Newly married couple among the ferns and forest in Redwood National Park

For the Magic Seekers

Redwood Elopements

From cathedrals of ancient trees haloed by the morning light to rugged windswept coastlines cloaked in fog, the Northern California redwood forest is a dream elopement location.

Over the last eight years I’ve had the privilege of documenting elopements and intimate weddings in redwood groves across Humboldt County. From the storied forest moon at Grizzly Creek to secluded ceremonies in Redwood National Park, I’ve photographed adventurous, intentional couples as they celebrate their marriage in thoughtful and creative ways.

Redwood wedding portraits in Founders Grove.

When to visit the redwoods

There are two main considerations to plan your redwood elopement around: crowds and weather. From Memorial Day through October, the parks tend to fill with summer vacation crowds. Not at all coincidentally, this is also when the weather tends to be the most cooperative. Summer temperatures are consistently cool but rarely rainy. The best way to avoid onlookers for your vows is to plan for a weekday and an out of the way grove that doesn’t clock consistent visitor traffic. Regardless of your selected date, remember that one of the things that truly sets the redwood parks apart is just how expansive they are. The parking lots are often full but hikers spread out quickly.

During the low season from November through April, be prepared for rain. Rainy days require a little more preparation than their sunny counterparts but they also result in misty, moody images where the foliage and ferns are often at their most vibrant. The old adage “no bad weather, only bad clothing” definitely applies here. Many visitors are shocked by the chilly temperatures and scramble to find clothing appropriate for the cool climates. The redwood canopies filter your average rain shower and clear umbrellas are an antidote to downpours. Taking a last page from the plan for the worst and hope for the best handbook, consider booking accommodations with large windows should winter weather make road conditions unsafe.

Lighting considerations

Light in the redwoods is constantly shifting. If you are morning people, schedule the ceremony a couple of hours following sunrise. Mornings have the added bonus of less visitor traffic. Likewise, the sun definitely slips away much faster at the end of the day so your coastal golden hour calculation does not apply. The terrain of your chosen grove will also impact the way the light shifts and diffuses.

The best elopement looks

Begin with sturdy footwear. There are a handful of approved ceremony groves within a few minutes of a parking lot but most require a short hike to reach. Flat boots and low chunky heels will be the most reliable while walking on uneven terrain. Be realistic about how far you are comfortable walking in your chosen footwear or even consider tossing your shoes all together. Look for flowing fabrics that are easy to move in but keep an eye on trailing skirts as they will quickly fill with needles and twigs. In winter months, a vest with a blazer will provide warmth without extra bulk. Keep layers on hand in all seasons as redwood temperatures dip even in warmer months.