point reyes elopement guide

If you’re looking for a place in northern California to elope that’s close to larger cities but far enough away from busy crowds, Point Reyes National Seashore might be perfect for you. This quiet, scenic spot along the coast is just north of the San Francisco Bay area, but feels a world away. Complete with a wide open beach, rocky cliffs, open fields, and cypress trees (not to mention potential elk sightings!), Point Reyes is one of our favorite spots in the state to elope.

We’ve put together this complete guide below to help you plan the ultimate Point Reyes elopement day of your dreams, including reasons to elope in Point Reyes, the best locations in the area for elopements, as well as local lodging and other nearby recommendations for your big day.

Reasons to Elope at Point Reyes

  1. Although Point Reyes is managed by the National Park Service, it’s a much quieter location than all the other major National Parks in California. There are many times throughout the year (especially on weekdays) when you might be able to even feel like you have the whole place to yourselves.
  2. Point Reyes is only an hour away from San Francisco and other nearby major cities, making it a very accessible location for a quick getaway if you’re local. This also makes it a less than two-hour drive away from the airport if you’re flying in from elsewhere.
  3. The coastal scenery alone is one of the best in the area, especially at sunrise and sunset. Be aware that this region does get a lot of mist rolling in from the Pacific, but this can also give truly magical vibes even if your views are limited.
  4. Unlike other more mountainous areas, this coastline has pretty mild weather for most of the year. The Pacific often brings in cool breezes during the heat of summertime, and you can occasionally get a sunny day even in winter/spring.
  5. Point Reyes is also absolutely huge, encompassing over 100 square miles! There are some really great trails if you’re willing to explore away from the typical pulloff points, and a variety of backdrops, including sandy beaches, rocky cliffs, a lighthouse, wide open fields, cypress trees, and even a waterfall (if you’re willing to hike!).
  6. And if you’re lucky, you can even sometimes see whales off the coast between the months of January and April, or elephant seals along the beaches.
  7. Unlike other major national parks that restrict dogs in most areas, Point Reyes has a few great spots along the beach that allow dogs, making it a nice location to bring your fur babies with you!

Do keep in mind that since this area is so remote, you’ll want to make sure you bring everything you need before visiting, such as extra warm layers, food, and water. Cell phone service can also be a bit unpredictable/spotty, so if you want to play music for your ceremony or a first dance, we’d recommend downloading an offline version on your phone before playing over a portable Bluetooth speaker.

Best Places to Elope in Point Reyes

Point Reyes has a few amazing options for your ceremony, and keep in mind that while one spot might be a better fit for your vows, you can easily explore more than one location in a day!

The North Beach seashore, known as Point Reyes Beach or Ten Mile Beach, expands approximately 11 miles, facing northwest over the Pacific Ocean. It’s simply stunning at sunset, and one of the best locations for elopements in the park. Other great beach locations within the park include:

  • Limantour Beach
  • Sculptured Beach
  • Kelham Beach
  • Wildcat Beach
  • McClures Beach

If you’ve looked at photos from Point Reyes before, chances are you’ve seen this iconic location already. The Cypress Tree Tunnel is one of the busiest spots in the park for photos, so you’re likely to see at least a few other people here at almost any time of day.

But it also makes for a great spot to get some extra protection from those big ocean winds, so it’s always on our go-to list each time we visit. It’s also super accessible, right along the main road through the park on the way out to the lighthouse.

For a top-down view of the main seashore, the overlook by the Point Reyes Lighthouse is one of the best spots for small elopements of about 5 people or fewer. It can be pretty windy up at this spot, but the views are fantastic.

The historic Lighthouse itself is also a cool backdrop for photos! Keep in mind the parking lot only fits 38 vehicles and the walk is 0.5 mile long (mostly uphill) followed by 300+ stairs down to the lighthouse, so this is best either for very small groups or for couples portraits only.

If you turn left instead of right at the fork in the road for the lighthouse, you’ll drive down a short road to the Chimney Rock trailhead. This area is popular for birdwatching, spotting elephant seals, and wildflowers in early spring. By hiking up the 1.75-mile roundtrip trail to Chimney Rock, you can see some amazing cliff views while reading your vows to one another.

