Congratulations on your decision to elope! Elopements are a great way to create a perfect wedding day for you and your other half without all the stress. Yosemite National Park is one of the most stunning places to elope! A Yosemite National Park elopement allows you to experience beautiful meadows, breathtaking rock formations, stunning cliffside views, pristine forests, epic waterfalls, and sparkling lakes.
As one of the most visited national parks in the US, it is a popular spot for elopements and wedding ceremonies. However, there are a handful of rules and regulations for those dreaming of a Yosemite elopement. As an experienced Yosemite elopement photographer, I can walk you through the process, elevating your elopement experience so you’ll have a day you’ll remember forever.
Yosemite National Park is an oasis of natural, untamed beauty, renowned for its ancient Sequoia trees, granite cliffs, and sweeping vistas. It is easy to see why Yosemite is the oldest and one of the most visited parks in the United States, boasting approximately 3.5 million visitors annually. Imagine saying your vows at the base of a waterfall, atop the Half Dome, or surrounded by a grove of trees – the park is perfect for adventure lovers, nature enthusiasts, backpackers, photographers, and elopers alike!
However, there are a few things you should consider before deciding that eloping in Yosemite is right for you:
#1: Popularity Means Potential Photo Bombers. Yosemite is widely known as a popular destination for weddings and couples eloping, but this often leads to large crowds and long wait times for pictures. Thousands of visitors can be in the park at once, with many taking pictures in the same spot.
#2: Plan for Traffic + Parking Delays. The roads in Yosemite can be very congested, with cars often bumper to bumper. It is common for drivers to tail pedestrians to their cars to get their parking spots. It can be chaotic. Additionally, one main road goes around the Valley, so expect traffic delays.
#3: Cell Signal Isn’t Guaranteed. The tranquil beauty of nature can provide an escape from the hustle of everyday life, but it can also mean poor cell phone service and internet reception. To ensure you are prepared, plan ahead and communicate with vendors before your visit.
#4: The Crowds Are Worth It. Visiting Yosemite is a remarkable experience, which explains why it remains a popular destination year after year. It may take extra planning, but the trip is always worth it. Take your time to appreciate all the beauty this area has to offer.
#5: Proper Planning Makes for a Perfect Day. Adding extra travel time and packing patience will help the experience go smoothly, creating an unforgettable wedding elopement experience. Don’t worry; we’re here to help you every step of the way, from the proposal to the honeymoon!
If crowds aren’t your cup of tea or you prefer privacy, we can help you find a picturesque backdrop without the need for crowd control for your special day. Yosemite is over 1,000 square miles, yet most visitors stick to a few popular locations within Yosemite Valley. However, there are ways to leave the crowds behind and see genuinely spectacular views. Reach out today so we can start brainstorming!
Yosemite National Park is situated in the mountains of central California, about 150 miles east of San Francisco. The beauty of Yosemite is unparalleled, and nothing beats the experience of eloping here. With proper planning, you can make sure your special day is perfect. Here are a few steps to follow to get you started with your Yosemite National Park elopement planning!
Once you’ve decided that eloping in Yosemite National Park is an epic way to begin your next chapter together, the next step is to determine what day is best to tie the knot. Many couples choose a symbolic day, like the day they met each other or their parents’ anniversary date. However, with a popular destination wedding spot like Yosemite, that date may be already booked unless you secure your permit well in advance.
Other factors that can influence the day you walk (or hike) down the aisle are:
Let’s explore some of these Yosemite elopement day factors:
No matter what time of year, Yosemite is an ideal spot for a destination wedding or elopement, offering something different and special with each season. Though spring and fall are personal favorites because they are less crowded with comfortable temperatures, any time of year is perfect for an intimate elopement in Yosemite.
Some people come alive surrounded by magical, glistening snowflakes, while others crave the warmth and the beauty of new foliage growth in spring. But, of course, there are pros and cons to every season in Yosemite (or anywhere you go). We’ll help you weigh your options.
