The stunning desert landscape, boulder formations, cactus gardens, and unique scenery make Joshua Tree a magical destination for hiking, rock climbing, and of course, getting married! For couples who want a day that’s a little out of the ordinary, a Joshua Tree elopement is the perfect way to celebrate.
This guide will tell you everything you need to know to get married in Joshua Tree – so if you’re ready to start planning an epic, once in a lifetime elopement, read on!
Here’s what you’ll find in this Joshua Tree Elopement Guide:
- Getting to Joshua Tree
- Tips for Eloping in Joshua Tree National Park
- The Best Time for a Joshua Tree Elopement
- Joshua Tree Wedding Permits
- Best Places to Elope in Joshua Tree National Park
- Getting Legally Married in Joshua Tree
- Places to Stay in Joshua Tree
- The Best Restaurants in Joshua Tree
- Joshua Tree Elopement Vendors
- Joshua Tree Elopement Packages – Are You Ready to Get Married in Joshua Tree?
How Do You Get to Joshua Tree?
To get married at Joshua Tree National Park, you’ll need to get there! If you’re flying, the closest major airport will be in Palm Springs. The Palm Springs International Airport is about 50 miles from both the southern and northern entrances of the national park, and 40 miles from the town of Joshua Tree.
Many couples fly into LAX instead, as the airport is bigger, and usually offers more options for flights! It’s about 150 miles (2.5 hours) from Joshua Tree, and you can rent a car at either airport.
Tips for Eloping in Joshua Tree National Park
Eloping is so different from a traditional wedding, which is what makes it so exciting! When you tie the knot with an adventure, here are some things to keep in mind for your Joshua Tree elopement.
Learn About Leave No Trace in Joshua Tree National Park
Leave No Trace (LNT) is so important when you elope outdoors. Nature is often more fragile than we realize, and we humans can do a lot of damage – even though we have good intentions, ecosystems suffer when we aren’t aware of our impact. If you’ve never heard of LNT, no worries! What matters is that you educate yourself, learn about conservation, and do your best to reduce your impact.
LNT is all about enjoying the outdoors without harming nature, as much as it’s possible to do that. There are 7 principles:
- Plan ahead and prepare.
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
- Dispose of waste properly.
- Leave what you find.
- Minimize campfire impacts.
- Respect wildlife.
- Be considerate of other visitors.
These are important to remember any time you go out in nature, but especially because Joshua Tree National Park is so popular – there are a lot of visitors, which is hard on the ecosystems! Each location has specific LNT considerations, so here’s what you should know about Joshua Tree.
Cryptobiotic soil can be found in Joshua Tree, and in many other desert landscapes (like Moab). Though it can look like sturdy sand, which normally would be considered a durable surface that’s okay to walk and camp on, it’s actually a living soil crust that’s super important for the ecosystem! Stepping on these crusts can kill them, so to avoid them, stay on established trails, and avoid any detours.
Sometimes, you’ll see something called a “social trail” – when you’re hiking, if you see something that looks like a clearing that has been walked on, don’t follow it! This is especially common in the climbing and bouldering areas and backcountry spots, but official trails will have signage and are typically easy to follow. Social trails happen when a lot of people take the same detour, and the plant life suffers – so don’t contribute to the erosion and damage, and stick to the official trails!
There is an entrance fee to visit Joshua Tree National Park, and though you will also need a wedding permit, this entrance fee still applies. The pass is $30 per car, and you can buy one at the park entrance or at any visitor center – this will get you into the park for 7 days. This money goes to taking care of the park and keeping it beautiful! You can also purchase your pass online ahead of time, which can save you some time waiting to get into the park if it’s busy.
If you visit national parks often, consider getting an America the Beautiful pass! This one is good for a year, and will let you enter any national park in the country – for $80, it’s much more budget friendly than paying entrance fees every time if you plan to visit at least three parks within the next 12 months. You can get these at any park entrance as well, or online!
Prepare for Crowds in Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is really popular – it’s pretty close to both Los Angeles and San Diego, which means there are a lot of visitors every day. If you’re planning a Joshua Tree elopement, be prepared to share your location with other people!
Privacy is a big reason that couples choose to elope, so if you want to avoid the crowds, there are a few things you can do.
First, you can choose your elopement date carefully. We’ll talk about the best time to elope in the next section, and tying the knot in the off season, when the park isn’t as popular, is one of the best ways to avoid crowds. No matter when you elope, I always recommend having your ceremony on a weekday! It’ll be much less busy, and you’ll see fewer crowds than you would on the weekends.
