• Ann Marie

Destination Elopement Series : Joshua Tree National Park

Have you considered Joshua Tree National Park for your Elopement? Eloping in the desert does not get much better than at Joshua Tree National Park! Saying ‘I Do’ among the Joshua Trees before scrambling up on those jumbo boulders to watch the sunset together. Such a magical place to profess your love and officially begin your life together!

Joshua Tree National Park is where two unique ecosystems, the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert (part of the larger Sonoran Desert), come together. (See NPS for more information HERE.) Entering the park, it is obvious why this geographical area has been set aside as first a national monument and then a national park with its iconic Joshua Trees, Monzogranite (and similar, see HERE for more geologic information) boulders, oases and unique features. Just larger than the state of Rhode Island, this national park sprawls across the desert with so many views and hikes for all. (See more about some history of JTNP HERE.) It can be hard to not get swept away with the beauty of the place!

What is an Elopement?

An elopement, as it relates to marriage, is generally a private ceremony with you, your partner and your officiant. This private ceremony might also include your two witnesses, for states that require, as well as immediate family + your closest friends.

It is a fairly gray area to determine exactly when an Elopement becomes an Intimate Wedding. From our standpoint, if the festivities involve 25 people or less we are happy to consider it an Elopement. With most Intimate Weddings being under 50 people instead. However you might find some say that it is only truly an Elopement if it is just the two of you and your officiant (if required) so we can understand the confusion when trying to sort all of this out for your own planning purposes.

Why Elope?

It’s true that the actual term ‘to elope’ means ‘to run away’ which is where the original prejudice for this event has come from. If your Great Aunt Tess or your Grandma Bee is not too happy about any talk about eloping, this might be why and you can ease their mind by chatting in advance. Because currently, in 2019, this is a very accepted choice that can allow for some freedom when getting married.

So why might you choose to elope? There are lots of reasons that might not be listed here but these are some great reasons.

  • You both love the great outdoors and saying your vows on top of a mountain top where your dear Great Aunt Tess cannot climb to, but you both can, is exactly how you want to start your life together.

  • You are not one for big events with friends and family from near and far all gathered in one location and you being on display (to some extent) all day.

  • Your families live in opposite locations across the country and trying to decide on a location that is ideal to most or all is becoming such a headache.

  • Similar to the last one – the thought of trying to appease your family + friends with an adequately sized and located wedding is just not happening.

You might notice I did not mention budget at all in your decision making. And that is because from our personal experience, budget actually does not have much to do with it. That and Eloping is so trendy right now that you can spend a small fortune on your elopement if you want to just like you can have a very inexpensive wedding if you want to.


When considering eloping in Joshua Tree National Park – do not forget about the required permits! (See NPS page for current permit information HERE) Current permit cost is $120 (this applies for both wedding or engagement photos) and the NPS does a great job of listing out what exactly is allowed and what is not. For examples, if smoke bombs are included in your elopement dreams then Joshua Tree is not the place! We would recommend checking their website and getting your permit approved early in your planning process.

In addition to permit costs, there is an entrance fee per vehicle to enter Joshua Tree National Park. (Fee information HERE) If you are a National Parks Pass owner, then you are in luck! Observing all park rules during your elopement helps ensure that this will be an option for more couples in the future. If you have a specific question when planning your elopement please contact the Joshua Tree NPS office directly. Always great to ask first!

The latest trend : Adventure Elopement and Complete Wedding

If you are on the fence and trying to decide to either elope or have a complete wedding – we want to let you know that the latest trend is to actually not choose between these two. Nope. Instead, you can do both! And if this sounds like an absolute nightmare, let us explain.

Choosing to elope is a chance to say your vows in private and have those moments to yourself as well as travel to a beautiful location for vacation or such. Whereas choosing to have a complete wedding is a chance to have that formal ceremony in front of family and friends who are there to share your day with you.

Still shaking your head at this idea? Well, hear us out. Let’s say you both love the beach but doing a full beach wedding just isn’t happening. So instead you hire an officiant and photographer, invite your parents and elope at the beach. This is also where you sign your official marriage license documents and get all of that aspect taken care of. Then, you also want to have a big celebration with all of your family and friends so later in the summer you have a complete wedding at a lodge that is convenient for friends and family. But since you already signed your marriage license, for the ceremony you ask one of your best friends to do the honors of being your ‘officiant’ whether they are ordained or not. You book your venue, hire a photographer, caterer, coordinator, florist and DJ and it’s on! You, in short, get two great moments with your partner and both are more relaxed where you can enjoy yourself.

This is just one example. Similar examples include an Elopement with a reception or wedding celebration to take place later with friends and family. And the truth is, you get to decide how and when you get married. There is no right or wrong answers so long as you both are happy with your decision. Granted, we completely understand that trying to keep family happy about whatever decision you come to, is a totally different thing. However when it is all said and done – you are just as married and officially starting your life together. Do what is right for you.

Make it a destination elopement and turn this trip into a mini-vacation for you two!

Tips for your Love + Adventure in Joshua Tree National Park:

  • Stay away from heels for the average desert soil especially if going on an adventure! Trade in those heels for cute boots!

  • Finding parking can be difficult for different areas and traffic in the park can cause slowdowns which need to be taken into account if on a schedule at all during high traffic times. Arrive early!

  • As with basically every National Park, there is generally no cell signal to speak of so do plan your meeting location with vendors, friends, etc. in advance and do not deviate. Provide vehicle descriptions, etc. to help locate one another. Want to be super obvious? Show up all dressed up and you should be easy to spot!

  • Bring layers! If you are planning to be in the park after sunset, be sure to bring layers as it can go from very hot to quite chilly in the desert.

  • Stay hydrated! You are in the desert after all – be smart about bringing enough provisions for your planned activities just like you would when going on a hike.

  • Pack it in, pack it out. Another common sense one but just a reminder!

If Joshua Tree is the place for you and yours then now is the time to start making your dreams come true and planning your elopement. Make it a destination elopement and turn this trip into a mini-vacation for you two! There is no other place quite like Joshua Tree National Park. Its unique beauty sets it apart in the list of National Parks for sure.

While in the area, do stay a while and check out the wonderful history of Joshua Tree National Park and enjoy the many hikes and scenic views.

Our recommended hikes not to miss:

  • Hidden Valley – Get there early before the tour buses! Take your time on this easy loop trail and learn some of the history of Joshua Tree National Park.

  • Skull Rock – Not so much a trail as a rock formation you can see from the road. Stop and admire!

  • Lost Horse Mine Loop – Rated as ‘Hard’ but not too bad with sufficient provisions. More great history and sites to see!

  • Arch Rock – come early before the crowds! Or stay late! Whichever is your style.

We did not get a chance to hike all of the trails in Joshua Tree but of the ones we did, these are our top four. See your AllTrails app and the NPS map for more! Let us know your favorite Joshua Tree hikes below!

Lots of Lodging Options!

Staying nearby or in the park? Lots of unique desert lodging can be found near Joshua Tree National Park. Check out some of your options, by your travel style, here:



Other Lodging:

Myrtle Creative Co. is a traveling wife + husband photography team who specializing in vibrant photography for the adventurous at heart. Contact us for your love and adventure! Mention this blog post for 10% off your own Joshua Tree Elopement Photography package.

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818 SW 3rd Ave. #221-6542

Portland, OR 97204




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