Introduction

Joshua Tree National Park is truly a masterpiece! It is such a marvelous place for a wedding or elopement because you feel like you’re on a different planet, surrounded by unique rock formations, desert winds and, of course, Joshua Trees. With many accessible locations, and not entirely hard to get to, Joshua Tree offers the most perfect backdrop for your wedding, elopement or photo session. This is why I’ve created this all inclusive guide to planning your elopement in Joshua Tree National park! If you’re trying to plan your Joshua Tree elopement then this is the place to be! We’ll go through all the ins and outs, what to pack, where to go, and even fun activities to make your elopement/wedding unique! Let’s dive in!

Table of Contents

Where is Joshua Tree National Park?

Joshua Tree National Park is located in the Southern part of California where the Mojave Desert and Colorado Desert meet. It is fairly easy to get to compared to most national parks. It will require you to have a car, either rented or personal, but other than that you shouldn’t have any problems getting into the city or national park!

IMPORTANT NOTE: The town of Joshua Tree is located near the WEST entrance of the park. There are many places to stay around here, like I talk about below. There is a South entrance to Joshua Tree located off Interstate 10. This one sometimes might be easier to get to but there are less places to stay around this entrance. I do suggest staying in Joshua Tree town area if you want to stay close. Otherwise you may use either entrance! There is another entrance, the North entrance, located a few miles away from the West entrance.

All locations are mapped to the West entrance of Joshua Tree National Park

Closest Major Cities/Towns:

Below are the closest major cities and towns from Joshua Tree National Park. This is an ESTIMATED driving time if you were to travel from these cities. Of course all things are subject to traffic and road conditions!

  • Driving Time From Palm Springs, California: 1 hour

  • Driving Time From Los Angeles, California: 2 hours (if you don’t hit terrible LA traffic…as if… so roughly 3-4 hours)

  • Driving Time From San Diego, California: 2.5 hours 30

  • Driving Time From Phoenix, Arizona: 4.5 hours

  • Driving Time From Las Vegas, Nevada: 3.5 hours

How to Get to Joshua Tree

Closest Major Airports:

  • PSP – Palm Springs International Airport: 1 hour
  • This airport is definitely the closest! It’s a very easy drive from Palm Springs and it has a variety of major airlines such as American Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, United, and more!

  • SAN – San Diego International Airport: 3.5 hours
  • LAS – Harry Reid International Airport (Las Vegas): 3.5 hours

How to Drive to Joshua Tree

You will certainly need to rent a car or have a car in Joshua Tree. Uber & lyft are definitely not a thing anywhere nearby and it’s certainly not a walkable distance from the actual town of Joshua Tree. You will also want to stop in the nearest city to grab essentials such as groceries, water, snacks, forgotten packed goods such as electronics, chargers, etc. There is one Walmart in the town of Joshua Tree but in the park there are no restaurants, stores, water refilling stations, etc.Best to prepare beforehand!

If you’re coming from Palm Springs, feel free to stop on your way in and look at the Windmills! They are so cool and unique to see and take a few photos by! They are a perfect little 20 minute driving break and you even pass them on the way!

Joshua tree National Park is all paved roads so you shouldn’t need any specific vehicle! There are dirt/gravel parking lots by some locations but nothing treacherous! 

Make sure you have maps downloaded on your phone, printed out in your car, or screenshotted! The cell service in the park is slim to none and the only place to grab a map is at the entrance, but you will likely lose service before you arrive at the entrance as well!

Check out this map below from the National Park Service Website to Understand the entrances better!

Color map of Joshua Tree National Park in location in Southern California. Major interstates are shown.

Why Should You Elope at Joshua Tree National Park?

Joshua Tree National Park is an amazing place for your wedding or elopement! The park itself is a gorgeous wonder offering desert lands with easily accessible paths, rock formations for a little bit of texture and even a mountain you can drive up to the top, take two steps out the car and be overwhelmed with breathtaking views of an endless horizon. 

It offers a variety of locations for the ceremony whether you have 2 people or 100 – sure to fit all of your ceremony needs! Not to mention, there isn’t a bad time of the year to go to Joshua Tree National Park! Winter, Summer, Spring and Fall are all gorgeous times to be there, because of it being a desert, it is rarely closed due to weather.

Though typically during the busy season there can be crowds and congestion, there is enough area of the park that you can typically get away from people for your photos. The desert is covered in unique Joshua Trees sure to fill your photos with the essence of the park.Joshua Tree National Park is sure to give you those care-free, nature-filled photos that you so desire!


FAQ’s About Eloping at Joshua Tree National Park

Are dogs allowed in Joshua Tree National Park?

