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THE BLOG

HOW TO ELOPE IN THE REDWOODS

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO ELOPE IN THE REDWOODS NATIONAL AND STATE PARKS

seattle wedding photographer

Hi! I'm Natasha! Your Redwoods elopement photographer, dog petter and donut eater. While photography is my first love, connecting with people is my love language. You'll find me lovin' on the big moments, the quiet moments, the silly moments – but especially the in between moments. The moments that are unadulterated and unfiltered. The ones where you are the real you. Here on the blog you'll find all of my favorite tips, tricks and resources for planning an elopement that's all about those moments.

NATASHA CARDINAL

IN THIS GUIDE

Where are the Redwoods?
How to Get to the Redwoods
How to Elope in the Redwoods | Your Checklist
The Best Time of Year for Your Redwoods Elopement
The Best Redwoods Elopement Locations
Where to Stay for Your Redwoods Elopement
How to Get Your National/State Park Wedding Permit
How to Get Your California Marriage License
Packing Checklist: What to Bring to Your Elopement
The Best Vendors for Your Redwood Elopement
Frequently Asked Questions
Redwood Elopement Packages

WHERE EVEN ARE THE REDWOODS?

When people talk about the redwoods, there's usually some confusion about where the hell they are, is it a state park? A national park? Well, it's both actually! The Redwoods State/National Park is a collection of four parks (Redwood National Park, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park) that are run collaboratively by both the state and federal government and run from Crescent City, CA all the way down the stunning Highway 101 to Trinidad, CA.

HOW TO GET TO THE REDWOODS

While there's tons of different ways to get there, but the short answer is it depends WHERE you elope in the redwoods.

The three main airports in the area are:

Fly into Arcata/Eureka Airport (ACV) – this option is the closest, however the most expensive option of your three. You'll be the closest to your main towns while you're in the parks, but the airport itself is tiny and you'll have very limited car rental options and limited flights. You've been 30-40 minutes away from some of the best locations in the park though, so for proximity convenience this option is your best bet!

Flying into San Francisco International Airport (SFO) – if you don't mind driving, flying into SFO is going to give you the most flexibility as far as flight times, car rental options, and access to everything you might need for your trip. This is also going to be your cheapest option when it comes to booking flights too. It's about a 6 hour drive from San Francisco up to Redwoods National Park, so you'll spend quite a bit of time in the car, but if you're up for a road trip this is going to be your most economical option.

Fly into Medford, OR (MFR) – This airport is a great option if you want to visit the more northern areas like Jedidiah Smith State Park or the Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. Crescent City, CA is going to be your home base for these parks and it's about a 2 and a half hour drive from Medford to this area. This is however a very small airport so you'll most likely end up with a connecting flight from San Fran or Oakland if you're flying in here.

Later in this guide we'll cover where to stay if you plan to elope in the redwoods too!

THE BEST TIME TO ELOPE IN THE REDWOODS

Best Time of Year to Visit – One of the perks of eloping in the Redwoods is that the weather pretty consistent for most of the year thanks to the good ole Pacific Ocean's influence! No matter what time of year you visit you can expect temperatures to be in the range of 40-60 degrees. The winter months are typically more rainy, but some a moody redwoods elopement can be just as magical. So just about every month is the beautiful!

If you want the driest months, visiting between June and September is going to give you the most potential for sunny days, however you'll have to contend with the summer crowds, limited parking in many areas, and traffic.

Best Time of Day to Visit – we've all seem those breath taking photos of the sun rays coming through the foggy redwood trees, bathing the forest floor in golden light. So if you want that beautiful light for your elopement visiting in the morning is best! Just about an hour or two after sunrise is typically a good bet for when you should be at your chosen location (make sure to take your hiking time into account for this!). The fog coming off the water only lasts for a short while in the morning before it burns off for the afternoon most days. And the other perk of visiting in the morning is that you'll be able to avoid the bulk of those afternoon crowds!

THE BEST REDWOOD ELOPEMENT CEREMONY LOCATIONS

With over 130k+ acres between the four parks, your options for where you could have your ceremony are quite literally limitless lol. So let's break how to choose your location.