Crowd Level: Fall is an ideal time to get married in Yosemite. Planning a fall elopement in Yosemite in late September or October has the perk of cooler temperatures and reduced crowds, which is often reason enough to choose to get married in autumn. In addition, parking can be better, and you may have an easier time booking accommodations, potentially at a reduced rate from peak season.
Landscape: The waterfalls may not be as impressive during fall as in spring and summer, especially if there has been little rain during the year, but the area is still breathtaking. The mix of distinct evergreens, golden aspens, warm red-leafed shrubs, and blond grasses combined with the cliffsides create a visually stunning natural background to your elopement pictures. The peak time to witness the beautiful fall colors is typically the last week of September to the first week of October.
Weather: The weather can be unpredictable, and snowfall does become more likely in fall, with the chance for snow accumulation beginning in the middle of October. However, for the most part, the park is still quite accessible even into mid-November, so you can still enjoy Yosemite’s stunning views and natural beauty.
Check out this early fall LGBTQ Elopement in Yosemite that we captured for some inspiration!
Crowd Level: For those who aren’t afraid to trek through some snow or want to combine the elopement with a ski trip, winter will bring all the fresh powdery snow you can dream of – with fewer people!
If you’d prefer to avoid crowds, Yosemite in winter offers a magically intimate experience. Escape from it all in your own (almost) private winter wonderland, complete with romantic, snow-capped mountains and almost other-worldly star-gazing. Winter the perfect opportunity for a Yosemite elopement with a fraction of the crowds (and cheaper accommodations).
Landscape: Eloping in Yosemite National Park in the winter is a truly magical experience. The beautiful peaks are covered in a thick coating of fluffy, snowy powder, making a peaceful and calming ambiance. The air is filled with the refreshing scent of pine needles and the crispness of the cold winter weather.
Many trails are open for elopers, hikers and adventurers, allowing you to explore the park’s beautiful landscapes. Wildlife abounds, and you may get lucky and spot some of the park’s iconic animals, such as the black bear, coyote, and deer. With snow-capped mountains and frozen lakes, Yosemite becomes a winter wonderland.
If you’re looking for a genuinely unique Yosemite elopement, with proper planning, you can experience the truly breathtaking “Firefall.” Although Horsetail Falls is typically not the highlight during summer elopement, the waterfall peaks in winter. Then for two weeks in February, the sunlight is reflected beautifully in the waterfall, taking the scene to another level and making it look like fire is flowing over the cliffside.
Weather: Winter in Yosemite can last from October into June at higher elevations (around 9,000 feet), shutting off the roads with snow. The Sierra Nevada mountain passes are not accessible during the cold months, starting in mid-November and lasting until May. Keep in mind that these dates aren’t set in stone. The calendar does not always predetermine Winter in Yosemite – the weather conditions determine it.
However, at lower elevations in Yosemite Valley (around 4,000 feet), winter sometimes starts in December and ends as early as April. In the Valley, most winter days are sunny, with temperatures ranging between the mid-50s and the low-30s, with the occasional snow flurry. Since snowstorms are not common in lower elevations, this part stays open year-round. But even in the lower elevations, you’ll still have a stunning snow-covered winter backdrop.
Crowd Level: Spring is another excellent time to elope in Yosemite. It’s much quieter than the crowded summer months but more accessible than snowy winter. At the beginning of spring, only a few places to stay will be available, and some roads may still be closed for travel. However, as April and May come around, more accommodations will open.
Overall, this time of year is still relatively crowd-free, making it ideal for anyone who cringes at the thought of waiting in line to see iconic Yosemite views.
Landscape: Yosemite National Park is a stunning location for a wedding in the spring, with waterfalls, creeks, and rivers reaching their peak, plus an array of wildflowers in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. Redbud and dogwood trees flower in May, and the wildflowers in Yosemite bloom for nearly 6 months, providing a romantic backdrop for elopements.
Weather: Spring in Yosemite is unlike spring in many other locations. Although the temperatures can have relatively warm, sunny days filled with the new birth of animals and fresh vegetation, the occasional snowstorm is not uncommon in May and even into June. However, some major attractions are open in April, while most are open in May.