Yes dogs are allowed in Joshua Tree National Park, however they are not allowed on hiking trails. They can be walked on the roads or in the campgrounds but cannot be more than 100 feet from the road and have to be leased at all times!

Is there cell phone service in the park?

BARELY! I would sway on the side of expect no cell service in the park. I would make sure to have maps of the area downloaded ahead of time and printed in case of emergency. There is free public Wifi at the Black Rock Visitor Center, the Joshua Tree Visitor Center and the Joshua Tree Cultural Center. I suggest also downloading the National Park Service app and the Alltrails app ahead of time!

Do I need a reservation to get into the park?

You do not need a reservation to simply enter and explore the park. You will have to pay the $30 private vehicle fee upon entry if you are just going in to explore though! You can also purchase the American the Beautiful Pass to cover all National Parks’s fees for the year – and to give back 🙂 

Do you need a permit to get married at Joshua Tree National Park?

YES! You need to apply for a Special Use Permit from the NPS website for Joshua Tree National Park. It cost $120 and covers a 2 hour wedding time. I talk more about this in the next section!

How much does it cost to get married in Joshua Tree National Park?

It costs $120 for the Special Use Permit for a 2 hour ceremony, setup and take down time. You will also have to pay the $30 private vehicle fee upon entry.

Are there aliens in Joshua Tree National Park?

I guess we’ll never know 👽🛸😉

For more FAQs head to the Joshua Tree National Park website to find all the info!


Joshua Tree National Park Wedding & Elopement Permits

Special Use permits are unique to every national park and can be very confusing to keep up with! This is where I come in! I have broken down everything you need to know about the permit, what is permitted, what is not and so much more!

Joshua Tree National Park Wedding Special Use Permit

To get married in Joshua Tree National Park you need to obtain a Special Use Permit from the National Park Services website. This permits a 2 hour timeframe for set up, guest arrival, ceremony, pictures, guest departure and clean up for $120! You can apply for an additional hour if needed for pictures! You should apply for this permit as soon as you know you’re going to get married here! Permits can take a long time to be approved and you don’t want to be in a time crunch! You will also have to pay the $30 private vehicle fee upon entry to the park as well!

There are many location options in Joshua Tree National Park for your wedding based on the number of guests you are inviting! You can have up to 100 people total but for that location you will need to hire a shuttle to bring people in, there is parking available for 1 car only. Many other locations allow 10-30 people and approximately 5-8 cars! We will talk about this next too!

There are a variety of things permitted for your wedding in the park and many prohibited items and activities! You must list which items you will be bringing on your permit application! Let’s go through them!

Items you can have for your wedding:

  • Free standing Arch
  • Small table for guest book
  • Water cooler
  • Live and Fake Flowers
  • Battery-powered Candles
  • Small Runner
  • Small Rug
  • Cake
  • Champagne

Prohibited Items:

  • Music, Microphones, Speakers
  • Butterfly release, bird seed, rice or flower petal throws
  • Balloons & signage
  • Furniture
  • Real candles & flames
  • Bubbles
  • Smoke bombs
  • Sparklers & fireworks

National Park Entry Fees & Passes

While you have to pay the $120 Special Use Permit, you will also have to pay the park entry fee of $30 per vehicle! You can also purchase the American the Beautiful Pass to cover all National Parks’s fees for the year – and to give back 🙂 


Best Locations or Venues for Your Joshua Tree National Park Wedding & Elopement

There are a variety of specific locations where you are allowed to have your wedding or elopement ceremony inside the park and many depend on the amount of people you are bringing along with you! These are designated areas for ceremonies so you can try to avoid congestion and crowds during the ceremony, although privacy is not guaranteed.

1. Indian Cove Amphitheater

If you want over 35 people to attend your ceremony, this is the only place allowed! You can have up to 100 people at this ceremony location but you can only have 1 vehicle so you will need to hire a shuttle to bring people in.

2. Hidden Valley Picnic Area

This is one of the top locations to elope at, however it is typically very crowded with rock climbers so the chance of privacy is slim. However, this is a picnic area so you can always host the celebratory dinner here if you can find a quieter spot for the ceremony! Up to 35 people and 8 vehicles

3. Cap Rock

Definitely one of the top locations to elope in Joshua tree National Park as well! It’s a short ½ mile hike with little elevation so no need to be winded when you say I do! Up to 25 people and 8 vehicles

4. Turkey Flats

Up to 35 people and 8 vehicles 

5. Rattlesnake Picnic Area

Another picnic area where you can hang out at the tables and benches for celebratory champagne toasts and snacks! Up to 20 people and 8 vehicles

6. Quail Springs Picnic Area

Another picnic area where you can hang out at the tables and benches for celebratory champagne toasts and snacks! Up to 15 people and 8 vehicles

7. Split Rock

Another little great location for a wedding ceremony! Up to 15 people and 5 vehicles

8. Porcupine Wash

Up to 12 people and 4 vehicles

9. Queen Valley Mine Intersection

Up to 10 people and 5 vehicles

10. Lost Horse Parking Lot

Up to 10 people and 5 vehicles

11. Live Oak Picnic Area

Up to 5 people and 3 vehicles

It’s worth it to note that there are a few places OUTSIDE of the National Park to get married at!!

