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Joshua Tree Elopement Guide

Mar 10

elopement

For the art-inclined, desert chasers and cactus lovers, I cannot recommend a Joshua Tree elopement enough. A desert park hidden away at the center of Southern California, Joshua Tree is almost another world! Featuring some of the most striking night skies around, Joshua Tree is also an International Dark Sky Park. There is so much variety on hand here from pioneer towns to astrophotography. The bright stars, rich cultural history and stark desert landscape will make your wedding photos really stand out. And romance, above all, will be in the air, in the sands and in the trees. 

Joshua Tree elopement

Table of contents

Elopement permit

Elopement locations

Time of day to elope

Time of year to elope

Nearby airports

Where to stay

Elopement timeline

Honeymoon ideas

Elopement photographer

Joshua Tree Elopement Permit

To perform your ceremony, you’ll need what’s called a Special Park Use Permit, which, for weddings, will cost $120 with an additional $120 for any professional photographers or caterers. 

Any kind of props (chairs, arches, etc.) are prohibited, but you can stand on a handwoven rug and bring a bouquet overflowing with local flora. There’s always ways to make your ceremony true to you. While you can’t have props in the park, you could always elope at a nearby Airbnb with the same natural features found in Joshua Tree.

There’s another venue out by Joshua Tree called Rim Rock. It’s perfect for small, intimate weddings. For elopement ceremonies in that setting, I’d make it a weekend getaway — spend a day out hiking, take a couple photos under the stars and dedicate another entire day to your ceremony itself. 

Couple stands back to back, holding hands at Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree elopement locations

Hidden Valley Nature Trail

For those looking for a low-key ceremony location, Hidden Valley is a short, 1-mile trail with gorgeous rock formations that seem like they’ve been there forever. Being a short trail, it has the potential to be crowded, but the rock formations and colorful wildflowers add a one-of-a-kind touch.

  • Divine desert wedding setting
  • Easy access for an outdoor look without the all-day hike
  • Beautiful rocks and sandstone
  • Short 1-mile hike

Barker Dam Nature Trail

Another easy-access elopement location, Barker Dam Nature Trail walks you along the dam, which could have still water for gorgeous photos or a dry basin depending on the season. If we’re lucky enough to have water in the dam, we’ll grab some cute waterfront photos after your ceremony! The gorgeous shots we can get from the reflection of the rock and desert trees are just incredible! This hike also has a ton of really unique natural rock formations to use as a background for your vows.

  • Potential waterside photos at the dam
  • 1.3 mile hike
  • Limited shade 
  • Rocks and flowers galore 

Warren Peak

Elope in a secluded location of your own by hiking 5.5 miles round trip to Warren Peak.  You can see quite a lot from the high vantage point of Warren’s Peak and there’s also a campground nearby. The park’s namesake, “Joshua trees” are everywhere on this hike. With the broad horizon and seclusion, the opportunities for artful, captivating elopement photos are endless here. Hold your lover close as the sun sets or rises and capture it all for a lifetime of looking back. What an adventure to start your marriage with!

  • Broad, expansive view of the rest of the park
  • Nearby campsites
  • 5.5 mile hike with medium difficulty 
  • Plenty of gorgeous Joshua trees

Ryan Mountain Trail

Ryan Mountain Trail features another horizon-rich view at the end of a 3-mile moderate hike. The serene desert plains surrounding your ceremony are unbelievable. This trail is a bit on the busier side of things, but absolutely worth the effort. It’s best to go in the morning if you want a little more seclusion during your vows. Your heart will skip a beat over the diverse flora and stark desert environment.

  • Great, desert views
  • Stunning sunsets
  • 3 mile hike with moderate difficulty
  • Potential for crowds
  • Best in the morning

What time of day is best to visit Joshua Tree?

Sunrise or sunset both work great. We don’t have to worry much about lighting in Joshua Tree. It’s surrounded by mountains so the light reflects everywhere. It doesn’t matter if it’s east or west. Whichever place we pick together will be stunning!

To see how COVID might affect your trip, check out the park’s website here

Joshua Tree elopement photo of the couple kissing

What season should we plan our ceremony for?

Spring is definitely best in Joshua Tree and will make for the ideal setting for your elopement hike, vows and photos. March and April are the best months as it’s not super hot or cold. It’s also less crowded so long as we avoid spring break.

May is another gorgeous month, but it’s often more crowded. Fall, especially October and November, are just as pretty!

June to October is probably going to be too hot for a comfortable elopement and you’ll likely get snow in December and January.

Joshua Tree Elopement Photo

Nearby airports 

Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) is a 38 mile, one-hour drive. You’ll need to get a rental car at the airport or take the bus and then a taxi to make your way to Joshua Tree.

90 miles away is Ontario International Airport (ONT), which will be a two-hour drive to Joshua Tree. There’s a train ride and taxi combo that works to get you to the park as well.

Bride wears hiking shoes with her wedding dress at Joshua Tree

Where to stay during your Joshua Tree elopement 

Sacred Sands is 1 mile from the park and is an excellent Airbnb for small weddings and elopements. There are a number of other artsy airbnbs you can easily find with a quick search! I’m happy to help if you need it. 

Joshua Tree elopement timeline samples

In a place like Joshua Tree, your elopement can be crafted from scratch with every element planned to match your personalities and preferred level of adventure.

Here are some examples to guide you!

Half day elopement timeline

2:00 – 3:00: Hang out + get ready with family at the Airbnb (this is a great time for me to capture candid moments, like friends lounging in hammocks, the two of you making coffee together, exchanging or writing love letters etc.)

3:00 – 4:30: Hike to the ceremony location, do some rock climbing and take epic photos along the way 

4:30 – 5:00: Vows, ceremony, champagne toast

5:00 – 6:00: Couples portraits around the ceremony spot/nearby locations for sunset 

Couple + Family and Friends head off to Pappy and Harriets for Dinner!!

*add an encore photography session the next day for stargazing and astrophotography 

Couple kisses on a dirt road in Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree Jeep Elopement

If you’re game for a Jeep adventure, the best trail for jeep elopements is called Joshua Tree National Park Geology OHV Tour Road. It takes you off of the tourist path and into a more secluded setting. That’s where we took the elopement photos you see throughout this guide!

Joshua Tree elopement portrait at sunset
Joshua Tree Jeep Elopement

Honeymooning in Joshua Tree

My favorite elopement timeline in Joshua Tree consists of a morning ceremony and honeymoon shots in the afternoon. That afternoon adventure is a great opportunity to take in all the hikes and trails available.

You can have your ceremony in Joshua Tree and then do your reception with five best friends at Pappy and Harriet’s, a favorite spot of mine. They regularly have bands come in, but it can be a 2-3 hour wait. If a favorite band happens to be playing there, you can reserve your ticket for the band and get dinner as well. 

Joshua Tree elopement photographer

Leave all of the attention on your wedding day and your significant other, where it should be. Take in the raw experience and the depth of emotions while I guide you! As an adventure elopement photographer, I’m a scout, guide and elopement expert, making it easy to plan, craft and love your elopement. Feel free to ask me about how we can make it happen.

Joshua Tree elopement photos

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