Your California Elopement Guide for a Joshua Tree Elopement

Joshua trees at popular Joshua Tree elopement location Quail Springs Picnic Area

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As an elopement photographer, Joshua Tree National Park is an elopement location I will always recommend. You can’t go wrong with the desert landscape, the dreamy sunsets, and the endless opportunities for adventure!

An elopement in California is exciting in itself, so choosing a location that has everything you could envision is the perfect way to create the best adventure with your partner. But, to achieve this you need to plan and create your unique day…

It is important to plan accordingly for a smooth running process, so, to help you out, this is your California elopement guide for a Joshua Tree Elopement.

Everything you Need to Know to Plan Your Joshua Tree Elopement

Joshua trees near the Quail Springs Picnic Area, which is a popular Joshua Tree elopement site

Joshua Tree Elopement

Knowing where to elope in California is important…

We’ll talk about locations after first discussing eloping in Joshua Tree National Park.

If you’ve always wanted to get married in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nature and the dreamy and peaceful desert landscape, this place could be the ideal location for your California elopement.

It is filled with desert blooms in the spring, the evening skies are always brightly filled with lots of stars, and you can always spot interesting desert wildlife like jackrabbits, lizards, and super cute quail scurrying around.

If you want a Joshua Tree Elopement, make sure to read the following rules and regulations:

Elopements and small gatherings are allowed in Joshua Tree, in designated areas only.

So, you can’t just pick your favourite Joshua Tree spot to get married next to as each location has different restrictions on how many people can attend, so make sure to read their policies before selecting the right spot for you.

If you need assistance in choosing a location in Joshua Tree, that’s something I’ll help you with! I’m very familiar with the park and all of the different areas.

You must obtain a permit ahead of time and here is how to get it:

Even if there are only the two of you, your officiant, and a Joshua Tree wedding photographer, all gatherings require a special permit. The wedding application fee is $120.

If you do choose to bring a photographer, you will need an additional permit. Plan all of this a few weeks in advance to ensure everything is sorted.

Large boulders near Cap Rock, which is a popular Joshua Tree elopement spot

Joshua Tree Wedding Locations

Joshua Tree is home to a plethora of stunning venues featuring desert architecture, vibrant aesthetics, and acres of land dotted with iconic Joshua Trees. If you are eloping on a weekday or off-season date, some venues offer special packages and rates.

When deciding where to get married in the desert, make sure to check in with different venues for specific details.

Here are a few venues to choose from:

How to Get to Joshua Tree

Keep in mind that, while Joshua Tree is a national park, the towns of Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms are located just outside the park, so bringing a car is a good idea! The town is a great place to stay and is full of local restaurants and activities, to really make the most of your elopement.

However, the national park is huge, so depending on where you want to get married, there are a few different entrances and ways to get there.

Flying to Joshua Tree

If you plan to fly, the nearest airport is in Palm Springs, which is about an hour away. Most major airports in the United States have direct flights here, but if you’re flying internationally, you’ll most likely land in Los Angeles or San Diego first. No matter where you’re flying from, larger airports usually have more options and lower fares, so check them out as well!

Note: I’ve flown into Las Vegas a number of times (You can usually find a great deal on airfare!) and driven through the Mojave Desert to Joshua Tree. It’s a lovely, scenic drive that will take you right past Kelso Sand Dunes.

Joshua Tree National Park is 146 miles from Los Angeles and 166 miles from San Diego.

Park Entrances

You can reach Joshua Tree National Park via Interstate 10 or California Highway 62. There are three park entrances:

  • West Entrance: located off Highway 62, closest to Joshua Tree.
  • North Entrance: off Highway 62, in Twentynine Palms, about 30 minutes from Joshua Tree.
  • South Entrance: 25 miles south of Indio, off Interstate 10.

Plan for Sunrise or Sunset 

I recommend that you have your ceremony during sunrise or sunset on your elopement day. 

These are the best times to photograph – and I know that as a Joshua Tree wedding photographer, especially in a place like this, where there isn’t much shade and the sun shines almost every day!

We can meet for sunrise photos, take a break in the middle, and then meet for sunset photos, or we can start later in the day and end with the sunset. 

Keys View for sunsets in the park is an amazing way to end an elopement day, and you’ll get to experience the sun-soaked desert as the sun drops below the mountain, as well as some epic photos at the very top, overlooking Coachella Valley.

Keys View in Joshua Tree National Park, overlooking Coachella Valley
Keys View overlooking Coachella Valley during the afternoon.

Elope on a Weekday

Weekends are busier everywhere, so while sunrise and sunset can help you avoid crowds, one of the best ways to ensure privacy for your Joshua Tree elopement is to plan it for a weekday!

Avoid holidays and remember that Monday through Thursday are typically the least crowded days in national parks.

Best Time of Year for a Joshua Tree Elopement

Due to the desert climate at Joshua Tree, the weather can be quite extreme, so be prepared when making a decision based on your preference.