1. AutoCamp Joshua Tree

Want that big wedding feel but against the beautiful landscape of Joshua Trees and starry night skies? Autocamp might be the way to go! With accommodations, activities and a location for both ceremony and reception, AutoCamp Joshua Tree is a great place to get married in! Check out this blog by my beautiful photog friend Jess to read all about an AutoCamp Joshua Tree Wedding!!

2. The Tumbleweed Sanctuary

This Venue is a beautiful little venue about 15 minutes from the West Entrance of Joshua Tree National Park.  

3. Rimrock Ranch

This little taste of western venue gives off complete camping vibes as a beautiful backdrop for your wedding. With a picturesque ceremony spot and lodging available, this is a great all-in-one place for your wedding!!


The Best Time of Year to Get Married at Joshua Tree National Park

Weather

One of the best things about Joshua Tree National Park is that it can be a year-round park in terms of weather! Although the average high in the summer scrapes 100 degrees, the winter month’s high will only be around 60 degrees! The temperature will drastically drop at night but as long as you are having a sunrise or sunset wedding, you should be comfortable and okay no matter what season you choose!

In May through August, if you can bear the blazing heat, is typically the best time to see the Milky Way in the park at night! If you are an astrology-enthusiast then this might be the perfect time for your wedding ceremony!

Crowds

Joshua Tree National Park’s busy season is during the months of October through May, especially on weekends and holidays! This is when the temperature is the coziest and everyone knows it! Like I said earlier, if you can find a little corner of the park to yourselves no matter where you are, the scenery will be filled with rock formations and Joshua Trees nevertheless! So if you aren’t worried about crowds then choose any month!

If you prefer privacy and time to yourselves then choosing a less busier timeframe such as May through August is preferred!


Where to Stay Near Joshua Tree National Park 

Finding a place in Joshua Tree to fit your needs is definitely up there on the wedding planning checklist! There are a variety of options such as Airbnbs, VRBOs, Campgrounds, Autocamps, etc. I’ll go into a little bit of detail about each to help you decide which is best for the occasion!!

Airbnbs/VRBOs

There are a billion and one beautiful airbnbs around Joshua Tree Naitonal Park. The tricky and important part is finding the right one for the occasion. MANY airbnbs around Joshua Tree have caught wind and don’t allow parties, weddings, etc. Please make sure you check the rules and guidelines of each airbnb to make sure you follow their wishes!

If you are just wanting an airbnb for you and your boo, or maybe even your family to stay in and spend time together, there are many that are perfect!! You could find one that has a little oasis of sorts like a pool, maybe a grill, or outdoor dining area for you to hang out in!! Hot tubs are a great amenity as the desert gets pretty chilly at night! Many airbnbs have activities and mini resort vibes so there is definitely something for everyone! For big families you could book something like this one, complete with mini golf, a pool, a big living room and kitchen for all of your family-time dreams!!

Hotels, Lodges, & Resorts

There are very few hotels around the National Park as it is in the middle of the desert. A few good ideas could be the Joshua Tree Inn, The Bungalows, or Pioneertown Motel! This brand new hotel, Field Station, just opened up (May 2024) and is a modern space, adventure-based hotel approximately 20 minutes from the Main Entrance. In my personal opinion, Airbnbs are often the same price as the hotel rooms, can fit more people, and are typically more modern and private!

Campgrounds

Camping in Joshua Tree is a great idea! You must bring your own tents, RVs, cars, etc. but there are some beautiful areas to stay in! No doubt, you’ll have a great view of the night sky in the pitch black desert at night! You must make a reservation to book your camping spot up to 6 months in advance or it can be made the same day, but I suggest booking ahead! It ranges from $20-$25 a night at the campsites inside the park!


Joshua Tree National Park Elopement Activity Ideas

One of the most fun parts of planning your own elopement is being able to do whatever the heck you want! Why not plan some activities in Joshua Tree as well!! Here are a few ideas, both experienced and casual activities you can do to make your Joshua Tree National Park Elopement unforgettable!

