Table of Contents:
- Where is Yosemite National Park?
- Best Time of Year to Elope in Yosemite
- Yosemite National Park Wedding & Elopement Permits
- Getting your California Marriage License
- Best Hikes in Yosemite National Park
- Best Places to Stay for Your Yosemite Elopement
- 10 Fun Ideas for Your Yosemite Elopement
- Final Yosemite Elopement Tips
- Yosemite Elopement Photographer
- More California Elopement Resources
I don’t think I even need to explain why I’m writing a whole guide about eloping in Yosemite – it’s one of the most iconic national parks in the COUNTRY, and has been for yearsss. You’ve seen it all over Instagram, on default computer screensavers, in Ansel Adams’ photos, on postcards. . .you name it. Yosemite has always been one of the most famous destinations in the country that people come from everywhere to visit, thanks to its insane landscapes, massive waterfalls, and amazing hikes – all of which also make it an epic place to elope!! In this full guide to how to elope in Yosemite National Park, I’m going to be letting you in on allll the important info that ya need to know to plan the best Yosemite elopement, including permit info, the best locations, best hikes, and more. I’m so excited for you to elope in this incredible park!!
Where is Yosemite National Park?
Before I start gushing about why I love Yosemite sooo much let’s talk about where it is + how to get there. Yosemite National Park encompasses nearly 1,200 square miles of land in the Sierra Nevada mountains, located in eastern central California. It’s about a 4-hour drive from San Francisco and a 3-hour drive from Sacramento.
If you want to fly into a major international airport for your trip to Yosemite, you have a few options:
- Fresno-Yosemite International Airport (FAT) – 1.5 hours to Wawona, 2.5 hours to Yosemite Valley
- Oakland International Airport (OAK) – 3.5 hours to Yosemite Valley
- Sacramento International Airport (SMF) – 3.5 hours to Yosemite Valley
- San Francisco International Airport (SFO) – 4 hours to Yosemite Valley
You can also fly into Mammoth Yosemite Airport (MMH), which is a smaller regional airport about 1 hour from Tuolumne Meadows or 2.5 hours from Yosemite Valley. This is a great option if you want to add a trip to Mammoth Lakes into your time in California! It really depends on what part of the park you want to spend the most time in + where you’ll be staying, and how long you want to drive. I definitely recommend renting a car so you can explore freely without having to rely on public transportation!
Best Time of Year to Elope in Yosemite
Overall, the best time of year to elope in Yosemite National Park is from summer to early fall, between June and September. While Yosemite is technically open all year, many areas of the park are closed off to cars in the winter due to snow, usually from around November to May (even into early June), including Tioga Road, Glacier Point Road, and Mariposa Grove Road. The weather is also the best for hiking + outdoor activities in the summer, with highs usually averaging between 80-90°F.
However, one thing to keep in mind about eloping in Yosemite in the summer is the possibility of wildfires. Unfortunately Yosemite has experienced quite a few wildfires (or at least bad air quality from nearby wildfires) in recent years, so be prepared to change your plans if needed due to unsafe air quality or road/trail closures due to fires. It’s also possible that wildfire smoke could obstruct the views you were hoping for, so it’s best to prepare yourself ahead of time for all the worst possibilities so that you’re not disappointed if something does go unexpectedly!
Another factor you should consider when you’re choosing what time of year to elope in Yosemite is CROWDS! Because Yosemite is so famous, there are pretty much always tourists visiting, especially in the summer since it’s peak tourist season; specifically, the months of May through September. If you want to avoid crowds as much as possible, I recommend:
- Eloping at sunrise
- Eloping at a more off-the-beaten-path/lesser-known spot
- Eloping on a weekday (ideally Monday-Thursday)
- Eloping in the spring or fall
- Eloping just outside of the park, and coming into the park just for a hike or portraits instead of a full ceremony
No matter what time of year you elope, make sure you keep an eye on current park conditions when your elopement day is coming up, so that you know if there are any unexpected closures that you need to plan for!
NOTE: As of writing this guide in June 2023, Glacier Point Road is closed until at least July 2023, and the Bridalveil Fall area is closed until fall 2023. Keep this in mind when planning for your 2023 elopement!!
Yosemite National Park Wedding & Elopement Permits
Let’s move onto one of the most important parts of this guide: permits! Because Yosemite has become SOOO popular for adventure elopements and small weddings, the park has pretty strict rules + regulations when it comes to permits. So it’s important to do your research and set appropriate expectations before starting the permit process!
Do I need a permit to elope in Yosemite National Park?
Yup! If you want to elope in Yosemite, you’ll need a Special Use Permit. You can apply for your permit up to one year in advance and no later than 21 days in advance of your elopement. I recommend applying as soon as you’re able to so you can get the process started and so the park office has plenty of time to process your application.
Here are a few things that are NOT allowed for weddings in the park, even with the proper Special Use Permit:
- Throwing birdseed/rice/confetti/etc.
- Decorations (balloons, arches, etc.)
