How to Plan a Yosemite Elopement in 2024

Yay! You’re planning a Yosemite elopement in 2024 or beyond. Yosemite is one of my absolute favorite places for outdoorsy, nature-loving couples to elope. The weather is beautiful, there are some fantastic elopement locations within the park, and it can be as high-end or as budget-friendly as you’d prefer. If you want to learn all about how to plan a 2024 Yosemite elopement (or need the extra push to make the decision to elope here), then you’re in the right place. 

Why elope at Yosemite? 

Being one of my favorite locations for couples to elope, my reasons are endless. Yosemite is a beautiful place to elope all year round (more on the weather later!), and there are so many stunning locations within this national park. From glaciers to viewpoints to meadows, Yosemite truly has it all!

My husband and I chose to have our wedding in a small town just outside of Yosemite. There’s a certain magic in the air in the Sierra National Forest. The scent of pine, the sound of wind rustling through the leaves, and the feeling of digging your toes into the soil as you reflect on all the earth provide is an incredibly profound feeling. We chose to be married in a forest because we wanted to leave our busy lives behind and celebrate in a place of peace and inspiration with our favorite people. It was one of the best decisions we made for our wedding. Besides, you know, marrying each other.

In addition, if you’re looking for an elopement location and honeymoon destination in one, California is unbeatable. Whether you’re planning a small elopement or large celebration, Yosemite has plenty of options for you. You can choose to honeymoon in the national park, at a cabin in the woods, or at one of the many nearby resorts. If I haven’t convinced you that a Yosemite elopement would be a dream come true, I’m not sure who will!

How to Plan a Yosemite Elopement in 2023

The best time of year to plan a Yosemite elopement

Now that you’ve officially decided to plan a Yosemite elopement (right? Right.), it’s time to think about when you want to elope. There are pros and cons to most seasons, so it’s all about your personal preferences and what you want to prioritize. Let’s dive in!

A spring elopement at Yosemite

Spring brings about some of the best weather in Yosemite. The climate is mild, it’s right before busy season (think: fewer crowds), and it’s the best time to enjoy the waterfalls! It’s also wildflower season in the spring, so the lower elevations bring fields of poppies, lupines, fiddlenecks, popcorn flowers, owl’s clover, and redbuds. Spring is an absolute haven at Yosemite, making it one of the best times of year to elope. One thing to keep in mind is that there may still be snow on the roads in early April, so plan for late April & beyond to avoid potential road and trail closures. 

A summer elopement at Yosemite

There are quite a few things to account for if you’re planning a summer elopement at Yosemite. It’s peak busy season for tourists, and school is out, so there are a lot of families and little ones visiting. The temperatures are higher, and it’s peak fire season in California. You may need to purchase a day pass, in addition to a parking pass, to get through the entrance gates.

Summer is Yosemite’s busiest season, so park officials began a pass system to keep the crowds managed. There has been some debate about whether that pass system will continue. If it does not, expect the crowds to be even larger. Note that on busier weekends like holidays, you will have more trouble finding parking and avoiding people in the background of your elopement. If you’re set on eloping during the summer, opt for a sunrise or sunset ceremony to avoid as many visitors as possible.

A fall elopement at Yosemite

Fall at Yosemite is a personal favorite of mine, and for a good reason. The warm-toned foliage is beautiful, the temperatures are starting to cool down, and it’s even less busy than in spring. The dogwood and maple leaves turn golden before cascading to the ground in an incredible move by Mother Nature. While the snowcapped mountains in the winter and unobstructed views during the summer and spring are gorgeous in their own ways, autumn has a special beauty to it that I’ve yet to find anywhere else in the world. The only thing to keep in mind is that certain road closures begin in November, so be mindful of what location you’re choosing for your ceremony. 

