Redwoods Elopement Photographer
Hi, I’m Lucy – your knowledgeable Redwoods Elopement Photographer & Planner! I absolutely love this National Park and the areas surrounding it. I believe great places are to be shared. If you’re the kind of couple who feels most at home on a new adventure, in a magical forest, near the coast and up to your eyeballs in ferns – this may just be the perfect elopement location for you! In this guide, I’ll answer all your questions about when, where, and how to plan an incredible Redwoods Elopement.
Where are the Redwoods?
Located at the very northern border of California along the coast, The Redwoods are a long drive from all major cities. Equidistant from Portland, Oregon and San Francisco, CA, it takes about 5.5 hours to drive there from either city. Luckily, both drives are incredibly scenic. Redwoods National Park is a coalition of the National Park and the following 3 California State Parks: Jedidiah Smith, Prairie Creek, and Del Norte Coast. Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Avenue of the Giants, Big Sur and Muir Woods are separate locations from the National Park. More about those locations later. Also, don’t confuse the Redwoods with Sequoia National Park, which also has huge trees.
A Real Redwoods Elopement
Emma and Damian have a big love for each other – and huge trees. They experienced the magic of the forest in the Redwoods at the end of May on day 2 of their California adventure elopement. View part 1 at Yosemite here! Embracing the alternative, Emma wore a sparkly black gown and Damian wore a custom plum purple tux. They were just dumbfounded at the magnificent height of the trees, the adorable banana slugs, and the ferns blanketing the forest floor. Of course, a big highlight was driving their convertible through the trees with the top down.
Where to elope in the Redwoods National Park
Here are the 12 Designated ceremony sites within the National Park’s management. Additionally, if you or your photographer have visited other sites in the parks, you can request to use one on your application.
- Berry Glen: 6 People maximum, requires a hike to access
- River Trail in Jedidiah Smith SP: 8 People maximum, requires an easy walk to access
- Merriman Grove: 8 People Maximum
- Zigzag: 10 People Maximum
- Templeman Grove in Jedidiah Smith SP: 20 people maximum
- Organ Donor’s Grove in Jedidiah Smith SP: 20 people maximum
- Schmidt Grove: 20 people maximum
- Lost Man Creek Gate: 20 people maximum
- High Bluff Overlook near Crescent City: 20 people maximum
- Prairie Creek Amphitheater in Prairie Creek SP: 20 people maximum, Oct 25 to May 1 only
- Crescent Beach & Overlook, near Crescent City: 20 people maximum, Oct 25 to May 1 only
Berry Glen Ceremony Location – Redwoods National Park
There are two trailheads to access the Berry Glen Trail, where you can have your elopement ceremony in the woods. You can either park at the Lady Bird Johnson trailhead and walk downhill, or park on highway 101 at the Davison Trail and hike uphill. This area is mostly deserted and has steep switchbacks, ferns, and several big redwoods.
- 6 people maximum.
- No pit toilet at Highway 101, 1 pit toilet at Lady Bird Johnson
River Trail Ceremony Location – Jedidiah Smith State Park
Stout Grove is located along the easy, flat River Trail is just a short walk from the parking area. You can have your ceremony just outside of Stout Grove, where the intersection of the River Trail begins. This is a beautiful ceremony location especially for weekdays when the Stout Grove trail can be quite busy. There is also river access.
- 8 People maximum.
- Pit toilet at the stout grove trailhead
Merriman Grove Ceremony Location – Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park
This is a GORGEOUS ceremony location, with a bit of choose-your-own adventure! The trail begins at a very small lot (4 cars max) and is narrow and mostly flat as it winds into the giant trees. It is very beautiful. At the end of the short trail, you can descend down a steep dirt slope (hiking boots required) to get into Merriman Grove itself, where there are even more trees.
- 8 people maximum
- No pit toilet
ZigZag #2 Ceremony Location – Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
This is maybe my favorite ceremony site in all the parks! An easy trail leads you over Prairie Creek, where there are 2 picturesque wooden bridges through the foliage. There are several clumps of big redwoods and lots of light on this less-busy trail. The Trailhead is located right off the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway.
- 10 People maximum
- No pit toilet
Templeman Grove Ceremony Location – Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park
This is a small grove of trees with one absolutely massive Redwood tree in a deserted northern corner of the parks. However, the grove is parallel to the busy road, and passing cars do disrupt the quiet of the forest. There is a downed log where guests could easily sit to watch your ceremony, and you can walk over rounded rocks to the shore of the Smith River.
