How to elope in Yosemite National Park

February 23, 2021

bride and groom holding hands, bride looking back & groom looking at the bride on top of a mountain at Yosemite in California


Is it your absolute dream to elope in Yosemite National Park?! Hell yea! You have come to the right place and I am so excited for you. Yosemite is seriously one of my favorite places in this country. 


It’s located just northeast of Fresno and southeast of Sacramento and is about a 4-5 hour drive from LA. The park is full of beautiful valleys, giants sequoia trees, countless waterfalls and many many stunning locations. They give you the perfect backdrop for your elopement photos. There is no other place more epic than this to start your marriage. 

If you are thinking to elope in Yosemite National Park, I want you to have the best experience ever. That’s why I, as someone who is familiar with the area and the lighting conditions with the Sierra Mountains, have put together this guide. It will help you plan your perfect elopement and know exactly when, where, and how to elope in Yosemite!

Bride and groom kissing while standing on top of a rock at Yosemite in California

How to get there?


You can fly into the Fresno airport. But if you are like me and absolutely love a good deal, the LA might be your best bet. You can find flights less than $150 depending on where you are coming from. From LA, it’s a 4-5 hour drive to the park. 


How much does it cost to elope in Yosemite National Park?


There’s a $150 photo and permit fee to get married in the park and a Yosemite National Park entrance fee. The fee is$30 for one vehicle for seven days with in and out privileges. Another option is the National Parks Pass that will get you in and out of every single parks for the entire year for $80. It is highly recommended that you apply to get your permit a year in advance. The park now has limitations due to the number of people that want to get married there. Even if you don’t do it a year in advance, you need to have it sent 21 days before your date! You can download the wedding permit here! 


Where to Stay?

The next major expense to consider is the lodging. You can stay inside the park but the costs will be higher than if you stay outside the park. 
According to Airbnb:

  • Average nightly cost for two within the park is around $450
  • Average nightly cost for two outside the park is around $200

The cost difference maybe worth the time you will save driving from outside the park. 

Here are some recommendations for where to stay just outside the park:
  • The Majestic Yosemite Hotel is one of the most luxurious accommodations in Yosemite Valley.
  • Evergreen Lodge is a woodsy spot. The gorgeous rustic cabins make you feel like you’re in some kind of secluded village. It’s just a bit outside the actual park entrance. It is a full-service wedding venue that has all you need, including a pretty ceremony site and reception area.
  • Rush Creek Lodge: Located at the hwy 120 park entrance, it is also a beautiful place to stay. Keep in mind that the travel time from here to Glacier Point is also about 90 minutes so if you are planning a sunrise ceremony at Glacier or Taft, I would count in the travel time as well and leave accordingly. 
  • Tenaya Lodge: Also located just outside the park, Tenaya Lodge is at the park’s south entrance and just like Rush Creek, it’s also over an hour drive to the points. 

If you plan to stay outside the park but not too far, I highly recommend staying in the town of Oakhurst and surrounding areas. It will be a little bit less expensive than the park but hey if you are like me and love a good deal I say go for it. Here is my recommendation for staying in Oakhurst. 
Other than that, everything is up to you! Your wedding budget will be travel costs to Yosemite, your outfits, hair and make up, food, photography and videography, an officiant, etc.

Bride and groom standing at the ends of a cliff and looking at each other taken at Yosemite
Bride holding her dress and groom hugging the bride taken on a cliff at Glacier Point at Yosemite National Park

Best time of the year to elope in Yosemite National Park?

There is no right or wrong time of the year but depending on the season, some locations may not be available. Glacier Point road, which takes us to two of the most iconic places you see in everyone’s photographs, may not be accessible and it changes year to year based on the weather. It is generally opened around mid-April or early-May and closes around mid-November. The actual dates depend on the snow and rain conditions in the Spring and Fall. If you choose to have a winter elopement, it would have to be in the Valley as you won’t be able to make it to the lookout points.You can check the Glacier Point Road conditions and the opening as well as closing times on the Yosemite National Park website here.

PRO TIP: June, July + August are the busiest times for Yosemite which means that even at sunrise the best areas will be packed! 

Sunrise or Sunset? 

It really depends on what you want and where you want have your ceremony. Both of them are beautiful yet both give very different vibes.

SUNRISE:

Either of the lookouts have less tourists so you will have more intimacy especially in summer when the park is flocking with tourists. But if you are not a morning person sunrise is not a good option for you because you will be waking up and driving/hiking in the dark to make it to either of the point before Sunrise. 

PRO TIP:
If you are having a sunrise wedding Glacier Point is your ideal location to START. Depending on the time of the year, the sun rises over Half Dome! After that, head down the valley since the sun won’t have hit many areas yet and it will still have soft morning light for gorgeous photos!

SUNSET:

You will have all day to get ready which means no waking up early which is always a yay in my book. Firstly, have your first look and portraits anywhere in the valley. After that have your ceremony and more photos at one of the lookouts at sunset. 
PRO TIP:
If you have a sunset wedding, Taft Point is hands down the best location to end your time with epic sunset images. The lookout area is so large that you can find your own space if there are a lot of people there.

Bride looking at the camera and holding her hat while groom kisses her neck taken at Yosemite.

