Angeles National Forest Hiking Elopement

Planning an Angeles National Forest elopement combines the thrill of an outdoor adventure with the joy of a wedding celebration. This recap of V and B’s wedding day shares the details of their hiking experience. Get ready for a day filled with the energy of the trails and the buzz of excitement that comes with backpacking to their ceremony spot.

Angeles National Forest

Angeles National Forest in California covers a large area of the San Gabriel Mountains and Sierra Pelona Mountains. The forest offers numerous trails suitable for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. The Pacific Crest Trail (aka PCT), a well-known long-distance footpath, spans through this forest, providing hikers with an extensive route that traverses various terrains. One of my favorite overnight trail camps along the PCT is Little Jimmy Trail Camp. It’s a perfect entry level trail for new backpackers.

Day hikers can access shorter trails, such as the popular Mount Baldy Trail, which leads to the highest peak in the range. Most trails are well-marked and vary in difficulty from easy strolls to strenuous climbs, accommodating a range of outdoor enthusiasts.

For campground stays, Angeles National Forest provides options ranging from developed campgrounds with amenities to more dispersed camping areas. Campsites at established campgrounds typically include fire rings, picnic tables, and access to toilets. Reservations for these sites can be made in advance, although some campgrounds also offer first-come, first-served spots. Dispersed camping, which allows for camping outside of designated campgrounds, is permitted in certain areas of the forest. These areas come with additional responsibilities to maintain the environment, such as following Leave No Trace principles and being aware of fire safety regulations.

Bear Canyon Trail Camp

Bear Canyon Trail Camp is the spot V and B picked from the location guide I sent them. It’s a designated backcountry campsite located within the Angeles National Forest. This camp is accessible via the Bear Canyon Trail, also known as the Gabrieleno Trail. It’s an approximately 5-mile hike from the nearest trailhead at Switzer Picnic Area. The trail to the camp is well-marked and takes hikers through varied terrains including oak forests and along streams. You can also find a few swimming holes the closer you get to camp.

The campsite itself is situated at an elevation of about 1,800 feet and provides basic amenities such as picnic tables and fire rings. There is no potable water available on-site. Campers need to bring their own or treat water from the nearby stream running through camp. Bear Canyon Trail Camp is open year-round, but the best time to visit is during the spring and fall.

Camping is on a first-come, first-served basis. There are no fees to camp, but an Adventure Pass is required for vehicles parked at the trailhead. I strongly recommend making sure your car is cleared of any items prior to beginning your hike to avoid a potential break-in. Any trailhead easily accessible and close to the main city of Los Angeles has a higher risk of break-ins.

Fees for Eloping in Angeles National Forest

To access Bear Canyon Trail Camp, you’ll need a National Forest Adventure Pass. A daily adventure pass is $5 and an annual adventure pass is $30. These passes cover the fee for your car when visiting the forest. Information on where and how to purchase a pass can be found on the Forest Service website.

Your elopement wedding may require obtaining a Special Use Permit. Application forms and detailed information on the permit is found on the National Special Uses website.

Backpacking to Camp

We loaded up our packs, and took off on our long hike in the California sun, carrying an outfit change and a few wooden props in our backpacks. V and B created such an easy atmosphere, and their relationship was so natural and fun. At several points throughout the day we were laughing, cracking jokes and poking fun. Lizards were crawling in the heat by our feet throughout the hike. At one point, Val pointed out how salamanders always remind her of the scene in Matilda. The scene where Mrs. Trunchbull is pranked into drinking water with a newt in the cup.

Their Unique Love Story

We got to our campsite, set up camp, and took a break for snacks. As we loaded up on pistachios, V and B shared their Vegas elopement story from just a few months earlier. While both attending a conference in Las Vegas, V and B what they should do the next day. “Let’s get married!” he said. V could not believe there was any way he could actually be serious, so she dismissed the notion right away. However, after asking again what the plan for the next day was, and receiving the same answer, she knew he was being serious. Those signature warm feelings began to flood her with anticipation. V knew this was the man she wanted to be with for the rest of her life. Her dreams were beginning to become a reality.

They went shopping for their wedding attire right then–– B got all dressed up. V also picked out a pair of shoes and a white dress. They headed to the courthouse to sign the wedding documents, and they said, “I do,” in the white chapel. A tru traditional Vegas elopement wedding. I had joy in listening to their love story and in just hearing it, we could all sense the admiration and excitement Val and Brian have for one another.

Getting Ready at Camp

I took some photos of the vow book while V and B changed into their wedding clothes in their tents. They purposely hid from each other in order to do an amazingly simple and cute first look moment, and then they took a private moment to write their vows while sitting beside one another on large rocks by the creek. They found a sandy spot right next to the water to read their vows. Tears came to both of their eyes, and it was one of the most touching and beautiful moments of the entire day. 

Vow Exchange by Bear Creek

After saying their vows, they tried to put their rings on, but the elevation had made their fingers too chubby. After trying a few different ingenuitive methods (the trick was aloe vera!), they got their rings on, shared a passionate kiss, and jumped into the creek. The next few moments were a joy to capture––V and B splashing each other, laughing, sitting in each other’s lap in the cool creek water, which they said felt incredibly refreshing after the long hike in the sun. 

Angeles National Forest Celebration

After the creek adventure, we eventually made our way to the top where there were sparkling waters for V and B waiting. With a few failed attempts at getting them to bubble over, V and B let their playful spirits get the best of them, and they began playing with the sparkling waters like little kids would on a perfect summer day. We then took some photos of the newlyweds with their packs on over their wedding attire. V’s dress had gotten pretty dirty from all of the adventures, but everyone figured it was okay because it told their own personal story of their elopement day, a day that was exactly what they wanted because it was free of every restraint. The newlyweds returned to their campsite for the night. Although they were maybe a little dirty and sleepy, they were perfectly happy. 

Here's to co-creating an unforgettable elopement experience.

Here's to co-creating an unforgettable elopement experience.

I’m Karen, a Southern California Elopement Photographer who empowers couples to create memories that will last a lifetime. I am dedicated to providing the tools you need to create an unforgettable experience. 

I help couples by providing personalized location lists, planning resources, vendor recommendations, permits, timeline-curation, and much more to curate elopement days that will be cherished forever.

Your Southern California Elopement Photographer, planning expert, and adventure pal.

I'm here to empower you to create memories that will last a lifetime.

About Karen

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@karenagurtophoto

Follow me on Instagram!

@karenagurtophoto

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