- 20 people maximum
- 1 Pit toilet
Organ Donor’s Grove Ceremony Location – Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park
A very short forested stroll brings you to a clearing among the redwoods that is an obvious choice for a ceremony. This area is not well visited and the forest is lush. There is even a little brook running through the forest nearby, and you can hike up some game trails to get up close to more huge redwoods. This grove is named to honor those who donate their organs to others.
- 20 people maximum
- No pit toilet
Schmidt Grove Ceremony Location – Redwoods National Park
Located at the very end of the extremely scenic and gravel Bald Hills road, the Schmidt Grove is located along the Rhododendron Trail. It is extremely quiet, but the road to it is more beautiful than Schmidt grove itself. The Rhododendron trail has lots of ups and downs and is too narrow to have a ceremony on comfortably.
- 20 People Maximum
- No Pit toilet
Lost Man Creek Gate Ceremony Location – Redwoods National Park
This oddly named location is very private and has mossy picnic tables. There aren’t many redwoods here, and the ones you can see are located very close to the trail, which is an old road. It is ADA accessible.
- 20 People Maximum
- 1 Pit toilet
High Bluff Overlook Ceremony Location – Redwoods National Park
The best of the 3 Ocean-view ceremony sites, this location is found at the end of a long, twisty road far away from everything else. There’s a small south-facing overlook by the picnic tables, or take a downhill hike for 1/4 mile to a large north-facing bluff. Sturdy footwear recommended.
- 20 People maximum
- Pit toilet
Crescent Beach Overlook & Beach Ceremony Location – Redwoods National Park
These two site are close to Crescent City. They both have easy access and picnic tables. At the beach, you can explore as far as you want down the sandy beach to find your ceremony spot. The overlook is a developed deck with a short walk from the parking area, which is a separate lot from the Crescent Beach lot.
- 20 People maximum
- 1 Pit toilet at each parking lot
- Only available in off-season, October 25 to May 1
Ask your redwoods elopement photographer for more photos of each spot – I have plenty!
How to elope in the Redwoods
There are 12 designated ceremony sites within the National Park, but you can also request locations that aren’t on their list. You will need a Special Use Permit (“SUP”) from the National Park in order to have your ceremony at both designated and undesignated locations. The cost is $100 to $200 and has a straightforward process. You’ll name the location and time you desire for your ceremony, then submit your paperwork including a Threated and Endangered Species Addendum to the park at least 60 days in advance. Apply for your Redwoods SUP here.
– No more than 50 guests.
– No real or dried flowers. Silk or Wood flowers are the accepted alternative.
– No drones, confetti, dove or butterfly release, props, arches, decorations, signs, or balloons, are allowed. Basically, leave no trace. Don’t worry – you don’t need any of that stuff here.
– No food or alcohol at the ceremony
– If you desire music, it must be noted on your application and may not exceed 60DB.
Photographers are not required to obtain additional permits when shooting your wedding. Any commercial vendors should be listed as support personnel on your application.
Step by Step guide to planning a Redwoods Elopement
- Choose an elopement date and book your Redwoods elopement photographer. Do this first!
- Collab with your photographer to choose a ceremony site that works for your group size and needs.
- Apply for your SUP from the National park, noting your ceremony site and time.
- Book your flights, accommodation, and rental car. Your photographer creates a timeline of adventures.
- Add any bonus vendors – florist, hair and makeup, officiant if desired.
- Pick up your California Marriage License at any county courthouse and ELOPE!
Sites where you can NOT have a ceremony:
Fern Canyon and Gold Bluffs Beach in Prairie Creek State Park are locations where you may not have your elopement ceremony. This area is just so popular that they have instituted a day use reservation system just to visit. Big Tree is also too crowded to accommodate additional visitors. Grove of the Titans is another location I don’t recommend.
Fern Canyon Elopements
Fern canyon is a location within Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park (part of the National Park.) This location does NOT allow ceremonies, and requires a day use permit to access. But don’t let that stop you from visiting – it is WELL WORTH the hype and reputation. You can build in a visit to this lush canyon on one of the surrounding days of your visit, or before or after your elopement ceremony in the redwoods. Click here to get your free reservation. (Needed May 15 to October 15). Stop by Gold Bluffs beach while you’re there!