Crowd Level: Summer in Yosemite is beautiful but is also the most crowded time of year, with 95% of the visitors congregating in the Valley. Yosemite Valley is a small area of only 7 miles long and 1 mile wide, yet it is the desired destination of 5 million visitors in July and August. With only 5,400 parking spaces, the weekend influx of 8,000 vehicles means that half of them will not find a space. It is a beautiful season, but the crowds can be overwhelming.
The crowds often make summer the least desirable season to elope in Yosemite for some couples, as it can be challenging to find a private spot to say “I do” (or park). If you value privacy, then a summer Yosemite elopement is not impossible, especially if you’re one of the 5% open to exploring outside the Valley. With strategic planning, we can help you navigate the crowds and have an epic elopement you’ll never forget!
Landscape: Going to Yosemite National Park during the summertime is the perfect opportunity to experience the awe-inspiring Yosemite Falls, the highest waterfall in America, at its fullest strength. The snow accumulating throughout the year melts away during the summer, providing a more dramatic view of the falls. Additionally, the lack of snow on El Capitan makes it another great place to elope in Yosemite.
Many wildflowers bloom at higher altitudes during the summer. Some of the most impressive displays are in Crane Flat Meadows, Glacier Point, and Tioga Roads. Later in the summer in Tuolumne Meadows, various sub-alpine flowers such as elephant’s heads, gentian, penstemon, yarrow, and shooting stars pop up. Have a peek at this Glacier Point Amphitheater summer sunrise wedding on the blog!
Weather: During the summer, Yosemite National Park experiences generally pleasant weather, typically warm to hot. Occasional rain showers, particularly in higher elevations, occur, often in the form of afternoon thunderstorms.
However, it is important to note that summer is peak fire season in California, and the park can be closed due to smoke and fires in the vicinity. Even if there is no active fire in the park, the air quality and travel to the area can still be affected by fires elsewhere.
The temperatures in the park vary greatly depending on the season. If the temperature is a factor in choosing your elopement day, you may find this graph of the average temperatures in Yosemite helpful:
Summers can be sweltering, especially in the Valley, while winters in Yosemite will have you shivering in your hiking boots on the mountain peaks!
Side Note: The daily temperatures between lower elevations and higher altitudes can dramatically differ on the same day. When you should plan for a Yosemite National Park elopement can also depend on what you want to do on your elopement day! Contact us to help narrow down the right elopement day based on your preferences.
For example: if a high-elevation hike adventure elopement is calling your name, July and August are the best months to visit. But, those same months are crowded and hot in the Valley. On the other hand, for lower elevation adventures that don’t go too far above sea level, we’d recommend eloping in the shoulder seasons of early fall or late spring to be less sweaty and less crowded. But those months are sometimes too snowy in higher elevations to hike.
Crowds are likely the most significant issue when you elope in Yosemite National Park. Because this park sits in the country’s top five most popular national parks, finding some privacy is challenging.
Let’s reiterate: It’s hard – but definitely not impossible!
As a frequent visitor of Yosemite National Park, I’ve got some secret spots and tips to get the most out of your day.
Day of the Week: If you plan to elope in Yosemite, it is best to pick a day during the week, as crowds travel to the area on weekends. Choosing a weekday, such as Monday through Thursday, will give you more privacy during your ceremony!
Time of Day: Another way to avoid crowds is to plan your ceremony for sunrise. Even the most popular spots are nearly empty at dawn, so even if you aren’t a morning person, waking up early and getting out before everyone else is worth it! You’ll be rewarded with a private spot to say your vows and an incredible view as the sun rises and the sky lights up in shades of orange.
Also, if good photography is important (which it is, in our humble opinion), you’ll want to avoid the mid-day hours, from 10-3, when the light is harsh and blown out. As California elopement photographers, we can certainly help you plan the perfect Yosemite National Park elopement timing.
Choosing the perfect place for your Yosemite National Park elopement can be daunting, given the park’s abundance of stunning locations. To help make the decision process simpler, Yosemite has created a list of 13 pre-approved authorized areas where wedding ceremonies can be held.
