Joshua Tree Elopement Guide – How to Elope Wild & Free in Joshua Tree

bride and groom on rock formations at Joshua Tree Elopement

Joshua Tree Elopement Guide


Sprinkled throughout the vast desert of the Coachella Valley are the prickly, twisty, bristled Joshua Trees. The unique landscape of the park means that a Joshua Tree elopement is perfect for any couple who craves something different for their wedding day – something beyond the walls of a traditional wedding venue! Surrounding the vast desert landscape and its rocky formations, you’ll find vintage desert towns, unique Airbnbs, and quirky local gems to explore. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about how to elope in Joshua Tree National Park, and how to plan a day you’ll never forget!

What you’ll find in this Joshua Tree Elopement Guide: 

  • Why you should elope in Joshua Tree
  • Best Time to Elope in Joshua Tree
  • The Legal Stuff: Permits, Officiants, and Marriage Licenses 
  • Best Joshua Tree Elopement Locations
  • What to do
  • Where to Stay
  • Example Timelines  
  • Alternatives to Joshua Tree National Park
  • Joshua Tree Elopement Inspiration
  • Joshua Tree Elopement Tips 
  • The Cost of Eloping in Joshua Tree 
  • Joshua Tree Elopement Packages – Are you ready to elope Wild & Free?

Why You Should Elope in Joshua Tree National Park

Before we dig into the nitty-gritty of planning your Joshua Tree elopement, here are just a few reasons why it’s the perfect place to tie the knot!

The Night Sky

There’s plenty to explore in Joshua Tree during the day, but some of the best views come around at night! The remote desert landscape makes Joshua Tree perfect for stargazing, especially on the east side of the park. Away from major cities and light pollution, you can end your elopement day looking up at the Milky Way – what could be more magical?

Endless Adventures

Driving through Joshua Tree National Park is half the fun – with plenty of desert roads and views all around, you don’t have to go far to enjoy the scenery, and you don’t have to hike to reach an epic backdrop for your elopement. There are plenty of flat walking trails throughout the desert, easily accessible overlooks, boulders, cactus gardens, and of course, Joshua Trees to see! Joshua Tree National Park is also a prime rock climbing destination if you’re into that sort of thing!

An Intimate, Meaningful Wedding Day

Instead of feeling pressured into throwing a party, shuffled around and rushed from one place to another all day, and stressed out planning a wedding that you hardly get to enjoy, eloping gives you the opportunity to plan a wedding day you’ll actually enjoy! Your Joshua Tree elopement means you aren’t weighed down by traditions and expectations, and you get to celebrate the beginning of your marriage with intention – creating a day that’s meaningful and totally unique!

The Best Time to Elope in Joshua Tree National Park

The best time to visit Joshua Tree and the best time for your elopement will depend on a few factors! Weather will be a big one, but another thing to consider is that Joshua Tree National Park is popular with tourists and visitors, which might make your elopement more difficult – as you’ll have a harder time finding a private spot to say your vows, and the parking lots can get pretty full. Make sure to do some research before setting a date – but don’t worry, I’ve got everything you need right here!

Graph showing the best time to elope in Joshua tree national park based off of temperature and tourist season

Winter in Joshua Tree

December through February is winter in Joshua Tree, and while the desert landscape means that the weather is rarely too cold during the day, mornings and evenings can definitely get chilly, and so can higher elevation areas! Planning your Joshua Tree elopement for the winter months can be a great way to escape the cold back home if you aren’t local to southern California. Just be prepared with some layers and warmer elopement outfits, and keep in mind that there’s a chance of rain (and maybe even snow – fun!). 

Spring in Joshua Tree

March and April offer the best weather – with warm, sunny days that aren’t too scorching. Early spring is also when the wildflowers bloom, covering the desert in specks of purples, reds, and blues. The idyllic weather and the wildflower blooms mean Joshua Tree National Park gets more and more crowded. If you want to elope in early spring, plan your ceremony for a weekday (Monday through Thursday), avoid entering the park between 10 am and 2 pm, and buy your entrance pass online ahead of time to secure your entry.

By May, the crowds clear out a little bit, and the dry heat means that temperatures in the low 90s can still be comfortable for elopements and adventure sessions. Late spring, and even early June, are some of the best times to visit Joshua Tree!

