COMPLETE GUIDE

To Yosemite Elopements

A top choice for intimate outdoor ceremonies and dramatic wedding photography, this national park is your ideal destination for a truly romantic elopement.

With so many of San Francisco’s favorite public venues, restaurants, hotels and bars being temporarily closed due to COVID-19, outdoor weddings are on the rise. If you are considering planning one, then Yosemite elopement is a perfect option. You can limit the number of guests and hold a private ceremony surrounded by the unspoiled nature and your favorite people.

Yosemite National Park is a dream elopement destination for couples who love nature! You can choose between hundreds of picturesque outdoor locations for the ceremony and then celebrate at one of the beautiful picnic areas or find a cozy rustic hotel. With ancient sequoia groves, dramatic canyons and towering granite cliffs as your backdrop, your wedding photography is destined to be a success!

WHEN TO ELOPE

June, July and August usually are peak months when tourists are coming to Yosemite, while September and October are popular for weddings. During the summer and early fall, the weather is ideal for hiking and outdoor events. It is also a perfect time for elopements because photo backdrops are filled with all shades of green. But when the leaves turn yellow later in fall or when the snow covers the mountains in winter, nothing is more romantic than staying at a wooden cabin dining at one of the rustic restaurants in the area.

The best time of the day for a wedding ceremony at the Yosemite National Park is sunset. The colors around you are crisp and bright while the sky is ablaze and awash with intense shades of orange, pink and purple. You’ll have enough time to enjoy nature and get ready for the ceremony. And after you say your vows, you can celebrate over a candle-lit dinner. However, keep in mind that some roads might be closed during winter months and that your choice of ceremony locations will be limited. Dramatic vistas look majestic during the sunrise too. If you don’t mind getting up early to get your hair and makeup done before the dawn, then you can wed in the morning and leave the rest of the day for wining & dining and exploring the park.

RULES AND PERMITS

If you are planning a wedding ceremony at Yosemite National Park, you need to apply for a wedding permit. There are 13 designated wedding ceremony locations, but if you have a group of 11 or fewer people, then you can tie the knot anywhere in the park. Reservations required.


You need to schedule your event at least 21 days before your wedding, and register for the permit which costs $150 (plus additional $50 per hour if event monitoring is required). Even if you want just a wedding photoshoot, you still need to obtain a permit.


Yosemite National Park has a number of restrictions for visitors and couples who intend to get married there. The rules on natural resource protection are safeguarding meadows and riparian areas and minimizing environmental impact. In these areas, it is therefore prohibited to organize events in that can cause unacceptable effects. Similarly, cultural resource protection rule prohibits altering, damaging or removing any historic or archeological artifacts. Here are some of the additional rules you need to follow:

     

  • Leave no trace behind you! It is very important to clean up after yourself and avoid disturbing flora and fauna.
  • Ceremonies near bases of sequoia trees are prohibited-         
  • Formal receptions
  • are not allowed at the designated ceremony locations-         
  • You can’t use furniture, balloons and decorations-         
  • Pets are not allowed-         
  • Butterfly releases are prohibited, and you are not allowed to disperse any other living
  • objects or even food-
  • You must not exceed the noise level of 60 decibels-         
  • Vehicles must be parked at designated areas-         
  • Conveyances such as horse drawn carriages and hot air balloons are not allowed-         
  • Drones are prohibited



LOCATIONS AND VENUES

Yosemite National Park is the ultimate location for intimate outdoor ceremonies, grandiose photoshoots and weekend escapes. To make sure your wedding photography is worth the expedition, research popular event locations and hidden spots that are off-the-beaten-path. Try to picture your ceremony and photos. Backdrops vary from misty woodlands, snow-capped glaciers and hanging cliffs to sparkling lakes and dreamy meadows adorned with wildflowers. Ideally, you’ll start scouting locations months before your wedding day.

You’ll find a lot of inspirational images online. You can shortlist a few and then sit in your car and visit these locations so that you can get the gist of what your ceremony will look like. In addition to breathtaking scenery, Yosemite also features charming hotels and cozy bed & breakfast places, restaurants, shops, bakeries, bars and cafes. Finding lodging for the night and an amazing place to celebrate over a meal is going to be easy. Here are some venue and location ideas.

CEREMONY AND PORTRAITS

  • Taft Point: the most iconic and the most photographed location in this park offers the best sunset and sunrise views.