A winter elopement at Yosemite 

Winter in Yosemite can feel like you’ve stepped straight into a holiday Hallmark movie, with the lead needing to save his family’s bakery, and a corporate girl-boss lawyer comes home for the holidays only to fall in love under the glistening petals of snow and lantern light. Okay, maybe not that deep. But winter in Yosemite is still a breathtaking season. There are a lot of opportunities for building snowmen, hiking, and finding solitude. It’s the least busy season for the national park, so your favorite spots are more likely to be empty. The snow-capped peaks in the distance also add to an incredible vision from Tunnel View. 

Unfortunately, two of the most popular elopement locations, Glacier Point and Taft Point, are closed during the winter months. Lucky for you, the valley floor is still a stunning location to have your ceremony in the winter. They usually clear the main road through the valley floor right after snowstorms to make it accessible. You’ll also experience plenty of privacy during this time of year, which just might be the best part. 

My favorite Yosemite elopement locations

Yosemite has pre-approved ceremony locations that you can choose from for your elopement. I will be talking about a few of them in this blog post! I will also be including a few locations that are currently closed due to road repairs, some of which don’t have an updated re-opening date. Once we’re in collaboration for your Yosemite elopement, I’ll be able to give you the most up-to-date information on all of these locations.

El Capitan Meadow

The walls of El Capitan rise over 3,000 feet above the floor of Yosemite Valley and can be best seen right from the meadow itself. Rock climbers from all over the world come to Yosemite specifically to climb El Capitan. How cool is that? From the meadow, you also have great views of Lower and Middle Cathedral Rock, as well as the Cathedral Spires that loom over the meadow. And if you stay long enough, you can get a glimpse of the Milky Way from here!

Lower Yosemite Falls Trail

From this trail, you have stunning views of the infamous Yosemite Falls (hence, the name). You’ll have the space to walk to the base of the ‘lower fall’ area, which is most active in the spring. The trail itself is fairly easy; a 1-mile loop trail with a 50-foot elevation gain. This Yosemite elopement spot is open all year round, but expect icy conditions in the wintertime. 

Cascades Picnic Area

Just a few miles past the park entrance, you’ll run into the beautiful Cascades Picnic Area. One of the highlights of this elopement location is that Merced River is very close by! If you want to elope here, you must stay 6 feet away from the river at all times. There are towering trees and picturesque rock formations that will create the perfect backdrop for your elopement. 

Swinging Bridge Picnic Area

One of the first things you’ll notice about the Swinging Bridge is that… it doesn’t swing. Due to several years of high flood waters, damage to the bridge forced NPS to replace it with a permanently fixed bridge in 1964. Don’t worry, though, because the views are still just as beautiful. The Picnic Area is located several miles east of Bridalveil Falls, which is a location we’ll chat about a little later!

Cathedral Beach Picnic Area

The Cathedral Beach Picnic Area sits right along the tranquil waters of the Merced River. You get spectacular views of El Capitan from this location, which makes it a fan-favorite for both couples and visitors alike.

If you want to elope here, keep in mind that it’s closed from November through Memorial Day Weekend, once Tioga Pass closes for the winter months.

Sentinel Beach Picnic Area

The highlight of the Sentinel Beach Picnic Area is the magnificent landscape surrounding it, which showcases views of Sentinel Rock and surrounding cliff faces. The area is open from dawn until dusk, so  you can have a sunrise or sunset elopement here at Sentinel Beach. 

This is another area that’s closed from mid-November through Memorial Day weekend. 

Tuolumne Grove

Tuolumne Grove is a giant sequoia grove located near Crane Flat in Yosemite. To get there, the trip requires a 2.5-mile round-trip hike via Tioga Road. From there, you’re led to a grove that contains approximately two dozen mature sequoia trees! If you’re eloping in the winter, this is a popular ski and snowshoeing area within the park. 

Keep in mind that it’s closed from November through Memorial Day Weekend once Tioga Pass closes for the winter months.

Merced Grove

Another quick little hike, Merced Grove requires a 3-mile round trip hike that’s rated easy to moderate. From October to June, there might still be snow on the trail from the winter season. This grove has slightly fewer sequoias than Tuolumne but is still a great option for Yosemite elopement couples! If you elope here in the spring, be sure to look out for blooming dogwoods.  

