How to Elope in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park in California is an incredible location — the unique desert landscape makes it an amazing place for adventure elopements. 

Joshua Tree is truly the adventurous couple’s dream. From clear starry night skies to golden hour perfection at sunset, this location is magical and amazing for an adventure elopement.

It’s also an elopement photographer’s dream, with the surreal scenery and endless photo ops. So let’s dive into how to elope in Joshua Tree! 

groom picking up and spinning bride during their joshua tree national park elopement

Here’s what we’ll talk about: 

  • Wedding permits, photography permits, and reservations
  • When to elope in Joshua Tree 
  • Joshua Tree elopement locations
  • Where to stay for your elopement
  • How to prepare/what to wear
  • Joshua Tree elopement photography

Whether you’re planning to elope just the two of you or have an intimate ceremony with guests, there are locations in Joshua Tree to suit your needs.

If you’re planning a larger ceremony with over 35 guests, you’ll be limited to one location within Joshua Tree: the Indian Cove Campground Amphitheater. The amphitheater accommodates up to 100 people total. However, only one vehicle is allowed, so you’ll need to arrange shuttle transportation for your guests! 

For a smaller ceremony, your options are broader. I’ll go over all of the elopement locations below!

Joshua Tree Wedding Permits, Photography Permits and Reservations

There are some things to keep in mind as you plan your visit to Joshua Tree National Park.

First, you don’t need reservations to enter the park. However, there is an entrance fee of $30 per vehicle. And, you will need a special use permit for your ceremony and for your elopement photography.

As your elopement photographer, I take care of acquiring the photography permit. So, all you need to do is get your special use permit for your ceremony!

How to get your special use permit

Here’s how to apply for and get your special use permit for your elopement ceremony:

  1. Download the special permit application form here 
  2. Complete the form and email to
  3. When NPS approves your application, they’ll contact you to pay the $120 permit fee online

I help you with permit planning along the way, too, so you’re never left in the dark on what to do. We’ll make sure to arrive for your elopement photos prepared and worry-free.

I also recommend checking the National Park Service’s website for the most up-to-date information on Joshua Tree permits and reservations, in case there are closures or special notices to be aware of.

The Best Time of Year to Elope in Joshua Tree

I’ll start by saying that summer days in Joshua Tree often reach 100°F or higher, and the nights only cool to about 75°F (from around May through September). So unless you LOVE the heat and blazing sun, you will be best off eloping in spring, fall, or winter.

The best time to elope in Joshua Tree is during the spring and fall seasons, where humidity is low and temperatures range between 50°F lows and 85°F highs.

Winter days offer cool and relatively comfortable temperatures, depending on your weather tolerance and preferences. The days average about 65°F, lowering to freezing at night. So, spring and fall are perfect!

Plus, you’re in California, so you get those clear, low humidity days with plenty of sunshine to soak up. No matter the time of year, plan on drinking lots of water throughout the day due to the low humidity and moderate altitudes in Joshua Tree.

Joshua Tree Elopement Locations

Okay, so where can you elope in Joshua Tree? Well, each elopement ceremony location in Joshua Tree has different limitations, and all of them limit the number of people and vehicles allowed.

The following is a list of ceremony locations, starting with the smallest number of guests allowed and ending with the largest guest allowance. Also, it’s important to know that receptions aren’t permitted in the park! When tallying the number of people, remember to include your photographer and officiant in the total 🙂

Elopement Ceremony Sites

  1. Live Oak Picnic Area. Up to 5 people total and up to 3 vehicles are permitted at this location. Amenities: tables, grill, restroom facility.
  2. Lost Horse Parking Lot. Up to 10 people total and 5 vehicles are permitted at this location. 
  3. Queen Valley Mine Intersection. Up to 10 people total and 5 vehicles are permitted at this location.
  4. Porcupine Wash. Up to 12 people total and 4 vehicles are permitted at this location.
  5. Split Rock. Up to 15 people total and 5 vehicles.
  6. Quail Springs Picnic Area. Up to 15 people total and parking for up to 8 vehicles. Amenities: grill, picnic table, accessible restroom, composting toilet, trash receptacles, trailhead.
  7. Rattlesnake Picnic Area. Up to 20 people total and 8 vehicles.
  8. Cap Rock. Up to 25 people total and 8 vehicles.
  9. Turkey Flats. Up to 35 people total and 8 vehicles.
  10. Hidden Valley Picnic Area. Up to 35 people total and 8 vehicles. Amenities: parking for up to 8 vehicles, accessible restroom, trash/recycling receptacles, wheelchair accessible. 
  11. Indian Cove Amphitheater. This is located in Indian Cove Campground. As the largest wedding and elopement venue in Joshua Tree, the amphitheater can accommodate up to 100 people total but only 1 vehicle. Therefore, you will need to shuttle guests to and from this location. Amenities: 101 campsites, $20 per night, pit toilets, tables, fire grates, no water.

