How to Elope in Yosemite
Known for its ancient Sequoia trees, granite cliffs, and sweeping vistas, Yosemite National Park is one of the most visited parks in the United States. It’s easy to see why - even one quick drive through the windy mountain roads will leave you in awe of the incredible views! Just imagine saying your vows standing at the base of a waterfall, or on top of the towering Half Dome, or surrounded by a grove of trees. If you’re planning an adventure elopement (or thinking about it), keep reading to learn all about how to elope in Yosemite National Park!
Set an Elopement Date
One of the first things you’ll need to do once you decide to elope in Yosemite is to settle on a date to tie the knot. Before you pick one, there are a few factors that you’ll need to consider.
Yosemite National Park Weather
Yosemite is located about 150 miles east of San Francisco - but it’s nestled in the mountains of central California, which means that temperatures change dramatically throughout the year. Here is a graph of the average temperatures in Yosemite throughout the year:
As you can see, summers can be very hot, while winters in Yosemite will have you shivering in your hiking boots. If you plan to hike on your elopement day, temperatures can drop quickly as you climb in elevation, and some years, you might run into snow even in the summer.
When you should elope in Yosemite National Park will depend on what you want to do on your elopement day! If a high elevation hike is calling your name, July and August are the best months to visit. For shorter hikes or explorations that don’t go too high above sea level, early fall and late spring will be a little less sweaty.
For those who aren’t afraid to trek through some snow, or those who want to combine the elopement with a ski trip, winter will bring all the fresh powdery snow you can dream of - and way less crowds!
Speaking of crowds, that may be one issue that you’ll run into when you elope in Yosemite. Because this park sits in the top five most popular national parks in the country, it can be hard to find some privacy.
Hard - but definitely not impossible! As a frequent visitor of Yosemite National Park, I’ve got some secret spots up my sleeve, along with some tips to get the most out of your day. When you choose a date for your elopement, try to plan for a weekday. Because most people are off work, weekends bring out tons of tourists and locals to the park. Eloping on a weekday, especially Monday through Thursday, will give you more privacy during your ceremony!
Another way to avoid crowds is to plan your ceremony for sunrise. Even the most popular spots are nearly empty at sunrise, so even if you aren’t a morning person, waking up early and getting out there before everyone else does is definitely worth it! You’ll be rewarded with a private spot to say your vows, and an incredible view as the sun rises and the sky lights up in shades of orange.
Choose an Elopement Location
With so many beautiful spots throughout the park, it can definitely be hard to narrow down where you want to have your ceremony! However, Yosemite makes things a little easier by having a list of places where you’re permitted to have a ceremony - but, don’t worry if your dream location isn’t on this list! There will be plenty of time for exploring and photos throughout the day. Here is a list of places in Yosemite National Park where you can have your elopement ceremony:
Cascades Picnic Area
Lower Yosemite Fall Paved Trail
Swinging Bridge Picnic Area
Cathedral Beach Picnic Area
Sentinel Beach Picnic Area
Glacier Point Amphitheater
Chilnualna Falls Trailhead Parking Lot
Tenaya Lake Beach
Tuolumne Meadows Lodge Area
For the most up to date information about ceremony locations, check out nps.gov!
The Legal Stuff
Paperwork may not be the most exciting thing about your elopement day - but it’s important! Don’t worry though, I’ve got the scoop on California’s marriage laws and Yosemite’s wedding restrictions, so you won’t have to do too much digging.
To elope in Yosemite National Park, you will need to get a California marriage license. This can be done at any county clerk’s office in the state, but the closest to Yosemite is located in Mariposa. You can use your license on the same day you pick it up, but if you’re traveling to California from out of state make sure to give yourself enough time! Marriage license fees vary by county, but it usually costs around $100.
An officiant is required to sign your marriage license - but you have a few different options! You can hire an elopement officiant who is up for whatever adventure you have planned, or have a friend or family member perform your ceremony. Getting ordained is quick and easy on ULC.org, and can add a personal touch to your ceremony!
As a photographer who specializes in elopements, my mission is to make wedding days as stress free as possible, so that you can focus on what really matters - having a blast and getting married! This is why I offer all inclusive elopement packages, and my husband serves as an officiant (and musician, and picnic basket carrier, and a few other things).
California requires one witness, though you can have up to two. Don’t worry if you weren’t planning to invite any guests to your elopement though! I can be not only your personal paparazzi for the day, but also your witness. Any other vendors can help with this too, or you can even ask someone you meet on the trail!
Most national parks require a permit to have a wedding ceremony on their grounds, no matter how small. Yosemite’s permit application requires a $150 application fee, but this money goes to helping take care of the park - so your elopement is helping the environment! The application can be found here, and needs to be turned in at least 21 days in advance. You can submit it up to a year in advance, so I recommend getting started early to ensure you get the spot you want!
Hire Your Elopement Vendors
Hiring a team of elopement vendors will take so much pressure off of you - because planning even a small ceremony can be stressful! Luckily, I know someone who can help… hint, hint, it’s me! As a photographer who specializes in adventure elopements, I also help with the planning process, from location recommendations to building a timeline - because I know how stressful the whole wedding thing can be, and I want your elopement to be absolutely perfect! My husband helps out as my second shooter, officiant, and musician, and all inclusive elopement packages make this is easy as possible for you!
Book Flights and Lodging
Yosemite is a popular vacation destination, so I recommend booking flights and lodging early to ensure you’ll find a place to stay near the park.
The closest airport to Yosemite National Park is the Fresno-Yosemite International Airport, which is about an hour away from the park’s west entrance. You can also choose to fly into the San Francisco International Airport, which is a bit bigger and can sometimes offer cheaper flights. Either way, you’ll need to rent a car to get to the park.
Where to Stay
Whether you want to rough it and camp, or level up with some glamping, or stay in a luxury resort, there are plenty of amazing places near Yosemite. You can stay in an Airstream at Autocamp Yosemite, rent a cabin in the park, or stay at the Yosemite Valley Lodge with a view of a waterfall! I also recommend checking out Airbnbs in the area, as you can find lots of cute cabins and bungalows to make your elopement experience complete.
Ready to Elope in Yosemite National Park?
I can’t blame you if the incredible scenery and endless adventures drew you in - who could resist?! Yosemite is the perfect place to elope, so if you’re itching to get started, contact me! I’m ready to help you plan the best day ever!