Keep in mind that it’s closed from November through Memorial Day Weekend once Tioga Pass closes for the winter months.

Tenaya Lake Beach

Tenaya Lake Beach is sometimes referred to as the “Jewel of the High Country,” which should tell you a thing or two about how breathtaking the landscape is. It’s located in the alpine region of Yosemite, right in between Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows. When you get to this location, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported into another world! Sitting at an elevation of over 8,000 feet, there’s nothing more refreshing than breathing in the fresh mountain air.  

Keep in mind that it’s closed from November through Memorial Day Weekend once Tioga Pass closes for the winter months.

Glacier Point Amphitheatre 

Glacier Point is one of the most popular ceremony locations in Yosemite National Park. It truly looks like it was designed for couples getting married, even equipped with room for a few friends and family. The overlook gives a commanding view of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and even Yosemite’s high country. 

Taft Point

Taft Point arguably gives the most dramatic views in all of Yosemite. At a 7,500-foot elevation, the cliff’s edge peers straight down, unencumbered by the stone walls. If you’re afraid of heights, this definitely isn’t the elopement spot for you! You’ll be looking down at El Capitan, with impressive views of the north valley wall and Yosemite Falls. 

Bridalveil Fall

Last but certainly not least, on our list of Yosemite elopement locations, we have Bridalveil Fall. This waterfall is typically the first one you’ll see when you enter Yosemite Valley. Like most falls in Yosemite, it is most active in the spring and lightly flows during the rest of the year. The trail is easily accessible, requiring only a .5-mile round-trip hike. 

The road to Bridalveil Fall is currently closed for repairs. The park is expected to potentially open the road in 2024, but there is no set date announced.

Yosemite elopement rules, permits, and regulations 

Like with all national parks, Yosemite has strict rules and regulations for holding elopements and weddings. It’s very important to closely follow these guidelines in order to protect Mother Nature and continue having the privilege of getting married at such a beautiful place. Here is a list of things we will be adhering to during your elopement that has been taken directly from

  • Natural Resource Protection: The meadows and riparian areas (riverbank and stream drainages) areas of Yosemite are important components of the park’s renowned resource, and an important habitat for a host of plants and animals. These areas attract a great deal of visitor use, which results in considerable environmental impact. To minimize such impacts and to maintain the scenic and ecological integrity of these sensitive sites, any other environmentally sensitive areas, no events will be permitted in them that will cause unacceptable impacts.
  • Cultural Resource Protection: The Permittee and participants will not disturb, adversely effect, alter, damage, or remove any natural/cultural resources, archeological or historic artifacts. Digging, scraping, chiseling or defacing natural features is prohibited. Cultural Resources in Yosemite National Park are protected by the Historic Preservation Act of 1996 (16 USC 470), and the Archeological Resources Protection Act of 1979, as amended (16 USC 470aa), which carries criminal and civil penalties for removing or damaging archaeological resources.
  • Sequoia Groves: Ceremonies are not allowed around the bases of sequoia trees.
  • Releases: Butterfly releases, and all other living and/or inanimate object releases or dispersal, including birdseed and rice, are prohibited. Food items provide an unnatural food source for park wildlife.
  • Decorations/Signing: The use of balloons, arches, or any other type of decorations will not be authorized. Event or directional signs are not allowed.
  • Seating: Chairs, tables or other furniture are not allowed at the ceremony site. Consideration is given to those with special needs. Use existing picnic tables and benches only, for events in picnic areas. An additional food table and chairs may be used, for those with special needs
  • Audio Disturbance: The Code of Federal Regulations (36 CFR 2.12), addresses audio disturbances and prohibits the following: use of radio, television sets, tape deck or musical instruments, in a manner that exceeds a noise level of 60 decibels measured on the A-weighted scale at 50 feet. No amplified music or public address systems are allowed
  • Vehicles: All vehicles (including motorcycles) must be parked in designated areas only; no off-road traffic. Car pooling is recommended and may be required at specific locations. Vehicle limits are imposed at specific locations.
  • Pets: Pets are not allowed at any ceremony sites
  • Conveyances: Special conveyances, including but not limited to horse drawn carriages and hot air balloons, are prohibited.
  • Law Enforcement: Yosemite National Park Rangers strictly enforce all laws relating to excessive drinking. Permittee and guests must comply with all applicable federal, state and county regulations.
  • Receptions: Formal receptions are not allowed in picnic areas.
  • Drones: Operating a drone is prohibited.

