10 Tips for Planning Your Yosemite Elopement

Situated in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains lies an oasis for nature lovers: Yosemite National Park! Perfect for anyone who’s thought about a national park elopement, the park is well-known for its beautiful ancient sequoia trees and some of the most beautiful and iconic terrain in the country, ranging from breathtaking waterfalls to deep valleys and grand meadows. Yosemite can make the perfect backdrop for your elopement!

If you’re thinking about tying the knot in this national park, you’ve come to the right place. Here are 10 tips for planning your Yosemite elopement!

photo of bride and groom embracing while standing on a ledge at Yosemite National Park

1. Every Season Offers a Breathtaking Backdrop for Your Wedding (But Keep Weather Conditions in Mind) 

If you’re looking to elope in Yosemite I’ll be the first to say that there is no right or wrong time! When it comes to narrowing down your options and choosing the best season for you to say “I do,” it ultimately depends on what vibe you’re going for, as each season offers beautiful potential for stunning backdrops for your special day. 


Spring is an absolutely stunning time to tie the knot! As a Yosemite elopement photographer, this is one of my favorite seasons for couples to get married in! If you’re looking for lush meadows, gorgeous wildflowers, and roaring waterfalls, this is the season for you. There’s beauty everywhere you turn your head, which creates so many amazing backdrops to capture your big day! 

Keep in mind that some roads have a tendency to be closed in early spring. During a snowy Yosemite winter, the Merced River can become flooded once spring comes, making some areas of the park inaccessible. Keeping track of road closures allows you to pivot and make adjustments to make sure your day goes off without a hitch!

photo of Yosemite National Park


Yosemite National Park is gorgeous during the summer months. If you want to plan an adventure elopement, summer might be the perfect time to tie the knot in Yosemite! Warm weather and extended daylight hours make for more time for adventure. The high country roads to Glacier Point, Taft Point, and Tenaya Lake open up in summer, allowing you the opportunity to explore more of the park and have more options to exchange your vows and see even more unforgettable views.

When planning a summer Yosemite elopement, it’s important to note that this is both peak wildfire season. Poor air quality from smoke can result in park closures. I highly recommend that you keep an eye out for weather updates to make sure that these fires don’t affect your special day! 


Autumn is one of the most beautiful times (and one of the least busy times) to elope in the national park. Although the waterfalls are often smaller, there’s more of a chance of mist and temperatures start to cool off.  The vibrant shades of orange and yellow make a stunning backdrop for your Yosemite elopement photos. Wildfires can continue into the fall season, so check for potential park closures. 

photo of bride and groom sitting in grass in front of a tree embracing


Winter is a magical time to get married in the national park! The valley transforms into a winter wonderland with snow and it’ll feel like an absolute dream. If you do choose to elope in Yosemite during the winter, keep in mind that the high country roads will be shut down, and attractions like Glacier Point and Taft Point are generally closed to visitors. It’s also best to come prepared with snow tires or chains during the winter months!

photo of bride and groom at sunrise with Sierra Nevada Mountains behind them
photo of bride and groom walking long ledge with Yosemite behind them

2. Choose the Right Day and Time to Beat the Crowds

The last thing you probably want is to have a crowded national park elopement. Some strategic planning can help you avoid the crowds when you tie the knot. 

The crowds tend to be highest from June to October. Timed entry permits are generally required beginning in May. If you want to avoid crowds, consider eloping in Yosemite on a weekday (Mon-Thurs). You might also plan your elopement for the end of the busy season (August-October), when the crowds generally tend to die down a bit. 

A sunrise elopement is another trick for beating the crowds!

3. Elope at Sunrise or Sunset for Stunning Wedding Photos

In addition to getting to the park before other visitors start venturing out, my advice is to tie the knot at sunrise to get the most stunning views of Yosemite in your elopement photos! Looking for another great time? Sunset!

photo of bride and groom with foreheads touching in a meadow at Yosemite for their elopement
photo of Half Dome in Yosemite for an elopement

The Sierra Mountains have been famously called the “Range of Light.” With nearly 4,000 ft of dramatic difference in elevation between the Yosemite Valley and the park’s highest points, the best time to capture the beautiful soft glow of the mountains is at sunrise or sunset. 

My personal favorite time in the park is sunrise! It’s incredible to watch as the park lights up and the Range of Light comes to life at sunrise, slowly changing colors as the sun moves across the park. It’s the best way to start your wedding day.

photo of bride and groom kissing with Sierra Nevada Mountains behind them at sunrise

4. Be Sure to Make It Legal! 

You will need to obtain a special use permit (and pay $150 for the application free) in order to legally have a Yosemite National Park elopement, which you can apply for through the National Park Service website. (There are other restrictions that also apply, which you can read about at the NPS website). Your ceremony can be scheduled up to one year in advance and must be scheduled at least 21 days prior to your event. Permits are not issued for holidays or holiday weekends.

In order to get married in Yosemite, you’ll also need to get a California marriage license. The closest place to get one is in Mariposa County, CA. You and your partner must schedule an in-person appointment. Your marriage license will be valid for up to 90 days. 

photo of bride and groom stepping over rocky ledge with Half Dome behind them at their elopement

5. You’ll Still Need to Pay Park Entrance Fees

When you arrive for your Yosemite elopement, you’ll still need to pay the $35 entrance fee. Although certain dates in summer require a timed entry reservation for most visitors entering the park, your special use permit serves the same purpose. This entrance pass is good for seven days after purchasing, which means you’ll be able to enjoy and explore the park after your big day!

photo of groom dipping bride and kissing her at sunset with waterfall behind them on wedding day

6. The Park Offers 12 Designated Wedding Ceremony Locations

The park offers 12 designated wedding ceremony locations to choose from. As a Yosemite elopement photographer, I’ve found that there are two spots that attract the most attention and make for incredible wedding day backdrops!: 

photo of bride and groom kissing at Glacier Point Amphitheater for their elopement

Glacier Point Amphitheater

Imagine saying “I do” in one of the most iconic areas of the park. Offering one of the most stunning vows of the Half Dome in the park, sunrise at Glacier Point is a truly magical experience. Glacier Point Amphitheater has a larger guest capacity and is easily accessible.

