How to elope in Joshua Tree

May 10, 2021

Couple holding hands and standing in the park at Joshua tree National park in California

There is something truly magical about eloping in Joshua tree. Whether you get married at one of the park venues or elope in the park itself, there are so many locations to choose from. Joshua Tree is an amazing place for many reasons; the desert, the trees, the rock formations & the colors. It is also close to a super cool city, if that is your thing. And if you love the look of a desert bohemian wedding, then you have picked the right place!! The intimacy that the desert brings, surrounded by the Joshua trees, is the perfect place to elope. Even if you are not having an intimate elopement, there are plenty of venues & airbnbs that are also great options if you are thinking of having guests. 

I have compiled this step by step guide on how to elope in Joshua Tree if you are considering that option. 

Also check out this tad Joshua Tree Elopement

Couple hugging during their elopement in Joshua Tree National park

Where is Joshua Tree?

Joshua Tree is located in the Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County, California. It is a little over a 2 hour drive from Los Angeles, California – and even closer if you are in the San Bernardino County. The areas surrounding the park include Palm Springs to the Southwest, Yucca Valley and Pioneertown to the Northeast, and Twentynine Palms to the North. 

How to get to the park?

BY PLANE:

John Wayne Airport, Orange County (SNA): This airport is a great alternative to LAX so that you can avoid all the LA traffic. SNA is only 122 miles from Joshua Tree and you can find some affordable flights into this airport.Los Angeles International Aiport (LAX): This is the closest major airport to Joshua Tree National Park, located about 140 miles away. Traffic can be difficult getting in and out of Los Angeles, making this airport not as ideal as others.San Diego Airport: San Diego’s airport is only 175 miles away from Joshua Tree National Park, which is only about 30 miles more than LAX. This may be a better option when choosing from these two major airports.


BY CAR:

As public transportation is limited in the Yucca Valley area, renting a car is the best way to get around Joshua Tree National Park. The park has three main entrances, the North, West, and South entrances. 
PRO TIP: Navigation systems around Joshua Tree can lead you onto soft sand roads that may get your car stuck- it is best to be prepared with directions and enter the park through Interstate 10 or California Highway 62 (the Twentynine Palms Highway).

Couple smiling and the sun flares on their faces taken during an elopement at Joshua Tree National park

What is the best time of year to elope in Joshua Tree?

Technically you can elope whenever you want but I definitely have some suggestions. Weather can vary a lot within the park even within the same day. And Joshua tree is in the middle of a desert so summer months can be very very hot. On the other hand, winters can be mild but it could snow in winter. If you are wanting a warmer weather, I recommend shoulder season (March-May & October/November). Just remember that Spring is also the busiest season but you can still easily find a secluded spot. Mornings and evenings are cold — if you’re eloping there in the winter, be sure to layer up.

Joshua Tree Elopement Permits

To elope in Joshua Tree, you are required to get a Special Use Permit The cost for the wedding application is $120. The permit will be non-refundable, and will be required of ALL weddings, regardless of the size of your party. Permits will take *approximately* 5-15 business days to process. Plan to send this in as soon as you finalize your date, so you can secure your spot in the park. If you are bring a photographer & videographer, they are also required to obtain a Special Use Permit which is also a nonrefundable $120 fee. For more information + to apply for a permit, contact Jeannie Wilson at 760-367-5518 or jeannie_wilson@nps.gov.

Picture of the Joshua tree taken in California

Joshua Tree Elopement Locations

There are pros and cons to having your wedding or elopement in the park itself. Here are some other things to think about when deciding if you’d like to elope in Joshua Tree National Park, or at a venue nearby: What’s your guest size? Will the heat or strong winds be an issue for any family members? Are you hoping for extensive wedding décor?
Joshua Tree National Park is huge and there are so many gorgeous locations to choose from. But according to the park rules, there are a handful of spots you can have your wedding at (if you have under 25 guests), if you have more than 25 guests there is really only one spot that the park permits weddings at. Here are the places:

Weddings of 25 or less
  • Hidden Valley Picnic Area (not permitted in March–May)
  • Quail Springs Picnic Area (not permitted in March–May)
  • Cap Rock
  • Live Oak
  • Split Rock
  • Rattlesnake Picnic Area

Weddings of 26 to 100

Indian Cove Amphitheater
(no parking in the area, guests need to be shuttled into the amphitheater)

The one downfall about the national park is that there is only one road in and one road out and there is absolutely no cell service once you enter. You’ll want to be sure to choose a specific location to meet, have a map, and maybe even take a practice trip if you plan on having guests attend. 


