Ultimate Guide to Planning a 2023 Joshua Tree Elopement

Eloping is all about celebrating your love story in a way that’s meaningful, unique, and most importantly, true to you! If you know that your story is about adventures and getting out in nature, kicking off your marriage in a ballroom or a traditional venue just isn’t going to cut it – but the bristled trees, rocky landscape, and unique desert scenery of Joshua Tree might be the perfect backdrop for your ceremony. In this guide, we’ll talk about planning a Joshua Tree elopement – with everything you need to know, including tips we’ve picked up from years of working as an elopement photography and videography team!

Here’s what’s in this Joshua Tree Elopement Guide:

How to Get to Joshua Tree for Your Elopement

First things first, to tie the knot in Joshua Tree, you’ll need to get here! Keep in mind that Joshua Tree National Park is, of course, a national park – but there’s also the town of Joshua Tree, which is located just outside the park. The quirky town makes an amazing place to stay, and is full of local restaurants and things to do (which we’ll tell you all about!), but the national park is pretty huge, so depending on where in the park you decide to tie the knot, there are a few different entrances and ways to get there.

If you’re flying, the closest airport is in Palm Springs. You can usually find direct flights here from most major airports in the US, but if you’re flying internationally, you’ll likely land in Los Angeles or San Diego first. No matter where you’re flying from, these bigger airports usually have more options and cheaper flights, so check them out too! From Los Angeles, Joshua Tree National Park is a 146 mile drive, and a 166 mile drive from San Diego.

Whether you drive your own car or rent one, we definitely recommend having a set of wheels for your Joshua Tree elopement! A car is the best way to get around the park.

To get to Joshua Tree National Park, you’ll take either Interstate 10 or California Highway 62. There are three entrances to the park:

  • West Entrance: off Highway 62, closest to the town of Joshua Tree
  • North Entrance: off Highway 62, less than half an hour from the town of Joshua Tree, in Twentynine Palms
  • South Entrance: off Interstate 10, 25 miles away from Indio

Tips for Your Joshua Tree Elopement

Tying the knot in a place as remote as Joshua Tree means there are some extra logistics to consider! Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you plan your Joshua Tree elopement.

Get Here Early!

Our first tip is to arrive in Joshua Tree a minimum of two days before your elopement date – especially if you’re traveling from out of state or even outside the country. Getting here early allows you to settle in and relax, and we always recommend having the day before your elopement to just unwind, get excited, and chill at your Airbnb to make sure there’s no stress on the day you get married! 

If you’re traveling, having that buffer also means that you have extra time in case of flight delays or other things that can come up. The last thing you want going into your wedding day is the stress of navigating travel if you’re in a time crunch! 

We recently had a couple fly from the UK to Joshua Tree, and they got here just a day before – they were exhausted and jet lagged on the day of their elopement, which is a huge bummer! Give yourself some time to adjust.

Explore the Park

If you elope in Joshua Tree National Park, you’ll be doing some exploring on the day of – but we also recommend taking a drive into the park the day before, or the day after your elopement to take it all in! There’s so much to see and do, and it’s impossible to fit it all in one day. Take some time to explore, maybe do some hikes, and see everything (well, almost everything) that park has to offer!

Plan for Sunrise or Sunset

On your elopement day, we recommend planning to tie the knot at either sunrise or sunset. These times will have the best lighting, especially in a place like Joshua Tree, where there isn’t much shade and the sun shines just about every day! 

We can meet up for sunrise photos, take a break in the middle, and meet up again for sunset photos, or start later in the day and end with the sunset. We absolutely love Keys View for sunsets in the park – it’s an amazing end to an elopement day, and you’ll get to experience the sun soaked desert as the sun drops below the mountain, and you’ll have some moody photos at the very top, overlooking Coachella Valley. 

A couple is holding hands in front of the sunset during their elopement in Joshua Tree.

Elope on a Weekday

Weekends are more popular everywhere – so while sunrise and sunset (especially sunrise) can help you avoid crowds, one of the best things you can do to ensure some privacy for your Joshua Tree elopement is to tie the knot on a weekday! Be careful to avoid holidays and three day weekends, and Monday through Thursday are typically the least crowded days in national parks.

A couple is walking, holding hands, during their elopement in Joshua Tree National Park.

