Every year, hundreds of couples choose to elope in Yosemite. Getting married in this iconic place is nothing short of magical, and we can’t think of a better way to start married life other than celebrating outdoors, in one of the most epic places in California. In this Guide to elope in Yosemite, you’ll learn everything you need to know to plan your wedding.
On this article you will find:
- Rules & Regulations
- Yosemite Ceremony Locations
- Wedding Venues near Yosemite
- Best Time of the Year to elope in Yosemite
- Where to Stay near Yosemite
- Our Favorite Elopement Locations
PS. Don’t miss out on an important update at the end of this post!
Why Elope in Yosemite?
Yosemite is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and it’s no wonder millions of people visit this National Park each year. First protected in 1864, Yosemite is famous for majestic granite cliffs like El Capitan and Half Dome. No matter where you are in the Park, you’ll have beauty surrounding you, from mountains to waterfalls, it really is the most beautiful Park in the USA.
Every season is Yosemite is completely different than the other, and that’s also why this Park is so special. Winter, spring, summer, or fall, it’s hard to pick a favorite. Later on this guide, we will give you an overlook of each season so you can pick which one is the right one for your elopement!
#1 Rules & Regulations
Let’s talk about Permits! To get married in Yosemite, you will need to apply for a permit, but don’t stress! The process is really simple, and I’m here to give you the step by step:
- decide your wedding date + ceremony time + ceremony location + number of guests.
- once you know all of that, head over to their website and download the wedding application.
- print the application, fill it out, and mail it to the address specified on the website along with a check in the amount of $150 to the National Park Service.
- the Park will email you once they have approved your permit and will ask that you signed the approved document.
- once you’ve signed it, scanned it, and have emailed it back to the Park, they will email a PDF with your approved permit.
- from there, you are good to go! Make sure you print your permit and/or have it downloaded on your phone and with you on your wedding day.
You can apply for your permit from 1 year in advance to 21 days in advance. The earlier the better, ceremony locations are given on a first come first serve basis.
#2 Yosemite Ceremony Locations
There is no shortage of amazing locations in Yosemite, that we know. If your wedding does not exceed 11 people total, you are free to pick a ceremony location that isn’t on the official Park’s list. If your wedding exceeds 11 people, you must pick a ceremony spot that has been previously assigned by the Park:
Yosemite Valley Locations
- Cascades Picnic Area
- Lower Yosemite Falls Paved Trail
- Swinging Bridge Picnic Area
- Cathedral Beach Picnic Area
- Bridalveil Falls
- Glacier Point Amphitheater
- Chilnualna Falls Trailhead Parking Lot
Tuolumne Meadows Locations
- Tenaya Lake Beach
- Tuolumne Meadows Lodge Area
Big Oak Flat Area
- Tuolumne Grove
- Merced Grove
A Few More Things to Consider…
To elope in Yosemite, there are a few rules that we need to follow. It is important to abide by these rules not only to take care of these locations but also so that we can continue to use these beautiful lands as our wedding venues.
- due to COVID-19, as of ritgh now, Yosemite is only allowing weddings with 10 people or less. I’ll keep this guide updated as things continue to change throughout this year.
- wedding permits are not given on holidays or holiday weekends (fri-sun).
- pets are not allowed to attend wedding ceremonies.
- park visitors may show up in those locations at any time, early morning ceremonies are encouraged.
- the use of amplified music (with the exception of portable speakers) is not allowed.
- throwing off birdseed, rice, flower petals, decorations, and etc, is prohibited.
- the use of hardy flower bouquets and boutonnières are preferable. Baby’s breath is prohibited. The use of native flower arrangements is also preferred.
- some locations are not available at certain times of the year. For example, Glacier Point Road closes every winter, typically from November – May/June.
- always follow Leave No Trace principles
Lave No Trace is a set of principles we can all practice to make sure we leave anywhere we go, better than how we found it.
#3 Wedding Venues near Yosemite
Yosemite itself is a gorgeous venue, let’s be honest. But if you’re looking to celebrate with more guests than nature allows, then you might wanna get yourself a venue inside or near the Park!
Here are some hotels and resorts that host wedding ceremonies and receptions:
- The Ahwahnee Hotel – also known as The Majestic Hotel, this place is breathtaking, and it’s located in the middle of Yosemite Valley.
- AutoCamp – a mix of cabins and airstreams, AutoCamp is one of the coolest places around Yosemite. If your family isn’t super outdoorsy, this might be the perfect place for your stay and your wedding. They have taken the concept of ‘glamping’ to another level!
- Tenaya Lodge – this hotel is located just 15 minutes from the South Entrance of the Park. It’s the perfect place for your ceremony and just a short drive away to some of the most amazing locations in Yosemite.