I also recommend planning your ceremony for sunrise or sunset. Sunrise is best for avoiding crowds, but sunset is (in most places) also less popular than the middle of the day, so you’ll have a lot more privacy when you exchange vows!
The Best Time for a Joshua Tree Elopement
The desert sees some pretty extreme weather – so you’ll need to do some research before you set a date for your Joshua Tree elopement!
Here is a graph of weather averages in the town of Joshua Tree. But, keep in mind that the national park is big, and varies a lot in elevation! This means temperatures and conditions can change as you travel through the park, so make sure to look into your specific location too. The southern part of the park has more mountains and is at a higher elevation, so it usually gets chillier as you travel south!
This is the least popular time to visit Joshua Tree National Park, which means if you elope in the summer, you’ll see very few people around. But, this is because temperatures get up to 100 degrees, and it’s incredibly hot! The weather is really hot and dry, so it’s not going to be ideal for most couples. However, you can elope at sunrise or sunset to beat the heat – just make sure you have a plan for the middle of the day when the sun is out!
Fall is a great time to elope in Joshua Tree, but it’s also the most popular time to visit (along with spring), so you’ll see a lot of people out and about. The temperatures are much more comfortable, so it’s perfect for exploring!
Winter is one of the best times to elope in Joshua Tree National Park, because it’s not as busy as spring or fall! The weather is pretty perfect during the day, but mornings and evenings are chilly, so you’ll need to be prepared with layers. This is technically the “rainy” season, but rain is still rare! Snow is uncommon, but it isn’t unheard of – especially at higher elevations, it’s possible that you might experience a dusting of snow over the desert.
Wildflowers bloom in the spring, making the landscape especially beautiful. It’s a really popular time to visit, but the weather is perfect for hiking and exploring. You’ll definitely need to prepare to see crowds, but it’s a great time to elope!
Joshua Tree National Park Wedding Permits
You need a permit to tie the knot at Joshua Tree National Park, no matter the size of your ceremony. You can find the application here, along with the most up to date information about locations and restrictions.
The park doesn’t specify when you need to apply for a wedding permit, but it’s best to apply as soon as you can, to give them enough time to process and approve your application. They are also first come first serve, so to ensure that you get your date and location, apply early! When you send in your application, you will get instructions to pay the $120 application fee.
One thing that’s unique about Joshua Tree National Park is that your photographer will need a separate permit – so make sure your elopement photographer has experience working in national parks and knows the requirements.
Joshua Tree Elopement Locations
Joshua Tree National Park has specific locations where you can have your ceremony – you’re limited to these spots, and you’ll need to state which one you want when you apply for the wedding permit. This park is one of the best places to elope if you want great views without having to hike – most of these places are easily accessible!
There are a few different options, from intimate spots to bigger venues perfect for couples eloping with family or friends!
Here are the Joshua Tree elopement locations where you can have your ceremony, along with the maximum capacity for each one:
- Indian Cove Amphitheater – 100 people and 1 vehicle (guests can take a shuttle)
- Hidden Valley Picnic Area – 35 people and 8 vehicles
- Turkey Flats – 35 people total and 8 vehicles
- Cap Rock – 25 people total and 8 vehicles
- Rattlesnake Picnic Area – 20 people and 8 vehicles
- Quail Springs Picnic Area – 15 people and 8 vehicles
- Split Rock – 15 people and 5 vehicles
- Porcupine Wash – 12 people and 4 vehicles
- Queen Valley Mine Intersection – 10 people and 5 vehicles
- Lost Horse Parking Lot – No more than 10 people and 5 vehicles
- Live Oak Picnic Area – No more than 5 people and 3 vehicles
If you want to get married somewhere more private and with fewer restrictions, there is another option for your Joshua Tree elopement! Consider tying the knot on BLM (bureau of land management) land. The park is surrounded by it, with tons of gorgeous spots that are free, off the beaten path, and easy to visit. You can have your ceremony outside the park, and then head into Joshua Tree National Park for photos (you will still need a photography permit). This will give you some more privacy, and as an added bonus, most of the time, you don’t need a permit to elope on BLM land, as long as your ceremony is small and doesn’t require much setup. There are exceptions, so I’ll help you figure out the requirements!
