How to Elope in California’s Redwoods [2024]

Eloping in the California redwoods is about entering a serene, almost sacred space for your wedding experience. It’s not just about the stunning backdrop; it’s about the way the light filters through the leaves, the stillness of the forest, and the earthy scent. Every element conspires to make your elopement day truly magical. This is where your new adventure begins, in the arms of ancient giants, in the heart of California. As someone who’s been privileged to capture the beauty of these moments, I can tell you that redwood elopements offer an unforgettable blend of romance, adventure, and magic. Read more to learn how to elope in California’s redwoods!

The Enchantment of Redwood Elopements

Why California’s Redwoods Are the Perfect Elopement Backdrop

Eloping in the California Redwoods offers an experience that is as magnificent as it is intimate. Imagine exchanging vows surrounded by some of the oldest and tallest trees on the planet. This tranquility of this ancient forest creates an atmosphere of profound peace. It’s an ideal location for eloping couples; allowing them to connect deeply with each other and their surroundings.

There’s a sense of adventure in the Redwoods beyond its notable beauty. Whether it’s just you or a few close guests, the Redwoods offer a variety of environments: from the misty, ocean-front forests of the Northern coast to the sunlit groves further inland. Each provides a unique scene for your day, ensuring that your elopement isn’t just an event, but a memorable journey. Put simply, these are my top four reasons to elope in the California Redwoods:

  1. Cost-Effective: When you elope in California’s redwoods it can be significantly more cost-effective than a large, traditional wedding. The smaller scale of an elopement reduces expenses like a venue rental fee, catering, invitations, and favors.
  2. Freedom: I love having the flexibility to help plan an elopement plan exactly how my couples envision it. You can choose your exact location and select a date without worrying about accommodating large groups. You can also marry at any time of the day, whether it’s a sunrise ceremony or an evening vow exchange under the stars.
  3. Adventure: An elopement in the Redwoods is an adventure in itself. Knowing you’re surrounded by ancient trees and ecosystem created many years before adds this sense of standing in a time warp. They’ve been here since the age of dinosaurs! For couples looking to add more physicaly adventure, there’s no shortage of hiking trails to choose from. Some trails bring you to a secluded grove, others follow along a river, or you can find a hike leading you out of the forest to a view point. You can also find ziplining!
  4. Intimacy: With the towering trees it’s easy to find yourself a quiet canopy to exchange your vows. As an introvert who eloped, I understand wanting to find comfort away from an audience. The Redwoods offer cozy corners that allow you to enjoy an intimate, private ceremony where you can fully be present.
  5. Breathtaking Scenery: Of course, the sheer beauty of the California Redwoods. It’s an awe-inspiring backdrop for any ceremony.
A bride in a long-sleeved white dress and a groom in a dark suit are joyfully walking hand in hand on a dirt path through a sunlit redwood forest.

Selecting Your Ideal Redwood Location

We’re fortunate to be spoiled with so many locations to elope in California’s Redwoods. There are the towering groves of Northern California, particularly Humboldt County. For a location with both forest and ocean views, the Redwoods in Big Sur offer dramatic views. Alternatively, for easier accessibility, the Redwood National and State Parks provide a variety of spots, each with its unique charm.

It’s important to consider factors like accessibility, privacy, and the time of year when choosing your elopement location. Here’s a 5-step guide to help narrow the best spot for you:

  1. Choose a general location. This isn’t a required step, but helpful. Consider if there are any towns you’re interested in visiting, any pre- or post-elopement activities and sights you’re interested in seeing that are located near Redwoods. The main general locations are Humboldt County, Bay Area, Santa Cruz/Big Sur, and Sequoia.
  2. Hire your elopement photographer. Your elopement photographer will be able to research and give personal insight on California Redwoods. I recommend hiring an elopement photographer native to California with experience in our Redwoods who is also versed in our marriage license laws, permitting, and more.
  3. Identify specifics. This is where we truly begin to hone in on what our dream elopement location looks like. Consider things like accessibility, the temperature you prefer, difficulty and length of hike if you plan on hiking, privacy (some parks experience more visitors than othes), remoteness, and if there any must-do activities.
  4. Pick your elopement date. Choosing your elopement date typically aligns with the weather and season you prefer. However, it can also depend on the park rules. For example, Big Sur doesn’t allow elopements on weekends in the summertime.
  5. Find your perfect elopement location. Finally, once you’ve decided on a general location, what specifics you envision, and a date- your elopement photographer will provide you with a list of locations that align best. Then all you have to do is pick and choose where you plan to start the beginning of this new adventure in marriage.