- Yosemite Rush Creek Lodge – this beautiful lodge is located 40 min from Yosemite Valley. They’ve done countless weddings and have the perfect setup for a ceremony.
- Yosemite West Cabins – this is for intimate weddings. These cabins are located inside the Park, and just a short 15 minute drive away from Yosemite Valley locations! You can also find some of these cabins on Airbnb. Check out this Airbnb Wedding in Yosemite!
#4 Best Time of the Year to elope in Yosemite
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 (mid-November to March): seeing Yosemite Valley covered in snow is priceless. However, as you can imagine, it can be VERY cold. We’ve been there at 18F temperatures just so you have an idea! On the plus side, the Park is always empty. *Glacier Point Road is closed all winter*
- Spring (March to April): 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 (June to August): t’s usually when Glacier Point Road opens and we’re able to visit all of those epic places, like Taft Point! It can be a very crowded season in Yosemite, so we ALWAYS recommend eloping on a weekday or at sunrise (or both).
- Fall (mid-September to November): truly one of the most beautiful seasons in the Park. The change of leaves in Yosemite is breathtaking, and the temperatures are just perfect!
Our personal favorites are Spring and Fall!
#5 Where to Stay near Yosemite
Here are some of our favorite places to stay inside and around Yosemite National Park:
- Yosemite Valley Lodge: located inside the Park, this beautiful lodge couldn’t be any more convenient. It’s right next to the cafeteria and the Starbucks (yes, there is a Starbucks inside Yosemite).
- Explorer Cabins: these adventure cabins are part of the Tenaya Lodge, and they are very new! Glamping 15 min away from the entrance of the Park sounds like a dream, doesn’t it?
- AutoCamp: already mentioned previously, this was one of the coolest places we have ever stayed in. It’s especially beautiful in the fall!
- Yosemite View Lodge: if you’re looking for something a little more on budget, this hotel is located just 20 minutes from Tunnel View.
- Airbnbs: we absolutely LOVE staying in Airbnbs when we travel, and there are so many around Yosemite! Look for cabins in Oakhurst, Fish Camp, and Yosemite West, and you’ll find so many!
PS. You can also camp in Yosemite, but reservations sell out quickly, especially in the spring and summer! So plan ahead and reserve your camping spot as soon as possible!
#6 Our Favorite Elopement Locations
With so many epic locations to choose from, it can get overwhelming. Here’s a list of our favorite places to help you find the perfect one for your wedding:
One of the most famous locations in the Park *for a reason*. This 2.2 round trip mile hike is breathtaking, and ideal at sunset. The trailhead is located at the Glacier Point Road, and it’s open from late May – beggining of November.
PS. the Glacier Point Road construction project is scheduled to happen in 2022. That means Glacier Point Road WILL NOT open in 2022. The only way to access Glacier Point or Taft Point will be by hiking from the Valley. It’s a 9-mile hike, and it’s pretty strenuous, but it would be super worth it! You can read more about the construction project here.
One of the most crowded spots in the Park, and because of that, we always recommend being there at sunrise. There’s nothing more epic than watching the first light hitting the Valley.
Personally, it’s my favorite view of Half Dome. This spot is absolutely beautiful and it does not require any strenuous hiking. It’s a very desired spot for wedding ceremonies.
El Cap Meadow
Located in Yosemite Valley, this meadow is so beautiful. During the fall, it’s fun to see so many people just chilling in the meadow watching climbers go up El Capitan.
While driving or walking around Yosemite Valley you’ll notice these wooden paths. They are especially beautiful in the spring when you can see the waterfalls from anywhere.
Swinging Bridge Picnic Area
This spot is gorgeous either in the early morning or late afternoon, and it’s one of our favorites in Yosemite Valley. It also has a killer view of Yosemite Falls in the spring!
That’s a Wrap!
I hope this Guide to elope in Yosemite helped you! If you would like to download this guide in PDF form, just click on the image below!
This article was written by Stephan & Adriana, your California Elopement Photographers, specializing in Yosemite elopements and weddings.
We are in love with adventure and the outdoors. We are in love with the unknown, with discovering new places and having new experiences. If you’re here, I’m guessing you feel the same way.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate and get in touch with us!
Don’t go yet, check out:
- How to Pick the Perfect Elopement Dress
- Top 10 Elopement Tips
- Elopement Planning – FAQS & Answers
- Tips to Elope in the Winter
- Everything you Need to Know to Elope in California
! Important Update !
Starting May 21st through the end of September of 2021 – Yosemite will require visitors to purchase reservations online before visiting the Park.
This is something Yosemite did last year to limit the number of people visiting the Park. The reservation system started due to covid, but it’s honestly a great idea to make sure the Park doesn’t get overcrowded – believe me, it can be insane.
You can see how the Reservation System works, what dates the tickets will start being sold and a lot more information HERE. Please read this page thoroughly, everything you need to know is there.