Where to elope outside Redwoods National Park
Muir woods is so crowded and requires a day use permit, I can’t recommend it. Big Sur has very difficult permit rules and processes even for couples wanting a simple elopement or photoshoot. Humboldt Redwoods State Park and Avenue of the Giants are incredible places just south of Eureka, CA, that I recommend looking into. The groves of trees are absolutely gorgeous! Book me as your redwoods elopement photographer & guide and I’ll share with you all my locations both inside and outside the park.
Redwoods Elopement Photographer
I’m a nomadic and colorful Redwoods elopement photographer with an obsession for forests, ferns, and my cats. My photography style emphasizes the epic landscape of your dreams and the authentic moments that make you two.. well, you two! I love my job and my nature-loving clients. The Redwood Coast is one of my very favorite places to explore in California. Maybe I’ll see you there!
My map of Redwoods Elopement Locations:
I’ve created this map of Redwoods National Park and the surrounding highlights with color photos I’ve taken of each place. You can move, pan and zoom the map once I send you the link. Then you can see all the great spots without leaving your living room. If you’re planning from afar, this is a visual key to picking out the elopement ceremony location that works for you. Details like what seasons and time of day are best for each location are included. It will help you plan your activities, accommodations, and your day’s itinerary. Lastly, it’s easy to have a great backup location picked out with this map in front of you. Having that Plan B in your back pocket will keep your planning stress-free!
This Map is for photographers and eloping couples!
Getting your California Marriage License
In order to legally marry anywhere in the Redwoods, you will also need a California Marriage license. You can get a marriage license at any county courthouse, even if your ceremony takes place in another county. However you must return the completed marriage license to the county you obtained it from. You will need 1 witness to your ceremony when you elope in California. Your marriage license costs just $91. The Humboldt County courthouse is located in Eureka, and the Del Norte County courthouse is located in Crescent City.
Do I need an officiant to get married in the Redwoods?
California law requires that an officiant signs your marriage license, yes. Hiring an officiant can cost $500 to $2000 depending on how far they have to travel and how much time they’ll spend creating your ceremony. However! I’m ordained, so I can non-denominationally officiate your elopement ceremony in the Redwoods, while I photograph it, to make your marriage legal! Alternatively, have one of your friends or family become ordained so they can be the one to sign the paperwork. It’s easy, I promise! So while you do need an officiant, you don’t have to hire one. Additionally, you will need 1 witness to sign your California Marriage license to make it legal. My husband is volunteering right now, or you can ask a stranger for the honor.
– Hire a professional officiant ($500 to $2000)
– Elect for me to officiate and create your ceremony for $0
– Bring a friend who gets ordained for $0
– Get legally married in your home state and have a non-legally binding ceremony in the Redwoods.
How much does a Redwoods Elopement Cost?
Redwoods National park elopements can vary in price greatly depending on your desires. If you want to spend half as much as the average wedding and have an unforgettable honeymoon, this is a great place to do that. You could spend a week whale watching, bike touring, kayaking the crystal clear rivers, and indulging in accommodations and food that you’ve always wanted. If you want to be thrifty and have a great elopement on the cheap, it’s possible! Here’s a sample budget breakdown of what it could cost you to elope at the Redwoods.
$500 to $800 Roundtrip flights for 2
$500 to $5,000 Your elopement clothes, whether you want to be spendy or save-y
$5,000 to 9,000 Elopement Photography
$500 to $3,000 accommodation options from basic to bougie
$200 Elopement Permit from Redwoods National Park
$91 California Marriage License
$1000 to $3000 Optional flowers, hair and makeup, officiant, etc.
$400 to $1400 Rental car and gas
=8,000 to $22,500.
Redwoods Elopement Packages
I offer All inclusive Redwoods elopement packages or photography & planning only options. There are no travel fees, download fees, watermarks or other hidden fees. These prices are for 2024.
