Yosemite National Park is probably one of the top five places in the United States couples choose to elope at. The park is grand with its beautiful forests and large granite walls surrounding a valley full of deer, the occasional bear and outdoor enthusiasts. If you are a climber, hiker or national park lover, this is the park for your adventure wedding in California. The park has been drawing people to its beauty for so many years and not just adventurers and couples getting married. Did you know it once was at the location of the Winter Olympics?! This blog is to help you get an idea of what an elopement in Yosemite National Park would look like and how to plan your own very special day.
The park is located in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. It is not super close to any one airport. You can consider flying into Los Angeles or Sacramento or even San Fransisco. I also recommend pairing a trip to Yosemite with a trip to Lake Tahoe. In this case you may want to fly into Reno, Nevada. Yosemite National Park is also next to Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon, so considering extending your trip for that too. California is home to 5 national parks, so the options are endless for exploring the state. From the airports you will for sure need to rent a car to drive to the park. Once in the park you can take the shuttles around to the trailheads/areas, bike or hike.
Honestly, this depends on what you are wanting to do and if you care how busy the park will be. The general recommendation is early May to late October. The summer is very busy in the park. I highly recommend eloping here on a weekday no matter what. One time we shot in the park at one of the popular locations, there were six other couples eloping and having engagement photos taken, so be prepared to share your space. I think late fall can be one of the prettiest times of year in the park, but mid spring can be less busy than the summer and fall. I would also consider eloping at sunrise here to avoid crowds. Can you imagine watching the first days light shine on the granite walls below you to start off your wedding day?!
Yosemite National Park has a few resorts you can consider staying right within the valley of the park. There are also camp sites all throughout the Valley. However, both of these options can book out even a year out, so you want to plan ahead! We recommend renting a cabin in the West Yosemite area. It is still in the park, but out of the valley and more tucked away from everyone else. It is also closer to areas like the grove and the Glacier point area. Outside of the park you can stay at Rush Creek Lodge or we love Autocamp. Other ways to find a stay are checking out Hipcamp, Airbnb or VRBO.
If you have any guests attending, you will need to choose from a specific location listed within the parks guidelines. For example, one of their ceremony locations with guests is the red chapel located in the valley across from El Capitan. The locations within the park that you can get married at range from the valley floor, to overlooks, to the groves and by the beautiful lakes or waterfalls. Know that some of the roads to some of the locations are closed due to snow until mid to late spring. So have a back up plan in place if you are considering one of the locations effected by road closures. However, you can take your just you two portraits almost anywhere within the park.
To get married in Yosemite National Park you need to pull a permit with a forest service ranger. You do this by downloading the application from their site, filling it out, mailing it in with your money order. Note - they are very specific about their process and it must be done correctly. Also know that your money order is not refundable and must be for the correct amount for exactly what you are applying for. You need to apply for your permit at least 45 days in advance, but we recommend doing this as soon as you have decided which location in the park you want to get married at. Your permit will cost around $150 for getting married in the park. Outside of the permit for the park, you will need your marriage certificate. This is the state of California, so you will need to obtain your marriage license from a local clerk office together. You will need an officiant to perform/sign the paperwork and one witness. You can have a second witness sign, but it is not required.
**It is important to note that as of 2021 the park is requiring a day-of pass to enter the park, or a permit or registered camping/stay within the park limits. Your wedding permit would allow you, your photographer and your guests in for that day only. So if you want to go to the park for more days than that, you need to plan ahead to book those reservations. Also be sure that everyone in your party has a copy of your wedding permit to be able to get into the park. (Expert tip: carpool, the fewer cars the better)
Now let’s talk about where would you want to do your portraits in the park. There are countless locations that are stunning in Yosemite, but there are a few that just hit different. For example, the meadows with any of the falls in the background or El Cap. Glacier Point (also another pre-approved location for a ceremony) is a classic along with Taft Point. However it is important to note the road up to Taft point and Glacier point is scheduled to be closed in 2022 for road construction. If you want to elope or do portraits at these locations you will need to prepare to do a pretty big hike. The good news though is that it will for sure be more private than it usually is!! Don’t limit yourself, the park is huge with tons of beautiful areas, you don’t have to follow the masses, you can always find your own special spot that is just as beautiful.
For your adventure wedding you may already know exactly what things you want to do, what things are special to you two that you want to incorporate on this special day. Or you may be open! Adventures in the park include, but are not limited to, camping, hiking, getting into the river, bouldering, back packing, biking and rock climbing. Yosemite has been famous for its big wall granite climbing for decades before ‘Free Solo’ came out, which put it on the climbing world map for everyone else too. There are of course those insanely epic big wall climbs, but there are also many shorter/easier climbs. There are trails that are short and sweet in the park, but a lot of the park is pretty long steep hikes that take you to wild vistas on top of the granite walls. We have met couples that eloped after completed the climb up the nose on El Capitan and we have met couples who eloped at Taft point after a short 2.5 mile hike. The adventure is truly what you want to make it. We are here to help you figure that out!
If you are visiting Yosemite National Park for the first time for your elopement here are some key notes to think about:
We are a photo video husband and wife team that travel all over the Western part of the United States. We are both familiar with Yosemite National Park and would love to capture your day here! We actually got engaged in Yosemite in the spring of 2021! We are available for bookings in the Yosemite area in the Spring, early summer and fall of 2022. We are also both ordained and can help you take care of the legal parts of getting married in California.