Where to Get Married In Joshua Tree National Park

Documentaryl-style image of a couple eloping by giant rocks in Joshua Tree National Park taken on 35mm film.

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Elopements, Wedding Tips

image of a worn sign that reads "Joshua Tree National Park 49 Miles"

Joshua Tree National Park, AKA my favorite place on earth, offers stunning landscapes for couples looking for a unique and intimate setting for their desert elopement. With iconic rock formations and serene desert landscapes, this park provides a spectacular backdrop for your special day. Joshua Tree is a Dark Sky Park which means there are particular locations within the park where you can also capture amazing photos of the night sky as well. 

Because of Joshua Tree’s popularity and the park’s fragile desert ecosystem, wedding and elopement ceremonies are only allowed in certain areas to protect the park’s natural environment.

Below are the approved locations in Joshua Tree for an elopement, along with essential details about obtaining a special use permit and adhering to park guidelines.

Approved Elopement Locations in Joshua Tree

These locations are divided into three main areas within the park:

  • Central Locations: Hidden Valley, Quail Springs, Lost Horse, Split Rock, Live Oak, Queens Mine, Cap Rock
  • North Locations: Rattlesnake Canyon, Indian Cove
  • South Locations: Turkey Flats, Porcupine Wash

Each location offers unique features and scenic views, ideal for a range of elopement visions.

Special Use Permits

To elope in Joshua Tree, couples need to obtain a Special Use Permit. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Permit Requirement: A Special Use Permit is mandatory for all weddings and elopements in the park, regardless of the size of your gathering.
  • Application Process: Couples should apply well in advance of their preferred date as permits are subject to availability.
  • Cost: The special use permit is a $120 fee, due only when your permit is approved.

What the Special Use Permit Includes and Excludes

The Special Use Permit allows you to access designated areas within the park for your ceremony. However, there are important restrictions:

  • Included: Access to your chosen location, along with basic guidance on ensuring minimal impact on the environment.
  • Not Included: The permit does not include exclusive use of the area, and normal visitor activities are allowed to continue around you.

What You Can Include in Your Joshua Tree Ceremony

Understanding what is allowed at your ceremony in Joshua Tree is crucial for planning your elopement. Here’s what you can include:

  • Free-standing Arch: Arches must not be staked into the ground but can be free-standing to create a beautiful focal point for your ceremony.
  • Guestbook Table: A small table for a guestbook is allowed, providing a place for guests to record their well-wishes.
  • Cooler: Essential for keeping hydrated in the desert, especially during warmer months.
  • Flowers: Both live and artificial flowers are permitted as long as they are managed responsibly and do not risk introducing non-native species to the area. Dried flowers and pampas grass are absolutely prohibited.
  • Battery-powered Candles: For a touch of ambiance without the fire risk, battery-powered candles are a safe alternative.
  • Small Runner and Rug: A small runner and a rug can define your ceremony space beautifully without impacting the park environment.
  • Cake and Champagne: Celebrate your union with cake and a champagne toast, making sure any leftovers are packed away.

Remember, while these items are allowed, they must be listed on your initial application for the special use permit. You will not be able to edit or add anything later on. It’s better to list an item and not use it than not list it and want it.

Prohibited Items and Activities

To preserve the natural beauty and serenity of Joshua Tree, the following items and activities are prohibited:

  • Amplified music, microphones, or speakers.
  • Release or dispersal of any objects such as balloons, birdseed, or bubbles.
  • Decorations of any kind.
  • The use of furniture, with exceptions made for those with special needs.
  • Leaving food items unattended.
  • Restricting visitor use or blocking traffic.
  • The use of drones.
  • All forms of pyrotechnics, including smoke bombs and sparklers.

Additionally, pets are not typically allowed on trails or at the ceremony sites unless special permission is granted.

Planning for Contingencies

Site use is on a first-come, first-served basis. Should your first choice of location be unavailable, the park office will work with you to find an alternative that suits your needs.

Locations for Joshua Tree National Park Elopements

Joshua Tree National Park offers an approved list of allowed locations for wedding and elopement ceremonies. Each has its unique charm and specific logistics regarding the number of guests and vehicles allowed. Here’s an updated look at Joshua Tree wedding locations:

Live Oak Picnic Area: This secluded spot is ideal for a true couple-only elopement. It accommodates no more than 5 people and 3 vehicles. The area features a majestic oak tree that offers valuable shade for intimate ceremonies.

a collage of images of the different locations at Live Oak Picnic Area in Joshua Tree National Park where couples can have a wedding ceremony
Joshua Tree Wedding Locations: Live Oak Picnic Area

Split Rock: Split Rock can accommodate larger gatherings, up to 15 people and 5 vehicles. Located directly across the road from the Live Oak Picnic Area, it offers accessible beauty with its large boulders and scattered Joshua trees, making it a popular elopement choice. A view of Split Rock is just a short walk from the parking lot.

A collage of images of the different locations at Split Rock in Joshua Tree National Park where couples can have a wedding ceremony.
Joshua Tree Wedding Locations: Split Rock

Lost Horse Parking Lot: This quieter location is perfect for those seeking a serene setting, accommodating up to 10 people and 5 vehicles. Surrounded by big boulders and expansive desert views, it offers a picturesque backdrop for your vows.

