The complete guide to an elopement in Joshua Tree National Park
(updated for 2022 by your Joshua Elopement Photographer)
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 different. It is a place of still, of adventure and of beauty. Tucked away in the desert is this beautiful place of trees from another time with endless exploration. It is a great place for a high activity adventure elopement or a relaxing elopement surrounded by nature. It’s the perfect place to spend your elopement and honey moon or have your elopement and head off to honey moon in San Diego, Yosemite, Alabama Hills, Sedona or elsewhere!
How to get married in Joshua Tree National Park
Permit information for your ceremony
If you wish to hold your elope ceremony in Joshua Tree National park you will need to pull special use permits. This may sound scary, but do not let it stray you away from booking at this beautiful place! The permit process is simple and the rangers are super helpful. You will need to speak directly with ranger, Jeannie, to pull your permit. Her email address is [email protected] You can always visit the parks website for exact information and contact to the ranger in charge of issuing permits. For an engagement/couples session you want to pull your permit at least one to two weeks out just you can have time to get everything squared away. For an elopement, I would try to get your permit at least three weeks out. During peak season at the park always try to do things earlier than usual! Note: Your photographer will also need a permit to photograph your wedding in the park. If you are working with us you are in good hands, as we have a yearly permit to work in Joshua Tree National Park so we are already approved to work there whenever!
Wedding 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 guests must be shuttled in due to limited parking.
Hidden Valley Picnic Area; Limit of 35 people.
Turkey Flats; Limit of 35 people.
Cap Rock; Limit of 25 people.
Rattlesnake Picnic Area; Limit of 20 people.
Quail Springs Picnic Area; Limit of 20 people.
Split Rock; Limit of 15 people.
Porcupine Wash; Limit of 12 people.
Queen Valley Mine Intersection; Limit of 10 people.
Lost Horse Parking Lot; Limit of 10 people.
Live Oak Picnic Area; Limit of 5 people.
After your ceremony though, you can take your portraits or go experience the park in other areas other than what is listed here.
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 obey any of there specific regulations. Avoid locations that have been closed and stay on the trail. 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. They 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 to 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. Dogs are allowed in camping areas and parking lot areas mostly.
Tips for planning your Wedding in Joshua Tree
Legally getting married in California
Legally speaking Joshua Tree National Park is in California, therefore, you will need an officiant to perform the ceremony married and one witness to legally get married and sign your paperwork. You can have two witnesses sign your marriage documentation if you wish though. You will need to obtain your marriage license by the 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. Also, some days in Joshua Tree can be super windy, so be sure to keep it safe and two hands on it at all times so you do not loose it.
Best time to get married 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. I always recommend eloping the park on a week day, not on a holiday 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 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 not a bad time (like Summer in my opinion) to get married in the park. It can be chilly so you have to decide if 30-70 degrees is comfortable for you. It is honestly, a great Winter location compared to places like Colorado, Washington, Alaska or even Utah. There has been snow in Joshua Tree in the winter, but it is never much and never stays long. The park is for sure quieter during this time which can be nice.
What should you pack for your Joshua Tree elopement? Joshua Tree is the desert, so you want to bring sun screen and lots of water in re-usable water bottles. There is no water access in the park so it is important to bring with you into the park what you need for the day or your entire trip if you are camping in the park. The rock at Joshua Tree is very sharp so if you plan to be on the rocks you need 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. 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 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!
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 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
Things to do in Joshua Tree for your Wedding or Elopement Day
Joshua Tree is a wonder for hikers, off roaders, campers, star gazers and especially for climbers. On your elopement day in Joshua Tree you can do all of these things! You can climb a route with your love for photos on the side of the rock and/or the top. I recommend climbing routes off the beaten path away from the main climbing areas and for sure climbing routes out of the camping areas. or if you want to stay closer to the main areas of the park I would recommend real hidden valley. You can hike any of the trails to water, run down homes, automobiles or into the wilderness. You can off road to some of the more quiet spots in the park.
Or on the right night you can watch a full moon rise between the Joshua Trees, or you can see the milky way in all of its glory later in the night. You can camp with your love for a full night under the stars, just keep in mind if you want photos at camp you can not camp in the park for photography is not allowed within camp areas, but is allowed at the picnic areas. There are many camp sites you can book on Airbnb or dispersed camping is available not too far out of the park.
How much does a wedding at Joshua Tree Cost?
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
- Florist if desired
- Photographer/Video/Officiant – not always priced together but here they are 🙂
Here at Adventure and Vow we do not offer full elopement packages, but we are here to help you plan and can give you recommendations on Hair and Makeup artist, Chefs, places to stay and more. Outside of that we help with planning, you legally getting married, capturing the day and making sure the day goes smooth.
How long should you hire your elopement photographer for a wedding in Joshua tree? As an elopement photographer that works in Joshua Tree often I recommend 8-12 hours for your elopement coverage in the park. The park is one thousand acres big. It has several park entrances, but depending where you are staying and where you are going in the park you can end up driving for 1-3 hours on your elopement day. If you wanting to catch stars you will need time for the sky to get dark and take the time to enjoy the night sky. Joshua Tree is the kind of place you want to take your time and enjoy. There is so much to explore and see, you may find the perfect nook for a picnic or want to explore a dirt road longer than expected. Joshua Tree is not the place for rushing. If you are planning your elopement and want to figure a total cost these are the things I would recommend pricing out to put together a “full package”
Are you looking for a Joshua Tree Wedding Photographer?!
Well you are in the right place! Hey, I am Traci! I first fell in love with J Tree in 2016 and since I go back every chance I get. I have spent many sunrises and sunsets there on trails, on the side of rocks and in the camp sites. I truly believe in the magic of Joshua Tree National Park and would be happy to help you two plan the most epic day that truly reflects who you two are to start off your marriage. We are a partner team, we offer officiating, planning assistance, photo and video within all of our services. We are stoked high on adventure and helping you two connect with your love and the environment as we help you document this special day. We love J Tree for elopement days because it’s an epic place for star gazing, climbing, sight seeing and relaxing at an epic Airbnb having a good chef prepared meal.