Written by our rad team member, Amanda Winther
How to Plan a Joshua Tree Elopement
If waking up in a relaxed desert oasis, with stunning mid-century modern architecture, exploring a unique desert landscape with otherworldly looking plants, and saying “I do” in front of a candy-colored sunset sounds like your dream wedding day, then a Joshua Tree elopement might be just the thing for you! As much as I love the moodiness of the Pacific Northwest, there’s something special about escaping to the California high desert. From the most incredible weather during the shoulder season (yes perfect 70s and sunny!), to incredibly dark night skies and shooting stars, Joshua Tree is one of my favorite desert locations in the world. That said, there are a few quirks of this area that you’ll want to know to plan your own Joshua Tree elopement. Keep reading and I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about eloping in Joshua Tree, from how to get your wedding permits, to my favorite elopement locations.
How to Elope in Joshua Tree National Park
Choose a time of year
Hire your dream Joshua Tree elopement photographer
Book a Joshua Tree airbnb for your elopement
Decide on where to elope at Joshua Tree National Park
Apply for your Joshua Tree wedding permit
Have the best day ever!
The first step when planning your Joshua Tree National Park elopement is to choose a time of year. Generally, you’ll want to look into the spring or fall (but keep reading for more specifics around the best times to elope in the park!).
Next, you’ll want to hire an elopement photographer and secure your dates with them and their team. Often, elopement photographers will also help guide you along the next few steps of your elopement planning process as well. For example, I help my couples choose elopement locations and backup locations, offer suggestions for trusted vendors, and even give feedback on things like wedding attire and airbnbs.
Next, you’ll want to decide where in Joshua Tree or the surrounding areas that you will be eloping, and, if needed, apply for a permit. Keep reading for details about applying for a permit, but know that if you plan to elope or capture photographs in the park you will need a wedding permit.
Last, but absolutely not least, have the best day ever! Enjoy being in one of the most stunningly beautiful places in the world, marrying your best friend.
What is the Best Time of Year to Elope in Joshua Tree National Park?
Because the temperatures can get extremely cold in the winter and hot in the summertime, I recommend planning your Joshua Tree National Park elopement during the spring or fall. Specifically March or April, and October or November are the best months to get married in Joshua Tree. During these months, you have an extremely low, nearly zero percent, chance of rain in the desert, minimal cloud cover, and the average temperatures are right around highs of 75 and sunny. Bluebird skies, sunny but not scorching days, and crisp, starry nights that beg for some time hanging out in your hot tub or by the fire pit..can you say perfection?
Here are the average temperatures in Joshua Tree during the months of March, April, October, and November:
What is the Best Time of Day to Plan your Joshua Tree National Park Elopement?
As a photographer, I’ll recommend this again and again – but the very best time of day to plan your elopement in Joshua Tree (or anywhere else outside!) is at sunrise and/or sunset. This means you get to take advantage of the most dynamic and interesting light. It’s also such a beautiful time to be outside and watch the first or last moments of the day.
During sunrise, you’ll experience what is known as “blue hour” transitioning into “golden hour.” As the names suggest, blue hour light tends to have cooler tones, and golden hour has warmer tones, both of which make the neutral-toned desert landscape at Joshua Tree look truly magical.
At sunset, you’ll experience the reverse of this, with “golden hour,” transitioning into “blue hour.” Capturing your elopement photos at sunset also brings an added bonus. The sky at Joshua Tree, especially during the best months I listed above, tends to be extremely clear, with minimal light pollution. So, we can stay out until the first stars appear and capture stunning night time photos.
Choosing the Perfect Joshua Tree Wedding Airbnb
Here are my top tips to help you choose the perfect airbnb for your adventure elopement in Joshua Tree National Park. You will want to ask yourself these questions to help narrow down the best accommodations for you:
1.What kind of amenities or vibe do you want?
There are so many stunning options for airbnbs around Joshua Tree, so I suggest thinking about what kind of amenities and design fits your personality as a couple, especially if you plan to take any photos at your airbnb. One thing that the Joshua Tree and Palm Springs area is especially known for is mid century and modern architecture with clean, desert-inspired aesthetics. Keep reading for my favorite Joshua Tree wedding accommodations – I shared a little bit of everything from luxurious options, to glamping-style options.
