Planning Your 2024 Elopement in Hendy Woods State Park
Hendy Woods State Park is a stunning hidden gem in the hills of Northern California. This state park boasts 100 acres of old-growth redwood forest. Some of the trees are up to 300 feet tall, and a whopping 1,000 years old. If you’re wondering how to elope in Hendy Woods, when to do it, or what to do when you get there, I’ve got you covered in this guide!
How to Get There & Where it’s Located
Hendy Woods State Park is located in Philo, California, in Mendocino County — about a third of the way between San Francisco and the northern state line.
Traveling to Hendy Woods from major local airports involves a scenic journey through Northern California. If you’re flying into San Francisco International Airport (SFO), you’ll want to rent a car for the approximately 2.5 to 3-hour drive north. Take US-101 North, which offers picturesque views of the California coastline, and then transition onto CA-128 West. This scenic route takes you through the Anderson Valley, known for its vineyards and wineries, before you reach the park’s entrance.
Another option is to fly into Oakland International Airport (OAK) or Sacramento International Airport (SMF). From either airport, it’s roughly a 2.5 to 3.5-hour drive to Hendy Woods. Follow I-580 West from Oakland or I-5 North from Sacramento to connect with CA-128 West, which will take you to the park.
Activities for Your Hendy Woods Elopement
Hendy Woods State Park has a number of beautiful hiking trails; the most notable one is Big Hendy Grove. This 1.5 mile trail consists of a couple of interwoven loops on the flat forest floor, making it very accessible. There are numerous foot bridges, which only lends to the charming fairytale vibe of the majestic forest! There are 3.5 miles of other trails throughout the park, but the Big Hendy Grove is my favorite. There’s no bad view, and there’s plenty of space throughout to choose where you’ll want to have your ceremony, or set up a picnic (without violating Leave No Trace policies).
Apple Cider Tasting
In nearby Philo, there are multiple options for satisfying your craving for sweet beverage tasting. The first is apple cider tasting amongst idyllic apple orchards. What says ‘autumn’ more than strolling through groves with fallen apples all over the ground, and a glass of chilled cider in hand? You can experience a tasting at nearby Gowan’s Heirloom Cider farm in “California’s first ever Cider Tasting Orchard.” Tastings are $20 for 45 minutes.
Additionally, right around the corner from Hendy Woods (quite literally) is Philo Apple Farm. This is a full-service company with everything from a year-round farm stand to overnight stay options. If you book an overnight stay (a great option for your Hendy Woods elopement!), you’ll be able to explore the full farm and relax in a cozy, rustic room. Their farm stand includes everything apples: applesauce, apple vinegar, apple juice, apple cider, and, of course, apples themselves.
If wine tasting is more your speed, you’re in luck. Philo happens to be situated in the heart of Alexander Valley, one of twelve (!) viticulture areas in Mendocino County. (for comparison, there are eighteen AVA’s — American viticulture area — in the entire state of Oregon.) If you want to incorporate grapes into your day — in addition to, or instead of, apples — there are numerous wineries and tasting rooms nearby. Some notable ones include the idyllic Maggy Hawk and Brashley Winery. Maggy Hawk offers a fun pinot & pizza pairing option, if that sounds like the perfect meal to enjoy on your elopement day!
Having a picnic on your elopement day under towering redwoods is a magical and intimate experience. Whether it’s a gourmet feast or a humble picnic, the redwood forest serves as a timeless and enchanting setting for a romantic celebration of your love. I’m more than happy to help you DIY a picnic (I keep some supplies on hand for the occasion), or you can opt to have a picnic professionally catered! Most picnic companies offer affordable options, usually starting around $200 for two people.
Things to Consider for Your Hendy Woods Elopement
Summers are generally mild and pleasant, making it an ideal time for an outdoor celebration amidst the towering trees. Redwood groves can be a notable few degrees cooler than the surrounding area even on warm days — so be prepared with an extra layer in case you think you might be chilled! Spring will bring lush greenery in the meadows neighboring the redwood grove. Fall will showcase a vibrant tapestry of foliage (shown below).
The park can experience occasional rain during the winter months, so it’s essential to check the forecast and be prepared with backup plans if needed. But don’t let rain dismay you! A moody and misty forest is a great vibe to embrace for your elopement day. Plus, I always carry clear (and aesthetically pleasing 😉) umbrellas for my couples to use.
Your Marriage License
When it comes to eloping in Hendy Woods, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the legal side of things. To start, I’m ordained and can legally sign on your marriage license as your officiant! If you choose to not bring any guests with you on your elopement day, you can opt to legally marry beforehand, or ask a hiker on the trail to sign as a witness. Don’t worry about feeling weird about asking a stranger to sign as your witness; most people are honored to do it!
Hendy Woods Permits
Overnight camping sites in Hendy Woods are typically about $45 per night, but you don’t need to camp to elope here. Instead, you can access the park with an $8 day-use fee. Additionally, Hendy Woods doesn’t require a special use permit for weddings with twelve people or less (woohoo!).
Book Your Hendy Woods Elopement Photographer
Now that you know where to go, how to get there, and what to do to elope in Hendy Woods State Park, all you need is a photographer to document your redwood forest elopement! If we haven’t met before — hi, my name’s Meg, and I’m an elopement photographer based in Northern California. I’ve helped many couples plan their redwood forest elopement, and if you’re interested in doing the same, please reach out! The redwoods are one of my favorite places, and I’d love to help you get married under them. 😌