recommend them highly enough!”

– Annelise + Duncan

A couple share a kiss in the sun while standing on a boulder in front of a pile of rocks in Joshua Tree.

HEY! Some of my elopement images from Joshua Tree were recently featured on several accounts! Check them out here: Looks Like Film & Whimsically Wed