Getting Legally Married in Joshua Tree
To get legally married when you elope in Joshua Tree National Park, you’ll need to learn about California’s marriage laws. Here’s everything you need to know!
Getting a Marriage License in Joshua Tree
You can get a marriage license from any county clerk in California. There is an office in the town of Joshua Tree, so if you’re traveling, you can go there! You’ll need to complete the marriage application online before you go, but the two of you need to be at the office in person to pick up your marriage license. Make an appointment, then go pick it up before the ceremony! There’s no waiting period, but the marriage license expires after 90 days.
Joshua Tree Officiant
You’ll need an officiant to sign the marriage license and legally marry you, so you can hire a professional, or have a loved one get ordained to perform your ceremony! They can get ordained for free on ULC.org.
California also requires one witness, but if you want a private elopement day, don’t worry! You can ask any of your elopement vendors to sign, or even find someone throughout the day. The only requirement is that they are over 18 years old.
Where to Stay in Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree is known for unique places to stay – there are fun Airbnbs, glamping sites, and more! Here are some options for places to stay when you elope in Joshua Tree.
Camping in Joshua Tree National Park
Camping can add some extra adventure to your day, so if you like spending time outdoors, you can camp in the park! Joshua Tree National Park campsites need to be reserved far in advance, as they are popular. But, you can also camp on BLM land outside the park for free – this will also be much more private!
If you don’t want to completely rough it, check out some glamping accommodations around Joshua Tree! You can stay in a yurt, an Airstream, or even a cabin.
Airbnbs in Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree is known for unique, quirky Airbnbs, so this is a great way to find places to stay. There are remote cabins and casitas, unique homes like this modern shipping container or this desert dome house! There’s even a tiny home shaped like a UFO.
Hotels and Lodges in Joshua Tree
Another option for places to stay during your Joshua Tree elopement is the local hotels and lodges. Check out the Joshua Tree Inn or the modern Mojave Sands Motel!
The Best Restaurants in Joshua Tree
A great way to support the community in Joshua Tree is to try out the local restaurants. Joshua Tree has lots of options for places to eat!
Morongo Valley Cafe
The Morongo Valley Cafe is known for all day breakfast and classic comfort food, like biscuits and gravy, tuna melts, and French toast! It’s also dog friendly, with a patio so you can eat with your pup.
Red Dog Saloon
Located in historic Pioneertown, this restaurant serves Tex Mex and cocktails, and it perfectly encapsulates the hippie-meets-cowboy vibe of Joshua Tree! Pioneertown used to be part of an old western film set, so the Red Dog Saloon, and the rest of the town, is a really unique place to go.
La Copine is for couples who are looking for a more fine dining experience. The minimalist desert style is unique and inviting, and the dishes are tasty! The seasonal menu includes a wide variety of food, but you’ll need to plan ahead – this spot is only open Thursday through Sunday.
Joshua Tree Elopement Vendors
Elopement vendors will make a huge difference in your day, and will help you make sure everything goes smoothly. Your wedding day shouldn’t be stressful – so hire experienced vendors who can help!
Joshua Tree Elopement Photographer
Hiring an elopement photographer is one of the first things you should do when you plan your elopement. Not only will they be responsible for capturing and documenting the day, but a big part of my job as a Joshua Tree elopement photographer is planning. I’ll help you find the perfect spot, make a custom elopement timeline, and more – everything you need for the perfect day!
Joshua Tree Elopement Hair and Makeup
To ensure that everything stays put while you’re exploring, hire a hair and makeup artist who specializes in elopements. Lidia is a local hair and makeup artist, and Emily Lynn is close by in LA!
Joshua Tree Elopement Florist
For bouquets, boutonniere, and other decor, hire a professional elopement florist! Make sure they’re familiar with LNT, as some flower species can be invasive. Desert Rose Creative is local to Joshua Tree!
Joshua Tree Elopement Planner
Hiring an elopement planner can be great for couples who don’t have time, or who would rather hand off the bookings, decor, and coordination of the day. Some planners handle styling as well as planning and execution, so this can really take your day to the next level! Check out Desert Popup for planning and styling in Joshua Tree.
Joshua Tree Elopement Packages
If you’ve decided that an intimate desert elopement is for you, I’m here to help you plan! Your day should be a reflection of who you are, so I’ll help you create a personalized, perfect for you elopement.
Contact me to learn more about Joshua Tree elopement packages, and to start planning your day!