Yosemite National Park is one of the most amazing parks in the US. It’s not a surprise that lots of people and photographers choose to use it as a backdrop for engagement sessions and elopements! From driving around the Valley to getting all the way up to Glacier Point or Taft Point, there’s an endless amount of spots to choose from! If you’re wanting to elope in one of the most epic parks in the USA, there are some things you need to know, and that’s why I wrote this complete guide to elope in Yosemite!
#1 Let’s Talk Permits
Yes, Yosemite (and most National and State Parks) requires a permit for weddings and elopements. You must head to their website and download the application. Once you’re done filling it out, you’ll mail the application with a check or money order on the amount of $150 to the Park. If you don’t want to deal with any of this, we, as your photographers, will do it for you!
If you’re having a ceremony with more than 11 guests, the park has a list of assigned locations for them, and you have to choose one on the application. But we can still explore the park before or after your ceremony and get pictures in different locations!
Those locations are decided on a first-come, first-serve basis, and they are limited to two-hour use, so as soon as you know where you want your ceremony to be, let’s get on it! You can reserve your wedding at Yosemite from 21 days in advance to up to a year before your date!
#2 Ceremony Locations
Here are the ceremony locations for you to choose from:
- Cascades Picnic Area
- Lower Yosemite Fall Paved Trail
- Swinging Bridge Picnic Area
- Cathedral Beach Picnic Area
- Sentinel Bridge Picnic Area
- Bridal Veil Fall
- Glacier Point Amphitheater
- Chilnualna Falls Trailhead Parking Lot
- Tenaya Lake Beach
- Tuolumne Meadows Lodge Area
- Tuolumne Grove
- Merced Grove
Other things you should know if you’re having a ceremony at Yosemite National Park:
- If your party does not exceed 11 people, you are not limited to these locations.
- Wedding permits are not given on Holiday Weekends or Holidays.
- Pets are not allowed to attend your ceremony, but they are allowed in the Park! So you can still take pictures with your fur friend, either before or after the ceremony!
- To respect nature and keep the park as beautiful as it is, we must avoid standing or walking on plants, grass, or tree roots!
Check out more information on Wedding Ceremonies at Yosemite HERE.
Anywhere from 10 am until 3 pm, lighting will be very harsh, and it’s also when the park could be most crowded. I know not everyone is a morning person but considering having your ceremony at sunrise is worth it, so you feel like you have the whole park to yourself!
If you’re not a morning person and you’re planning a very intimate elopement, with no guests or very few, having your ceremony around sunset is a great option!
Pro-tip: We highly recommend you consider a weekday to elope in Yosemite! We got married on a Tuesday, and it was one of the best decisions we ever made, simply because it made the whole planning process much easier!
#4 Best Time of the Year
Yosemite is truly beautiful all year round, but not all roads, hikes, and viewpoints are open all year round. Here’s a breakdown of the seasons at Yosemite:
- Winter: seeing Yosemite Valley covered in snow is priceless. But, as you can imagine, it can be VERY cold. We’ve been there at 18F temperatures just so you have an idea! Also, you’ll have to bring chains to put on your car. On the plus side, the park is always EMPTY during winter. *Glacier Point Road is closed all winter*
- Spring: beautiful weather, full waterfalls, and green everywhere! Spring at Yosemite is amazing, the only downside is that Glacier Point Road might not open until June.
- Summer: it’s usually when Glacier Point Road opens and we’re able to visit all of those epic places, such as Sentinel Dome and Taft Point! It can be a very crowded season in Yosemite though, and the other thing is… sunset isn’t until 8:30 pm lol!
- Fall: truly one of the most perfect times to visit the park. From September to October, the weather is perfect and there are fewer tourists than during summer!
PS: Glacier Point Road will be closed for all of 2021. They will be doing some much-needed maintenance on the road. That means that, if you don’t want to wait until 2022 to see Glacier Point, Taft Point, and Sentinel Dome, you have from now until around late November of 2020!
#5 COVID and Recent Changes
Due to COVID-19, the park was closed for nearly 3 months, but Yosemite is now open (as of June 11th)! Yosemite is requiring visitors to purchase online reservations before your visit, and you can get your reservation HERE.
Things to know:
- Reservations are valid for 7 days from the date you choose
- If you’re staying at a hotel or cabin inside the Park, or if you have campground reservations, you won’t need to book your entrance online
- Reservations for August will open on July 1st at 7 am, and so it goes for every month until the park “goes back to normal”
To take care of their employees and visitors, Yosemite is limiting the number of visitors this year. We managed to get a reservation for the second day that the park was open, a Friday, and it was very empty and pleasant. 2020 might actually be the perfect year to visit Yosemite!
Don’t go yet, check out:
- Shannon & Erick’s Elopement at Taft Point!
- Top #3 Reasons for having a Glacier Point Wedding!
- Michelle & Nick’s Engagement Session at Taft Point!
If you need help planning your elopement and want to inquire about having us capture your adventure, CONTACT US, we would love that!