ELOPE IN THE REDWOODS
Your ultimate guide to eloping in the redwoods, including locations, permit info, leave no trace practices, vendor recommendations, and more.
Woodland weddings are quite popular nowadays, and it’s no wonder. Being able to sneak away with your love and head into the forest gives off such romantic vibes, especially for couples who wish to elope somewhere more intimate. When it comes to saying “I do” among the trees, there really is no grander, awe-inspiring place than eloping in the coastal redwoods.
The backdrop of stately trees creates a sense of closeness as you commit to your partner. Plus, the reddish tone—hence them being called redwoods—is more recognizable and unique than other forests. If this sounds like a dream come true, you may be wondering how to make it all happen. I’ve photographed dozens of elopements among these beautiful giants and know my way around planning the best day with them in mind. My ultimate guide to eloping in the redwoods answers all of your questions, so let’s get started!
As your redwoods elopement photographer, I wanted to share some insider info!
Keep in mind how remote you want to be. While some Redwood areas are near places like the Bay Area, other places like Crescent City, CA and Brookings, OR have only a 6,000 population. That means there’s no Target, and not a real selection of things like tattoo shops, or beauty salons. The nearest airport I even recommend is 2.5 hours away in Medford. Don’t expect to find a place to touch up your nails or a 5-star restaurant for dinner.
There are multiple groves and parks to choose from, and they span from the Oregon/California border, and extend southward for hundreds of miles.
Holidays and weekends are crowded, particularly in popular groves. Also, it’s just as important to Leave No Trace in the Redwoods, like it is in alpine environments. We want to keep these beauties pristine for future generations! That means no climbing on trees or downed logs (which can be valuable nurse logs if left alone!) and be sure to know the route of the trail and not go off of it. The Redwoods are known for having lots of social trails, which is a no-no. Those trails can easily confuse someone who doesn’t know which direction the trail should go.
The Ultimate Guide to Eloping in the Redwoods
Scroll to the bottom to see past Redwoods elopements for inspiration!
Where Redwood Trees Are Located
Most of the redwood trees are on the coasts of Oregon and California, usually within 50 miles of the coastline. Just like me, they love being close to the water! There used to be many more throughout the United States, but conditions over time forced them to thrive along the west coast.
Different Types of Redwood Trees
The park ranger in me can’t resist giving you at least a little bit of info on the two main types of redwood trees. Coastal Redwoods (sequoia sempervirens) grow tall first and then wide. The Giant Sequoia (sequoia gianteum, which is super easy to remember!) grows wide early and then tall. They almost sound like how different people develop during their awkward phase – amiright? Anyway, these two types of growth are why Coastal and Sequoia Redwoods are easy to tell apart.
Redwood Parks Where You Can Elope
Redwood National and State Parks
The official system of redwood areas consists of four parks over 139,000 acres. That leaves a lot of ground to cover as far as opportunities to elope. This region is located near the towns of Crescent City and Brookings. Please be aware that if you’re visiting any of those three towns, access to amenities is limited. Things like choices in nail salons, tattoo shops, and nice restaurants are severely limited, if non-existent. The nearest Target is several hours away, and the closest HMUAs I recommend come from at least 2 hours away.
You do need a special use permit to get married in the park. Plus, there is also a fee depending on your number of guests. A few points to note are that you need to state on your application about professional services at your wedding, such as catering and an elopement photographer (that’s me!). Also, let them know whether or not you will be serving alcohol.
Here’s a bit about the fee structure for eloping in the Redwood National and State Parks. Be aware that extra fees may be added if the park has to provide additional staff, such as rangers and custodians.
- $100 – basic wedding application fee
- $200 – events for 1-50 people without any unusual requests
- $300 – events for 51-100 people or those with unusual requests
- $400 – events for over 100 people or with highly unusual requests
Additionally, you can’t designate your area as private for your elopement as the park can’t exclude visitors from visiting certain areas. However, we can find a secluded spot so that we won’t have to worry about observers or interruptions on your big day.
You need to send your $100 fee along with your application, and be sure that it arrives no less than 14 days before your event. Factor in the time it takes to mail in your application—or expedite it—to ensure that it gets there within the two-week window. Tiered event applications and fees need to be received no less than 30 days before your elopement day. Additionally, note that you will have to get a marriage license in addition to your permit. Within the four parks, there are many popular wedding sites.