Yosemite National Park Eloping Locations:

* NOTE – Glacier Point is CLOSING 2022-2023 for construction. Read about it here

There are a few rules as to where you can have your ceremony in the park. By limiting where the ceremonies take place, park guests are able to follow the leave no trace principles and minimize the impact on land. 
If you entire party is 11 guests or more, you can have your ceremony at any of the below mentioned places on a first come first serve basis. Once you get your permit, that doesn’t mean that you can have the area all to yourself. There will still be other park guests around. However you can avoid crowds by having a ceremony in the morning.

  • Glacier Point Amphitheater 
  • Bridalveil Falls
  • Cathedral Beach Picnic Area
  • Tolumne Meadows Lodge Area
  • Tolumne Grove
  • Cascades Picnic Area

If your wedding party is less than 11 guests, you can elope ANYWHERE in Yosemite National Park. Here are some of my favorite places.


1) Glacier Point

Iconic Glacier Point photo of the bride and groom running away from the camera taken on Glacier Point Road at Yosemite National Park in California

This location is great because you are able to drive up to it, park your car and walk to the lookout to get the super scenic canyon views. It also happens to be the most popular location because of it’s easy access so if you want to get married at Glacier Point we recommend a Sunrise ceremony.


2) Taft Point:

Iconic Taft Point photo of the bride and groom standing on the cliff taken at Yosemite National Park

As far as dreamy spots go, this is it! It is ideal for sunset and has the most amazing views. There is a super short 1.1 mile and about a 30ish minute walk to the spot. I suggest you build in extra time so you could take your time to walk in your dress so that it gives us an opportunity to shoot along the trail which is also stunning!!

Check out this gorgeous Taft Point Elopement →


3) Yosemite Valley:

Bride and groom holding hands and running in the El Capitan Meadow.

This is the busiest section of the park with most amenities and lots of meadows where you can get married, beautiful view of the half dome and cathedral rocks. The chapel here is available for indoor ceremonies in case outdoors isn’t an option for you. This area is open year round unlike the previous two spots so you can get married here literally ANYTIME!


4) Tunnel View

Pretty much always has a crowd but a beautiful view of the valley. Pro tip: There is a 2 mile hike nearby which will give you the same view but way less crowded.

Couple sitting on the ground back to back taken at Yosemite National Park.

How much time do you need on your wedding day?

Yosemite National Park is a popular location with small, single lane roads and speed limits that never go above 35 so traffic occurs often. You don’t want to feel rushed on your wedding and give yourself as well as your guests enough time to get to where everyone needs to be. So the amount of time you would need on your wedding day truly depends on how you’ll be spending your wedding day. Some things to consider while deciding that are

  1. What season do you want to get married? Crowds are more in the summer months.
  2. Are you planning on doing any hiking?
  3. How many locations are you planning to visit?
  4. Where are you planning on staying?

SAMPLE TIMELINE:

Here is a sample timeline to give you a general idea of how much time you would need. 

  • 5:00am Getting ready photos at lodge
  • 05:30am Leave Lodge
  • 06:15am Meet at Glacier Point for sunrise first look
  • 06:45am Sunrise + portraits
  • 07:45am Family arrives for ceremony
  • 08:00am Ceremony
  • 08:30am Group photos
  • 09:00am Head back to Airbnb
  • 09:45am Brunch at Airbnb
  • 11:00am Photo coverage ends for now
  • Mid-day break! 
  • 03:30pm Meet at Taft Point trailhead
  • 04:30pm Sunset portraits at Taft Point
  • 06:00pm Sunset
  • 07:00pm Hike back
bride and groom sitting back to back at the edge of the cliff at the famous iconic yosemite spot.

Pro Tips:

  1. There are 13 designated wedding ceremony locations within Yosemite National Park and entrance fees into the park will not be waived for the newlyweds or their guests. You can find out all the ceremony locations on the NPS website.
  2. Each site is first-come, first-served basis and limited to two hours maximum, make sure to have your route perfectly mapped out. 
  3. Pick the sunrise or sunset times for the best lighting for photography. Try avoiding the times between 10-3 as the light is harsh during those times. 
  4. Wedding permits are not granted on holidays.
  5. Be sure to pack these important things: Headlamps, water & snacks, layers just in case it’s cold, Hiking boots, a rain jacket if it’s supposed to rain. For a more detailed list check out this blog post about how to pack for an elopement. 
  6. Pets are not allowed for wedding ceremonies but they are allowed in the park so you can still have your furry babies for photos afterwards in the valley.
  7. Big props & decor such as chairs, tables, and directional signs are prohibited to be used for the ceremonies. 
  8. Throwing rice/birdseed/other non-native seeds as well as using baby’s breath in your bouquet is not allowed to protect the flora and fauna of the park.
  9. Use of drones and balloons is also prohibited. 
  10. Yosemite offers shuttles to sites during busy months as there is limited parking at many popular spots.

Eloping in a place that can truly take your breath away is an amazing way to start your marriage. I hope this guide inspires you to pick Yosemite as your elopement location and helps with all the planning. If you need any more help or need an elopement photographer, don’t hesitate to reach out. 

Xoxo,          Ruzin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *