Sierra Nevada Elopement Guide – Elope Wild & Free in the Mountains

Sierra Nevada Elopement + Wedding Guide


The Sierra Nevada mountain range runs along the east side of California, through ski resorts, national parks, desert hot springs, alpine lakes, towering Sequoia trees, and more jaw dropping scenery. If you’re looking for a wedding experience that’s truly one of a kind, with incredible views, total privacy, and freedom to make sure you get married in a way that’s just right for the two of you, a Sierra Nevada elopement might be exactly what you need.

This guide is all about tying the knot in the Sierra Nevadas – from the best spots to elope to getting legally married, we’ve got you covered with everything you need!

What you’ll find in this Sierra Nevada Elopement Guide: 

  • Why you should elope in the Sierra Nevadas
  • The Best Places to Elope in the Sierra Nevadas
  • Best Time to Elope in the Sierra Nevadas
  • The Legal Stuff: Permits, Officiants, and Marriage Licenses 
  • What to Do
  • Where to Stay 
  • Example Timelines  
  • Alternatives to the Sierra Nevadas
  • The Cost of Eloping in the Sierra Nevadas
  • Sierra Nevada Elopement Packages – Are you ready to elope Wild & Free? 

Why You Should Elope in the Sierra Nevadas

Is eloping in the Sierra Nevada mountains right for you? Here are a few reasons why we think the answer is yes!

National Parks

Yosemite National Park, one of the most iconic spots in the US, is in the Sierra Nevada mountains, along with Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. The incredible views will take your breath away, and there’s plenty to explore! You’ll also find other popular, must-see spots like Lake Tahoe.

Remote Locations

Along with the well known, must see spots, the Sierra Nevadas are also home to some less popular, secluded places. This makes it the perfect place to elope – you have the iconic spots where you can go to take photos, and the more remote ones where you’ll find privacy to say your vows.

Year Round Fun

In the Sierra Nevadas, you’ll find something incredible to do any time of year! When the weather is warm and the trails are snow free, it’s great for hiking and exploring. In the winter, you can hit up a few desert hot springs and soak amongst the snow, or snowshoe and have fun in the winter wonderland!

No matter when you elope, it’s bound to be an amazing experience in the Sierra Nevadas.

Sierra Nevada Wedding Venues – The Best Places to Elope in Sierra Nevadas

The best thing about eloping is that the Sierra Nevada wedding venues aren’t your traditional venues – they’re gorgeous outdoor locations, with mountains, deserts, hot springs, and incredible scenery all around! Choosing just one spot to say your vows can be hard – but to get you inspired, here are a few of our favorites, and the best places to elope in the Sierra Nevadas.

Alabama Hills

Alabama Hills is a really unique spot, and great for an adventurous elopement! Located right outside of the tiny town of Lone Pine, Alabama Hills features boulders and rocky formations scattered across the desert landscape, with towering, snow capped mountain peaks in the backdrop. The contrast between desert scenery and mountain tops is stunning, and though this place gets busy in spring and fall, the landscape is so vast and there are so many places tucked between boulder piles and rocky walls that it’s usually easy to get a spot to yourself!

Mammoth Lakes

Mammoth Lakes is a small town tucked in the Sierra Nevada mountains, known for skiing in the winter and hot springs in the summer. The town is a fun place to explore or grab a bite, but in the surrounding national forest, you’ll find hot springs in the forest, alpine lakes off the beaten path, and gorgeous scenery!

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite is one of the most iconic elopement locations in the country, and one of the best places to elope in the Sierra Nevada mountains if you’re looking for those absolutely epic views. The granite cliffs over the valley make for a pretty amazing backdrop, and there are waterfalls, hiking trails, and towering Sequoia trees to explore.

Read more about eloping in Yosemite National Park here!