2. Will you be having guests join you? If so how many
Commonly, airbnbs limit the number of guests allowed on the property to the number of guests in the listing. So, for example, if the airbnb says accommodations for up to 8 people it usually means only 8 people can be on the property. Airbnb also limits the maximum number of guests to 16 unless otherwise stated. Either way, a brief message to the hosts is often the best way to clarify and confirm that the airbnb or other accommodations will work for you and your guests.
3. Does the host allow events?
Expanding on the guests question above, if you plan to have any wedding or elopement activities at your airbnb, it’s important to make sure that your host allows events on the property. VRBO has a search option which makes finding properties that allow events easier, but with airbnb you usually need to reach out to the hosts. In general, don’t be afraid to reach out to the hosts! I’ve included some of my favorite “event-friendly” accommodations below. If you’re thinking about having your wedding ceremony at the airbnb, you’ll also want to check out this other guide I’ve written → how to plan an airbnb wedding.
4. How far away from the park or your elopement location is the airbnb?
Especially if you are planning a sunrise elopement, it’s a good idea to map out the distance from where you’ll be staying to your elopement location. Joshua Tree is a large park so you may find yourself needing to drive an hour to get to your location. This will most likely also inform your elopement day timelines and schedule. For example, if your accommodations are an hour from the park, you may want to opt for first look or sunrise photos at the airbnb or somewhere close by instead of in the park.
The best airbnbs, VRBO’s and other accommodations for your Joshua Tree Wedding – Mollie’s top picks
Whether you’re looking for laid back desert vibes with views for days, stunning mid-century modern touches, dreamy, amenity-filled outdoor entertaining spaces, options that allow events, or something a bit more luxurious, there are so many incredible places to stay for your Joshua Tree wedding. Here are a few of my top airbnb, VRBO and other accommodations to get you inspired:
Feeling luxurious? These are the Joshua Tree wedding Airbnbs for you!
Looking for desert luxury? The Stargate of the Desert might be just what you need. This property, which accommodates up to 8 guests, sits on 2.5 acres, and has gorgeous interior and exterior design, including, of course – floor to ceiling windows so you can watch the sunrise over the desertscape, or the shooting stars in the clear night sky. What really takes this one to the next level is the amenities – look at that incredible ozone pool (which means fewer chemicals need to be used), hot tub, outdoor shower, chef’s kitchen, and yoga studio! You can even book a yoga instructor to come to the property for some morning, pre-wedding yoga.
If you don’t need something quite as big as the option above, the Skyfall, which accommodates up to 4 guests overnight (and up to 6 during the daytime), has some absolutely dream outdoor spaces. As a photographer, I can’t help but imagine how stunning the images you could capture here. From the modern architecture, floor to ceiling windows, salt water pool, hot tub, and fire pit, everything is thoughtfully and tastefully designed. But, I especially love that you’re surrounded by iconic granite boulders very similar to the ones in Joshua Tree National Park.
Looking for something slightly more budget-conscious with 360-degree views?
The Koppie House has incredible, 360-degree views from the property, contemporary interior and exterior design, and it’s pet friendly! Just imagine waking up here and feeling so immersed in the desert and landscapes as you get ready to marry your best friend. One thing I’ll note is that the outdoor spaces (meaning the seating and lounging areas, etc.) are a bit more basic, with fewer amenities than some of the other options I’m listing, but if you weren’t planning to have your main festivities or ceremony festivities at the Airbnb, and have 6 or fewer total people, this is an incredible, more budget-friendly option to look into.
The Zebra Shadow is named after the zebra-striped shadows created by the sun shining through the arches in the outdoor space. Situated on over 3 acres, the Zebra Shadow is very conveniently located near the entrance to the park. It’s a 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom accommodation, which sleeps up to four guests. In addition to the iconic stripes, the outdoor space also has a 6-person hot tub, outdoor grill and fire pit, and porch with table that would be perfect to decorate for a catered group meal (like this).
This stunning, modern three bedroom (sleeps up to 6), two bathroom Airbnb gets incredible reviews for its location, and tasteful interior design and art collection. I love the spindly ocotillos growing right on the property, the hot tub for post-hike relaxing, and the outdoor seating area. Pets are also allowed – so bring your pup (or pups!)
This beautiful cabin won me over with its simple touches, incredible location, and desert and mountain views. As a 1 bedroom, 1 bath (up to 3 guests), it is a bit smaller than some of the other options, but it would be a perfect place for a couple that wasn’t planning to include guests in their elopement (or you could have the guests stay elsewhere!). You can’t beat the sunset views from this location. Every window points towards protected Desert Trust Land, and the park boundary. And that fire pit area is truly spectacular. Can’t just imagine roasting s’mores while watching the night sky, and of course cuddling your best person?