Summer in Joshua Tree

This is definitely the least busy time of year, which means if you elope in Joshua Tree in the summer, you’ll have the best chance of finding a secluded spot. However, temperatures can reach into the hundreds, which may not be ideal for most couples. 

If you plan your elopement adventures for sunrise or sunset, you can take advantage of the privacy of Joshua Tree in the summer, and avoid the scorching mid-day sun!

Fall in Joshua Tree

Fall is my favorite and the best time for your Joshua Tree elopement! It’s not quite as busy as spring, but starting in September the weather is pretty mild and the temperatures are ideal for exploring the park.

Wild & Free Tip

No matter when you elope, pick a weekday!

Any national park will be busier on the weekends, so opt for a weekday and you’ll have some peace and much-needed privacy. Not only could you potentially get the park all to yourself, but you’ll also have more options when it comes to finding accommodation and hiring your elopement vendors.

The Legal Stuff – Marriage Laws and Wedding Permits

Amidst all the adventures there’s a little bit of paperwork to fill out to make sure you’re legally married, and that you don’t get a talking to from a park ranger!

Joshua Tree Marriage License Laws

You’ll need a marriage license to legally seal the deal during your Joshua Tree elopement. You can make an appointment at any County Clerk’s office in California, but San Bernadino is closest to Joshua Tree. After you get your marriage license you’ll be able to get married anywhere in the state! 

You can learn more about California’s marriage license options and which might work best for your ceremony in the Ultimate Guide to Your Elopement Ceremony.

Joshua Tree Wedding Officiant

Now that you have your marriage license, you’ll need a Joshua Tree wedding officiant to legally tie the knot! I can help you find an officiant to perform your ceremony, or you can save yourself some hassle and have a self-uniting ceremony – I’m ordained and can sign your papers!

Wild & Free Tip

Consider a self-uniting ceremony!

Self-uniting means that you don’t have an officiant to perform your ceremony – you say your vows, exchange rings, and marry yourselves! This is a really great way to ensure that you’re completely free to celebrate the way you want to on your elopement day, without worrying about finding an officiant who will travel to you, or stressing about meeting up with them in a spot where there’s no cell phone service (because that’s hard to come by in the desert!). It’s a truly private experience, and allows you to be totally in the moment so that your ceremony feels natural and comfortable!

As an elopement photographer, I know how important freedom and privacy are to so many of my couples, so I double as an ordained officiant! I can sign your marriage license after you read your vows – and voila! You’re married – after the marriage license gets mailed back, that is. If you’d like to read more about what a self-uniting ceremony looks like, visit Ultimate Guide to Your Elopement Ceremony.

Joshua Tree Wedding Permits

If you’re looking to elope in Joshua Tree National Park, a Special Use Permit is required. As soon as we have your date and location selected, I’ll help you fill out the form! You’ll need to apply between 1 year and 7 days before your elopement – but I definitely recommend doing it sooner rather than later. The permit itself costs $120. This fee supports the park and makes for the most beautiful venue out there – plus, it’s much less costly than a traditional venue! 

A separate permit is required for videographers and photographers. I document sessions in Joshua Tree National Park all year round and always have mine ready to go!

For conservation purposes, here are the items the park allows:

  • Arch- must be free-standing
  • Small table for guest book
  • Cooler with water
  • Live flowers
  • Battery-powered candles
  • Runner
  • Rug
  • Cake
  • Champagne

For conservation purposes, here are the items the park does NOT allow:

  • Drones
  • Dried flowers
  • Non-battery powered candles
  • Bubbles
  • Any live animals, including doves, butterflies, etc
  • Confetti, Rice, Birdseed
  • Balloons
  • Smoke Bombs

Best Joshua Tree Elopement Locations

Joshua Tree has a list of predetermined elopement locations where you are allowed to have your ceremony. This is to ensure that the more fragile areas of the park don’t get overrun with decorations, guests, and other wedding add-ons. 

Check out NPS.gov for the most up to date information, but here is a list of Joshua Tree National Park elopement location options – make sure you have an idea of how many guests you’ll be inviting before you commit to a spot, so that you know your dream location can accommodate your ceremony!