Secret Wild & Free Spots

The best elopement locations are the ones less traveled! We’re all about helping couples find the perfect spot to say their vows – which means getting away from the crowds and getting a little bit of privacy on your elopement day. We’ll give you personalized recommendations, and do all the heavy lifting – so all you have to do is pick a spot from our list that speaks to you!  Get in touch to learn more about our location lists 

The Best Time for a Sierra Nevada Elopement

Weather in the mountains varies a ton throughout the year. So when you think about the best time for a Sierra Nevada elopement, think about the experience you want to have! Here’s what you can expect throughout the year. 

Winter in the Sierra Nevadas

Winters in the mountains are harsh – cold weather and lots of snow. But, this doesn’t mean you can’t elope! For couples who want to ski, snowboard, or just enjoy the winter wonderland scenery, this is a great time to tie the knot. You’ll need to be prepared with snow chains, lots of layers, and be ready for potential road closures. Places like Lake Tahoe and Yosemite will be cold and snowy, but the desert locations – like Alabama Hills – are warmer. Be careful though, even if the sun shines during the day, those desert spots are usually below freezing at night!

Spring in the Sierra Nevadas

Spring is one of our favorite seasons in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The blooming wildflowers make a stunning sight, and as the temperatures warm up, this can be a good time for hiking. 

Keep in mind that in the mountains, snow usually sticks around into mid summer. But, spring is one of the best times to elope in the desert.

Summer in the Sierra Nevadas

For most couples eloping in the mountains, summer is going to be the best time to tie the knot! The trails are snow free, it’s warm and sunny, and you can explore high elevation spots. We don’t recommend summer elopements in the desert, however, because during the day it can get really hot!

One thing to keep in mind if you want to elope in the summer is that this is also wildfire season in California. August and September are usually the worst of it, but if you elope during the summer, be prepared to find a backup spot if smoke or fires make your location inaccessible.

Fall in the Sierra Nevadas

Fall is definitely one of the best times to elope in the Sierra Nevadas overall. In the beginning of the season, you can usually still hike in the mountains, and the temperatures in the desert cool down and are much more mild. In high elevation areas, snow usually begins accumulating around the end of October, but keep in mind that weather can be a little unpredictable.

There aren’t very many places in California where you can actually see fall foliage, but in the Sierra Nevada mountains, you’ll find some of those rare spots!

W&F Tip!

Elope on a weekday!

No matter when you decide to elope in the Sierra Nevada mountains, plan  your ceremony for a weekday! Weekends are more crowded no matter where you go, so by tying the knot during the week (watch out for holidays or three day weekends, though), you’ll have a much easier time finding some privacy.

The Legal Stuff – Getting Legally Married in the Sierra Nevadas

To get legally married when you elope, you’ll need to know about California’s marriage laws, and about the paperwork! 

Sierra Nevada Wedding Permits

Some spots in the Sierra Nevada mountains will require a wedding permit for your elopement ceremony. This depends on the spot you choose, as every place has different rules and restrictions – while some places have none at all.

Don’t worry, we’ll help you with this one!

Sierra Nevada Marriage License

A marriage license is required to get legally married. You need to get yours from the state of California, so if you live here, we recommend going to whatever office is closest to you.

If you’re traveling, choose a county clerk’s office close to where you’ll be staying! You can find the application online ahead of time, print it out, and bring it with you when you go to get your marriage license. Some offices require an appointment, so check before you go. You’ll need both of your photo IDs, and you’ll sign the application and get your marriage license the same day.

For more info on California marriage licenses, check out this guide!

Sierra Nevada Elopement Officiant

You need an officiant to sign the marriage license to legally marry you! You have a few options for this – you can hire an elopement officiant, or we can do it for you! That’s right, as elopement photographers, we know privacy is important for an elopement, so we’re ordained and can do the paperwork too.

W&F Tip!

Consider a self uniting ceremony.

A lot of couples choose to do a self uniting ceremony instead of hiring an officiant. This gives you more freedom, flexibility, and privacy – you can exchange vows privately! You can learn more about self uniting ceremonies here.

The officiant signature is still required on the marriage license, but we can take care of that for you!

