Best Places to Elope Near San Francisco

July 27, 2020

With Covid-19 taking over 2020, and most of Caifornia starting to shut down again, you may be rethinking your larger wedding, and starting to wondering where are the best places to elope near San Francisco? We’ve compiled a list of our top 3 locations for small intimate weddings and elopements, and for the more popular locations we’ve also provided some alternatives. Aside from these locations being perfect for your intimate wedding, they can also serve as inspiration for your upcoming engagement shoot.

1. Seal Cove Cypress Tree Tunnel (Enchanted Forest) – Half Moon Bay

The Enchanted Forest is one of our favorite locations for intimate elopements and engagements in the Bay Area. Just south of San Francisco in Half Moon Bay this small forest of cypress trees makes a beautiful backdrop for your wedding ceremony. The Cypress Tree Tunnel is mostly unknown (except by photographers), so it should be easy to find a private area to host your ceremony. Another reason to love this location is the warm glow coming through the trees during sunset(see the image below). This will give your images a lovely wimsical feeling that’s hard to replicate anywhere else.

The final benefit to this location is how close it is to additional beaches. Often times we’ll plan the ceremony for 2-3 hours before sunset, and then go to a nearby beach for the final hour of light.

2. Muir Woods National Monument – Marin County

Muir Woods is another great place to have your elopement, boasting giant redwoods as the main attraction. I’ll never forget my first time visitng the park, I was completly blown away by the size and beauty of the trees in this magical place Since redwoods are only found in Northern California/Oregon Muir Woods makes a unique setting for you elopement that you won’t find anywhere else.

bride and groom wedding portraits. elopement photography in muir woods

When planning your Muir Woods Elopement I suggest walking to the back of the park to Cathederal Grove. Since Cathederal Grove typically has less visitors, you shouldn’t have a problem with people trying to walk through your ceremony. Also, this particular part of the park splits into two pathways, so visitors trying to get by can take an alternate path.

Although Muir Woods is beautiful and a wonderful location, there are a few things to consider when planning your elopment here. The first thing is to make sure to get a parking pass in advanced. They only allow a select number of passes at a time, and they go quick. Also, there isn’t any cell service in the park, so make sure plan where to meet when arriving at the park (or drive together). Finally, there’s typically a lot of visitors in the park, so you might spend time waiting for groups of people to pass.

Joaquin Miller Park (Muir Woods alternative)

couple touching foreheads at Joaquin miller_engagement photography

An alternative to Muir Woods is Oakland’s Joaquin Miller Park. Joaquin Miller has similar Redwoods to Muir Woods, but with less people (or they’re just more spread out). Along with less people, I find Joaquin has better sunlight (when coming through the trees) than Muir Woods. This can help give a more dramatic look to your photos if that’s something you’re looking for.

3. Sutro Baths – San Francisco

Sutro Baths is another great place for an intimate elopement. Just like Muir Woods you’ll aften find lots of tourists, but the dramatic landscapes make up for it. Also, the park is pretty big, so with a little work you can usually find a nice place away from the crowd.

Aside from the people, another thing to consider when picking a San Francisco location is the wind/fog. You can never predict the weather in the Bay Area, so you could get completly lucky with a beautiful sunset, or complete fog (in our opinion both make awesome backdrops for wedding and engagement photos).

Mussel Rock Open Space (Sutro Baths Alternative)

If you don’t want to worry about the crowds in Sutro Baths than Mussel Rock Open Space is another great coastal location for your elopement. Mussel Rock offers beautiful coastal views, cliffs, and even paragliders. Also, there typically isn’t a lot of people there, so finding a nice quiet place for your ceremony is easy.

Final Thoughts

We hope this helped, and can serve as a useful tool when looking for the best places to elope near San Francisco. One thing to consider whenever planning a wedding or elopement is make sure to get all permits before your wedding day. Permits can take a few weeks, so always try to plan in advance. If you don’t have a permit you risk having your wedding shut down, and possibly ticketed. Information on permits for San Francisco parks can be found here.

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