Established to protect the world’s largest living tree species by volume, the beautiful Sequoia, Sequoia National Park is the second-oldest national park and was established in 1890, according to the National Park Service. Clustered in spectacular groves, these trees typically grow 250 to 300 feet tall and provide a beautiful location for engaged couples looking to elope.
According to multiple media outlets, elopement is increasingly popular among young couples, providing a less stressful and often more impromptu nuptial experience. If you and your loved one are looking for a stunning outdoor space to get married in, Sequoia National Park might be your best bet—and our handy guide will detail all the permits, rules, and top spots you need to be aware of!
The Most Beautiful Tree Groves in Sequoia National Park to Elope In
If you’re going to elope in Sequoia National Park, it’ll help to be familiar with the most popular and beautiful tree groves — and remember that only selected locations are approved for weddings. According to NPS, Giant sequoias only grow on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada in California, between 4,000 and 8,000 feet in elevation. Within the park, at least 40 distinct groves have between one and tens of thousands of trees. While many groves can be accessed by car, some are only accessible via long, strenuous hikes.
Giant Forest Grove is one of the largest unlogged groves in the park and has some of the largest specimens. It’s home to the largest living sequoia—the General Sherman Tree. Visitors will see the effects of planned burning, which prevents wildfires, as this grove features open forest conditions and clumps of giant sequoia seedlings that establish after fire. Giant Forest can be accessed by car or shuttle, and visitors can enjoy many of the hour-long hikes on foot after arriving. There are multiple approved wedding areas in this grove with a limit of 50 – 75 people, depending on which you choose.
The Crescent Meadow Picnic Area is 2.6 miles from the Giant Forest Museum. It rests at the edge of a beautiful meadow surrounded by giant sequoia trees. The trail is partially paved, and there are restrooms here and steep parking stalls. Additional trailheads are here if you wish to hike before or after your elopement. This location has a 30-person group maximum.
Cedar Grove has one official wedding location called Muir Rock. There is a 20-person group limit, which includes the wedding officiant. There is also a 10-car maximum. No matter which location you choose, check out which groves may have been affected or closed because of wildfires on the National Parks Service website before making your final choice!
How to Elope in Sequoia National Park
Before picking a date and wedding officiant, you’d better check the official NPS rules and regulations for getting married in a national park. You don’t want your special day thrown off by a simple lack of planning! Remember that permit requirements, COVID precautions, and trail and grove availability may also vary by season and circumstance. It’s best to check the NPS website frequently for important updates.
Currently, masks are not required inside NPS buildings or in outdoor spaces. However, permits are always required to be married in a national park. A special use permit requires an application and costs $150; park entrance fees aren’t waived for weddings. Permit fees are non-refundable, even if there is inclement weather or fire. You’ll need to provide your own officiant and follow all marriage license laws in California. Additionally, the maximum allowed time for outdoor ceremonies is three hours.
Guests who require chairs must be included in your application. Remember that chairs can’t block the public’s view and that the general public will come and go during regular park hours. Planning your elopement or wedding in the early morning or late afternoon is a brilliant idea so you’ll have more privacy. No off-road parking for motorcycles, cars, or other vehicles is allowed. Lastly, all receptions must be held in approved indoor spaces or private property — they’re not allowed in the groves! If you’re getting married while on a beautiful road trip with plenty of other stops, be sure to park your vehicle responsibly in the park.
If you’re ready to apply, fill out an elopement permit online. Applications must be submitted at least 60 days before your event date to be considered. Pay your fee and provide proof following NPS’ instructions. The park will send you a draft permit, which must be signed and emailed back. Once approved, print out a copy of your permit to bring with you. Cell service isn’t always reliable in the parks, and you’ll need a copy to carry out your event.
Tips and Tricks for Visiting Sequoia National Park
Aside from getting the proper wedding permits to elope in a national park, you’ll want to stay on top of general hiking and travel guidelines. Remember that pets aren’t allowed on national park trails and only allowed on paved roads, in parking lots, and at campgrounds and picnic areas. In addition, remember that there will be wildlife in the parks, so you may choose to leave your pets at home entirely for their safety. In fact, Sequoia National Park is home to 12 species of amphibians, 201 species of birds, 11 species of fish, 72 species of mammals, and 21 species of reptiles, including grizzly bears.
If you want to camp in the park during or after your wedding, you must pay camping fees and bring the proper gear. Camping costs range from $28 to $70, depending on location and group size. Check the weather far in advance and prepare for seasonal conditions like cold and rain, and remember that only two of the fourteen campsites in this park are open all year round. Each of them has a picnic table, a fire ring with a grill, and a metal food storage box, and all require reservations, which fill up quickly!
It does require a little planning, but your elopement in Sequoia National Park will be worth it. Outdoor enthusiasts will love the beautiful location, and the low cost of permits means you’ll have a unique wedding venue for a fraction of the cost of many location rentals. You can also choose your own adventure — the park allows for ceremonies big and small. Plus, with plenty of other beautiful national parks in California, there’s much to do and see beyond the sequoias.