When most people think of their elopement day, they first picture typical summer, spring or autumn elopement destinations. Certainly coming from our background as traditional wedding photographers in Pennsylvania we came to know May-October as the default season for getting hitched. But what if you’re not most people? After all isn’t that why you’re choosing the adventurous alternative and crafting a day that doesn’t fit the preconceived mold? What if a wintertime destination elopement is calling your name?
Luckily for you there are plenty of prime locations across the country that are just as incredible (and maybe even better) in that so called “off peak” season. Less crowds, winter activities and snowy scenery are just a few of the perks to be found in the winter. We’ve complied a list of our favorite winter elopement destinations for any big day, no matter what you’re dreaming of. Scroll down and let’s get started on planning your dream day!
Big Sur, CA
While most places on this list look best at certain times of year, there is literally no bad time to see the California Coast. The winter months do bring a little more precipitation and the moody morning fog is a common theme no matter the season. With that marine layer rolling off the pacific ocean comes happy plants and the greenest time of year to see the lush hillsides surrounding the coast. If you don’t mind the potential of a little moisture and fog (We certainly don’t. Foggy mornings make for some of the most dramatic photos), Big Sur could be the perfect destination for your elopement. It’s location along the scenic Pacific Coast highway also makes it a prime spot for a road trip wedding or a seamless transition into a honeymoon road trip along the ocean. Maybe you want to rent a camper van for a week to live the #VanLife! If that’s your cup of tea we’d highly recommend Cabana Vans. They’ve got locations up and down the coast from LA to Seattle to choose from.
Joshua Tree National Park, CA
When we first visited Joshua Tree National Park we weren’t really sure what to expect. We quickly fell in love with the alien terrain and rock formations that are just begging to be conquered. Seriously, this place is a natural jungle gym. A popular destination among rock climbers, day hikers, and casual sightseers alike, Joshua Tree is at its absolute peak in the winter months before the desert heat takes over in late spring and summer. The brutal August highs of 99 degrees give way to comfortable mid 60’s days from December to February, making it an ideal location for your winter elopement. It’s close proximity to Los Angeles, as well as the wealth of amenities in nearby Yucca Valley and Palm Springs also make it an easy destination to organize your day with plentiful vendors and accommodations for your guests. There are plenty of hiking trails for all different skill levels, but no matter how you build your day, it’s guaranteed to be surrounded by plenty of cholla cacti, the famous Joshua trees, and some of the coolest rock formations you’ve ever seen.
Yosemite National Park, CA
Yosemite is a great example of a place that can be elevated by seeking out less popular times of year and dodging the crowds. While plenty of visitors in the summer bemoan the overcrowded trails and parking areas, you’ll likely not experience any of that headache if you plan your elopement here in the winter. Not only will you have more room to breathe and experience the epic landscape in peace, but the you’ll also have access to a bevy of new experiences and vistas that the summer crowd miss out on! Couples eloping in the winter months are likely to witness the park blanketed under a dusting of fresh snow, transforming the valley into one of the most gorgeous locations anywhere on the planet. Snowshoeing amongst the giant sequoias in the Yosemite valley is an elopement day experience unlike any other, and the Tanaya Lodge in the park offers guided showshoe tours and rentals, as well as cozy firepits to cuddle up with your boo at the end of your elopement day. In February, the natural phenomenon called Firefall takes place at Horsetail Falls and draws epic numbers, so make sure to factor that in when choosing your date!
While much of the country is stuck in a desaturated state waiting for the earth to have its springtime reawakening, Sedona’s famously vibrant red rocks are lacking nothing in winter. This makes it a fantastic desert escape for your elopement day. The red cliffs that paint the backdrop surrounding the town are chock full of hiking trails for any experience level or ambition, and when you return at the end of the day you’ll be greeted with a variety of cool restaurants and shops to experience. From 4×4 Jeep tours to horseback riding, theres no shortage of unique activities to spice up your day and make it truly unforgettable. Known for its spiritual link to the earth, the area is also popular with those seeking to find a deep connection with the natural world. And once you’ve experienced the breathtaking scenery first hand you’ll have no question as to why. Located just 2 hours north from Phoenix and with plenty of Airbnb’s in town for you and your guests, this is one of the easiest locations to plan your winter elopement around.
Just below the border with Utah lies some of the most dramatic desert landscape anywhere in the southwest. The remote nature of the area requires a little more commitment from those looking to elope there but that effort will be repaid in spades by the plentiful natural beauty on display there. Just outside Page, Arizona in the Glen Canyon Recreation Area you’ll find Horseshoe Bend. This iconic bend in the Colorado river is an easy hike of less than a mile from the parking area and would provide the perfect backdrop for your ceremony. Helicopter tours are also available for those seeking an even more epic view of the river bend. Following that, maybe your day takes you across town to some of the most unique hiking anywhere in the country at Antelope Slot Canyon. This stunning geological phenomenon provides the perfect playground for hikers to squeeze between the dramatic orange sandstone cliffs. Tickets to the slot canyons are not cheap. At $135/person it can add up quickly especially if you’re bringing guests, but if you’re in the area this spot is absolutely unmissable. For those committed to going to the ends of the earth in search of the most epic day possible, northern Arizona is worth a look.
Olympic National Park, WA
The Olympic Peninsula is truly a choose-your-own-adventure elopement experience. With such a wide diversity of environments to gaze upon, this sampler pack of all the best the Pacific Northwest has to offer will certainly fit your needs no matter what you’re after. While we love Olympic National Park in the summertime, visiting during that time would deprive you of some of the coolest experiences to be had in the park. Snowshoeing or skiing in the alpine heights of the Olympic mountains at Hurricane Ridge is a surreal and unforgettable experience exclusively held for those bold adventurers visiting in the winter. Come down the mountain afterward to thaw out and witness the Pacific ocean at its most dramatic, or if you’re not afraid of a little (or a lot) of rain, the Hoh Rainforest in its wet season is at its most vibrant in the winter and early spring. The weather in the PNW is known for it’s moody coastline and wet weather, and that is especially true for winter. But if you’re up for anything, this park will open itself up to you and provide a stunning and unforgettable day.
Planning your elopement is all about finding the thing you love the most and taking that all the way up to 11 with the person you love the most. If a hiking elopement isn’t really what you’re after and instead your ideal day involves Christmas cheer, hot chocolate, and an entire village decked out in lights, well dang do we have a spot for you! Every December the beautiful Bavarian town of Leavenworth, Washington transforms into Christmastown, USA; decking out the city with over half a million lights and other winter attractions such as their sleigh rides or reindeer farm. This cozy winter wonderland can also serve as an excellent home base for those seeking to go skiing, snowshoeing or snowmobiling in town or at nearby Stevens Pass, or those who want to take in the frosty scenery at nearby Lake Wenatchee State Park.
Your Winter Elopement Photography Team
There are so many more contenders for best winter elopement destinations than just what’s included here, so don’t be discouraged thinking the winter is “off season” by any means. These are just a handful of our favorites, but we can help you track down the place that’s right for you. All of our elopement packages include location guidance and planning help.