Individual Park Names
- Redwood National Park
- Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
- Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
- Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park
Popular Sites and Maximum Capacities within Redwood National and State Parks
- Berry Glen (6)
- Crescent Beach Day Use (20 – only available October 25 – May 1)
- Crescent Beach Overlook (20 – only available October 25 – May 1)
- High Bluff Overlook (20)
- Lost Man Creek Gate (20)
- Merriman Grove (8)
- Organ Donor’s Grove (20)
- Prairie Creek Amphitheater (20 – only available October 25 – May 1)
- River Trail (8)
- Schmidt Grove (20 – vehicle access limited depending on the season)
- Templeman Grove (20)
- Zig Zag 2 Trail (10)
If none of the above areas suits, you can request to get married in a different location, which would fall under the tiered fee schedule. Unfortunately, no weddings or elopements can occur at Fern Canyon, the James Irvine Trail, LBJ Grove, or Stout Grove. Some of those locations are where Jurassic Park was filmed and are heavily visited. Due to the high traffic—truthfully, they are pretty cool places to visit!—events aren’t allowed in those places.
PHOTOGRAPHER/VIDEOGRAPHER NOTE: From the desk of the permit coordinator, if you are using any images from the Coastal Redwoods park service (whether it’s a paid shoot or styled shoot) on your website or social media, you must have a commercial permit.
If you have any other questions, consult this page, or contact Stephen Troy at email@example.com. She can answer queries and put your mind at ease with any situation.
Airports Close to Redwood National and State Parks
- The closest major airports are SFO (San Francisco, CA) and PDX (Portland, OR), although the term “close” is relative. They are both 6-8 hours away from the park’s north and south ends.
- RDD (Redding, CA) is four hours east of Prairie Creek Redwoods.
- MFR (Medford, OR) is two hours east of Jedediah Smith Redwoods.
- ACV (Eureka/Arcata, CA) is one hour south of Prairie Creek Redwoods.
- CEC (Crescent City, CA) is a small airport that is 15 minutes from Jedediah Smith Redwoods, although flights are scarce.
Other Parks with Redwood Trees
Sequoia National Park
Located in California’s central part, Sequoia National Park is another highlight for couples who want to elope to the redwoods. Lodges and banquet rooms are available to host weddings and elopements for up to 80 guests. If you choose to get married in the park itself—please do, as the scenery is gorgeous!—you need to consult the National Parks Service.
More intimate areas in the park hold a maximum of fifteen guests, whereas others can accommodate up to 75. A complete list of the sites’ locations and photos is on the National Parks Website. In my opinion, the Giant Forest Museum Patio is perfect for eloping in the redwoods, and Beetle Rock and Panoramic Point have gorgeous views of the mountains. There are such stunning locations to say, “I do.”
The only caveat to eloping in Sequoia National Park is that you need to plan ahead. Your application needs to be received 90 days before you wish to get married. The roads to the various ceremony locations are also subject to weather conditions, so the months of November through April can be a bit iffy. It’s best to plan a wedding within the late spring to early fall timeline to avoid inclement weather.
Muir Woods National Monument
Muir Woods is another popular elopement spot for couples who adore redwoods. It’s located about 40 minutes above San Francisco via Route 101. The park was established as a national monument in 1908. There is also a quaint creek in addition to plenty of ancient redwoods.
A permit is required for a group of any size (yes, that includes an elopement!), but the good news is that a short timeline is ok. You just need to have the application in a minimum of ten days before your big day. When you head to their website, just be aware that Muir Woods is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, including Alcatraz Island, Presidio Trust, and several other locations, so don’t let that confuse you. Further information about permitting and getting married in Muir Woods is available on the park website.
Forests of Nisene Marks
About an hour south of San Jose, the Forests of Nisene Marks is a lesser-known, smaller park, but it’s still a worthy place to consider for an elopement among the redwood trees. Around the turn of the 20th century, many trees were cut down for logging. However, in the 1960s, Nisene Marks’ family donated land, and reforestation has been underway since. The result is a beautiful display of land coming back to life. It’s a symbolic place to start your own life together.
The permit fee is $25 if you have your application 30 days ahead of time. However, you can pay a cost of $100 if you need approval on a shorter timeline. You can request an application here, and their site also has additional information for those who want to get married in the Forests of Nisene Marks (skip to page 11 to see the wedding section). There are designated places for weddings, yet there are several other areas—none of which allow alcohol—for events under 50 people. These are perfect places for getting married surrounded by redwood trees.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park
As the oldest state park in California, Big Basin Redwoods State Park near Santa Cruz is under restoration (current as of 2021). Due to fires caused by lightning, unfortunately, many of the redwoods burned. Typically, the park offers hiking, waterfalls, and—yes—getting married among the redwood trees. Hopefully, the forest will quickly recover so it can reopen in the near future.