It is also home to some venues that you can also book if you don’t want to elope in the park. If you LOVE the park, but know your guest count is huge, consider getting married at a local wedding venue, and the head to the park for an adventurous photo session. 

Couple standing under a Joshua tree and looking at the camera taken during an engagement session at Joshua tree national park

Where to stay

There are so many places to stay. Joshua tree doesn’t have any lodging places within the park unless you want to camp. But there are tons of airbnbs outside so you won’t have problems finding the perfect place. 

Here are some of my favorite adorable Joshua Tree airbnbs for your elopement as well as for your guests to stay..(there are a ton more so if none of these work for you definitely let me know and I can help you find other ones)

1. Airstream
2. Desert Wild
3. The Joshua Tree House
4. This Cabin if you are inviting friends & family

photo of the Couple kissing taken during an engagement session at Joshua tree national park

A few things you should know about how to elope in Joshua Tree…

  • The temperatures vary wildly here! Winters are cold, hovering just above 32°F (0°C) at night and averaging a high of 58°F (14°C) without wind chill. Summers are brutal with daytime averages just over 100°F (37°C) and nights in the area of 65°F (18°C). 
  • Spring (Mar – May) and autumn (Sep – Nov) are the best times to come to Joshua Tree, but that also means that the Park is busier. That’s why it is advisable to have elopement on weekdays and Sundays to avoid the crowds and give you the quiet adventure elopement you’re looking for.
  • This is a fairly remote location. The closest airport is Palm Springs International (PSP), approximately an hour away and Ontario International Airport (ONT) about 2-2.5 hours away. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is 2.5-5 hours away depending on traffic. (California traffic is CRAZY!)
  • Due to the fact that this is a more remote location, cell signal is nonexistent in the Park. Outside the Park, you can find some signal with most carriers. But once we’re a mile inside, there is no signal at all. I highly suggest downloading the location map on Google maps for offline use.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and bring layers. You can bring a backpack to have your fancy shoes in and store your hoodies while you take photos. The temperature drops dramatically at sunset (usually when we shoot until) and the wind can be quite strong.
  • Bring your own food, there are no restaurants in the park and it takes a while to drive into and out of the park- bring your own food for both convenience and to save money
  • Stop by the park and grab a bunch of national park maps to pass out before the wedding! You can also access the park map online to print and hand out to guests. Make sure to indicate where exactly your ceremony will be held.  
  • Guests will also have to pay the entrance fee to get into the park. Currently, this is $30 per vehicle, or $25 per motorcycle. If any guests have a national park pass, this can be used to get inside. Payment is at the gate, by cash or credit/debit card. 
  • Joshua Tree is huge – so make sure to communicate exactly where and what time guests are supposed to meet you for the ceremony. If they get lost, they may not be able to reach you if you are already in the park. 
  • Don’t be afraid to choose an Airbnb as your location! There are many stunning places that not only have adorable interiors (fun for getting ready shots and celebratory drinks after the ceremony!), but many of these places are on gorgeous plots of land filled with Joshua trees and expansive views of the desert!
  • Leave No Trace! In 2020, I became one of the first few photographers certified as a Leave No Trace Aware Photographer. The 7 principles of Leave No Trace are 1) Plan ahead + prepare, 2) Travel + camp on durable surfaces, 3) Dispose of waste properly, 4) Leave what you find, 5) Minimize campfire impacts, 6) Respect wildlife, 7) Be considerate of the park & other visitors and follow the LNT principles. For Joshua Tree, some things to keep in mind are:
    • In September 2020, in a historic vote, California’s Fish and Game Commission placed the Joshua trees under protection under the California Endangered Species Act. It is illegal to damage one (you can be fined up to $5,000). Although they look tough, these trees are extremely slow to grow and the destruction of them affects various wildlife. (So no twinkle lights or dresses hanging from these trees)
    • Items that are not permitted for weddings in JTNP include drones, dried flowers, non-battery powered candles, bubbles, any live animals (butterflies, birds), confetti, rice, birdseed, balloons, or smoke bombs.

Joshua Tree is easily one of my favorite places and one of the most stunning deserts in the US! There are so many amazing places to elope in Joshua tree, it is hard to choose. But if you are looking for an out of the box place to get married then this is it! I love Joshua tree because it’s such a rad little place and I enjoy things that are a bit quirky. And if you are here, that means you do too. So let’s plan your super fun elopement!

Xoxo,          Ruzin

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