In addition to these regulations, a Special Use Permit is required for all ceremonies held within the park. The fee for this application is $150, and it is non-refundable, regardless of your application acceptance or denial. You can download and electronically fill out this application here! Ceremonies can be scheduled up to one year in advance but no less than 21 days before your desired date. I always encourage couples to submit their application as soon as they have a date and location chosen. Once you have completed the application, you can mail it to:

Postal mail:

Special Park Uses/Film and Weddings

Yosemite National Park, National Park Service

P.O. Box 700

El Portal, CA 95318

Overnight (FedEx/UPS):

Special Park Uses/Film & Weddings

Yosemite National Park

5083 Foresta Rd

El Portal, CA 95318

If your application is approved, your permit will be mailed to you for signature. Once you receive it, you have to review, sign, and return the permit to the office for the final round of approval. I know, it’s quite a few steps, but it will all be worth it in the end. Plus, I’ll be there with you every step of the way, just in case you have any questions or hiccups. If, after your permit is approved and you need to make alterations to your ceremony plans, it’s encouraged to contact the office immediately to let them know. And don’t forget to have the permit on hand for the entire duration of your ceremony!

How to Plan a Yosemite Elopement in 2023

How to legally elope in the state of California

Whether you’re from California or just planning your Yosemite elopement here, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the state requirements for marriage. Every state is different, but here are the general rules for eloping in the state of California:

  • You must obtain a marriage license from a County Clerk’s office, and you have to return the license to the same clerk you obtained it from. The closest office to YNP is the Mariposa County Clerk’s office
  • You need at least one witness and one officiant for your Yosemite elopement
  • Your photographer can act as your witness if you aren’t planning on having guests
  • When you pick up your marriage license, both parties must bring a valid form of ID
  • Once your license is issued, you have 90 days to use it 

Pretty plain and simple! Again, if you have any questions or need any assistance, I’ll be there to help you out. After all, I have helped quite a few couples plan their Yosemite elopement without a hitch. 

How to Plan a Yosemite Elopement in 2023

How much does a Yosemite elopement cost?

Whether you’re planning a luxury or budget-friendly Yosemite elopement, it’s important to be aware of what it’s going to cost you. In this section, I’ll be breaking down the general cost for a high-end, mid-end, and low-end elopement! Keep in mind that these prices are just estimates, and you’ll need to contact individual vendors for exact rates. 

These estimates are given with the assumption that there will be no guests present for your Yosemite elopement. 

High-end Yosemite elopement

  • Photographer: $2,350 (6-hour coverage)
  • Videographer: $3,200
  • Florist: $1200 (bouquet, boutonniere, any additional decor florals)
  • Planner: $3,000
  • Hair & Makeup: $500
  • Attire: $500-$5,000
  • Officiant: $500
  • Food: $500 (private chef)
  • Permit: $150
  • Accommodations: 3-night stay at The Ahwahnee – $2500
  • Airfare: $500

Total: $14,900

Mid-end Yosemite elopement

  • Photographer: $1,300 (4 hours coverage)
  • Videographer: $2,800
  • Florist: $500
  • Planner: $2500
  • Hair & Makeup: $350
  • Attire: $250-$2,000
  • Officiant: $500
  • Food: $200 (5-star restaurant)
  • Permit: $150
  • Marriage license: $90
  • Accommodations: 3-night stay at an Airbnb – $350-$500/night 
  • Airfare: $500

Total: $12,300

Low-end Yosemite elopement

  • Photographer: $650 (2 hours coverage)
  • Videographer: $1,000
  • Florist: $200 (just a bouquet)
  • Planner: N/A
  • Hair & Makeup: DIY’d
  • Attire: $100-$800 (secondhand dress + rented or borrowed tux, or any variation of those options)
  • Officiant: $500
  • Food: N/A or going out to eat afterward at a local restaurant – $100
  • Permit: $150
  • Marriage license: $90
  • Accommodations: 3 nights at Best Western Plus Yosemite – $109/night
  • Airfare: $500

Total: $3,617

When should you book your Yosemite elopement vendors?

