6/07/21

education, elopements

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How to Elope in Joshua Tree

elope in joshua tree

Joshua Tree National Park is an absolute dream. Like many National Parks, it holds a level of mystery and awe. It’s well curated, absolutely beautiful, and so unique. Since Joshua Tree is so beautiful why not considering eloping in Joshua Tree? Well, here’s your one stop shop for everything you need to know to elope in Joshua Tree.

motorcycle elopement joshua tree

About Joshua Tree

  • Located in Southern California, the national park is home to the slow-growing Joshua tree. It is a part of the Mojave Desert and is slightly larger than the state of Rhode Island, encompassing a total of over 790,000 acres. In the mid-1800’s, Mormons had crossed the desert and named the Joshua tree due to the tree’s unusual branch shape that had reminded them of the bible story in which Joshua reaches his hands up to the sky in prayer. 
  • Perfect and rad place for couples who are into something adventurous and funky
  • Palm Springs is nearby (40 miles) and full of fun things to do in the city

Beyond all the technical things of Joshua Tree, it’s really an outstanding place to visit.. Not only is Joshua Tree worth visiting, but the entire area of Southern California is a vibe. Yucca Tree, the town closest to Joshua Tree has some great places to visit, very top notch watering holes, and enough souvenir shops to suffice even the most touristy tourist.

joshua tree wedding details

How to Travel to Joshua Tree

  • When traveling by plane
    • Palm Springs International Airport – PSP (37 miles) – HIGHLY RECOMMEND
      • About 1 hour 30 min drive
      • Beautiful drive and the easiest access point. Southwest flies here often!
    • Los Angeles International Airport – LAX
      • About 2.5 to 4 hours away
    • Santa Ana – SNA (95 miles)
      • About 2 hour 6 min drive
    • San Diego International Airport – SAN (110 miles) 
      • About 2.5 to 4 hours away
palm springs visit

During our trip home, I spent some time with a few of my friends that were also flying out in the open air inside the airport. This space is great because you can easily smoke/vape, allow your dog to relieve themselves, or just get a breath of fresh air before you’re claustrophobically being shoved into a metal tube that flies 500MPH through the sky for 5 hours.

  • Driving to Joshua Tree
    • You can approach Joshua Tree from interstate 10 or California Highway 62 (Twentynine Palms Highway)
    • If you’re flying in, you’re going to need a car. Periodt! It’s really too far for an Uber. The best thing about the Palm Springs airport is that the rental car facility is on site. No need to take two different trolleys to get where you’re going. Walk out and get your car.
  • Nearby major metropolitan areas
    • 140 miles east of L.A.
    • 175 miles northeast of San Diego
    • 215 miles southwest of Las Vegas
    • 222 miles west of Phoenix, Arizona
  • Park Entrances
    • West Entrance – located 5 miles south of the Junction of Highway 62 and Park Boulevard at Joshua Tree Village
    • North Entrance – Located in Twentynine Palms, 3 miles south of the Junction of Highway 62 and Utah Trail
    • South Entrance – Located near Cotton Spring, which is an access point along Interstate 10. This is 25 miles east of Indio.
  • Places with accessible parking and walkway
    • Cap Rock, Hidden Valley Picnic Area, Quail Springs Picnic Area, Indian Cove Campgrounds, or Split Rock. 
  • Note:
    • DO NOT rely on GPS directions to navigate to or within Joshua Tree
      • This can sometime lead you onto backcountry roads with ruts or soft sand that may be impassable to your vehicle. Like mentioned earlier (or later), choose a spot before entering the park and travel together. Or choose a well known spot within the park to meet. Cell phone reception does NOT exist in the park so save your Spotify playlists to your phone.

The Best Places to Elope in Joshua Tree National Park

  • 35 people or less
    • Hidden Valley Picnic Area (not allowed from March to May)
      • 35 people max + 8 cars
      • One of the park’s most known hikes
      • 1 mile trail; gorgeous valley filled with towering rocks
      • Beautiful spot for sunset ceremonies
    • Turkey Flats
      • 35 people max + 8 cars
      • View of Pinto Mountain
      • Wide, sandy, and covered with bushes and grass desert plain
    • Split Rock Loop Trail
      • 15 people max + 5 cars
      • Unique rock formations and elevation
      • 2 miles long and moderate hike
    • Porcupine Wash
      • 12 people max + 4 cars
      • One of the longest trails in the park
      • Over 8 miles long trail filled with beautiful wildflowers and so many rock formations
    • Quail Springs Picnic Area (not allowed from March to May)
    • Rattlesnake Picnic Area
    • Cap Rock Trail
      • 25 people max + 8 cars
      • Shortest trail with some of the most gorgeous views
      • Less than 1 mile long
      • Huge rock formations and unique desert shrubs
      • Perfect for couples who wants rock formations as the main focal point in their ceremony
  • Around 100 people
    • Indiana Cove Amphitheater
southern california wedding

The Best Hotel Stays in Joshua Tree

  • Plenty of camping options within the park; some you can reserve ahead of time and some first-come-first-serve; boulders can give sense of privacy (Note: Park prohibits professional photography on campgrounds)
  • Hidden Valley Campground
  • Hotels near Joshua Tree –  hotels are further out into the nearby towns

Luxury Hotels in Palm Springs

The Ace

Korakia Pensione

La Serena Villas


Best AirBnB Stays in Joshua Tree

Fact. AirBnBs are really cool. Instead of staying in hotel room that has limited amenities, you can stay in a really cool and very unique stay somewhere that has some personality. Here are my top choices for your AirBnB stays.