2 Day elopements in the Redwoods – $9900
1.5 Days of Redwoods elopement photography – $7900
1 Full day Redwoods adventure elopement photography – $6900
Up to 4 hours elopement in the Redwoods – $5500 **Only available on select dates**
Redwood Coast Elopement Locations
There’s so much more here than “just trees.” The rugged coastline is filled with offshore rocks and marine wildlife. Whales, Seals, Sea Lions, River Otters, crustaceans, pelagic birds and starfish are some creatures you can expect to see. There are beaches, dunes, incredible crystal clear rivers, lagoons, trees you can drive through and even a giant treehouse. There are two $150 ceremony sites at the treehouses. Plus, If you’re a fan of seafood, this could be the perfect elopement location for you.
ELOPING IS FOR EVERYONE.
You don’t have to be an outdoorsy person, or a long distance backpacker to have an incredible elopement day in the great outdoors. Most of my elopements take place on hikes less than 4 miles in length, many even with a mile or less. I’ve also got some incredible locations for those with special accessibility needs.
YOUR ELOPEMENT WON’T BE LIKE ANYONE ELSE’S.
When to elope at the Redwoods
Because the Redwoods are right along the coast, temperatures are mild and comfortable year round. Daily highs in the low 60’s are expected from May to October, which makes for great hiking weather. The winter season is about 5 degrees cooler but definitely rainier with considerable precipitation. My favorite months are April, May and June for their abundance of green ferns and low crowds.
Best time of day for photography
Many photographers like to shoot in early mornings and right around sunset for the best light. But the towering trees here create so much shade that it starts to get dark in the forest about 2 to 3 hours before sunset. Pair that with the often-foggy coastline, and it’s rare to get a golden sunset or sunrise glow. The best time of day for photographing the redwoods is actually around mid-day! This is great news for couples who don’t want to get up before dawn 🙂
How much time do we need for a Redwoods Elopement?
This park is large, mystical, and worth taking the time to explore. I recommend a minimum of 4 hours to elope in the Redwoods. This will give you ample time to arrive at your chosen location, breathe, and say your elopement vows without being stressed. You can celebrate with champagne and travel to 1 other location for photos in a 4 hour elopement. But to truly have the most memorable day, opt for a full day elopement in the tallest trees on earth. You’ll have time to appreciate wildlife and embrace spontaneity. You won’t regret it.
Redwoods Elopement Timeline
Here is a sample timeline for an imaginary Redwoods Elopement. Your timeline could be totally different!
8:00 Wake up and enjoy coffee and bagels on the deck of your airbnb overlooking the ocean.
9:00 Get ready and have a first look together on the beach. Look for otters!
10:00 Explore the Redwood treehouse suspended bridges. Read letters from loved ones along the way.
12:00 Lace up for a short hike into the tallest trees on earth to have your elopement ceremony immersed in the forest.
1:00 That’s lunch! Pack a picnic of all your favorites.
2:00 Explore Fern canyon. Get your feet wet as you explore the mossy and lush landscape.
4:00 Get local Umpqua ice cream
5:00 Take a scenic drive to Avenue of the Giants, play in the sand dunes, or have a seafood banquet in Trinidad.
8:00 Fire on the beach & smores
Consider a Road Trip Elopement at the Redwoods
One of the best ways to experience the redwoods is through a road trip elopement! There is just so much to see here, you’ll want to take your time to explore. Maybe that means renting an RV or camper, or car camping! Tent camping can be damp in this coastal fog area, but don’t let that stop you. You could spend a whole week enjoying the 100 miles of coastline from the Avenue of the Giants to Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park. Combine it with Crater Lake National Park for an unforgettable trip!
Where to stay near the Redwoods
You’ll want to decide on your ceremony location before booking your accommodation, since the Redwood coast is so spread out. If your ceremony is near the north of the parks, you’ll stay near Crescent City, a decent sized town on the coast. Trinidad is a more quaint fishing town with epic views. The town of Orick is in the middle of the Redwoods parks but is small and run down. Eureka and Arcata, CA are convenient but struggling with poverty and individuals experiencing homelessness. Don’t look just at hotels in this area, because airbnbs offer a ton of unique stays in the area. Remote cabins, treehouses, cottages, farms and homes with ocean views add a special flair to your trip. Browse my list of Redwoods Airbnbs for inspiration.
Make me your Redwoods elopement photographer!
More California Elopement Guides:
- California Master Guide
- Yosemite Elopement Photographer
- Sequoia & Kings Canyon Elopement Photographer
- Death Valley Elopement Photographer
- Joshua Tree Elopement Photographer
- Mammoth Lakes Elopement Photographer
- Mono Lake Elopement Photographer