  • Bridal Veil Fall: a magical waterfall surrounded by misty forests – perfect for boho brides! When the water is rushing, it is difficult to hear the ceremony, which is why it is a great photo-shoot location which can be combined with another area for the ceremony.


  • Glacier Point: with super-photogenic canyon views, this location is easy to reach and ideal for artsy wedding portraits.


  • Half Dome: is a gorgeous place for elopements because it is less crowded, but it requires a hike which is why I recommend it to adventurous couples who are ready to go there with backpacks and comfy shoes.


  • Yosemite Valley Chapel: a truly postcard-like place! This historic chapel is surrounded by spectacular cliffs, meadows and Yosemite Falls.


  • El Captain Meadow: is a gorgeous spot for ceremonies very close to Yosemite Valley Lodge. Surrounded by the massive granite rocks, towering trees, this meadow is a carpet of flowers that looks stunning in spring and summer.


  • Sentinel Dome: is close to Taft Point, which means that you can combine the two locations together for a mix of epic views and incredible sunset and sunrise light displays.

OTHER CEREMONY LOCATIONS

  • Tenaya Lake Beach
  • Mariposa Grove
  • Tuolumne Grove
  • Merced Grove
  • Washburn Point
  • Lower Yosemite
  • Falls Trail
  • Olmsted Point
  • Cathedral Rocks
  • Vernal Falls
  • Valley View
  • Cascades Picnic Area     
  • Sentinel Picnic Area
  • Swinging Bridge
  • Cathedral Beach

HOTELS AND LODGES

The Ahwahnee Hotel: designed to highlight its epic surroundings, this hotel is a dreamy place to host your ceremony and reception. The perks? Luxury accommodation, mountain views, a heated outdoor pool and a decadent sweet shop.

Rush Creek Lodge: a gorgeous place to celebrate or just stay the night in a romantic suite or a hillside villa.

Evergreen Lodge feels like a mini village! The property has a ceremony site and reception area.

Wawona Hotel feels intimate and cozy. It is one of California’s authentic mountain resort hotels, and it oozes Victorian charm. Here, you can host a private ceremony and reception or spend your first night as a married couple.

Tenaya Lodge: a delightful place for a romantic breakfast in bed with staggering park views! It also has indoor and outdoor wedding venues, a wellness center and a huge outdoor pool as well as Tesla Charging Station.

Cedar Lodge: offers affordable accommodation with indoor and outdoor swimming pools, spas, picnic tables, gazebos and a sandy beach on the Merced River.

Yosemite Valley Lodge is a warm and friendly place with accommodation and event venues close to Yosemite Valley.

RESTAURANTS

The Loft at Degnan’s offers dining with a view! From Mexican fare and Asian bites to artisan pizza, menus offer something for everyone.Ahwahnee Dining Room offers the perfect setting for a celebratory dinner. It features stone walls, massive windows and candlelight.

Mountain Room Lounge has astonishing mountain and waterfall views in addition to great food and a generous selection of drinks. It is the perfect

location for your celebratory meal close to all the best photoshoot locations.

Wawona Dining Room is a secluded and intimate venue for elopements with hand-painted lamps superb cuisine. In winter months, you can snuggle by the fire and dine in the main dining room, while summertime is perfect for wining and dining at the veranda.

Cedar House Restaurant is the ultimate choice for couples who want to combine a romantic escape, rustic lodging and fine dining. The restaurant offers a farm to table experience, home comfort and inspirational mountain views.

Savoury’s Restaurant is an elegant venue for delicious dinners and intimate experiences were fantastic signature drinks complement a contemporary

American menu.


10 ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR A YOSEMITE ELOPEMENT

  1. Plan a weekend-long event to make the most of your trip.
  2. Splurge on your wedding dress, photography and lodging.
  3. Invest in a photographer who can capture the epic surroundings.
  4. Make a wedding photography checklist with your photographer.
  5. To avoid the crowds, book a sunrise or sunset wedding or choose an off-the-beaten-path location.
  6. Find a camping site or a comfortable mountain lodge close to your ceremony location.   
  7. Apply for a permit months ahead. With a valid permit, you’ll have 2 hours for the ceremony and photo-shoot at all locations in the park. Remember that
  8. locations are first-come, first-served.    
  9. Book accommodation and venue far in advance (if applicable).
  10. Be prepared for some traffic while getting there.