A collage of images of the different locations at Lost Horse Mine Parking Lot in Joshua Tree National Park where couples can have a wedding ceremony.
Joshua Tree Wedding Locations: Lost Horse Mine Parking Lot

Rattlesnake Picnic Area: Closest to the Twentynine Palms entrance of the park, this area allows for up to 20 people and 8 vehicles. It features dramatic desert landscapes and large boulders, providing a stunning setting for larger ceremonies.

Indian Cove Amphitheatre: Not available from June through August, this is the largest venue in the park, accommodating up to 100 guests and only 1 vehicle. Guests must be shuttled to the location, which offers extensive seating and a private atmosphere amid stacked boulders. It is your responsibility to provide the shuttle/transportation for your guests. The park does not provide transportation. 

Quail Springs Picnic Area: One of the most accessible and popular spots, Quail Springs can accommodate up to 15 people and 8 vehicles. Known for its scenic assembly of rocks and Joshua Trees, it’s a favorite choice for ceremonies and photography.

A collage of images of the different locations at Quail Springs Picnic Area in Joshua Tree National Park where couples can have a wedding ceremony.
Joshua Tree Wedding Locations: Quail Springs Picnic Area

Turkey Flats: Located off Pinto Basin Road, near the Cottonwood entrance, this site allows for up to 35 people and 8 vehicles. It features mountain views and is more desert-like, with sand dunes (but no Joshua Trees), ideal for larger, intimate gatherings.

A collage of images of the different locations at Turkey Flats in Joshua Tree National Park where couples can have a wedding ceremony.
Joshua Tree Wedding Locations Turkey Flats

Porcupine Wash: Offering a blend of seclusion and natural beauty, this location isn’t an official Joshua Tree trail but is popular among those seeking a more intimate setting. It accommodates up to 12 people and 4 vehicles. While it’s accessible via a hike, the area opens up to stunning desert views and features scattered boulders, making it ideal for those looking for a quiet, private ceremony with plenty of scenic spots for photography.

A collage of images of the different locations at Porcupine Flats in Joshua Tree National Park where couples can have a wedding ceremony.
Joshua Tree Wedding Locations: Porcupine Wash

Cap Rock is one of the most popular elopement locations in Joshua Tree. It can accommodate up to 25 people and 8 vehicles. It offers a complete Joshua Tree experience with boulders, iconic trees, and stunning desert views.

A collage of images of the different locations at Cap Rock in Joshua Tree National Park where couples can have a wedding ceremony.
Joshua Tree Wedding Locations: Cap Rock

Queen Valley Mine: For those looking for remoteness, this location allows up to 10 people and 5 vehicles and is about a 3/4 mile hike to the overlook. It’s quiet beauty makes it ideal for intimate gatherings.

A collage of images of the different locations at Queen Valley Mine in Joshua Tree National Park where couples can have a wedding ceremony.
Joshua Tree Wedding Locations: Queen Valley Mine

Best Practices for Elopements in Joshua Tree

Choosing the right time for your ceremony is crucial in Joshua Tree, not only for the quality of your experience but also for the beauty of your photographs. Here are some tips to consider when scheduling your special day:

Opt for Morning or Evening Times During the Week

1. Enhanced Privacy: Joshua Tree can attract many visitors, especially during weekends and holidays. Planning your elopement for sunrise or sunset on a weekday minimizes the likelihood of encountering large crowds, giving you a more intimate and private ceremony. These times allow you to enjoy the serene beauty of the desert with fewer distractions and more space to celebrate your union.

2. Ideal Lighting: The soft, golden light of sunrise and sunset not only creates a magical atmosphere but also offers the best lighting for photography. This natural, diffused light flatters the landscape and the subjects, reducing harsh shadows and highlights that midday sun can create. Capturing your elopement in this light can dramatically enhance the aesthetic quality of your photos, making them timeless and ethereal.

3. Cooler Temperatures: Joshua Tree is located in the desert, where temperatures can be extreme. Early mornings and late evenings are typically cooler, making these times more comfortable for you and your guests. This is particularly important if you’re wearing formal attire or if any guests are sensitive to heat.

4. Logistics and Planning: Mornings and evenings are also practical from a logistical standpoint. A morning ceremony can be followed by a brunch and a day of exploration and hiking, whereas an evening ceremony can lead into a romantic dinner and nighttime festivities. Planning your ceremony around these times allows for a natural flow of events and easier coordination with vendors who might have more flexibility during weekdays.

Additional Considerations

Respect the Environment: Always remember that Joshua Tree is a protected area. Stick to designated paths and areas, and follow all park rules to minimize impact on the environment. This not only helps preserve the park’s natural beauty for future visitors but also aligns with responsible and sustainable tourism practices.

Prepare for the Unexpected: While planning for a specific time can optimize your experience, always be prepared for the unexpected and pack more water than you anticipate needing. Joshua Tree National Park is in the desert, and even in the cooler months, the dry air and sun can affect you more than you think. Weather can change, and other uncontrollable factors might affect your plans. Having a flexible mindset and a backup plan is essential. 

You can click HERE to download a copy of the special use permit. Once you’ve filled it out, email it to the address listed at the top of the form.

Are you struggling to figure out what to do or where to start? Let me do all the dirty work while you do the fun stuff! Head on over to my calendar to schedule a call and we can talk about how I can help you plan your elopement. You can also check out my Joshua Tree Elopement Guide for more info on eloping in Joshua Tree National Park.

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