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How to Elope in Yosemite

Filed in Wedding & Elopement Tips — November 2, 2023

How to Elope in Yosemite

Eloping in Yosemite National Park

Hey there adventure-seekers and lovebirds, curious about how to elope in Yosemite? Whether you’re a climber, hiker, camper, or just someone who loves nature, Yosemite’s got your back for the most epic California adventure elopement wedding. Buckle up, because we’re about to take you on a wild ride through the stunning forests, towering granite walls, and the Yosemite valley that’s home to bears, deer, and outdoor enthusiasts like you!

This park’s been luring folks from all corners for ages – adventurers, couples tying the knot, and even city-dwellers looking for an escape. Bet you didn’t know “Free Solo” was shot right in the heart of Yosemite on El Cap, and it was almost the spot for the 1932 Winter Olympics! Yeah, it’s THAT huge. Ready to peek into what a Yosemite elopement might look like and how to plan your big day? Let’s dive in!

How do you Elope in Yosemite?

Taft Point Yosemite Elopement Wedding Photographer


First things first: Planning your Yosemite Elopement…

Half Dome Yosemite Elopement Photographer


So, how do you even get to Yosemite National Park?


Nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Cali, it’s not exactly next door to any airport. LA, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose – take your pick. Or if you’re up for it, fly into Fresno, but it could be a bit pricey. You might even pair your Yosemite visit with a trip to Lake Tahoe and fly into Reno, Nevada. And guess what? Yosemite’s buddies with Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks too. Cali’s got a bunch of national parks, so it’s all about exploring the Golden State. Once you land, rent a car for the drive to the park, and once there, shuttle around, bike, or hike to your heart’s content.

Taft Point Yosemite Elopement Wedding


When can you Elope in Yosemite?


Yosemite Eloping timing-wise? Anytime’s good! Spring’s awesome for waterfall vibes, but watch out for Spring Break. Summer’s buzzing but sunny, Fall’s the bomb, and Winter’s private and gorgeous. It boils down to your vibe and how crowded you’re comfy with. Generally, aim for early May to late October, weekdays are smart to avoid the crowds, and I generally recommend a sunrise elopement if you have your heart set on privacy.

Taft Point Yosemite Elopement Wedding El Capitan


Wondering to stay when visiting Yosemite National Park?


Alright, let’s chat about where to crash after your epic Yosemite escapade! 🛏️🌲

When it comes to where you can stay in Yosemite National Park, there are different options to choose from. You can stay at resorts inside the park’s central valley. Or if you like being close to nature, there are many campgrounds in the valley too. But be aware, these places can get fully booked, sometimes even a year ahead. So, it’s a good idea to plan ahead if you want to stay there.

If you prefer a quieter spot, you might like cabins in the West Yosemite area. They’re still inside the park, but away from the busier parts. Just remember, these cabins can also get booked up early, so make sure to plan in advance. Staying here also means you’ll be closer to cool places like the grove and Glacier Point.

RUSH CREEK LODGE WEDDING


If you’re looking for places outside the park, there are loads of other options too. Rush Creek Lodge is a nice choice and can be a great place hold wedding receptions or ceremonies if you have a ton of people coming. Another interesting choice is Autocamp, which offers a different kind of camping experience. You can also explore places to stay on websites like Hipcamp, Airbnb, or VRBO.


WHERE TO ELOPE IN YOSEMITE


Alright, lovebirds, let’s talk about where the magic happens – your dream elopement spots in Yosemite National Park! 🌄💍

Quick note: if you’re planning a full-blown ceremony, you’re gonna need a permit. But guess what? Anything else, like first looks, exchanging vows, reading heartfelt letters, picnics, or striking those stunning poses – that’s open game anywhere in the park!

Now, if you have friends or family coming along, you’ve got some rules to follow. But with that permit in hand, you’re VIPs, baby! Only you and your boo can wed at that spot during the designated time. 🌟

So, let’s dive into our absolute faves for that “I do” moment

Taft Point Yosemite Elopement Wedding

1. Taft Point:

Taft point has quickly become the number one place for Yosemite Elopements, and for good reason, it is a short 2.3 round trip hike which takes approximately 35 minutes to hike from the trailhead, and the epic 360-degree views of the valley from this spot are well worth the moderate hike. We suggest planning your elopement here at sunrise or sunset during the week (Tuesdays and Wednesdays are usually the least crowded) during July-September to ensure the road is open. In 2023 Glacier Point road didn’t reopen until late July, so during years with heavy snowfall, keep in mind the road will open late summer. Most years it should be open by June, unless we get heavy snow in the winter. Sunsets are incredibly epic from this location, but are quite a bit more crowded, so expect to have competition with other folks getting their photos taken here (possibly bridal photos too!). I’ve been here many times when 4-5+ other couples are getting their bridal photos taken, so be prepared to have to share the popular spots to get that epic shot at Taft that you’ve been dreaming about.