Prepare for No Service

Joshua Tree National Park has almost no service, so it’s important to be prepared for that! Download an offline map on your phone, and grab a paper map on your way into the park. Keep in mind that some backcountry roads in the park are soft and sandy, and can only be driven with a 4×4 vehicle, or else you run the risk of getting stuck! GPS directions can sometimes take you down these roads, so if your car isn’t ideal for some off roading, look up the directions to your elopement location before you go into the park to double check.

A couple is walking, holding hands, during their elopement in Joshua Tree National Park.

Weather & The Best Time for a Joshua Tree Elopement

Setting a date for your elopement is one of the first things you’ll need to do! But with the desert climate, weather can be pretty extreme – so it’s important to be prepared when you choose.

A couple's elopement ceremony in Joshua Tree National Park.

Winter in Joshua Tree

Winter is a gorgeous time for a Joshua Tree elopement. It’s a little less crowded than spring and fall, but most days are still sunny and warm! It does get chilly in the mornings and evenings, so be sure to bring some layers. This is the rainiest season, but with an average of just two rainy days in January, you’re much more likely to see the sun! Snow is really rare in Joshua Tree National Park, but it has happened.

Spring in Joshua Tree

Spring and fall are the most popular times to visit Joshua Tree, and are both great times to elope! In the spring, desert wildflowers bloom, and this, along with the mild temperatures perfect for exploring outdoors, bring out more crowds. We always recommend exploring the park during sunrise or sunset, but especially during this popular season, it’ll help you avoid an audience! 

Summers in Joshua Tree

Summers are really hot, and temperatures get into the hundreds. It can be too toasty for adventures in the middle of the day, but if you plan your ceremony for sunrise or sunset, that can be a great way to beat the heat! Unlike most national parks, Joshua Tree is least crowded in the summer – so this time of year is great for avoiding crowds.

Fall in Joshua Tree

As the weather cools down, fall can be a gorgeous time for a Joshua Tree elopement. It’s slightly less busy than the spring, but it’s the second most popular season! 

Joshua Tree Elopement Locations

Joshua Tree National Park is pretty popular, so to reduce the environmental impact of weddings and elopements, the park has a limited list of locations where you can tie the knot! Here’s a list of Joshua Tree elopement locations to choose from (this can change in the future – you can see the most up to date information on NPS.gov):

  • 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.

Our personal favorites for photos and video are Cap Rock, Hidden Valley, and we love Keys View for sunset! 

You also have the option of having your elopement ceremony outside the park, then heading into the park for photos! This can give you a more private location to exchange vows, and you won’t be as limited when it comes to where you can elope.

This couple had their ceremony in the morning at their Airbnb, then went to the park for some portraits! 

Keep in mind that even if you have your ceremony outside of Joshua Tree National Park, you still need to get a permit to take photos in the park! 

A couple is standing on a rock after their Joshua Tree elopement.

Joshua Tree Elopement Permits

A permit is required for all ceremonies in Joshua Tree National Park, and for any photos! You can find the permit application here, and there’s a $120 fee to go along with the application. The permit ensures that the park is aware of what’s going on, and the couples are aware of park rules! 

Leave No Trace (LNT), is super important when you elope in a national park, or anywhere outdoors! To keep the park clean and beautiful, here are the rules to follow for wedding ceremonies:

Items that are permitted for a wedding
Arch, must be free-standing
Small table for guest book
Cooler with water
Live flowers
Battery-powered candles

Items not permitted for a wedding
Dried flowers
Non-battery powered candles
Any live animals, including doves, butterflies, etc
Smoke Bombs

One thing that’s unique about eloping at Joshua Tree is that a separate special use permit is required for photography in the park, whether you have an elopement ceremony or just go into the park for photos. Make sure your Joshua Tree elopement photographer is in the loop to avoid confrontations with park rangers!

We recommend applying for your Joshua Tree wedding permit as early as possible – they allow applications up to a year in advance, but apply when you have your date and location picked out to give them plenty of time to process your application.

Keep in mind that even with a wedding permit, you’ll still need to pay the entrance fee for the park! This costs $30 per car, and is good for seven days – and you can get your pass at the entrance booth, or buy it online to save some time. If you visit national parks often, we recommend getting an America the Beautiful Pass! This costs $80, and will get you into any national park in the country for an entire year.

Permits can feel confusing, but as your Joshua Tree elopement photography and videography team, we’ll help you out with all of this and ensure you get all the right permits!