What to Do When You Elope in the Sierra Nevadas

The best thing about eloping is that you get to plan a day that reflects you – and that’s different for every couple! Think about what would truly make this day incredible. The sky’s the limit – anything you can dream up for your wedding day, we can make it happen. Here are a few ideas of things to do during your Sierra Nevada elopement!

Take a Hike

Hiking is one of the most popular things to do in the Sierra Nevada mountains. There are long treks and short trails, so you’ll find the perfect hike for you! You can hike in the mountains, through the forests, or take a walk through the desert.

Soak in a Hot Spring

What could be better than ending your elopement day with a relaxing soak in a natural hot spring – watching the sunset over the mountains, enjoying the stillness of the desert, and reminiscing on the incredible day you had! 

Ski or Snowboard

In the winter, you’ll find incredible slopes for skiing and snowboarding – Lake Tahoe and Mammoth Lakes are some of the best! If you like winter fun and being in the snow, you can definitely incorporate this into your wedding day.

Sierra Nevada Elopement Inspiration

For Sierra Nevada elopement inspiration, check out this Pinterest board! Pin from there and make your own inspo board, or follow along for more tips and elopement resources.

Where to Stay in the Sierra Nevadas

You’ll need somewhere to sleep, and a home away from home to come back to after a day of elopement adventures. Throughout the Sierra Nevada mountain range, you’ll find incredible lodges, cabins, and places to stay!

A Lodge or Inn

Some of the coziest places to stay are the big, historic lodges and inns. Evergreen Lodge is located right outside of Yosemite, with cabins tucked in the woods. The Bridgeport Inn is a unique, vintage spot, and a great place to stay as you explore the Sierra Nevadas!

Glamping

For a unique place to stay, check out glamping in the Sierra Nevadas! You’ll find everything from yurts to treehouses to canvas tents, all over the mountain range.

Camping

You can also camp in the Sierra Nevada mountains – whether you choose an established campground in one of the national parks, or wild camp! Much of the Sierra Nevadas is national forest and BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land, which means you’re allowed to camp just about anywhere – as long as you respect the landscape (no stepping on meadows or going off trails) and follow campfire safety guidelines.

An Airbnb

Finding an Airbnb is always a good option for your elopement. There are plenty of accommodations, from cozy cabins to big homes perfect for elopements with guests!

Sample Sierra Nevada Elopement Timelines

Eloping is all about the experience – and planning some fun adventures is the best way to kick off your marriage! Your elopement can look like a hike, or a day spent celebrating in an Airbnb with family – or anything and everything in between.

Here are some sample Sierra Nevada elopement timelines to get you inspired! 

Alabama Hills Elopement With Family

9:00 Family breakfast in Lone Pine

11:00 Drive back to Airbnb

11:30 Hair and makeup begins

1:30 Put on ceremony attire

2:00 Drive to ceremony spot in Alabama Hills

3:00 First look and picnic with family

4:30 Ceremony

5:00 Photos with family

6:00 Family goes back to Airbnb, couple’s photos at sunset 

7:00 Drive back to Airbnb for cake and celebrating!

“Just Us” Elopement

9:00 Pancake breakfast in Mammoth Lakes

11:00 Drive back to Airbnb

12:00 Hair and makeup begins

2:00 Put on ceremony attire

2:30 First look & couples photos

3:00 Drive to ceremony spot

4:00 Lunch break

4:30 Ceremony

5:00 Couple’s photos

6:30 Drive to hot spring

7:00 Sunset soak!

W&F Tip!

Chat up an expert

Hiring an experienced elopement photographer is the best thing you can do for your elopement day – because we’re there not just to take the photos, but to help you plan the entire day! This includes creating a personalized timeline for you, with lighting in mind.

Alternatives to a Sierra Nevada Elopement

For some alternative locations that offer a similar experience, here are a few more great places to elope!

