Enchanted forest? Yes, please! The California redwoods are the perfect place to escape for a romantic elopement. Seasoned hikers and spontaneous elopers alike will love this mild yet off-the-beaten-path location. It’s easy to leave the world behind as you stare in wonder at some of the tallest trees on earth. In fact, the fern-covered forest feels so surreal and timeless that they chose to film The Lost World: Jurassic Park inside Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. It’s incredible to think that the ocean lies just beyond those ancient trees.
Here are my top tips for elopements in the California redwoods.
Best Time for a California Redwoods Elopement or Photo Session
The summer is the most popular time to visit the redwoods, mostly because hikers want to avoid the heat. However, temperatures stay relatively even throughout the year. The rainy season starts in October and lasts through the winter, so it gets a bit chilly with temperatures ranging between 40-55 degrees. In the drier summer months, you can expect it to stay around 50-60 degrees.
With all that tree cover, it gets very dark. We’ll schedule sessions sometime after the sun has risen OR a few hours before sunset to get the best lighting for photos.
How to Get to the Redwoods
Redwood National and State Parks (RNSP) is actually four parks strung together. Most locations include an easy and gorgeous drive through the redwoods. In the forest, a winding one-hour drive feels like just a few minutes as you take it all in! It’s fun to make an adventure out of it. I recommend taking time to explore, relax, and experience the beauty of the giant redwoods. Typically, we’ll meet at the nearby casino before driving into the forest.
AWD vehicles are preferred for this drive but not 100% necessary. The roads are narrow, so be careful of other cars if any pass through (although this is not a busy location).
What to Wear
In all seasons, it’s about 10 degrees colder in redwoods than it is outside of the entry. I recommend a light jacket and hiking boots. If we go during the rainy season, lightweight rain gear is a good idea as well.
Logistics & Elopement Deets
If you are planning an official marriage ceremony in a state or national park, you’ll most likely need to obtain a permit to get married in the park, which includes a photography permit as well. (This is typically called a Special Use Permit, but always double check depending on location). Permits and associated fees are covered by the couple (if there are any); not every location requires a permit. Permit fees can range from $50 up to $300, depending on the park. Feel free to reach out to me, and I will help you with this process or direct you to someone who can.
Every state and national park has its own specific set of rules and requirements for getting married and taking photos. These parks are gorgeous and highly sought after for elopements, photo sessions, and small destination weddings, so the rules are designed to keep the parks beautiful!
Some parks designate locations you can reserve for ceremonies, depending on the number of guests. Other places in the park are first-come, first-served, so choosing a weekday can help you maintain privacy for your ceremony and photos.
For more information, visit the National Park Service website, where you can find permit details, fees, rules, and regulations for each National Park!
Doing our Part
I encourage all couples to familiarize themselves with the rules beforehand to get an overview of the location and know what is legal and what is not. I’m all about adventure, but I also want to keep my couples safe and the parks beautiful. I strictly adhere to the seven “Leave No Trace” principles – we must do our part in protecting these beautiful areas.
Is there any bad spot within the gorgeous California redwoods? Probably not, but this particular spot was Howland Hill Road Scenic Drive at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. I love it because it’s easily accessible, but it’s far enough into the forest that it feels private. The ferns, tree hollows, and rocky ledges make for some incredible photos.
Want to join me? Connect with me here to plan your own elopement adventure!