How to Elope in Yosemite National Park
Yosemite national park doesn’t seem real. I’ve been there, and I took all these photos, and I’m still not sure I believe that this valley is more than a crazy dream. Your first visit to Yosemite will have you saying, “pinch me!” (and probably your second, third, and so on.) Well known as a premiere climbing destination, this central California national park is a hiker’s paradise as well, but the lesser known treasure is the beautiful Merced river. You will not find a more clear, pristine and beautiful wild river to take a dip in. Did you know there are sandy beaches in Yosemite, to cool off after a hot summer hike? It is like swimming in a fish tank – my husband even found huge crayfish and trout. Also, bears. We found lots of those! The magnitude of the valley’s sheer rock walls is something to be experienced in person, because the photos just don’t do the experience justice. I loved taking some short hikes (next time, the longer hikes are calling me!) to see the many waterfalls – seriously, so many, including north america’s tallest – you could spend a week exploring this vast park. There are so many great places to plan an adventurous or simple Yosemite elopement, so let me give you some inspiration on my favorite locations in my Yosemite elopement guide!
As with most National parks, a special event permit is required to elope in Yosemite National Park. This costs a measly $150 and can be issued between 1 year and 3 weeks before your desired date. Yosemite prefers morning ceremonies to avoid congestion in this popular park, and you also can’t get married on a holiday or holiday weekends. Of course, you can’t ask other people to leave your ceremony area, as you aren’t granted exclusive use. More information can be found here. The most important thing to note is that Yosemite has 12 specific ceremony locations within the park if you have 11 or more guests. Are you thinkin’ what I’m thinkin?? That’s right- if you have 10 or fewer humans at your ceremony, including yourselves and your photographer, you can apply for a special events permit to elope A N Y W H E R E within Yosemite National Park. If you’re craving an intimate elopement adventure in Yosemite for just the two of you, this opens up all the possibilities for an epic elopement day full of hiking, climbing, relaxing, and joyously ringing in the fact that you. just. married. your. person!! So let’s talk Yosemite elopement locations!
Yosemite Valley Elopement Locations
This is THE Valley, with towering waterfalls; meadows full of bears (& bear scat); pristine beaches for floating, swimming, tubing and frolicking; world class hiking, climbing, and several lodges to tuck you in at night. You can get married with views of both Bridal Veil falls (currently under construction) and Lower Yosemite falls. Valley view is one of my most favoritest epically magical places I’ve ever been to, so we are stopping there for photos even if you don’t have your ceremony there. I get it – it looks fake, but I promise this is real life! Summers are hot but the area is accessible year round, making it a great location to elope in Yosemite in any season.
Glacier Point Yosemite Elopement Locations
This 15 mile long paved road brings you right to Glacier Point, one of the most scenic places in the park (and in all of California). Several stop offs provide 180 degree panoramas of Half dome, El Capitan, the high Sierras, Nevada Fall, Vernal Fall, and the entire Yosemite valley. This is a popular place to elope in Yosemite national park and for good reason. Its jaw dropping cliffs offer the adventure seeker plenty of opportunity. Or take the short hike to elope at Taft point, famous for amazing sunsets and epic views. The entire road closes in winter due to snow, so plan for a summer elopement at Glacier Point. There is an amphitheater there that you can reserve – for groups of more than 11 people, June and September are your only options. September, as we know from this year, can be impacted by wildfires dramatically.
**Note – Glacier Point road, including access to Taft point, will be closed for the entire 2021 season for roadwork.**
How To Elope at Tioga Road & Tuolumne Meadows
Tioga road runs the entire east/west length of Yosemite National Park and provides access to the high alpine Tuolumne meadows, which is rich with deer, marmots and other wildlife. Many of the parks’ greatest hikes start here, and it’s the least busy of the three main areas in Yosemite. I stopped many times along this road to enjoy the sights and even to take a dip in the dramatic yet freezing Tenaya lake. I even saw a lemming in real life, which was super cool for me as a lover of tiny adorable animals. There are also two Sequoia groves at the west end of this road, and you can get married along those forested trails. (Can’t get enough big ass trees? Head over to my Sequoia Elopement guide!) If you crave a bit of privacy and unique Yosemite elopement photos, experiencing Tioga road’s many stop offs may be for you!
Pets, birdseed, butterflies, speakers, decorations, drones, flower petals & baby’s breath are prohibited for Yosemite National Park Elopements. But with all the scenery Yosemite has to offer, you’ll never even miss these trifles. The most important thing is to leave this land better than we found it, so using Leave No Trace principles is vital in this sacred and protected land. This is non-negotiable. If you can’t approach the land with respect, you shouldn’t be using it for a pretty background. Soapbox moment, over and out.
**Currently due to COVID19, all ceremonies within the park are limited to 10 persons or fewer.**
So, ready to elope in Yosemite, with colorful and heartfelt photos that transport you right back to everything you were feeling on the best day of your life?! Get in touch, and let me guide you into choosing the season, places, and adventures that will make this the best day of your life! I’ve got an interactive map of all the Elopement locations in Yosemite and I can’t wait to share it with you!
Contact your Yosemite Elopement Photographer below!
Sample Yosemite Elopement Timeline
7:00 Breakfast together – make French toast!
7:30 Getting ready at Tuolumne Meadows Lodge
8:30 First look at Tenaya lake
9:30 Intimate ceremony at Tioga road viewpoint
10:30 reading letters from loved ones in the quiet Sequoia forest
11:30 Lunch in Yosemite Valley restuarant
12:30 Hike to a waterfall in Yosemite Valley – Vernal, Nevada, Bridal Veil, or Lower Yosemite. Or go climbing. Or ride E bikes around the valley. Or set up hammocks in the shade around a meadow.
5:00 Cool off in the Merced river. Write your names in the beach sand.
6:00 Stop for photos at Valley view on your way to Glacier point
7:30 Hike to Taft point for a Picnic dinner
8:00 Sunset first dance & watch the stars come out