There’s nothing worse than having your eye on certain vendors but then finding out that they’re already booked for your date. So, regardless of this timeline, if you have vendors that you can’t live without, contact them ASAP once you know your date. 

  • Photographer: 10 – 12 months
  • Videographer: 10 – 12  months
  • Florist: 10 months out
  • Planner: 12 months out
  • Hair & Makeup: 6 months out 
  • Attire: 8 months out 
  • Officiant: 6 months out
  • Food: 6 months out if hiring a chef/caterer
  • Permit: 12 months out or ASAP
  • Accommodations: 6 months out
  • Airfare: 8 months out 
How to Plan a Yosemite Elopement in 2023

Where should you stay for your Yosemite elopement?

There are multiple accommodation options near Yosemite to choose from. Whether you want to stay right outside the park or a little ways away, I’ve got you covered! Here are my top lodging recommendations for your Yosemite elopement. 

The Ahwahnee

The Ahwahnee is one of the more luxurious options on the list, known as the “crown jewel of the national park lodges.” AKA: if you’re looking to splurge on your stay, this is the place to do it. This hotel was specifically designed to highlight the natural beauty of Yosemite, and it features some of the park’s most infamous sights. You’ll find views of Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, and Glacier Point here at The Ahwahnee. If you end up staying here, you might catch me at the heated swimming pool after documenting your elopement. 

Yosemite Valley Lodge

A slightly more affordable option, Yosemite Valley Lodge is a fan favorite for families and large groups. Of course, if it’s just the two of you, you’re more than welcome to stay here as well. They recently remodeled a number of their traditional rooms, so you can expect a few upgrades that previously weren’t available. The Lodge is located directly across from Yosemite Falls, so you have easy access to and from your elopement location. You’re also in close proximity to many of Yosemite’s most popular hiking trails and famous landmarks. 

Curry Village

Curry Village, located just beneath Glacier Point, offers a diverse selection of accommodation choices for couples who are thinking outside the box! There are heated (and unheated) canvas tent cabins, wood cabins, and standard rooms to choose from. The heated canvas tent cabins are only available during the winter season, so that choice would be perfect for couples planning a winter Yosemite elopement. 

AutoCamp Yosemite

AutoCamp Yosemite is a fairly new addition to the Yosemite lodging options but a notable one nonetheless. This spot has sites all across the United States, fusing luxury and camping to create an elevated community-based stay for adventurers from all over. They have suites, cabin suites, basecamps, luxury tents, and airstreams… the options are endless! If you and your partner want to go camping after your elopement but with a modern twist, AutoCamp Yosemite is the place to be. 

Tenaya Lodge

Tenaya Lodge is about an hour outside of Yosemite, but the experience is oh-so-worth it. You’re nestled among the majestic pines of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, with amenities such as restaurants, spa services, indoor and outdoor pools, and millions of acres to explore on your doorstep. There are Daily Guided Nature Hikes for those of you who want to spend as much time outdoors during your trip. They offer rooms, suites, cottages, and even 2-bedroom explorer cabins!

Nearby Airbnbs

Many modern couples are opting for an Airbnb stay over a hotel or lodge. If an Airbnb sounds like more your cup of tea, I do have some options just for you. 