Live Oak Picnic Area5 people3 vehicles
Lost Horse Parking Lot10 people5 vehicles
Queen Valley Mine Intersection10 people5 vehicles
Porcupine Wash12 people4 vehicles
Split Rock15 people5 vehicles
Quail Springs Picnic Area15 people8 vehicles
Rattlesnake Picnic Area20 people8 vehicles
Cap Rock25 people8 vehicles
Turkey Flats35 people8 vehicles
Hidden Valley Picnic Area35 people8 vehicles
Indian Cove Amphitheater100 people1 vehicle – must shuttle guests

Wild & Free Tip

Hiring an experienced Joshua Tree elopement photographer is a game changer!

Finding a location for your Joshua Tree elopement can be difficult – with so many beautiful options and over a thousand square miles of park to explore, how do you decide?!

That’s where I come in – to take the overwhelm out of elopement planning and sifting through everything you need to plan a wedding in Joshua Tree National Park, I’ll give you access to my exclusive Wild & Free Joshua Tree Location Lookbook. This extensive guide includes photos and videos of each area (with different angles, lighting, time of year, and time of day for each one), so that even if you’re booking your Joshua Tree elopement from hundreds of miles away, you will not be a stranger to your dream elopement location!

What to Do in Joshua Tree on Your Elopement Day

This isn’t just about your ceremony – your elopement should be a day full of fun and adventures! Embrace the wild nature and the vintage desert town vibes, and plan an elopement day (and honeymoon!) that reflects the two of you and your relationship. Visit colorful Palm Springs, dig your own cactus at Cactus Mart, hike in Joshua Tree National Park, visit funky museums or tour Pioneertown, try Geocaching, relax in your Airbnb outdoor hot tub, hang out in a hammock, take photos in an airstream, stargaze to see the best sightings of your life, or experience Desert X… the options are endless! Your day can be a whirlwind of fun + amazing scenes.

elopement couple walking under Joshua Tree at sunset

Rock Climbing and Bouldering

The incredible array of rock formations and boulder piles throughout Joshua Tree National Park are great to look at – but if you want to get a little more hands-on, they’re also great to climb! From places like Intersection Rock and Thin Wall for beginners to Big Moe and Lost Horse Wall for experienced climbers, there’s a route for you no matter how you climb.

Hiking and Sightseeing

One thing I love about the desert is that the hikes are flat! While there are some more challenging hikes through Joshua Tree’s rock fields and surrounding mountains, many of the trails offer gorgeous views that won’t leave you totally out of breath. 

Spend your elopement day exploring and enjoying the natural beauty of the park with views of the iconic Joshua Trees, the unique rock formations, and the varying desert landscapes. Some iconic Joshua Tree “must-see” spots include Skull Rock, Hidden Valley, Arch Rock, Keys View, Indian Cove, Cap Rock, and Barker Dam.

Joshua Tree Hot Springs

There’s nothing more relaxing than a dip in some hot springs, and there are plenty of hot springs near Joshua Tree to choose from! End your elopement day and unwind after a day of adventures at Wonder Valley Hot Springs!

Joshua Tree at Night

The desert transforms at night, into a quiet starry oasis with some of the best views of the night sky! The Milky Way is visible about 7 days each month, between April and September – so if stargazing is on your elopement bucket list, plan your elopement for when the moon isn’t hanging out in the sky for the best visibility.

Where to Stay in Joshua Tree

You’ll need somewhere to go after a long day of exploring, and Joshua Tree is known for unique stays! Here are some of the best places to stay during your elopement in Joshua Tree.

wedding dress hanging in Joshua Tree Airbnb before elopement starts
wedding cake and records in Joshua Tree airbnb for elopement experience

Best Joshua Tree Airbnbs

There are tons of quirky, unique desert Airbnbs in the town of Joshua Tree. You can stay in a modern, boho house like this one, a remote desert cabin perfect for stargazing, or even this unique dome-shaped home with a pool!

Joshua Tree Camping

For a more rugged elopement experience, you can camp right in the park! If you’re an outdoorsy couple, ending your night with a dance around the campfire and sleeping under the stars can be an incredible way to start your marriage. Here are all the campgrounds you can choose from at Joshua Tree!