Rent a Car! Rent a classic car, drive it around the desert with the top down, throw on your favorite spotify playlist and just live your bets life together! Drive it to Palm Springs and back and truly just make your day unique!

Rock Climbing! If you are an experienced rock climber and love climbing together – why not do it on your wedding day!! Hidden Valley is one of the top spots for rock climbing in Joshua Tree National Park

Hike together! Pack up your gear and after you say I do, change (or don’t) and go for a hike together! Take in the breathtaking views of Joshua Tree National Park and get in some exercise as you explore the park together!

Stargazing!! Joshua Tree National Park is one of the BEST places to stargaze!! Joshua Tree is covered in the darkest sky with minimal light pollution which makes it perfect for your galactic dreams! You can typically see the Milky Way in the park during the Summer months. Iconic.

Horseback Riding! Joshua Tree National Park has some designated trails for horseback riding through the park! Get your cowboy boots ready and take on the beautiful sights of the park by horseback!

Sunset at Key’s View! Sunset at Key’s View in Joshua Tree National Park is UNMATCHED!! An accessible mountaintop where you drive up to the top, park, and watch as the sun sets over the neverending horizon. Truly an unforgettable moment and a great way to close out your elopement day! Check out this other blog post I wrote specifically about Key’s View!


Joshua Tree National Park Elopement Packing List

Add a packing list/checklist of what couples should bring for their elopement in this park. Include any general elopement ceremony items as well as items that may help on any hikes they go on (trekking poles, snowshoes, etc.), as well as any park-specific items they shouldn’t forget, such as bear spray or their parking permit. 

The Ultimate Packing List for your Joshua Tree National Park Elopement:

  • Wedding Attire
  • Wedding shoes
  • Rings
  • vows
  • Freestanding Arch
  • Small table for guest book
  • Water cooler
  • Live and Fake Flowers
  • Battery-powered Candles
  • Small Runner
  • Small Rug
  • Cake
  • Champagne
  • Hiking Boots/Tennis Shoes
  • Water (there is no running water in the park)
  • Food/Snacks (no food stops in the park)
  • Flashlight
  • Redlight (for stargazing)
  • Layers (chilly at night)
  • Sunscreen (this is the desert)
  • Chapstick (this is the desert)
  • Lotion (this is the desert :))
  • Map
  • Download the map onto your phone
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Backpack to hold everything
  • First aid kit
  • Portable fan (it does get hot!)
  • Portable phone charger (especially if you download the map on your phone)

Joshua Tree National Park Elopement Photographer

If you’re looking for an elopement photographer who loves to travel, explore new places and who loves Joshua Tree National Park – HI!! You’ve found me! I hope you have found this guide helpful because Joshua Tree National Park is truly a treasure and a beautiful place for your wedding or elopement should you so choose!

My name is Whitney and I am a destination wedding photographer! I travel all over the world capturing beautiful, authentic love stories and giving you memories to last a lifetime! I would be so honored to photograph your Joshua Tree Elopement! I can help you make sure you jump through all of the correct hoops, get your permit approved, and show you all the best places for your elopement! If you would like to chat more about your Joshua Tree National Park elopement then please don’t hesitate to reach out! Let’s get to chatting!!


Joshua Tree National Park Elopement Packages

All of my elopement packages are customizable because no 2 wedding days are the same!! So while I show you the base package and ranges, know that they are customizable to your day! Whether that’s a multi day weekend, a split day or just a quick little 2 hour wedding day!

Customizable Joshua Tree Elopement Packages:

  • Starting at 3 hours – ranging to multi-day packages!
  • Wedding Day Planning
  • Online gallery full of high resolution images
  • Sneak peeks
  • Access to print store
  • All travel included, minus permit

starts at $4,199 – Book this now!


Final Tips for Eloping at Joshua Tree National Park

Although this park is absolutely stunning and one of a kind! It is worth it to note that it is one of the harder national parks to get married in! There are quite a few hoops you have to jump through and sometimes communication isn’t the best! If you are wanting an easy breezy national park go with the flow elopement – this may not be the park for you!

If you think Joshua Tree National Park is the perfect place for you then let’s do it! I am down for any adventure and will for sure help you jump through the hoops to the best of my abilities! No matter what, we will create so many memories and gorgeous moments to last you a lifetime! Let’s get chatting and get you in the books! 


Joshua Tree National Park Wedding Inspiration

Below you’ll find a few resources to help your planning process as well as links to other blogs!

Author:

May 29, 2024

Eloping in Joshua Tree National Park: Top Tips + Tricks

Whitney Stark

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  1. mindy hulett says:

    I love this, thanks for sharing!

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