Big Sur

You may not think of an oceanside spot as being similar to the Sierra Nevada mountains, but if you’re drawn to the Sequoia trees that tower in this region, you’ll also love the Redwoods in Big Sur

Mount Shasta

The Shasta Cascades are a mountain range up north, and one of the best places to elope in California for mountain views! Mount Shasta is another hub for skiing, and you’ll find gorgeous hiking trails around there too.

Joshua Tree National Park

If you like the desert landscape of Alabama Hills, you’ll love Joshua Tree! The desert is covered in boulders and rocky formations, and it’s farther south, which means it’s warm and sunny, even in the winter.

The Cost of Eloping in the Sierra Nevada Mountains

With your elopement budget, you have the freedom to decide what matters on your day, and what you want to invest in. You’re spending money on experiences you’ll never forget! Here are a few things to think about when it comes to the cost of eloping in the Sierra Nevadas.

  • Travel – Do you need flights or transportation?
  • Accommodations – You’ll need somewhere to come back to after your adventure so whether it’s a campground, trendy Airbnb, or an upscale resort, find something that fits your vibe!
  • Meals – Don’t forget about food! You can pack a picnic, stop at a local eatery, or even hire a private chef.
  • Marriage License – Fees vary by county, but average around $90 across the state.
  • Wedding Permit – If you need a permit, depending on the park and area will average between $100-400.
  • Wedding Attire – Dresses, suits, or whatever you’ll be wearing when you tie the knot!
  • Hair and Makeup – You can totally do your own, but hiring a professional is so worth it and helps ensure things stay put throughout your adventure – this usually ranges from $300 to $1000.
  • Florals – Add a bouquet, flower crown, boutonniere, or floral decorations to your day! A professional florist ranges from $300 to $1500.
  • Photographer – Relive your memories over and over by investing in a photographer you love! Elopement photographer packages average from $3000 – $8,000

W&F Tip!

You’ll never regret investing in good photos

You deserve to be able to look at your photos and see the entire story of your incredible elopement day unfold. These memories are absolutely priceless, and you’ll never regret having them!

Investing in an elopement photographer also means investing in your wedding experience – because an experienced photographer also doubles as a planning assistant, helping you through every step of the process!

Sierra Nevada Elopement Packages – Ready to Elope Wild & Free?

If you’re ready to tie the knot in one of our absolute favorite places, with mountains, wildflowers, hot springs, and forests surrounding you, we’re ready to help you plan it! Our mission is to make sure every couple has a wedding day experience that’s laid back, stress free, and fun. You deserve a wedding day that’s everything you want, and nothing that you don’t – so we’ll help with everything from picking the perfect spot, getting a permit, finding a cute place to stay, creating a timeline, and so much more!

Sierra Nevada Elopement Packages Include:

  • Photography coverage 
    • Options from 2 hours to 2-days of coverage 
    • Photographer’s travel covered to your California destination
    • A fun photo experience where you can express your love without inhibitions
  • Planning tools  
    • A step-by-step guide to help you plan your elopement
    • Location Lookbooks of our favorite elopement spots
    • Creative timeline design to make your day flow perfectly
    • Officiant signature for self-uniting ceremonies 
    • Sustainability and Leave No Trace education for a wedding day you can feel good about 
  • Amazing photos + quick delivery 
    • Sneak peek images within one week of your elopement day 
    • Your full story in hundreds of high-resolution digital images delivered within one month 
    • Your own personal gallery to download and share your images with family and friends 
    • Printing rights to all photos 
    • Access to professional quality prints, wall art, and albums conveniently available for purchase right inside your gallery


      Elopement packages start at $2400 depending on date and travel schedule

Ready to elope Wild & Free? Contact us, and let’s start dreaming up your wild, totally you elopement!

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Ready to elope Wild & Free?

You deserve an elopement that throws out all the rules and focuses on what matters most.

 

We don't want you to have to do this alone, so it’s ok if you don’t have the details figured out yet -- we’ll help you design your day from start to finish!

 

Wild & Free Elopements is based in Southern California and photographs elopements all over the world.


Direct Email: [email protected]