While Glacier Point offers some of the park’s most magical views, it does get crowded in the summer — especially in the afternoons and evenings. Sunrise is the best time to beat the crowds. 

photo of bride and groom holding hands in the distance with the sun rising in Yosemite

Taft Point 

With its impressive view of the Yosemite Valley and El Capitan, you’ll find epic sunrise views at Taft Point. Although it can make for some of the most beautiful Yosemite elopement photos, there are some downsides to this location. 

There is a 2 mile round trip hike to get to Taft Point. While the trail is mostly level, the high altitude of more than 7,500 feet can make even this shorter hike semi-challenging. It’s best to take breaks as needed to avoid altitude sickness. After sunset, the trail gets dark so you’ll want to bring headlamps or flashlights to find your way.

photo of bride and groom looking out at Sierra Mountain Range in Yosemite for elopement

Taft Point is a very popular sunset location. Couples who want a more intimate Yosemite elopement might consider getting married on a weekday outside of peak summer season. 

7. Vendors Will Need to Travel for Your Elopement

Since Yosemite National Park is a good distance away from any nearby cities, you’ll need to find vendors who are willing to travel to your elopement. Check out cities like Oakhurst, Merced, Mariposa, Fresno, Sacramento or San Francisco. Another great option is to pick up your wedding flowers or cake before you elope in Yosemite!

photo of bride and groom holding hands in the woods at Yosemite

Depending on the time of your wedding ceremony, your hair and makeup artists might travel as early as 2 a.m. in order to get you ready for your special day! They might expect an early morning fee. 

While you can choose an officiant from one of the towns mentioned above, you might consider having a friend or family member become ordained so they can officiate your wedding ceremony. This can make your special day even more personal.

After you’ve said your “I do’s,” you’ll probably want to celebrate! There are lots of great places to eat at Yosemite. Another option is to hire a private chef to cook for your special day!

8. There Are Tons of Places to Stay Near Yosemite

There are lots of great places to stay when you get married in Yosemite. 

Some of the best hotels and other accommodations in the area include The Ahwahnee, Tenaya Lodge, Autocamp Yosemite, and Wawona Hotel

I highly recommend choosing accommodations closest to the site of where you’re eloping in Yosemite. If you’re looking for an Airbnb, I recommend looking into Yosemite West, which is closer to Glacier Point and Taft Point. There are also vacation rentals and hotels located in Yosemite Valley. 

photo of Yosemite National Park from road

If you’re planning to camp for your Yosemite elopement, there are lots of great campgrounds to choose from. I suggest checking out Curry Village, Camp 4, Bridalveil Creek Group, and Horse Campgrounds.

Although it would be a further driving distance to the park, you might also consider looking into staying in areas outside the park, such as Oakhurst, Fishcamp, Mariposa, Merced, or Bass Lake. 

photo of bride and groom holding hands on wooden bridge with Half Dome behind them for their Yosemite elopement
photo of bride and groom embracing while standing on wooden pathway in Yosemite

9. Yosemite is Perfect for an Adventure Elopement

If you’re opting to have a national park elopement, you’re probably a fun-loving couple with a hunger for adventure. The good news is that there’s so much to see and do in Yosemite! Hiking, biking, and horseback riding are some of the most popular activities.

No matter when you’re planning your Yosemite elopement for, there’s lots of things you can do as you enjoy your newlywed bliss. In summer, swimming and tubing down the Merced River are popular activities. The winter months are perfect for couples who enjoy cross country skiing and snowshoeing. 

photo of bride and groom holding hands and staring into each others eyes with a waterfall behind them

10. Working with the Right Yosemite Elopement Photographer is a MUST! 

It’s so important to choose a photographer who you vibe with and who aligns with your dreams is key! When it comes to selecting the perfect photographer for your day it’s about more than budget; you want to choose someone who’s going to help you plan!

When choosing a Yosemite National Park elopement photographer, I highly recommend finding one who’s familiar with the park. They’ll know the best spots to capture beautiful elopement photos and will also be able to help you work out some of the details of your special day. 

photo of bride and groom sitting on the ledge of Glacier Point Amphitheater for their wedding day

As an experienced national park elopement photographer, my goal is to help all of my couples make this the best day of their lives as they officially embark on this new and exciting journey together! 

Ready to Book With Me? 

I’d be so honored to be your Yosemite elopement photographer! I love helping couples plan unforgettable national park elopements and bringing their wedding photography visions to life! Whether you’re ready to take the plunge and book now or have more questions, please feel free to reach out to me!

  1. Heather McFord says:

    Not only is this guide is insanely helpful, it’s incredibly beautiful too. These tips are fantastic!

  2. Stacy says:

    This is such an informative resource for couples wanting to elope in Yosemite National Park!!
    The images are so stunning!
    Any couple will be lucky to work with you for their Yosemite elopement.

  3. Naomi Levit says:

    This guide is so helpful for couples that want to elope in Yosemite or really anyone who wants to visit. What a thoughtful resource.

  4. Kat says:

    So very helpful, and such beautiful photos that capture the stunning landscapes!!

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