Hipcamp in Joshua Tree 

Hipcamp is a blend of rugged camping and luxurious stays. It’s almost like Airbnb for campgrounds, and you can find some really amazing places from people who own land near Joshua Tree! Search Hipcamp and you’ll find yurts, Airstreams, cabins, and campsites that are more private than the ones available in the park.

Bride in boho chair at airbnb before Joshua Tree elopement day

Wild & Free Tip

Keep photos in mind when booking a space!

Getting ready is an important part of your elopement day. It’s when the excited butterflies are happening, and the anticipation is building. To ensure your photos turn out incredibly, pick a space with big windows for natural light, and cute decor!

Sample Joshua Tree Elopement Timelines

To give you an idea of what your Joshua Tree elopement can look like, here are some sample timelines!

Airstream Elopement

  • Pancake breakfast at airstream
  • Hair + makeup
  • Put on wedding attire together
  • Photos around airstream
  • Drive to Hidden Valley Picnic Area in Joshua Tree National Park
  • Self uniting ceremony
  • Pop champagne
  • Picnic
  • Adventure in Joshua Tree, light hiking + bouldering
  • Sunset photos
  • Drive back to airstream
  • First dance around fire pit & s’mores
  • Star photos with the milky way

    10 hour timeline
tablescape for two at Joshua Tree Elopement

Elopement With Family

  • Getting ready with family at luxury Airbnb
  • Put on wedding attire
  • First look
  • Photos with stylish Airbnb decor
  • Drive into the park
  • Ceremony at Split Rock
  • Photos with family
  • Family heads back to Airbnb, prepares dinner setup
  • Couple adventures in the park, light hiking + bouldering
  • Private vow reading at sunset
  • Drive back to Airbnb
  • Private chef serves dinner
  • First dance, parent dances
  • Toasts + cake
  • End the night with everyone jumping into the pool together

    10 hour timeline

Wild & Free Tip

Elopement timelines are way different from traditional wedding timelines. 

They’re less strict, and allow for going with the flow and spontaneity – because your day should be about enjoying yourselves, not about watching the clock!

As an elopement photographer, I create a timeline for each couple – but this is more to give you an idea of how long things will take and give us an outline of the day. I’m not into rushing you or shuffling you from one place to the other in a hurry! 

Alternatives to a Joshua Tree National Park Elopement 

If you love the idea of eloping amongst the Joshua Trees, but you want to avoid the national park crowds or have trouble getting a permit, you still have options! 

The Town of Joshua Tree

Just outside of Joshua Tree National Park is the town of Joshua Tree. The tiny desert town is known for marching to the beat of its own drum, with tons of local gems. You can explore the quirky thrift shops and antique stores, try the local food and relax at a brewery, or visit some of the museums!

Your Airbnb

An Airbnb ceremony is a great way to get a private place for your ceremony, without having to rent an entire venue! Many of the homes and rentals make a fun backdrop and give you more freedom with what you can do on your elopement day.

Pioneertown

Pioneertown was actually created as an Old West movie set, but designed to be a functioning town as well! It’s a unique spot with 1880’s style false-front facades but modern interiors – the buildings look like saloons, stables, and jails outside, but inside you’ll find ice cream parlors, bowling alleys, and more. Joshua Trees line the streets of Pioneertown, and this is a unique place to elope for couples who want a little taste of Old West history!

More Desert Landscapes

Southern California has other gorgeous desert scenes to choose from! If you want to elope in a landscape not too far from Joshua Tree, check out Death Valley, Anza Borrego, and the Glamis Sand Dunes!

Joshua Tree Elopement Inspiration

Are you looking for dreamy inspo pictures to add to your boards? Check out our Joshua Tree Elopement Inspiration board on Pinterest!

Want creative elopements from all over the world to fill your Pinterest feed? Give us a follow on Pinterest and enjoy all the beauty!

Joshua Tree Elopement Tips

If you’ve never visited a destination like Joshua Tree before, you’ll want to chat up an expert as there are a few tips that will significantly elevate your experience! Here are a few tidbits for starters:

  1. Consider wearing close-toed shoes (you WILL run into pricklies throughout the day). 
  2. The sun can be intense here, so bring hats, sunscreen, and WAY MORE water than you think you’ll need!
  3. Opt for Sunset or Sunrise for not just cooler temps, but also the best, most DREAMY, lighting!  