How to Get Legally Married in Joshua Tree

Along with the permit paperwork, there’s some paperwork that needs to be done to ensure you’re legally married when you elope in Joshua Tree. Your marriage license needs to be from the state of California, so you can go to any county clerk’s office in the state! The office closest to Joshua Tree National Park is the San Bernardino County office. You can fill out your marriage license application online, and you’ll need an ID for both of you. The marriage license fee is $89, but this will vary if you apply at a different office in California! After your application is complete, you’ll need to make an appointment, which can be either in person or online, to review your application and receive the marriage license. 

Once you have your marriage license, on the day of your elopement, you’ll need an officiant and one witness to sign it. After the signed marriage license is returned, you’re married!

If you’re traveling to Joshua Tree for your elopement, it’s often easier to do the paperwork at home! This is especially for couples coming from abroad, but it can be something to consider for all couples. You can have a legal ceremony at your local courthouse (or in the US, even go to a notary public to sign paperwork without an actual ceremony), and this makes things easy on the day of your elopement! You can relax, enjoy the elopement, exchange vows, and have your dream ceremony in the desert without worrying about legal red tape. Don’t worry – the ceremony won’t be any less special! Paperwork isn’t what makes your marriage real, and being able to just enjoy the adventures can be much less hassle.

Airbnbs in Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree has so many desert Airbnbs and quirky accommodations – and while you’re here, you’ll need a place to stay! An Airbnb provides a place for you to get ready for your elopement, and you might even decide to have your ceremony there before heading into the park.

You can stay in a peaceful cabin surrounded by desert views, a gorgeous tiny home with a hot tub to relax in, a modern desert home, or get really creative and spend a few nights in a spaceship

Things to Do When You Elope in Joshua Tree

Eloping means you can combine your wedding day with your honeymoon, and if you’re spending a few days, or even weeks, in the area, here are some amazing things to do near the park!

A couple is exchanging rings during their Joshua Tree elopement ceremony.

Explore Pioneertown

Pioneertown is a town built by Hollywood investors, and intended to be an Old West movie set out in the desert! Today, it’s a one of a kind spot and a unique place to visit, with old western ghost town vibes. We recommend checking out Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, a local gem with amazing food and live music!

Book a Sound Bath

For an incredible meditative experience, book a sound bath at the Integratron. It’s the ultimate way to relax, and you’ll leave feeling rejuvenated!

Visit Palm Springs

Palm Springs is just west of Joshua Tree National Park, and while the town of Joshua Tree is a haven for artists and outdoor adventure junkies, Palm Springs is its upscale cousin! You can explore the neighborhoods and check out unique mid century modern architecture, stay in one of the elegant resorts, or walk downtown for shops, food, and drinks. Check out the Moorten Botanical Garden to see some greenery!

Check Out Local Shops in Joshua Tree

Definitely take some time to explore the town of Joshua Tree too! Downtown Joshua Tree is known for being funky and unique, and it’s managed to stay authentic with locally owned shops. You can look around thrift stores, visit the art galleries, catch some live music, and enjoy the farmer’s market on Saturdays!

Places to Eat When You Elope in Joshua Tree

Everyone’s gotta eat! Whether you go out for a bite or stock up on some groceries to make a picnic for your elopement day, here are some of our favorite places to eat in Joshua Tree.

A couple is hugging in front of Cap Rock during their elopement in Joshua Tree National Park.

Pie for the People

Pie for the People is the best place for pizza in Joshua Tree! There’s nothing better than a hot slice after a day of adventures – we like the vegan pizza, but there are options for everybody!

Joshua Tree Health Foods

This health food store is a convenient place in town for snacks and last minute supplies. Joshua Tree Health Foods is great if you’re making your own meals – it can be pricey, but it’s a great local business!

Joshua Tree Coffee Company

Finding a great cup of coffee while traveling can be a challenge – but Joshua Tree Coffee Company is a quality place for your morning brew! If you love it, you can pick up a few bags to bring home after your elopement.

Natural Sisters Cafe

The Natural Sisters Cafe is famous for serving comfort food that’s also healthy! With lots of organic, plant-based options, it’s a great place to stop for a bite.

Joshua Tree Elopement Packages

If you’ve fallen in love with the desert, and you want to tie the knot in one of the most unique places in the country, we’ve got Joshua Tree elopement packages custom tailored just for you! We’re your elopement photographer and videographer team, but we’re also here to help you plan – finding the perfect spot to tie the knot, recommending the right Airbnb, and planning your day around the two of you, we want to help bring your perfect day to life! If you’re ready to elope in Joshua Tree, contact us!

A couple is standing in front of a sunset in the mountains during their elopement in Joshua Tree National Park.