Joshua Tree National Park is super underrated! This south California National Park is not as famous as Yosemite or the redwoods and Giant Sequoias, but the unique landscape is not to be missed. I absolutely love exploring new deserts in our unglamorous self-contained DIY campervan. Visiting Joshua Tree has been a dream of mine since I was sentient, since I’m the world’s biggest fan of U2. (the Irish band’s album ‘The Joshua Tree’ is their most popular of all time). The album was inspired by the desert southwest scenery and bluegrass music roots, although the album photography was actually done in Death Valley. Anyway – back to planning your beautiful desert elopement in Joshua Tree National Park!
How to elope in Joshua Tree National Park
There are 11 amazing elopement locations in Joshua Tree, and each one costs just $120 for the wedding permit (plus additional fees for your photographer!) This could be the perfect place to elope if you love our national parks; if you like early mornings or desert sunsets; if you want your elopement photos to be unique, colorful and iconic; and if you’re ready to get sand in your dress, wind in your hair, and amazing memories in your hearts.
Joshua trees are slow growing members of the yucca family, which means the largest ones in the park can be many hundreds of years old. These trees grow only in the mojave desert southwest of California, Arizona and Mexico, and in the spring their white flowers dominate the landscape. Split Rock, Quail Springs, and Lost Horse elopement areas all have similar views – these trailheads, picnic areas, and campgrounds are all beautiful, with Joshua Tree’s distinctive trees stretching to the rock pile horizon. Additionally, the Live Oak picnic area has a mature oak tree that provides valuable shade. All four of these spots are located in the central, most popular area of the park, however none of these parking lots are very big, so intimate weddings are perfect here. Any of them would make a perfect place for an adventurous elopement in Joshua Tree National Park, and ample opportunities for hiking are nearby. Barker Dam is one of my favorites!
The Cap Rock elopement location in Joshua Tree National Park is a beautiful picnic area at a large rock formation, and it is closest to one of my favorite spots in the park, Key’s view. After a long drive, you’ll get to a huge vista over sprawling palm springs and the valley below. It’s the biggest view in the park, so if you want mountains in your elopement photos, this is a must do! It is totally incredible at sunset – and check out this 360 view! Shrikes, scrub jays, phainopepla, vultures and hawks are common here.
Consider eloping at Queen’s Mine if you are an off-road loving couple! This is one of my favorite areas of the park. The dusty, unmaintained dirt roads make everything feel like a bit more of an adventure. It’s also the only place in the park where the snow capped peak of San Gorgonio is visible, and there are some great hikes among the rocks. Best of all, nobody seems to venture up here! Can you imagine having this rocky canyon and view all to yourselves?
The Turkey Flats and Porcupine Wash elopement sites are in the south east part of the park, closest to the Cottonwood Visitor Center entrance. Apart from the spring super bloom of the most beautiful desert wildflowers you’ll ever see, these areas are rather barren at all other times of the year. However, the spectacular La Cholla cactus garden is nearby, and was one of my personal favorite areas of the entire park! Most of the plants in the park are extremely spiky/out to kill you, as I found out when I stuck my hand into one to collapse my tripod legs, and thus I spent the next half hour pulling microscopic spines out of my hands. Don’t be a dummy like me.. don’t touch anything!
For a true Joshua Tree Experience, you have to snag a campsite within the park. The stars and the moonlight here are unbelievable, and photos just don’t do it justice. You truly have to experience it yourself. There’s a magic of the night in the desert, when much of wildlife comes alive (I’m looking at you, owls & coyotes!) and you can walk among the eerie, towering joshua trees in the calm darkness. You can elope at Hidden Valley in Joshua Tree – and you might even get lucky like I did and see a wild bobcat!
The Indian cove campground amphitheater is the only elopement location in Joshua Tree National Park with built in seating, as it faces a ranger talk stage backed by an adobe shed. The final elopement location, the Rattlesnake Canyon picnic area next to Indian cove, is accessed from the north border of the park. Because this area is less visited, you may have more privacy as you walk around the rock piles.
Sunrise and sunset are the best times of day in any desert, and Joshua tree is no exception. The valleys light up gold and orange and the milder temperatures are a welcome relief from the heat of the day. How incredible is this light!?! You should definitely consider having your ceremony at sunrise if you choose to elope in Joshua tree national park. You have the best chance of wildlife viewing at dawn as well!
All national parks differ in what they allow for intimate weddings and elopements. Joshua Tree allows you to have champagne, cake, an arch, and some decor, so you can truly make your elopement location your own! Leave No Trace policies apply, and of course drones, smoke bombs, confetti, balloons, rice, birdseed, live animals or open flames are not permitted. If you’re considering eloping in Joshua Tree National Park, check out the park website for the application and additional rules. Before you apply, I encourage you to get in touch with me to talk about which location might be right for you, as you’ll need to note it on your application. I would love to help guide you with your Joshua Tree elopement dreams! I can’t wait to show you all my favorite spots around this desert paradise!
Ready to start dreaming? Get in touch!
After my visit to Joshua Tree National Park, my husband and I continued on to visit Sand Diego, because we both love the ocean and snorkeling. We were fortunate enough to see sharks, rays, skates, seals, guitarfish, dolphins, Girabaldi, sea lions and a cell phone while out in the water. That’s right- we found someone’s cell phone, still in a waterproof bag, and brought it to shore. It had 60% battery power, but it was locked, so we couldn’t read any of the notifications. Just as we were about to turn it in to the police, I noticed a missed call on the screen and I immediately plugged the caller’s name into facebook and miraculously, only one name came up! I messaged her and just 45 minutes later, we met up with the SWEETEST couple ever, who had lost their phone several hundred feet offshore while kayaking. We chatted for a while and found out we both live in. the. same. town. back home in Colorado – crazy small world, and hello new friends! San Diego is just a few hours’ drive from Joshua Tree, so if you need a hydration break after your elopement, this is the perfect city for you!