However, you don’t have to stick to the list if you’re eloping in Yosemite with fewer than 11 people attending (including yourselves, your photographer, and your officiant). We’re free to take the trail less traveled, away from distractions and prying eyes. Yet, it can be helpful to review their suggestions to get an idea of the park’s attractions (and crowd favorites).
Additionally, if you’re planning a traditional Yosemite wedding and have a wedding photography or ceremony location in mind that isn’t pre-approved, don’t worry! We can help you plan the day, so you’ll have plenty of time for exploring and taking photos before or after you say “I do.” Many of the pre-approved locations are close to epic trails with views you’ll want to see in person, and then have your wedding or elopement photos and video to remember forever.
Yosemite National Park’s Cascades Picnic Area is excellent for intimate weddings and elopements. Its proximity to the Merced River, peaceful atmosphere due to low to moderate traffic, and mature pine trees nearby make it ideal for couples to tie the knot. There is convenient parking, restrooms nearby, and tables for a post-ceremony reception.
Yosemite Falls is an iconic and picturesque American landmark that has lured many couples to have their wedding ceremony there. While you can’t hold a wedding ceremony directly beneath the Falls, there is an official area between a fork in the trail, which still allows for a breathtaking view of the upper portion of the Falls.
The majestic beauty of the waterfall makes it one of the most visited places in the park. To avoid the crowds, plan to have your ceremony in the early morning and avoid weekends. There are paths surrounding the waterfall that are far less populated, providing perfect opportunities for stunning photos, elopements, and intimate wedding ceremonies.
Swinging Bridge has become a top choice for small weddings and elopements in the Valley. With breathtaking views of Yosemite Falls, sandy beaches along the Merced River, tranquil pine groves, and open meadows, the Swinging Bridge Picnic Area is the perfect outdoor venue to tie the knot and capture memorable wedding photos.
Weddings can be held around the bridge’s picnic area, but not directly on it. The most popular spot is near the parking lot, with a stunning view of Yosemite Falls, meadows, and the Merced River. This spot is also great for elderly or disabled guests, as it’s easily accessible and has bathrooms nearby.
Yosemite National Park’s Cathedral Beach is an enchanting destination for couples and their guests, offering tranquil waters, pebble shorelines, and stunning views of El Capitan. It is an optimal choice for mid-sized weddings, micro weddings, and elopements and is accessible even to people with limited mobility. Mid-to-late October is an ideal period to experience the stunning fall colors, and couples are urged to plan their ceremonies close to the sunset to enjoy the golden glow of El Capitan.
Sentinel Beach is the perfect destination for larger weddings. With more space than any other wedding venue in Yosemite, the beach can accommodate the largest number of guests. However, it can become crowded, making it a less-than-ideal choice for those seeking a more intimate atmosphere. Nevertheless, Yosemite’s Sentinel Beach offers views of both Upper Yosemite Falls and El Capitan, making it a great spot to tie the knot (and for wedding photos.)
Bridalveil Falls is the perfect spot to get married in Yosemite National Park, providing an amazing backdrop of breathtaking cascading waterfalls, granite cliffs, lush forests, and stone boulders. The designated wedding ceremony site is conveniently located down the path from the parking lot, connected by old stone bridges. Despite its smaller size, it can accommodate a large number of guests.
For many reasons, Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park is one of the most popular outdoor wedding venues. It boasts stunning views of Half Dome, Clouds Rest, North Dome, Mt Starr King, Nevada, and Vernal Falls and is also one of the few locations in the park where seating is included, as the wedding ceremony site is an outdoor amphitheater. There is even a gift shop with coffee, snacks, and ice cream to help you celebrate your next chapter.
However, it can be quite crowded, so couples are advised to have their weddings early in the morning or during the sunset to ensure a good experience. For smaller weddings (fewer than 11 people) and elopements, couples can venture up a trail to find a more natural and less crowded setting for their vows. We shared one of our favorite Glacier Point Amphitheater weddings on the blog!
