How to Elope in Redwood National Park
Immerse yourself in some of the tallest trees on the continent in a National Park praised on their naturally diverse ecosystem and their commitment to preserving this amazing strip of coastline in California. Redwood National Park offers the perfect majestic forest backdrop for eloping. With mystical scenery, the California sun, and a location not too far from San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, Redwood National and State Parks could be the perfect elopement destination for you. Most of the National Parks allow elopements and ceremonies to take place within their boundaries, but many of them have rules/suggestions when it comes to getting married in their specific park.
To elope in Redwood National Park, a special use permit and a threatened and endangered species addendum must be secured first. The permit itself is $100 minimum, and the application for the permit can be found here. If your ceremony incorporates no unusual requirements, with no more than 20 people, your application fee is $100. However, if you have over 20 people and potentially an unusual request, your fee can be $200-$400, with additional costs for a ranger to monitor your ceremony.
The permit must be received at least 14 days before the requested elopement date, but for unusual requests the park requires the permit at least 30 days before your requested date. This wedding permit covers the Redwood National Park, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Redwoods State Park, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. The rangers are typically easy to get a hold of to ask questions about the permits, approved ceremony locations, approved props/décor, etc. Covering 37 miles of rich and pristine coastline, twelve locations within this beautiful forest are pre-approved sites for your ceremony: Schmidt Grove, Berry Glen, Templeman Grove, Organ Donor’s Grove, Merriman Grove, Prairie Creek Amphitheater, River Trail, Crescent Beach, Zig Zag 2 Trail, High Bluff Overlook, Lost Man Creek Gate, and Crescent Beach Overlook. At this time, Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Fern Canyon, Stout Grove, and James Irvine Trail are restricted from any ceremony use. Since these areas are designated and the only allowed places in the park to get married, there’s a chance that some of them are booked well in advance, so the earlier you’re able to turn in your permit, the better. Some people choose to forgo the permit, simply winging it or risking it, but I strongly advise applying for the permit. You certainly wouldn’t want to be fined or asked to leave on your wedding day because of a permit that wasn’t acquired.
Some of the common restrictions in Redwood National Park are the types of props/décor that can be used, typically if dogs are allowed they must be on leash; throwing rice/birdseed/other non-native seeds aren’t permitted, among others. If you are incorporating live musicians, those must be accounted for in your total group number and must not be overly loud. The park asks visitors to avoid climbing trees, or altering, damaging, or removing vegetation. Aerial drones are prohibited, as well as smoking in buildings, on boardwalks, or in vegetated areas. These are in place to protect the park and its flora and fauna, as well as the experience of the other park guests, and these are great questions to ask a Park Ranger when you ask about your permit! Beth Hartsig is the permit coordinator, and you can call with any questions at (707) 465-7307.
Some of the approved ceremony locations require strenuous hiking, and to venture into other areas of the park to take photos may require a fair amount of hiking. Berry Glen Trail, River Trail, and the Zig Zag 2 Trail do require hiking, but most of the other pre-approved sites are located near a parking lot and bathroom facilities. Vehicle access may be limited seasonally to Schmidt Grove, and carpooling is recommended. Prairie Creek Amphitheater, as well as Crescent Beach and Crescent Beach Overlook are only available October 25 through May 1st. I suggest planning your ceremony time for either sunrise or sunset. This will give you the most flattering light of the day, with the least amount of foot traffic from other visitors. If you choose Crescent Beach, Crescent Beach Overlook, or High Bluff Overlook, I typically recommend an evening ceremony so as to see the sun disappear below the distant Pacific horizon. Chat with your photographer about what time and location make the most sense to you.
Here are a few things to be sure to bring with you as well:
Hiking shoes, as well as the shoes you’ll be wearing for your ceremony
Sweater/jacket – the mornings and evenings in Redwood tend to be cool, especially if you’re eloping outside the summer season
Water/snacks, maybe some bubbly?
Any easy, cute props, like a rug/blanket to stand on
Headlamp or flashlight if you are shooting at sunset and need to hike down in the dark
If there is a chance of rain, bring a jacket and/or umbrella. KLEM Studios is all for embracing the weather and running around in the rain—it can be so dreamy! Just be sure to have a jacket or blanket along to warm up afterwards
Have a few locations in mind to take photos after the ceremony (your photographer can help you with this as well)
A Redwood National Park elopement provides a phenomenal venue for one of the best days of your lives, filled with gorgeous scenery and amazing photo opportunities. It’s perfect for the adventurous couple that wants to start their forever with an unbeatable forest view. There are so many more tips and tidbits that I have for couples looking to elope in Redwood National Park, from lodging/campground options to hike suggestions to restaurants. I would be happy to share them with you; feel free to email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.