Popular California Redwoods Elopement Locations

Photography Tips to Elope in California’s Redwoods

Best Times for Photos

The best time to capture an elopement in California’s redwoods is at least an hour after sunrise and late afternoon. Lighting in the Redwoods looks much different than it would in a landscape that’s more open. We typically strive for golden hours (an hour after the sun rises and and an hour before it sets). However, the tall trees obstruct how the light seeps in.

The soft morning light and the golden hues of late afternoon are the ideal setting. When the sun is higher in the sky, more light enters the forest. The way the light plays through the trees can create a mystical atmosphere in your photos. When the sun begins to set, we can then be creative in using artifical light, such as lanters, headlamps, and colored lights.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

Permits

Most redwood locations require wedding permits, also called a special use permit. Once you choose your location, your elopement photographer will check with the park authorities to determine if a permit is required. Wedding permits generally range between $100-$300- much less than your average wedding venue.

Marriage License

To legally elope in California’s redwoods, or hold a wedding ceremony anywhere within the state, you’ll need to apply for a marriage license. This can be done in any California county clerk office. Most offices have an online process to begin, but you’ll need to visit in person to confirm identification and sign some papers. The marriage license fee varies by county. Follow my guide to planning an elopement wedding in California for detailed information.

Leave No Trace Principles

The most important guide in ensuring we leave the forest how we found it (or better!). Nature provides us with adventures and amazing views, and we return the favor by respecting and taking care of her. In the Redwoods, this means sticking to marked paths, avoiding trampling undergrowth, and packing up all trash with you. Remember, we’re temporary visitors in these ancient spaces when we step into its delicate ecosystem.

The Weather and Seasons of California’s Redwoods

When to Plan Your Elopement

The best time to elope in California’s redwoods is during the spring or fall for more privacy in beautiful weather. California is known for our amazing year-round weather, however every season brings a different experience to the Redwoods:

Winter

Winters between December and March tend to be wet and muddy. In some areas, like Big Sur, there’s a risk of the area experiencing flooding, uprooting, and/or landslides due to heavy rain storms. It’s the season with the least amount of tourism though, so if you don’t mind a downpour- pack your favorite umbrella and rain boots!

Spring

Winter rains bring spring wildflowers! The storms from prior months allow the Redwoods to bloom and brighten with greens from April to June. Some storms and sprinkles continue through April, but the temperature also begins to rise making it more comfortable. Spring offers the last few months before peak season in the summer.

Summer

Summer between June and September is a beautiful time to visit the Redwoods. It’s warm, dry, sunny, but it’s also the season that experiences the highest amount of visitors. Finding accommodations, parking, and privacy will be tough during this time. If you’re looking for a secluded and quiet elopement in the Redwoods I recommend opting for a different season alltogether or scheduling for a weekday sunrise ceremony.

Fall

Fall might just be the most captivating season in the Redwoods. Between September and November the crowds begin to wind down, temperatures become more mild from the summer heat, and the foliage embraces autumn colors.

FAQs for Eloping in California’s Redwoods

  • Do I need a permit to elope in a redwood forest?
    Yes, most locations require a permit. Check with the park or forest service for specific requirements.
  • What’s the best time of year for a redwood elopement?
    While redwoods are stunning year-round, the best time of year to elope in California’s redwoods is during the spring or fall seasons.
  • How do I choose the right spot for my ceremony?
    Consider accessibility, privacy, and the overall feel you want for your day. It’s also helpful to visit the location and consult with your elopement photographer who knows/reasearches the area.
  • What should I wear for a redwood elopement?
    Comfort is key. Choose attire that allows you to move freely and navigate the natural terrain. You don’t want to wear heels and get stuck in mud or trip over roots. Layers are also important for changing temperatures. I have a gear list in this blog on How to Plan a Hiking Elopement.
  • How can we make our elopement in the redwoods special?
    Personalize your ceremony with meaningful vows, incorporate elements that represent your journey as a couple, and take time to soak in the beauty of the forest. If you’re looking for unique ideas on how to elope with and without guests, find some inspiration in this blog to make your elopement day extra special.

Ready to embrace the enchantment of the Redwoods for your special day? Begin planning your extraordinary elopement adventure now. Connect with nature, pledge your love, and let the towering Redwoods bear witness to your union. [Start Your Elopement Journey Here] and let California’s Redwoods be the epic backdrop to your love story.

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.

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