Looking for a place that allows events?
Although all of these VRBOs currently state they allow events, it is always a good idea to double check the listing and reach out to the host with any questions.
They call this a mid-century, rustic ranch, but I’d argue that its decor and outdoor entertaining space make it anything but rustic. The cozy two-bedroom ranch, which sleeps up to five, is nestled in between boulders on a 5 acre property. The outdoor amenities include things like ping pong, darts, and other vintage games, a shooting gallery, sun deck, hammocks, horseshoes, a 7-person hot tub, multiple fire pits, and even a BBQ bar and pizza oven! The property is also very private, backing up to hundreds of acres of BLM land, where you could hike closer to the property, or you’re a 30 minute drive from Joshua Tree. Pets are welcome.
This stunning 2-bedroom VRBO offers guests views of both the desert and the mountains from every single room! If you’re around in the winter or early spring you may even get to see the mountain peaks blanketed in a dusting of snow, which is a special treat in the desert. I love the huge windows. Can you imagine watching the sun rise or catching a shooting start from the bedroom window? The Jackrabbit Wash also has a beautiful pool and hot tub. This property is also quite removed from neighbors and private. And, although it only sleeps four, the listing says they’ve hosted 20-25 person events. Pets are not allowed.
This property is definitely a very unique, modern, light-filled option that Conde Nast listed as one of their “coolest stays” in 2021, and for good reason! The listing describes it as a “luminous luminous sanctuary on 10-acres of mythic boulders.” The amenities include a salt water hot tub, cowboy tub (which could make for some great photos!), an outdoor shower, and fire pit. And, with 10 acres you may never need to leave the property at all. The house has two bedrooms and sleeps up to four people.
The Pinto Mountain Homestead, is set on 5 acres with gorgeous views of Mt San Gorgonio and the desert. The view from the bathtub is almost too good to be true. I love the clean, crisp and thoughtful interior design touches. Just outside, you can explore the 5 acre property, or spend time watching the dark, absolutely star-filled skies from the hot tub, lounge spaces, or fire pits. A bonus of Pinto Mountain is that it offers more sleeping space than the other options listed in this section (3 bedroom / sleeps up to eight people).
Want a unique, glamping experience?
For extremely tasteful glamping, look no further than Autocamp’s Joshua Tree location. Autocamp is known for its gorgeously-decorated and comfortable-outfitted airstream accommodations, and you can even choose one with extra privacy and panoramic views. If an airstream seems too small for you, look into their modern tiny home cabins. Some of which even come with outdoor showers. Grab a midday dip in the seasonally heated pool, make s’mores around the fire pit, or relax in the mid-century modern clubhouse. Unlike the other options I included above, Autocamp also offers food and coffee/tea onsite, and has a small General Store where you can buy provisions, beer, and wine.
The Best Locations for Your Joshua Tree National Park Elopement
Before I share my top recommendations for Joshua Tree elopement locations, it is important to acknowledge that all of the land we hike on and recreate on, including the land of current day Joshua Tree National Park is Native land. To that end, I honor with the very deepest gratitude the land itself and the Serrano, Chemehuevi, Mojave, Cahuilla, and present day Morongo Nation, and 29 Palms Tribe. To learn more about the native history of the land now known as Joshua Tree National Park, I encourage you to read this piece by the NPS, or this summary by Cal Poly.
One thing to know about getting married in Joshua Tree National Park, is that weddings and elopements are only allowed in a handful of specific locations in the park. But that should not be a concern, because these locations include some of the best places in the park. Something I love about Joshua Tree is how accessible it is for people with less hiking experience or who may not want to go on a long hike before their ceremony. Most of these hikes are less than two miles with no elevation gain on a flat and generally clear trail.
No matter which spot you choose for your elopement, you’ll get to see the iconic features that joshua tree is known for – from incredible, tan granite quartzite rock formations and boulders, to over 800 species of desert plants, including the famous, spindly, spiky, Dr. Seuss-looking joshua tree. Did you know that the “joshua tree” is actually not a tree at all, but a succulent in the agave family? The tallest one in the park is 40 feet high! They do flower, but only if the perfect goldilocks conditions are present — the right amount of rain and water, the right temperatures, and they must be pollinated by one specific type of moth – the yucca moth.