Most couples have never planned an elopement, and it’s totally natural to feel a little lost and not know where to start. Part of my job is to ensure every couple has a stress-free elopement day – and luckily, this isn’t my first rodeo! I’ve got your back with elopement tips, planning advice, and anything everything you’ll need, so get in touch if you’re ready to create the Joshua Tree elopement of your dreams!

The Cost of Eloping in Joshua Tree

The great thing about elopements is that you get to decide what matters to you, and what you want to invest in! Elopement budgets can vary, and it’s all about how you want to spend your day. Here are some things to consider when it comes to the cost of eloping in Joshua Tree!

  • Travel – how will you get to Joshua Tree?
  • Accommodations – can range from $25 per night for a campsite to $300 per night for an upscale Airbnb
  • Food – everyone’s gotta eat! There are restaurants in Joshua Tree for every budget, and if you’re a foodie, consider investing in something like a private chef!
  • Marriage License – fees vary by county, but are usually around $100
  • Joshua Tree wedding permit – $120
  • Wedding attire – what you’ll wear for the ceremony
  • Hair and makeup – a professional hair and makeup artist can be between $300 – $1000
  • Florals – hiring a florist for your elopement day can be between $300 – $1500
  • Photographer – relive your memories over and over by investing in a photographer you love! Joshua Tree elopement package details can be found below in the next section.
Retro elopement inspiration at Joshua Tree National Park

Wild & Free Tip

Invest in your memories

Eloping couples dedicate about 50-80% of their total budget to their elopement photography knowing that having someone they trust and feel connected to by their side can make all the difference!

Joshua Tree Elopement Packages – Are You Ready to Elope Wild and Free?

Boho bride under Joshua Tree on elopement day

Joshua Tree is a unique place full of charm and artistic flair, perfect for couples who want to break the mold of the wedding industry and elope in a way that feels true to them! 

Eloping Wild and Free means taking a personalized approach to Joshua Tree elopement packages. You aren’t like every other couple, and your elopement day won’t be either – because investing in an elopement photographer isn’t just an investment in your photos (those are cool too, though). I’ll be your elopement planner, helping you find amazing vendors, gorgeous locations, cozy places to stay, and things to do that will truly make this the best day ever. I’ve got your back through it all, making sure you get unforgettable photos and an unforgettable experience. 

Joshua Tree Elopement Packages include:

  • Photography coverage 
    • Options from 4 hours to 2-days of coverage 
    • Photographer’s travel covered to your California destination
    • A fun photo experience where you can express your love without inhibitions
  • Planning tools + assistance 
    • Questionnaires to discover your unique vision + unlimited phone calls to bring it all to fruition 
    • Your personalized Location Lookbook full of suggestions for dreamy elopement spots 
    • Creative timeline design to make your day flow perfectly 
    • Expert planning tips for a fun, stress-free elopement experience 
    • Vendor suggestions to help you build your dream team
    • Permit assistance to take the confusion out of public lands regulations
    • Chill coordination to keep your day moving smoothly 
    • Officiant signature for self-uniting ceremonies 
    • Sustainability and Leave No Trace education for a wedding day you can feel good about 
  • Amazing photos + quick delivery 
    • Sneak peek images within one week of your elopement day 
    • Your full story in hundreds of high-resolution digital images delivered within one month 
    • Your own personal gallery to download and share your images with family and friends 
    • Printing rights to all photos 
    • Access to professional quality prints, wall art, and albums conveniently available for purchase right inside your gallery


      Packages start at $2800

Ready to start planning an elopement day that’s wild, fun, and totally you? Contact Wild & Free!

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Ready to elope Wild & Free?

You deserve an elopement that throws out all the rules and focuses on what matters most.

 

I don't want you to have to do this alone, so it’s ok if you don’t have the details figured out yet -- I’ll help you design your day from start to finish!

 

Wild & Free Elopements is based in Southern California and photographs elopements all over the world.


Direct Email: [email protected]

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