There are only two known “tidefalls” (waterfalls that flow directly into the ocean) in California, and one of them is right here in Point Reyes: Alamere Falls. The water drops 40 feet from the cliff onto Wildcat Beach, and is quite an epic backdrop for anyone adventurous enough to make the 13.7 mile roundtrip hike to get there.

Pierce Point Ranch is a common spot for elk sightings, so you’ll want to keep your eye out to stay a safe distance from the local herd. At this area, you’ll find more historic buildings, open fields for wildflowers, a rugged coastline, and more unique cypress trees! You can take a trail out to Tomales Point, or follow another path down to McClures Beach.

Located alongside Point Reyes on the inter-coastal bay, Tomales Bay State Park is another great location for elopements in the area. There are a few smaller beaches here, as well as some hiking trails through the forest to give you a nice variety from the other more open areas of Point Reyes.

If you want to combine your Point Reyes beach or coastal elopement with some redwood trees, you can split up your day (or add a second day!) to adventure in the nearby Samuel P. Taylor State Park. This park, which is just 10 minutes from Point Reyes Station, has over 2800 acres of shaded redwood trees, including some camps and cabins you can reserve in advance.

How to Elope in Point Reyes

  1. Select a date. Springtime is the best time of year in Point Reyes, since there are some flowers in bloom and the grasses are much greener than other seasons. However, it is a beautiful place year-round! If you end up needing a permit, it’s always best to plan for a date that isn’t already on the park’s blackout date list in advance. You’ll also have more privacy/seclusion on weekdays, especially in the morning and at sunset.
  2. Hire your elopement vendors. At Skyewater Photo + Film, we’re more than just a photo and video team. We help you plan your elopement day(s) to be as unique as you are! With unlimited planning assistance, many of our couples feel far less stressed and more excited knowing they have our support from start to finish. Other vendors you’ll want to consider adding on to your wedding or elopement experience: an officiant (although our lead photographer Kaitlyn is licensed as an officiant as well!), hair and makeup artist, florist, or private chef/picnic vendors.
  3. Obtain any permits you might need. You’ll want to contact the park office to obtain any special use permits you may need and/or to confirm if your group size needs one. They are required for any events over 25 people (including vendors), but it’s always best to check with them for smaller groups as well in case any rules have changed. Permit forms need to be submitted at least 30 days in advance, and keep in mind they do have blackout dates that restrict all events inside the park.
  4. Reserve lodging. We’ve linked a bunch of great options down below for places to stay, so feel free to scroll down for lodging inspo!
  5. Get your marriage license. The closest office to obtain your marriage license near Point Reyes is the Marin County Clerk‘s office located at the Marin County Civic Center Room 234, 3501 Civic Center Drive, San Rafael, CA. Office hours are 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. As of January 2024, Marin County doesn’t require an appointment in advance. If you need to, you can call them for questions in advance at (415) 473-6772. Alternatively, like many of our couples, you can opt for doing all the legal paperwork in your hometown so that the trip to Point Reyes is more focused on your adventure, vows, and experience.

Best Places to Stay near Point Reyes

There’s a wide range of overnight options in the area, from boutique hotels in Petaluma and other nearby towns, as well as campgrounds in the area. Here are some of our favorites:

Or for some private home rental options:

Venues near Point Reyes for Small Weddings

If you’re having more than 20-30 guests, these nearby local venues are perfect for a reception following your Point Reyes ceremony:

Where to Eat + Drink near Point Reyes

Point Reyes, Inverness, and surrounding towns have plenty to offer for the perfect elopement lunch/dinner or drinks!

Planning a Point Reyes Elopement? Chat with Our Photo + Video Team!

Skyewater Photo + Film is an adventure elopement and destination wedding photo and video team based in Washington and serving the whole West Coast. We help couples plan elopements all over the US, and offer insight for more than just photography: from planning assistance, finding and booking locations, vendor references and more! Reach out to our elopement photography and videography team today to get more info!

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