Choosing your location is dependent on how close you want to be to certain locations or what parts of the park you want to see, and how much you can budget for your permits.

While you can get married almost anywhere in the park (with a few exceptions we'll talk about below) The Redwoods National/State Parks has a list of 11 pre-approved ceremony locations that you can choose from:

There are four locations where you can NOT get married in the park: Fern Canyon, Stout Grove, Ladybird Johnson Grove Trail, and Irvine Canyon. You can still visit these locations for photos on your elopement day though!

If you choose to get married at one of the pre-approved locations above, your special use permit will cost $100.

However, If you choose to get married at another location, the permit will cost $200. And with the endless supply of beautiful places, there's certainly no shortage of options. If you choose any location that's not on the list above, all you'll need to do is submit an application for review with your requested location, but don't sweat it! We'll cover permits in the next section of this guide!

WHERE TO STAY FOR YOUR REDWOODS ELOPEMENT

When looking for a place to stay in the redwoods, you have a few different options based on what sort of vibe you're going for: Airbnb or VRBO or camping, even a few hotels. Depending on which parts of the parks you're visiting you can look for Airbnbs/VRBOs/campground in and around these areas:

Eureka, CA | Arcata, CA | McKinleyville, CA | Trinidad, CA | Orick, CA | Klamath, CA | Crescent City, CA | Brookings, OR

But you can also find some of our favorite places to stay in our Recommended Airbnb List here!

WHAT PERMITS DO I NEED TO ELOPE IN THE REDWOODS?

Some of the most common questions we get asked as elopement photographer are about permits for your elopement. And thankfully getting a permit for your chosen location is relatively straight forward!

Here's what ya gotta do:

  1. Choose your location within the Redwoods National and State Park – If you choose a pre-approved location, your application will be approved without review. If you choose a location that's not on the list, your application will be submitted for a two week review from someone from the park staff.
  2. Choose a date and time – Generally, ceremonies are scheduled in 1-3 hour time blocks. Permits can only be written for day use hours. Permits may not be granted during or around major holidays due to crowding.
  3. You'll fill out two forms – the Special Use Permit application and the Threatened and Endangered Species Addendum. and then email them both redw_special_use_permits@nps.gov
  4. Pay the application fee – Once the application forms are received, an email from Pay.gov will be sent with instructions on how to pay the fee online.

If you need help getting and filling out your permit just shoot me an email and I'll help ya out: hello@thecardinals.co

Some things to note about getting eloping in the Redwoods National and State Parks:

  • Live or dried natural plant/flower material is not allowed. This includes cut flowers for bouquets and potted plants. Live plant materials may contain insects or unwanted pests that could be introduced into the park. Silk or paper flowers are allowed.
  • The releasing of doves, butterflies, balloons, or other types of items is prohibited
  • The throwing of birdseed, rice, flower petals, confetti, or other items is prohibited.
  • The use of arbors, arches, stands, risers, or other similar props is prohibited.
  • The attaching of ribbons, flowers, balloons or signs to vegetation, rocks, or existing NPS signs within the park is prohibited.
  • The placement of signs or other event notifications along roads or on signs is prohibited.
  • Food service and alcohol are not permitted.

Permits are one of the main things we help our couples with when they're planning their elopement, and is usually one of the first things we cover during our planning calls too (it often comes up in our initial discovery calls too as we flesh out what your day my look like)! The permit applications are usually pretty straight forward to figure out but we're always down to walk you through the process and fill it out for you if necessary.

HOW TO LEGALLY GET MARRIED IN CALIFORNIA

So now that you've gotten all of big stuff out of the way, you've only got one thing left to do and that's get married!

In California, in order to get married, you'll need 3 things: a marriage license, an officiant, and a witness.

There's two way to get your California Marriage License:
1. Depending on which county you get married in, you may be able to apply for your marriage license online. The Del Norte County Clerks office is a bit difficult to get ahold of online so your best bet is to call the County Clerk directly here: (707) 464-7216 or the Humboldt County Clerk here: (707) 445-7382


2. Pick it up in person at any county clerk's office. If you're in the northern part of the parks you'll be in Del Norte County and you can pick up your marriage license at 981 H Street, Suite 160, Crescent City, CA 95531. If you're in the southern area of the parks you'll be in Humboldt County and can pick up your marriage license at 825 5th St #5, Eureka, CA 95501.