desert yurt

Okay but forrrreal if you wanna have not only a badass time in JTree but also outside of it, book a badass AirBnB or VRBO. Not only will you have adventures during the day but so many of these places have such great, fun, and adventurous options including outdoor showers and tubs for a romantic bath under the stars at night. Some even have hot tubs and outdoor lights. While I love the park, I could totally dig in and never leave my AirBnB because they are so fun and there is so much space out there.

joshua tree airbnb outdoor tub

The best places to eat in Joshua Tree

The best time of year to get married in Joshua Tree

joshua tree national park
  • Things to consider: weather, crowds, and your ideal ceremony location in the park
  • Plan for a cooler month to avoid the bigger crowds in the summer
  • Best times: October, November, March, April, or May around sunrise or sunset
    • The park in the early morning is deserted (get it desert-deserted?! HA). But seriously, this is one of the best times do get out there and elope. You’ll probably need to leave your AirBnB around 4AM but it’s worth it! Driving in to watch the sunrise in Jtree is the best feeling. We even spotted Starlink, the Elon Musk satellite internet provider.
    • Summer months are extremely hot and winter months can get chilly with snow. It would be epic but it could very cold. And yeah, just forget about the mid-summer unless you do plan for only early morning. It’s going to be HOT HOT HOT!
  • Avoid middays and weekends as it can get HOT and CROWDED. Highly recommended to choose a weekday instead (Monday – Thursday, or Sunday)
    • Fridays and Saturdays are packed with weekend visitors and campers; hard to find parking or spot for intimate ceremony. This can be remedied by arriving very early. The sunrise was magical!
  • Note: some ceremony spots may not be available during peak times of the years
    • Places that allow wedding ceremony year-round: 
      • Cap Rock
      • Live Oak
      • Split Rock
      • Rattlesnake Picnic Area
outdoor desert shower

Permits Required & Fees

  • Special Use Permit: For the couple only. Allow elopement in the national park. ($120.00) 
  • Photography Permit: For photographer and videographer only. ($120.00) 
  • Note: If couples or photographer chooses not to get a permit, then the party will be charged a $500 citation fine. 
  • National Park Entrance Fee: Park entrance ticket – $30/vehicle; valid for 7 days. Highly recommend carpooling to save costs!
  • Another great option is to consider the US Park Pass. Do you like to travel and visit national and state parks? This literally covers hundreds if not THOUSANDS of parks across the US (including Hawaii!) I picked mine up and it’s good for 12 months so plan accordingly. It’s $80 and about $90 with shipping but it can be used as many times as you want for 12 months.


Marriage License

  • Must have a marriage license before elopement in Joshua Tree in order to make it official! (UNLESS you want to have an officiant there)
  • If you’re from California: local county clerk office/courthouse; costs may vary and average about $90; you can purchase this up to 90 days in advance
  • If you’re from out of California: you can either
    • Get legally married before you leave your home state (so you’ll already be married for your elopement in California). This is very common practice and that means you can have someone who isn’t ordained “marry” you or you can share personal and intimate vows with one another privately there without the need of an officiant.
    • Stop by San Bernardino County Clerk Office (closest) to get your marriage license there!
      • (855) 732-2575 | Appointments are required on Mondays and Fridays only; walk-ins are welcome Tuesday-Thursday from 8:00am – 11:00am and 2:00pm – 4:00pm.

Officiant or No Officiant

  • If your want to elope IN Joshua Tree, then you must have an officiant there. The officiant will perform the ceremony and complete the marriage license paperwork to make things official. To make the experience intimate and personal, it is recommended to have a friend or family member officiate the marriage. It is relatively easy to have the friend or family member ordained –  see link for more information. 
    • Joshua Tree National Park restricts the locations where you can officially tie the knot 
      • 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
  • To hire one instead: search online for local officiants near Joshua Tree or ask vendors for recommendations
  • You will also need at least one witness for your ceremony, either a guest or photographer 
  • To avoid the hassles, you can also have a legal ceremony at your local courthouse before traveling to Joshua Tree for your elopement. This avoids the stress of finding an officiant or doing any paperwork on the day of, and allows you to relax and enjoy your special day with your special people. 

Local wedding vendors

desert elopement photographer

EXTRA TIPS

elopement details and vows
  • Thing to pack:
    • Sunscreen
    • Lots of water
    • Snacks and packed lunches in a cooler with ice
    • A full tank of gas
    • First aid kit
    • Comfortable and sturdy footwear to avoid stepping on cacti and holy cow
    • Flashlight or a headlamp
  • Joshua Tree is a very Eco-friendly park.

    ITEMS NOT PERMITTED:
    • Drones, dried flowers, non-battery candles, bubbles, any live animals (doves and birds for example), confetti, rice, birdseed, balloons, or smoke bombs
  • Practice Leave No Trace Principle
    • Remember to respect the beautiful national park by taking the extra precaution to keep the park clean. 
      • Pack out everything you carry in. Do not litter or leave garbage
      • Do not touch or disturb the cacti and vegetation. It is not meant to be taken out of the park!
      • Respect other park visitors!
      • Only park on the designated road and designated parking spots.
      • DO NOT GO OFF ROADING WHERE YOU SHOULDN’T BE
      • Stay on the trails!
      • Use faux or wood florals 


Happy eloping and if you want to learn more about Joshua Tree or to schedule a chat about how to elope in Joshua Tree, send me a message below! In the meantime, you can learn more about other badass places to elope around in the US!

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New Adventure Productions is owned by Nate Dale, a Lafayette, Indiana wedding and elopement photographer. We travel nation and worldwide to capture beautiful and intimate weddings and elopements while providing a guidance, love, help along the way. 
He is married to the love of his life, Felicia, owner of Emerald Lotus Events, a day of wedding coordinator in Lafayette, Indiana who created the Simple Wedding Planning online wedding planning course for couples.