Limekiln State Park
Just like Big Basin, Limekiln State Park has had a bit of a rough time. Not only have fires caused damage to the redwoods, but difficulties with Highway 1 have also caused closures. When the park reopens, it’s great to visit in combination with Big Sur in general, as the park isn’t as large as some of the other redwood forests.
Best Time to Elope to the Redwoods
California truly is beautiful any time of the year, although there are a few seasons that are less than ideal for planning an elopement. Sequoia can be snowy in the winter, and the cold season also has a fair amount of rainfall in the Coastal Redwoods area. It’s reasonably safe to plan an elopement in the shoulder seasons of spring and fall. If you have your heart set on summer, just be aware that the woods are full of mosquitos in July, especially in the northern coastal areas.
Obtaining a Marriage License for a California Elopement
For information about getting marriage licenses in all 50 states, check here. A California marriage license is valid for 90 days, and you only need one witness (that can be your officiant or me). There is also no waiting period in CA, which is a big plus. If you happen to choose the Oregon coast for your ceremony while also visiting the North Coast Redwoods, there is a 3-day waiting period, and the license is valid for 60 days.
Wedding Vendors for your Redwoods Elopement
Of course, when you’re heading far away for a destination elopement, it helps to have a few trusted vendors on your side. I would love to be your photographer, and you can find out more about me here. Bonus points if you find the tidbit about how I show my love for coastal redwoods!
As far as other wedding pros, here are a few top recommendations I can make for florals, and more.
- Flora Organica Designs (EPIC Florals) – North California Coast
- Fleurt Beauty Company (Meaghan) – North California Coast
- Officiant Jimmie – Serving all Redwoods areas.
- Perkens Florals – Sequoia Area
- Bregina Rose HMUA – Sequoia Area
- Willow & Plum Florals – Bay & Big Sur Area
- Kiss and Makeup Creations – Bay & Big Sur Area
- Big Sur Ceremonies – Bay & Big Sur Area
Tell ’em Sam Starns sent you!
Other Things to Consider with a Redwoods Elopement
Consider the Aspects of Leave No Trace
As with any time spent in nature, it’s essential to respect the environment. The adage of “leave only footprints” may seem trite, but it bears a lot of truth. In essence, keep nature as you found it. Of course, don’t litter, pick flowers, or take other elements out of the area (it’s actually illegal to remove plants or other natural materials from national parks!).
However, with redwoods, it’s vital not to climb the trees. Therefore, be careful when you walk around their delicate root structures. A study in Stout Grove showed severe degradation in trees that visitors could walk up to, therefore damaging the root system (many of which were accessible by social trails, or trails established by people going off trail and creating a new trail – a big no-no).
Also, be aware of nurse logs, which are fallen trees that turn into incredible ecosystems and essentially heal the forests. They provide nutrients to seedlings and habitat for moss and microorganisms as they decay.
Although it’s sad to see redwoods fall, yet once they do, they are also vital to their surroundings. Fallen trees are left to aid in preventing erosion while providing a habitat for insects, small mammals, fungi, and more. It really is fascinating (again, bio nerd here!). We’ll enjoy your elopement to the fullest while also respecting the surrounding grand redwood trees.
Choose Your Attire Carefully
An adventure elopement is undoubtedly different than an event at a more traditional wedding venue. You may be swapping your dress shoes for hiking boots, and that’s ok! I have a complete list of gear to consider. If you want to wear a wedding gown, there are also several things to consider, such as the type of fabric and style of dress. It’s possible to be both practical and gorgeous when you’re eloping in the redwoods.
Be Aware of Limited Amenities
Places like Brookings, OR / Crescent City, CA fit into the category of “we really OUT here“. Things like choices in established nail salons, tattoo shops, and nice restaurants are severely limited, if non-existent. The nearest Target is several hours away, and the closest HMUAs I recommend come from at least 2 hours away. The nearest regional airport I recommend is in Medford, OR (2.5 hours away). Both Brookings and Crescent City have a population of roughly 6,000, for reference. TLDR: Don’t plan on a Redwoods elopement in these areas without realizing shopping/pampering/luxury items are limited.
Have a Love for the Coast
Many couples choose other locations beyond forests filled with redwoods. Places to elope are all along the coasts of Oregon and California. From pristine coastlines to rock-filled beaches, many couples love the coast and long to have a private elopement there. No matter what you envision for your dream day, let’s do it together! I would love to be there to document it all.
Whether you’ve always pictured eloping surrounded by stately redwoods, or the idea merely intrigues you, getting married in the forest is both intimate and memorable. The redwood trees have been around for a long time, which symbolizes the lasting commitment you will make to the one you love. So, let’s do it! Let’s capture your wedding day while surrounded by beauty and history on the west coast.