Chilnualna Falls, pronounced “Chil-noo-al-na,” is a breathtakingly beautiful Yosemite wedding venue, tucked away in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Featuring an idyllic waterfall, the 50-foot (15-meter) fall is followed by a series of crystal-clear pools, leading to a 100-foot cascade and finally ending with a majestic 240-foot (70-meter) cataract. The surrounding area is perfect for a romantic wedding ceremony, with lush greenery, dramatic rock formations, and breathtaking views of the nearby mountains.
It is one of the few waterfalls that flow year-round in Yosemite but reaches its peak in May. There is a trailhead with limited parking, so carpooling is recommended. There are outhouses at the trailhead and bathrooms with plumbing nearby.
Tenaya Lake is one of the most beautiful and secluded locations in Yosemite National Park. It is often called the “Jewel of the High Country” due to its crystal clear blue water and stunning mountain views.
Located off the beaten path and much less traveled than Yosemite Valley or Glacier Point Road, Tenaya Lake is a hidden gem for outdoor enthusiasts. It is the perfect spot for kayaking, boating, swimming, and, of course, Yosemite National Park elopements.
Not only will couples and their wedding guests be surrounded by the beauty of nature, but they can also enjoy the tranquility of being away from the crowds of the more popular locations in the park. Tenaya Lake is an idyllic destination for anyone looking to immerse themselves in the beauty of Yosemite.
Tuolumne Meadows Lodge Area is ideal for couples who want to tie the knot in Yosemite’s stunning natural environment. The wedding site is conveniently located near the lodge on the east side of the National Park. Plus, the views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the meadows are awe-inspiring.
Its wide open spaces and peaceful atmosphere make it an ideal spot to exchange vows. Say “I do” in the meadow or under a canopy of tall trees. Plus, there are plenty of scenic spots for wedding photos and accommodation options for couples and their guests.
Imagine starting your life together by hiking through a lush and wooded forest, and a smooth trail that winds through the towering and majestic sequoia trees. As you take the trek through the Tuolumne Grove wedding location, you will be surrounded by the enormous trees, pass by and even walk through a giant sequoia while making your way to the altar to say “I do!” This natural setting is the perfect backdrop to your special day and the perfect way to start your life together.
Tuolumne Grove is a beautiful and underrated part of Yosemite National Park. It is easy to access year-round and only a 45-minute drive from the main Valley. However, getting to the ceremony site requires a 2.5-mile hike, which is downhill, but the hike back is steep. On the plus side, the path is paved and dog-friendly, making it a great spot for couples who don’t mind a bit of a hike.
Couples who prefer a more serene, rustic setting should consider tying the knot among the towering Giant Sequoias at Merced Grove. A 4.1-mile round trip trek on a dirt trail will lead you to a peaceful, untouched grove with a small cluster of these giants. It boasts roughly 20 of these ancient trees!
An amazing journey awaits you through a lush, towering sequoia forest! This gorgeous sight can be admired all year, but during the colder months of October to June, you may be trekking through snow, so staying on the designated path is important.
Completing the necessary paperwork for your elopement may not be the most thrilling part of the day, but it is still very important. Don’t stress – We have all the information you need about California’s marriage regulations and Yosemite’s wedding rules.
When planning for a ceremony during your Yosemite National Park elopement, it is important to get to know the park’s regulations concerning the location, decorations, and other aspects. Here are some of the main points to keep in mind.
To get married in Yosemite National Park, you must first obtain a marriage license from any county clerk’s office in California. The closest county clerk’s office to the park is located in Mariposa County. To get the marriage license, you need to bring valid identification for both parties, proof of age, and a witness if you are under 18.
Waiting Period: The license can be used the same day it is obtained, but it’s best to plan ahead to give yourself enough time if you are coming from out of state.
Cost: The cost of the license varies by county, but it typically is around $100.
Most national parks require a special permit to have a wedding ceremony on their grounds, no matter how small. Nearly every National Park across the United States requires a wedding permit to get married on the property. To start the process, you must complete a Yosemite wedding permit application.
When: The wedding ceremony application must be turned in at least 21 days before your wedding or elopement. However, you can submit it up to a year in advance. Since wedding location sites are first-come, first-served, it is. It’s a great idea to start early to ensure you get the spot you want!
