I’m really really excited for ya’ll, cause if you’re here, that must mean you’re thinking of eloping in Joshua Tree National Park. And I personally think that is an AMAZING decision. Joshua Tree is incredible (for a bunch of reasons; it provides the perfect marriage (har har) of adventure and funk, if being close to a cool city is your thing, Palm Springs is nearby, and it’s gooorgeous at sunset). I’ve talked about getting married in a National Park already; so this post is for those of you specifically considering a Joshua Tree Elopement.
Joshua Tree sits in Southern California on the intersection of two big deserts; the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert (which is actually part of the Sonoran) and the Little San Bernadino mountains sit snuggly on the horizon. It’s a place that breathes adventure and has an unmistakable sense of place; from the funky Joshua Trees to the cholla cacti and the famous piles of shimmering boulders, it’s a *rad* place. (Also if you’re a nerd like me and want to know how these boulders came to be, watch this video.)
I’m in no position to tell anyone how to live but I definitely have suggestions when it comes to the best time of year to elope in Joshua Tree. Weather can vary a lot of Joshua Tree, even within the park on the same day (due to big changes in elevation in the park). And Joshua Tree is in the middle of the desert. So, as you can imagine, summer months (think June, July, and August….and even some of September) are guaranteed to be… pretty hot. Like, very hot.
On the other hand the winters tends towards being mild enough but it can snow during the winter months (and it is gorgeous). If you’re wanting a warmer vibe though, I tend to recommend shoulder season for best weather AND low crowds. Think March, April, May and October/November/December.
This is a pretty ubiquitous rule, but I highly, *highly* encourage weekdays. Avoid holidays at all costs. Weekends during off season will still experience higher traffic than week days, but can be doable (so in December/January).
I’m a huge fan of doing what we can to avoid crowds and busy traffic. It makes many elements of your elopement day run a lot smoother (parking, getting into the park, not having a wall of people watching as you get married, etc etc). Eloping on a weekday really aids in all of this!
You have so many options!!!! Joshua Tree doesn’t have any brick and mortar lodging in the park, but you will not want for accommodation options. Some of my favorite airbnb’s I’ve ever stayed at were outside of Joshua Tree- so you’re guaranteed to find the perfect lodging for your Joshua Tree elopement. Just book early! Some of the more popular spots book somewhat far out!
There are a few home bases that work for a Joshua Tree elopement- my three favorites are Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree, and 29 Palms. There are several entrances to the park, but these three towns (all pretty close to one another) are closest to the entrance points we would most likely be using. For those of you that love a city/more urban vibe, you can stay in Palm Springs, but know that will add significant travel time to the park!
You can camp in the park- there are tons of campground options (some you can reserve ahead of time, some are first come first serve). And I will say that the camping I’ve done in Joshua Tree has been some of my favorite- Hidden Valley Campground is my personal fav. Not to mention that the boulders give both a real sense of privacy and a sense of fun. You’re basically camping in nature’s jungle gym. Note: you cannot have professional photos in the campground- the park prohibits it!
If camping isn’t your thing, there are so many absolutely amazing airbnb’s in the town of Joshua Tree, just outside the park (Like this boho dream, this desert gem, this adorable camper, or this modern marvel).
If you’re wanting something a bit more luxurious, Palm Springs is a short 1 hour drive from both the West Entrance and the Cottonwood Visitors Center. Palm Springs is packed with fancy, amazing hotels but my favorites are The Ace, Korakia Pensione, and La Serena Villas.
LAX is your best bet here- it’s a fairly easy drive from the city to Joshua Tree (only 2 hours with no traffic (but plan for 3-4 hours to a lot for the famed Los Angeles traffic. It is a very real thing.
In order to get married in Joshua Tree National Park you will need to obtain a permit. Applications for a permit are submitted by the couple and are $120.00 (and in addition to this, your photographer will need to obtain a special use permit in addition to the wedding permit). The permit app is fairly straightforward, but your photog should be able to walk you through the paperwork if you have any questions. I always send over a super detailed set of instructions for any permit applications (some of the questions can be confusing!) You can find all the official details about your permit here. During the permitting process you will need to identify where you want to get married. Joshua Tree National Park restricts the locations where you can officially tie the knot.
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.
Don’t let this get you down-I know whenever I see restrictions on locations it’s easy to get a bit bummed but all these spots are suuuuper rad and full of Joshua Trees and boulders. But trust me, you can’t go wrong with any of these spots. And you can totally have Joshua Tree elopement photos elsewhere in the park- you just have to have your ceremony at one of the pre-approved locations.
Also a few things to keep in mind; Joshua Tree does prohibit the use of dried flowers, smoke bombs, birdseed, or any live animals (this DOES include pets. If having your furbaby present is super important to you, somewhere outside the park is probably a better options because it will severely limit what you can and can’t do**). And like all National Parks drones are not allowed. But! If you have your heart set on some rad wide shots, the boulders do allow some extremely cool viewpoints. I just have to do a bit of scrambling 😉
** If you *do* want to bring your pet along for your elopement, there are other nearby locations that have a super similar look to Joshua tree- like Mojave National Preserve.
One of my favorite things about Joshua Tree is that there is soooo much adventure right at your fingertips. This means- there’s loads to do. It’s important that all my couples know that an elopement isn’t just an all day photo shoot. No, that sounds horrible (and I’m a freaking photographer haha). You’re elopement day is your *wedding day* and you are doing that wedding in epic fashion. So from rock climbing, to picnicking, to stargazing, there are tons of activities to make your day even more special.
I also love offering ideas to help brainstorm, here are a few options for fun elopement day activities!
And friends, this is not an exhaustive list. I have a whole blog post on unique elopement activities ideas 🙂
I travel all over the southwest and consider places like Joshua Tree, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, etc to be my backyard. I also don’t charge any travel fees for lower 48 elopements or adventure weddings so you don’t have to worry about additional travel costs to get me from here to there.
Four hours: $5500 | Eight Hours: $7500 | One 8-hr day + 4 hr day: $10,800
Not sold yet? Need a little more visual aid? Look, I get it. There are soooo many amazing places to elope in. It’s hard to pick. Here’s what I’ll say about Joshua Tree; it’s a little funky, a little rad. If you like places a little outside the box or, like me, enjoy things that are just a bit *weird* then Joshua Tree might be a good fit for you. And if seeing a full story helps you get your head around things, here’s a full Joshua Tree elopement story to get your wheels turning even more (this shoot also featured here, so if you want to see more, check it out!)
Want a National Park element but not sold on Joshua Tree? Check out this Yosemite Elopement Planning blog post!
— Ryan + Styhiln