Here are the top 5 locations for where to elope in Northern California! As a wedding photographer who has lived pretty much their entire life in Northern California (except for college in San Luis Obispo), I’ve visited so many gorgeous places!!! There are a few spots that stick out to me for elopement or even engagement photos!!! While you’ve probably heard of these places, it’s all about knowing where to go in that location!!! I love scouting out the best spots and finding the perfect locations within each of the places for my couples!!!
If you book with me, I’ll help you pick your exact spot, but below are my top 5 general locations for where to elope in Northern California and why!!!
Holy beautiful. Santa Cruz is such a dream. If you’re someone who can’t decide if you want a redwood forest or stunning coastal view for your day, Santa Cruz is for you!!! There are beautiful beaches, stunning ocean cliffs, and jaw dropping redwood forests all within miles of each other. Not to mention, it’s centrally located to some other great CA spots. Head just a little north and you’ll be in San Francisco. Head south and you’ll be in Monterey and Big Sur in no time!!!
Fort Bragg & Mendocino
I’m grouping these two together because they’re fairly close to each other and have similar vibes!!! To be fair, there are also gorgeous forests nearby the beach here too! But I would say they aren’t quite as convenient as santa cruz. Where Fort Bragg and Mendocino really shine in my eyes is at the water. The cliffs are like the CA coast version of Ireland. Not to mention the water here often is the most beautiful pale turquoise color. Along the cliffs are warm green and neutral grasses that are perfect for adding a variety to your photos.
The Lake Tahoe crystal clear blue green water is unparalleled. If the ocean isn’t for you but you’d love to be by water, consider Lake Tahoe!!! Whether you’re up above on a hike getting photos or right at the waters edge, you can’t go wrong. There are also a few fun activities that would be easier on a lake than on the water!! For example, taking a boat out, stand up paddle boarding, or taking a dip in the water are all things you can do (just know the water is definitely super cold!). Also, Tahoe has real seasons! The summer is hot and the winter is freezing with snow!!! No matter when you book your session, it’s gorgeous!
While this is a bucket list national park for many, I can’t recommend getting photos there enough. The sheer size of the mountains there is jaw dropping!!! I can’t recommend this enough!!! Plus, Yosemite Valley is so different than above at Taft or Glacier points. If you want field vibes with Yosemite rocks towering over behind you, start in the valley. In spring the waterfalls are also gushing too!!! For a bird’s eye view, head up to Taft and Glacier point. Quick tip: Taft has the most stunning sunset and Glacier Point is unreal at sunrise!
There’s a reason Big Sur and the hwy 17 that takes you through it is so famous. I have to say, Big Sur truly has it ALL. Turquoise waters- check. Beautiful beaches- check. Coastal cliffs- check. Redwood forests- check. There are tonssss of places to choose from in Big Sur so make sure to talk to your photographer about their top places!!! You can even get some shots with a waterfall that drops into the ocean from an above cliff!!!!
Which location are YOU dreaming of?!!! Send me a message and let’s freakin’ do it!!!!
Photos by Northern California elopement photographer, Rachel Christopherson Photography