Cost: Yosemite’s permit application requires a $150 application fee, but this money goes to helping care for the park – so your elopement is helping the environment!
An officiant is required to sign your marriage license – but you have a few different options! You can hire an elopement officiant who is up for whatever adventure you have planned or have a friend or family/ member perform your ceremony. Getting ordained is quick and easy and can add a personal touch to your ceremony!
As Yosemite elopement photographers and videographers, our mission is to make wedding days as stress-free as possible so that you can focus on what really matters – having a blast and getting married! This is why we offer all-inclusive elopement packages. I’ll be your photographer and location scout and my husband serves as an officiant (and musician, videographer, picnic basket carrier, and more).
California requires one witness, though you can have up to two. Don’t worry if you weren’t planning to invite guests to your elopement, though! I can be your personal paparazzi for the day and your witness. Any other vendors can help with this too, or you can even ask someone you meet on the trail!
Hiring a team of elopement vendors will take so much pressure off of you – because planning even a small ceremony can be stressful! Luckily, I know someone who can help… hint, hint, it’s me!
As a Yosemite wedding and elopement photographer specializing in adventure elopements, I also help with planning, from location recommendations to building a timeline. I know how stressful the wedding or even elopement planning can be, and I want your elopement to be absolutely perfect! My husband helps out as my second shooter, videographer, officiant, and musician. Our all-inclusive elopement packages make this as easy as possible for you!
If you’re planning a trip to Yosemite, it’s a good idea to book your flights and accommodation in advance to make sure you have a place to stay close to the national park.
Yosemite National Park is approximately an hour from the Fresno-Yosemite International Airport, the closest flight hub to the park. However, it may be more costly due to limited direct-flight connections.
Those looking for more options or cheaper flights can consider the San Francisco International Airport. Either way, renting a car will be necessary to get from either airport to the park.
Finding lodging near Yosemite can be tricky, but Fish Camp and Mariposa are great options for unique experiences. There are several options, from camping to luxury resorts to Airbnb. AutoCamp Yosemite is a popular choice for its one-of-a-kind airstreams, but they can sell out quickly. Camping sites in Yosemite are also popular but must be reserved 4-5 months in advance.
If you are not staying within the park, it might be ideal to drive yourself on the day of your elopement. This way, you can set your own schedule, you won’t have to rely on public transportation, and can make your own plans.
On the days not devoted to your elopement, you can take advantage of the free shuttle service at Yosemite Valley to easily reach all the best sites. This is a great way to explore Yosemite and quickly access the best trails in the area!
A Yosemite National Park elopement is a popular and romantic way to get married. This stunning national park offers a variety of venues, ranging in cost and style. Depending on the type of elopement ceremony you are looking for, the cost of eloping in Yosemite National Park can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.
Here are a few costs to consider:
We provide comprehensive, all-inclusive elopement packages that have everything necessary for your special day. We’re here to cheer you on and guide you through planning an epic elopement ceremony. Leave the hard work to us, and just enjoy your journey!
People from around the globe are drawn to Yosemite because of its breathtaking beauty. Let’s celebrate your elopement day together, recording your adventure somewhere that most people only dream of seeing!
A Little Something Extra | We’re here to celebrate YOU and your love story. So, we include extras, like a private picnic packed in and set up for you as well as a champagne toast or sparkling water.
The breathtaking beauty and abundance of activities in Yosemite National Park make it the perfect place for a destination wedding or adventure elopement. If you are ready to take the plunge, we’re here as your Yosemite elopement photographers and Yosemite elopement planner to make sure your special day is nothing short of extraordinary. Contact us today to get started!
Want more Yosemite National Park elopement inspiration? Our blog has answers to frequently asked questions as well as portfolios to help you get excited. Check out our super fun LGBTQ+ Yosemite elopement and this epic Glacier Point wedding ceremony (with a sunset hike to Taft Point)!
If you're thinking about eloping or getting married in NorCal, our blog is an excellent resource for inspiration. We've got sneak peeks of recent weddings, tips for eloping in Northern California, and more. Let The Adventure Begin is the perfect place to start planning.
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