Here are my top recommendations for where to elope in Joshua Tree:
The split rock area would be a great place for your Joshua Tree National Park wedding. First, it feels very tucked away and is generally less crowded than some of the other options I’m including. While there is a short trail called the Split Rock Loop Trail, you won’t have to go very far to get away from people and find what feels like your own little desert world. There are so many unique, interesting rock formations in this area, and of course lots of desert plants to see along the way. There are picnic tables close to the parking lot so a great option would be to have a picnic with your friends and family, and then you’re just a quick walk away from stunning private areas for your ceremony.
Cap Rock is by far one of the most popular locations for wedding and elopement ceremonies, and for a good reason! It’s stunning, with lots of rock domes to explore. And the way you can find opportunities to perfectly frame the rock with Joshua trees is just so beautiful. Although it’s not as popular as the next location, you may also be lucky enough to spot some rock climbers wedging their way up the cracks in the rock at this location. There is a short, ½ mile established hiking trail. While Cap Rock is more popular than Split Rock, and will generally be a bit more crowded, you can usually still find a great place for photographs or your ceremony.
You’ll see Hidden Valley recommended as a top elopement location for Joshua Tree, but personally, it’s my least favorite of the locations I’m listing. The reason why? Hidden Valley is the epicenter of the park for rock climbing, and that makes it a really popular and crowded area. It’s really cool to watch the climbers all around, but with this level of popularity you may struggle to find privacy. Some great options if you want to spend time in this area are to have your ceremony and take photos elsewhere, and then head to the Hidden Valley group picnic table area for a celebratory dinner or picnic. If you do plan your elopement at Hidden Valley, I recommend making sure that your photographer knows this location well and has scoped out some less crowded areas a bit off the main trail. I do know some lesser known spots that offer more privacy around here. Here’s a link to the main Hidden Valley hiking trail.
How to Apply for a Joshua Tree National Park Wedding Permit
Here are the top things you need to know when applying for your Joshua Tree National Park wedding permit:
Apply for your permit as soon as you know your wedding dates
Fill out the short form and pay a one-time, non-refundable fee
You will need to list your preferred and alternate locations
Your photographer or videographer will need a separate permit (of course I handle this for my couples!)
If you’re planning a Joshua Tree elopement or wedding, it is absolutely essential to get a wedding permit through the National Park Service. Getting a permit is standard practice for elopements, weddings, and even engagements in National Parks like Joshua Tree.
But, the good news is that the Joshua Tree park service website walks you through everything you need to know about getting a wedding permit (also known as special use permit), including the specific locations in the park where you can have your wedding, the maximum number of guests for each location, and what you can (and cannot) bring for your wedding in Joshua Tree. You will also pay a one-time (non-refundable) fee of $120 for your wedding permit. If you will be having a photographer or videographer with you, they will not be covered by your permit and will need an additional permit to take photographs. (Not to worry, if you’re a Between the Pine couple I will take care of that!). I recommend applying for your wedding permit as soon as you know your elopement dates.
It can feel a little bit overwhelming at times figuring out all the steps you need to check off to make sure you’re legally “okay” to get married in Joshua Tree. And something like wedding permits can be confusing. I help all of my couples with this step, and will gladly walk you through everything you need to know to make sure you’re feeling 100% cared for, so all you need to do is enjoy time with your partner, friends and family, and of course the incredible desertscapes when you say “I do.”
How to get to Joshua Tree for your Elopement: Travel Logistics
Here are the top three things you’ll want to keep in mind when planning your travel to Joshua Tree for your elopement or adventure wedding:
If possible, fly into Palm Springs
Rent a car at the airport
Grab anything you need in Palm Springs (or LA)
Which airport to fly into for a Joshua Tree elopement
You have two options for airports to fly into if you’ll be getting married in Joshua Tree: Palm Springs and Los Angeles. Los Angeles is a much bigger airport, and more central, so you will likely find more direct flights from all over the United States and even internationally. That said, I highly recommend flying into the Palm Springs airport if possible. The main reason for this is something you may have heard about but if you have never experienced it, you may not fully grasp how bad it can get – LA traffic.