As an adventurous couple, you already know to keep the environment top-of-mind! Wherever you choose to elope, always comply with the virtues of “leave no trace” and be sure to follow all the park’s rules and regulations. There are several regulations in place to protect the ecosystem, such as restricting things like rice, birdseed, dried flowers, or confetti. Also, make sure to take everything out that was brought in. 

Here are more items that are not allowed in Joshua Tree National Park:

  • Drones
  • Candles, unless they are battery powered
  • Bubbles
  • Live animals (dogs are allowed in some areas)
  • Balloons
  • Smoke Bombs

Joshua Tree Engagement, Elopement, and Anniversary Sessions 

I recently had a great time photographing a Joshua Tree California anniversary session. I love my return clients 🙂 It’s an awesome experience to photograph couples again after their elopement! Whether it’s an engagement session, elopement session, or anniversary session, I’m grateful to be a part of the different stages of couples’ love stories.

Planning an engagement, elopement, or anniversary celebration? I’d love to hear about it!

Where to Stay for Your Joshua Tree Elopement

From cabins to desert cottages, there are some lovely Airbnb rental options for your elopement accommodations. 

Surrounding these properties are open deserts and stunning backdrops with views of Joshua Tree and the surrounding mountainous terrain. You can find Airbnb accommodations within a short distance of Joshua Tree.

Here are three Airbnbs to take a look at!

  1. Adorable Starvana Cabin with Rooftop Stargazing
  2. Geodome Cabin Retreat
  3. Midcentury Cottage in 29 Palms 

You can even have an Airbnb elopement if you so choose, where you can elope and have your reception all at the same place. Of course you’ll need to check with the host to confirm they allow events, and make sure you and the host agree on everything. All of my Airbnb elopement tips are in this post 🙂

One of my other favorite options for where to stay for your elopement is to rent an RV or campervan from Outdoorsy (use this link for $50 towards your rental!)

How to Prepare & What to Wear to a Joshua Tree Elopement

Since the weather and terrain can be a bit tricky, you’ll want to be prepared for your Joshua Tree elopement.

Know that at Joshua Tree there can be high winds that can interfere with very lightweight clothing and decor. Flowy dresses, long tulle veils, and lightweight props or decor can be tough to deal with depending on the weather. Also, since we’re in the desert, cacti are omnipresent and you’ll want to be prepared for that!

While flowy dresses and veils can look amazing in photos, just know that you may need to spend a little extra attention on keeping your attire in check. 

As for elopement ceremony decor, be sure to think ahead to whether a prop can be easily caught by the wind or if it’s heavy enough to withstand some windy weather.

I recommend closed-toe shoes as the sand and cacti can be distracting to navigate in open-toe shoes or high heels. 

Joshua Tree Elopement Photography

Desert scenes, massive boulders, unique trees, amazing sunsets, starry skies… seriously, what’s not to love?

Joshua Tree National Park is a location you won’t want to miss. You’ll want to capture all of your amazing moments with professional photography and preserve your memories for years to come. That’s the best part about my job — helping you and your love memorialize your elopement through images that you’ll keep forever. 

I have several years of experience photographing outdoor elopements, and specifically, elopements in Joshua Tree. And with a degree in photography, you can trust I know what I’m doing 🙂

I’d love to hear about your plans for your elopement! You can check out my adventure elopement photography packages to learn more.

Want more elopement planning tips?

Here are some related posts for you:

Elopement Planning Tips – my best tips and tricks so you can plan the best day ever!

Pick the Perfect Elopement Dress – how to pick the perfect elopement attire for you

Planning Your Hiking Elopement – tips for making hiking part of your elopement 

Winter Weddings – everything you need to know to stay warm

May 11, 2021