Aerial Ascent Yosemite – Let’s say you’re eloping with a few friends and family, and you want everyone to stay in one place. This chalet hosts 10 guests with 3 bedrooms, 7 beds, and 2 bathrooms. It’s a relatively newly constructed home located inside Yosemite National Park, in an area called Yosemite West. You can enjoy all the modern conveniences such as central heat and air conditioning, wifi, and satellite TV. Perhaps the best reason to book this chalet is the spectacular views of the surrounding mountains you get with the sectioned floor-to-ceiling windows. 

Yosemite’s Craftsman Cottage – Taking it down just a notch, this Airbnb gives all the warm, cozy feelings you’d want for your intimate elopement. The property is a beautifully charming craftsman-style cottage, decorated with great attention to detail and a modern yet vintage theme. You and your love can sit on the porch on the morning of your elopement, sipping your coffee and writing your vows to each other. Imagine how wonderful that would be!

Yosemite Loft Condo – Last but not least, this intimate studio loft is perfect for couples who aren’t looking for anything over the top. It comes with a fully equipped kitchenette (so that you and your partner can make breakfast together while I document it), a cozy fireplace, and a private outdoor balcony to enjoy the sunrise or sunset. 

How to Plan a Yosemite Elopement in 2023

Yosemite elopement checklist

When you’re packing for your Yosemite elopement, don’t forget these things: 

  • Marriage license
  • Wedding attire
  • Layers (depending on the weather)
  • Comfortable shoes (depending on the difficulty of the hiking trail)
  • Rings
  • Vow books (if applicable)
  • Your Special Use Permit
  • Veil, bouquet, and boutonniere (if applicable)
  • Any jewelry, hair accessories, etc. (I will also use these for detail photos)

What to do after you elope at Yosemite

Woohoo! You’re married! Now, what? If you want to stay in Yosemite for your honeymoon or just want to spend an extra few days here, there are plenty of nearby things to do. Here is a list of some of my favorites! I can also give you more personalized recommendations once we’re working together.

Visit a local winery

What better way to celebrate your Yosemite elopement than by visiting a local winery? California is known for its delicious wines, so you can’t go wrong with trying a few. Most of the best wineries are located in Madera or Oakhurst, which are cities that aren’t too far at all from Yosemite. Here are a few ones that I recommend! 

If you want to get wild and crazy, you can visit the Madera Wine Trail!

Book a Yosemite adventure

If you and your partner are the adventurous types, Yosemite Adventure Co. has tons of fun and explorative activities you can take part in. They offer jeep tours, UTV tours, Ryker rentals (that you can cruise through Yosemite on!), and so much more to choose from. And if you’re eloping in the winter, they’ve still got you covered with a variety of epic snow tours. 

Go horseback riding

Whether you’re a seasoned horseback rider or have never seen a horse in real life, Yosemite Trails Horseback Adventures would be such a fun experience for you and your newlywed. They offer one or two-hour trail rides on their exclusive trail to Grizzly Giant, one of the largest giant sequoias in the world. Before you embark on your adventure, you’ll start with a hands-on riding lesson in a protected area to ensure you know what you’re doing. How fun, right? Plus, you’re supporting a small, family-run business!

Hike the Majestic Mountain Loop

This is an activity that you and your partner can totally do at your own pace. The Majestic Mountain Loop is an absolute must for nature lovers, especially if you’re visiting from out-of-state. You can follow the official itinerary that features three national parks; Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon. You’ll start in Visalia and end in Yosemite over the course of 3 days, making several stops along the way to stop and smell the roses. 

Spend an extra day in Fresno

You likely flew or drove through Fresno to get to Yosemite. Spend an extra day before or after your elopement in the city to broaden your adventure a bit. Here are 10 local things to do if you’re new to Fresno!

How to Plan a Yosemite Elopement in 2023

Now you know how to plan a Yosemite elopement!

Now that you know exactly how to plan a Yosemite elopement (or did I not go in-depth enough? *wink wink*), it’s time to get the ball rolling. To get in touch with me about photographing your 2024 elopement, you can fill out my contact form, and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. I’ve helped so many couples plan the elopement of their dreams, and I can’t wait for you to be on that list!


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December 8, 2023



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