Just to give you some data to back up what you might deal with when it comes to LA traffic: the drive from LA to the Joshua Tree National Park West entrance is just under 160 miles, but with traffic, you can expect it to take you around 4 or 4.5 hours of driving time. From Palm Springs, the drive to the West entrance should take around 1 hour. The other bonus about Palm Springs is that it’s such a fun and funky little town, with its mid-century, modern architecture, cute and trendy shops and restaurants, and vibrant Hollywood history. One great option is to fly into Palm Springs and spend a couple days there before you head to your accommodations in Joshua Tree.
You’ll want to rent a car at the airport to make getting around easier
My second tip is somewhat obvious – but having a rental car for your Joshua Tree National Park elopement day will make getting around the park a lot easier. The park is quite large – and even the smallest loop through the park (from Joshua Tree town, through the park past Hidden Valley to Skull Rock, and back) would be around 65 miles, and you’ll want to get out and stop to see the sights along the way. It’s easy to rent a car at either airport you fly into (Palm Springs or LA) and I definitely recommend doing so!
Grab anything you need in Palm Springs (or LA)
My final tip is to stock up on your main provisions in Palm Springs or LA. Especially if you end up flying into Palm Springs, I recommend doing the bulk of your grocery shopping there because you will have more options and it’s likely a short drive from there to your Airbnb or elopement accommodations. That said, there are restaurants, shops, coffee shops, and even grocery stores outside the park in Joshua Tree town, Yucca Valley, and Twentynine Palms so if you forget something you will be able to get it a short drive away.
How to Pick the Perfect Joshua Tree Elopement Package
I offer a handful of elopement photography packages, but for Joshua Tree elopements I recommend two specific packages for all of my couples – the Sunrise to Sunset package, and the Two-Day Elopement package.
Sunrise to Sunset is one of the most popular elopement packages my couples book booked by my couples because it offers so much opportunity to capture incredible photographs and to have multiple fun adventures! With this package, we are going to be out adventuring at both sunrise and sunset, and also get the best light (golden hour and blue hour) at both sunrise and sunset. And, since the skies tend to be so clear in Joshua Tree, we also have the chance to stick around a little after sunset and capture blue hour turning into the very first stars of the night. I also recommend this package, because it allows us to take advantage of the good temperatures, and then we always include a break in the middle of the day where you can take a dip in the hot tub or pool at your airbnb, have a nourishing and delicious meal prepared by a private chef, or find time to take a nap and recharge. Basically, I love this package for Joshua Tree elopements, because whatever you want to do on your day we can absolutely make that happen and still get all of the best photos during the best time of day in the desert.
The other package I recommend to my couples is the Two-Day Elopement Package. This is the package I typically recommend for my couples who want to bring guests, or have friends and family join them for their Joshua Tree wedding. By spreading your elopement over two days, you can dedicate the first day to your elopement, including the ceremony and celebration with friends and family. Without the need to focus on getting the epic photos on that day, I find couples can be much more present with their loved ones and enjoy their wedding day, while I capture all the big and small moments that unfold in your day, from start to finish. The two day package allows you so much extra creativity – you can choose two different landscapes, and visit two different areas, and most importantly, your ceremony and elopement day feels relaxed because you don’t have the added pressure of needing to leave and catch golden hour in the park. To learn more about my elopement packages, click here!
Meet your Joshua Tree Elopement Photographer
I named my company Between the Pine because I am happiest when I am outside, surrounded by pine trees (or sunshine and palm trees… or joshua trees, which it turns out aren’t really trees). Since I was little, I’ve always loved the outdoors. This led me to getting the nickname “granola girl” because I’m literally always excited to spend time outside (and even have an outfit and hiking boots + snacks ready to go at all times).
So, really, it’s no surprise that I found my way to Joshua Tree and the deserts of California, and to a career as an adventure elopement photographer. I’ve had the honor of walking thousands of miles alongside hundreds of couples to celebrate one of their biggest life moments. And nothing lights me up like getting people outside to epic places.
Whether you’re dreaming of tying the knot at sunrise in the spacious outdoor area at your stunning mid-century inspired airbnb, exploring the nooks and crannies of the incredible granite quartzite rock formations in Joshua Tree National Park, or really have no idea where to start, I’m here to help you make your Joshua Tree elopement your best day yet!
Ready to explore more elopements, weddings and adventures? Wander away below!
Between the Pine is an adventure elopement and wedding photography brand created by Mollie Adams. Based in the Pacific Northwest, Mollie travels with her camera in hand to document “I dos” in epic landscapes including Washington, Oregon, California, and Hawaii.