2. Glacier Point:

Sunrise is the game-changer here – the lighting’s on point, and you’ll beat the crowds. Snap those jaw-dropping shots in this popular spot. When the road is open it’s a 1-hour drive up to the parking lot from Yosemite Valley, so no hiking is required! We love this spot as an option for Yosemite Elopement with an epic valley view from above for those who would rather not put the work in for even a short hike like Taft. And trust us, you’ll never forget how amazing it was exchanging vows while the sun slowly peaked it’s way from behind Half Dome.

Heads up: snow can close the road, so plan accordingly (we suggest July-early October as the safest bet against snow). And if it’s just you two, a hike to the top? Majorly recommended for an intimate, surreal vibe. Just keep in mind it’s a nearly 10 mile hike round trip, so you’ll need to be a big fan of hiking, especially if you plan on doing it in a dress!


3. Tenaya Lake Beach:

Fall elopement? This one’s a winner. Yeah, the road’s snowed in part of the year, but sunrise here is gold. Crystal-clear waters, picturesque surroundings, and the Tenaya Lodge nearby for some post-ceremony chill. Plus, it’s a quiet side of the park – perfect for a peaceful vibe. Trust us, we highly recommend this serene location for Yosemite Elopements.


4. Cathedral Beach Picnic Area:

Cathedral Beach Yosemite Elopement Wedding

Got your heart set on a valley ceremony? Cathedral Beach Picnic Area is your jam. Timing’s key for that dreamy lighting peeking through the trees by the river. With a view of El Cap and plenty of space plus picnic tables, you’re sorted. It’s also close to El Cap meadows for some swoon-worthy portraits. This is also one of the only spots they allow a higher guest count (50-people maximum).


5. Tuolumne and Merced Grove:

Sequoia lovers, this one’s for you! Imagine tying the knot under those towering giants. Tip: early morning elopement from 8 am to noon, starting the Tuesday after Memorial Day till September 30th. Shuttle bus hop required, but totally worth it. Just stick to the trails to dodge the traffic.


6. Yosemite Valley Chapel:

Need an indoor space that’s oozing charm? Hit up the Yosemite Valley Chapel. Located on the valley floor, it’s got killer views of Sentinel Rock, the granite walls of Yosemite valley, and historic vibes. Say “I do” inside – it’s got that old-world beauty you can’t resist.

For a full list of other locations available within Yosemite visit the National park website here: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wedloc.htm


PLANNING YOUR BRIDAL PORTRAITS


Alright, let’s get real about capturing those picture-perfect moments in Yosemite National Park! We’re diving into the juicy details of where to strike a pose that’s gonna make your Instagram feed POP! 📸🏞️

Yosemite’s got spots that’ll give you all the feels. Imagine you and your partner chillin’ in the meadows with waterfalls cascading in the background or the iconic El Cap rock. And those lakes hidden away in remote corners? Yup, they’re calling your name too. And don’t even get me started on the epic hikes, like Half Dome – those are the real MVPs!

Now, if we’re talking about epic views, Glacier Point and Taft Point are definitely where it’s at, but they do have quite a bit of draw so expect some competition. While you do have to obtain a permit to have a an elopement or wedding ceremony within Yosemite National Park, you don’t need one to take bridal photos, so even if you have obtained a permit, you’ll find that the growing popularity of having bridal photos taken here will draw other couples in on days when your spot is technically “yours”. My point? You may have a bit of competition, and even with a permit, privacy is not ensured! For this reason, sunrise ceremonies are best for couples who want to keep their marriage vows in Yosemite as intimate as possible.


When it comes to picking THE spot, it’s all about the vibes. Are you down for an epic hike, maybe some backpacking action, rock climbing madness, or even a refreshing dip in a river or lake? Think about the experience, not just the view, and you’ll find your portrait-perfect haven.