You'll need someone to marry you!

In the state of California you'll need an officiant of some sort to legally marry you. This could be one of the badass officiants listed in our recommended vendors section below, or a friend/family member that gets ordained for the occasion (it's super easy and free here!)

And lastly, California requires that you have one witness! And that person can also be your photographer! We're always happy to be your witness if you're planning a ceremony with just the two of you and an officiant.

HOW TO ELOPE IN THE REDWOODS | YOUR CHECKLIST

So now that you know all of the details, let's break it all down into a checklist for everything you need to elope in the redwoods:

  1. Choose the time of year you want to elope.
  2. Hire your Redwoods Elopement Photographer
  3. Choose your elopement location
  4. Book your badass vendor team
  5. Book your lodging
  6. Apply for your Special Use Permit
  7. Apply for a California marriage license
  8. Get married! Woohoo!


WHAT VENDORS DO WE NEED TO ELOPE IN THE REDWOODS?

When you book your elopement with us we are always more than happy to provide you with customized vendor recommendations based on exactly where you plan to elope but here are a few of the vendors you should consider hiring to make your day the best day possible!

AN ELOPEMENT PHOTOGRAPHER – hey that's us!

ELOPEMENT VIDEOGRAPHER – wait a sec, that's also us!

ELOPEMENT OFFICIANT – Officiant Jimmie or Cherise Klosner are two of our favorite badasses to work with!

FLORIST* – while we absolutely love flowers at elopements, unfortunately the Redwoods parks don't allow and fresh or dried flowers in order to prevent the spread of invasive pests and protect the delicate environment.

HAIR + MAKEUP ARTIST – many of our couples opt to do their hair and makeup themselves but if there was ever a time to treat yo self, this is it!

PRIVATE CHEF – we're all about pampering on your elopement day, so again, treat yo self.

BAKERY/CAKE – if you're fellow sweet tooth havers like Natasha (me lol), then having a cake or desserty item on hand is always a must. So consider visiting one of the local bakeries to pick up something special for your day!

FAQ

Are pets allowed in the Redwoods National and State Parks?
Unfortunately there are no pets allowed in the parks.


HOW TO ELOPE IN THE REDWOODS – YOUR PACKING LIST

Elopement Day Essentials

  • Your printed Special Use Permit
  • America the Beautiful pass or park day-pass
  • Your vows
  • Rings
  • Florals (bouquet, boutonnière, flower crown, etc.)
  • Shoes you'll wear for photos or ceremony if not your boots
  • Your wedding attire (if you aren't hiking in it)

Hiking Essentials

  • Hiking boots
  • Layers (weather can change in an instant, so be prepared for any weather)
  • Rain jacket
  • Puffy jacket
  • Flashlight
  • Headlamp
  • Snacks
  • Plenty of water
  • Tissues or hankie (for all of those happy tears)
  • Toilet paper (if you're planning on being at a location away from facilities)
  • Blister pads + first aid

MEET YOUR REDWOODS ELOPEMENT PHOTOGRAPHERS

WASHINGTON ELOPEMENT photographers the cardinals


We're Natasha and Brian! Your Redwoods elopement photographers, dog petters, and donut eaters focused on creating the dreamiest and intentional photos of your elopement. But we're so much more than just photographers. When you work with us, you get built in Redwoods elopement planning experts, guides for all of the parks most beautiful trails, snack holders, dress fluffers, tissue providers, and friends.

We know exactly what it's like to elope, because that's what we did too! We eloped on a misty August day on Mt. Baker with our sweet dog Fern, 7 of our closest friends, and it couldn't have been more us. Creating an experience that's undeniably you and honors your relationship is what we know best.

REDWOODS ELOPEMENT PACKAGES

SEE OUR FULL PACKAGES HERE!

THINK WE'RE A GOOD FIT? SAME HERE!

You only do this once, so use the contact form below to reach and let's make this the most intentional, most you Redwoods elopement out there.