Winter is an ideal season for a Joshua Tree elopement. It is less crowded and most days are still sunny and warm! It does get chilly in the mornings and evenings, so dress accordingly. 

Do keep in mind that this is the rainiest season, but with only two rainy days on average in January, you’re much more likely to see the sun! Snow is extremely uncommon in Joshua Tree National Park, but it has occurred.


The best times to visit Joshua Tree are in the spring and fall, and both are ideal for eloping! 

In the spring, desert wildflowers bloom, attracting more visitors due to the mild temperatures making it ideal for exploring the park. I recommend eloping in the park at sunrise or sunset, especially during this busy season, as it will help you avoid crowds!


Summers are extremely hot, with temperatures reaching the hundreds. It can be too hot for adventures during the day, but planning your ceremony for sunrise or sunset is a great way to avoid the blistering heat!

Unlike most national parks, Joshua Tree is least crowded in the summer, making this the best time of year to visit! So if you are a couple who can handle, and love the heat – this is perfect for your Joshua Tree elopement.


Fall is a beautiful time for a Joshua Tree elopement as the weather cools. Although it is slightly less busy than spring, it is the second most popular season! 

Plus, the colours of this season really add to your elopement photos!

Joshua Tree Elopement Permits

All ceremonies and photos in Joshua Tree National Park require a permit and there is a $120 fee associated with it.

Leave No Trace (LNT) is critical when eloping in a national park or anywhere outdoors! Here are the rules for wedding ceremonies to follow in order to keep the park clean:


  • Arch – must be free-standing
  • Small table
  • Cooler with water
  • Live flowers
  • Battery-powered candles
  • Runner
  • Rug
  • Cake
  • Champagne

Not permitted:

  • Drones
  • Dried flowers
  • Non-battery powered candles
  • Bubbles
  • Any live animals, including doves, butterflies, etc
  • Confetti
  • Rice
  • Birdseed
  • Balloons
  • Smoke Bombs

I recommend applying for your Joshua Tree wedding permit as soon as possible – they accept applications up to a year in advance but apply as soon as you know your date and location to give them enough time to process your application.

Remember that even if you have a wedding permit, you must still pay the park’s entrance fee! This costs $30 per car and is valid for seven days. You can purchase your pass at the entrance booth or online to save time. 


Along with the permit paperwork, some other paperwork must be completed to ensure that you are legally married when you elope in Joshua Tree.

Your marriage licence must be issued by the state of California, and you can obtain it from any county clerk’s office in the state! The San Bernardino County office is the one closest.

You can apply for a marriage licence online, and you’ll need an ID for both of you. The marriage licence fee is $89, but it may vary depending on where you apply in California!

After completing your application, you must schedule an appointment, which can be in person or online, to review your application and receive the marriage licence.

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

Accommodation at Joshua Tree

Desert Airstream

Desert Airstream is an Airbnb which is ideal for a two-person desert camping road trip. This airstream has heat/AC, an outdoor shower, a refrigerator, a microwave, a sink, an indoor stoolie, and a hot plate to meet all of your basic camping needs.

Joshua Tree Tiny House

Joshua Tree Tiny House is highly rated and features spectacular desert views as well as a hot tub for those chilly desert nights. After exploring Joshua Tree, return to this adorable home that sleeps up to four people.

Desert Air Casita 

Desert Air Casita is a studio apartment, only 10 minutes from Joshua Tree National Park and right near downtown Joshua Tree. It has everything you could need for a stay in the Joshua Tree area. A lovely flat with enough space for two people staying in the area.

5 Bedroom Joshua Tree Cabin 

If you’re planning an elopement with your entire family, then 5 Bedroom Joshua Tree Cabin is a great option for everyone. There is a pool, a game room, a dart board, two kitchens, and so much more – you’ll have so much fun!

Cholla cacti in Joshua Tree national park

Joshua Tree Wedding Photography

Your Joshua Tree elopement is such a special moment – having the best experience with your partner in crime, so capturing it all for you to look back on, is vital!

As a Joshua Tree wedding photographer, I am not just here to photograph it; I am here to help you make it the most incredible day possible. I love to help my couples from the venue selection to obtaining permits and locating an officiant – and that is also what I dedicate my blog to.

We may as well have some fun while we’re at it – it is all about good vibes with no cares in the world!

Not to be cringe – but photography is all about catching the fleeting and fun moments that you will totally appreciate looking back on and showing people (considering you probably won’t have anyone or will only have a few guests at your elopement).

Are you ready to plan your Joshua Tree elopement?

Now you have your California elopement guide for a Joshua Tree elopement, you will be able to plan and tick off all of the important elements, for a smooth running process.

California elopements never fail to amaze me, and choosing a location that can give you beauty and adventure – you really can’t go wrong.

For more tips when it comes to planning an elopement, check out our ‘how to plan an elopement wedding that you love’ blog post!

If you are ready to inquire about your elopement photography, then I’d love to chat!

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