For the pet lovers out there – we’ve got good news and a little bummer. Furry friends aren’t invited to the elopement ceremony party, sorry! But here’s the deal: while they can’t witness your vows, they can totally rock the camera during your portrait sesh. Paved paths and Glacier Point are pet-friendly zones. So, bring that adorable pup along for the photoshoot of a lifetime, as long as you can find a dog-sitter for the ceremony! 🐶📸

Other options: If you are really dead-set on including your pups in your elopement ceremony, save yourself the trouble of obtaining a permit and hold your ceremony outside of the National Park. Many of the local national forest areas (Sierra, Stanislaus, etc) allow wedding ceremonies without a permit, so long as you have a guest count under 75 people, and there are many gorgeous spots to choose from. And afterwards, you can travel into the park for bridal photos. Yosemite currently (as of 2023) does not require folks to obtain a permit to take bridal photos within the park. Take a look at this ceremony held under a waterfall just outside of Oakhurst:

HIRING A PHOTOGRAPHER FOR YOUR YOSEMITE ELOPEMENT

Eloping in Yosemite and in search of the perfect photographer? Here’s some advice to help you find the right match:

Yosemite Expertise:


Look for a photographer who practically has Yosemite in their DNA. You want someone who knows the park like the back of their camera, who can scout out those hidden gems and secret spots for breathtaking backdrops that truly showcase the park’s beauty. As someone who has been visiting Yosemite National park for over 30 years now, I can definitely recommend having someone who knows there stuff when it comes to this location. The roads and directions can get a bit confusing, and cell service is minimal (and depending on some locations you may not have any at all) so you definitely don’t want to make plans with someone who isn’t very familiar with this area and driving on these curvy roads.

Comfort is Key:


Your photographer should be more than just a professional behind the lens – they should feel like a friend. When you’re comfortable and relaxed, your photos will naturally exude authenticity. Find someone who can create a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere, so your personalities shine through. I’ve personally been photographing for over 20 years, with 10+ years of experience working with couples, so I’ve developed a ton of ways to help couples relax enough to feel comfortable and fully themselves in front of the lens. To hear more about what it’s like to work with me, visit my Experience page here!

Storytelling Charm:


Your elopement is a love story in the making, and your photographer should be a storytelling wizard. Seek someone who can capture the essence of your relationship in every frame, creating pure magic that speaks to your unique journey.

Choose that Yosemite-savvy photographer (hint: it’s me!) who not only knows the park but makes you feel like the stars of your own show. With my expertise and storytelling skills, and your comfort in front of my camera your elopement photos will be nothing short of Instagram gold! Fill out an inquiry here!


HOW TO GET MARRIED IN YOSEMITE?



Yosemite National Park WEDDING PERMIT


Getting married in Yosemite involves a few steps. First, you’ll need a Yosemite National Park Wedding Permit, which you can obtain by reaching out to a forest service ranger. Download the application from their website, fill it out, and send it in with a money order. It’s important to follow their process exactly as they specify. Remember, the money order isn’t refundable, so ensure it’s the right amount. Applying for the permit should be done at least 45 days before your chosen date. It’s a good idea to do this as soon as you’ve picked your park location. The permit typically costs around $150 for a wedding in the park. Keep in mind, you only need a permit if you’re performing your ceremony inside the National Park; if you’re just entering for photos then you don’t need to obtain a special permit, you’ll only need to pay the normal entrance fee per vehicle.


How to legally get married in the State of California


In addition to the park permit, you’ll need to legally get married in the State of California. This involves obtaining a marriage certificate. You and your partner will need to visit a local clerk’s office. An officiant will perform the ceremony and sign the necessary paperwork. You’ll also need at least one witness, but a second one isn’t required.

When should you get your marriage license in California? Remember, the paperwork is only valid for 90 days, and there’s no waiting period in California. So, it’s a good idea to get your marriage license as early as possible before your elopement day. Keep in mind that clerk offices often have specific hours, so plan accordingly based on your travel schedule.

If you’re near Yosemite National Park, the Mariposa Grove office is the closest clerk office. You can find more information on their website to help you with the process.


OVERALL COST


Now, the juicy stuff – how much does this adventure cost? Permit and marriage license tally up to $225. Your elopement’s unique, so costs vary. Between your photographer, videographer, officiant, lodging, travel, food, attire, and other goodies – be prepared to shell out $6000 to $17,000. It ain’t pocket change, but it’s a heck of a lot more budget-friendly than a lavish traditional wedding; remember: adventure comes at a price, but if you’re willing to cut most of the costs down and rough it bit you can easily make it into that lower budget range. We love Yosemite Elopements!


Ready for your epic Yosemite elopement?

Here are some last minute things to be prepared for: traffic can be a bit crazy (especially in summer), bears do live here (don’t disturb them!), pack food, and keep a watch out for wildfires in advance of your special day. Grab a National Parks pass, plan ahead, and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime! Yosemite’s got your dream elopement spots covered, and now you’re armed with all the info. Ready to rock your “just married” status? Let’s do this! 🌲💑

If you’re interested in having us capture your Yosemite Elopement or Wedding, please contact us here! We’d be so thrilled to get to document your love story!

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