- Seating (chairs, tables, etc.)
- Audio disturbance
- Formal receptions
How much does it cost to elope in Yosemite National Park?
A Yosemite Special Use Permit costs $150, and you may also have to pay a $50 hourly monitoring fee if the park requires your elopement to be monitored for any reason.
How do I apply for a Yosemite National Park wedding permit?
- Fill out this application
- Include payment of the $150 non-refundable application fee with your application
- Wait for the park to process your permit
- If your permit is approved, wait for it to arrive in the mail
- Review, sign, & return your permit to the park office for final approval
Do I have to pay to park in Yosemite National Park?
Yup, unfortunately entrance fees are not waived for anybody participating in your elopement. So you, your guests, and your vendors will still need to pay the regular park entrance fees. A standard 7-day vehicle entrance pass costs $35, or you can get a $70 annual park pass if you plan to visit more than once in a year!
Where can I have my wedding ceremony in Yosemite National Park?
If your group has fewer than 11 people, you can have your ceremony anywhere in the park except for open meadows and riverside locations.
If your group has more than 11 people, you can get married at any of the permitted ceremony sites listed below:
Yosemite Valley wedding locations:
- Cascades Picnic Area
- Lower Yosemite Fall Paved Trail
- Swinging Bridge Picnic Area
- Cathedral Beach Picnic Area
- Sentinel Beach Picnic Area
- Bridalveil Fall
Glacier Point & Wawona wedding locations:
Tuolumne Meadows wedding locations:
Big Oak Flat Area wedding locations:
Getting your California Marriage License
You also need to get your California marriage license in order to elope in Yosemite! You need to be at least 18 years old, and you need to have at least 1 witness present at your ceremony to sign your marriage certificate. Once you get your license, there’s no mandatory waiting period which means you can tie the knot ASAP! It’ll be valid for 90 days, so make sure you get married before that time runs out so that you don’t have to go through the process again.
To get your license, you need to apply through a county clerk’s office in California. Yosemite is a part of multiple counties, so find the county closest to where you’re staying via this list and apply through that county – or if you’re from a different part of California, you can apply in your home county! You’ll apply either in-person or online, go into the office to show proof of your ID, and then pay the required licensing fee (which varies by county). Then you’re good to get officially hitched in the state of California!
Best Hikes in Yosemite National Park
If you’re considering eloping in Yosemite, you’re probablyyy into hiking at least a LITTLE bit, right? Yosemite has some of the best hikes in the country, so you HAVE to take advantage while you’re there! I’ve compiled some of the best hikes in Yosemite National Park for ya that would be amazing to incorporate into your elopement, either for your ceremony or just for some epic portraits in your elopement outfits. The best thing about Yosemite is that there are hikes for everyone, so I’ve included a variety of easy, moderate, and challenging hikes depending on what level of adventure you’re lookin’ for!
Easy Yosemite Hikes
Bridalveil Fall Trail (currently closed)
Total Distance: 0.5 mi
Elevation Gain: 80 ft
Total Distance: 1 mi
Elevation Gain: 50 ft
Total Distance: 2 mi
Elevation Gain: 100 ft
Moderate Yosemite Hikes
Total Distance: 2.3 mi
Elevation Gain: 354 ft
Total Distance: 5 mi
Elevation Gain: 200 ft
Total Distance: 6.5 mi (half loop)
Elevation Gain: Mostly flat
Challenging Yosemite Hikes
Total Distance: 2.4 mi
Elevation Gain: 1,000 ft
Total Distance: 6.6 mi
Elevation Gain: 3,254 ft
Total Distance: 14 mi-16.4 mi
Elevation Gain: 4,800 ft
Best Places to Stay for Your Yosemite Elopement
Yosemite has sooo many amazing, unique places to stay, from gorgeous lodges to glamping tents to renovated campers. Here are the best lodges, cabins, campgrounds, & glamping companies in the Yosemite area!!
Lodges & Cabins in Yosemite
- Yosemite Valley Lodge
- Ahwahnee Hotel
- Curry Village
- Tuolumne Meadows Lodge
- Rush Creek Lodge
- Johnson Family Yosemite Cabin
- Yosemite’s Chinquapin Retreat
- Chalet Yosemite Studio
Glamping in Yosemite
Camping in Yosemite
10 Fun Ideas for Your Yosemite Elopement
You could seriously spend DAYS exploring Yosemite, so don’t worry about running out of things to do or places to go! If you’re trying to figure out what to do during your time in the area, here are 10 things that would be super fun to add to your elopement timeline & that you will NOT want to miss.
1. Go stargazing
2. Drive up Glacier Point Road
3. Visit the beautiful Hetch Hetchy Valley
4. Stay at the historic Ahwahnee Hotel
5. Enjoy the iconic views from El Capitan Meadow
6. Learn about + find native wildflowers
7. Hike Cathedral Lakes Trail
8. See the giant sequoias in Mariposa Grove
9. Visit the Tunnel View overlook
10. Watch the sunset from Taft Point
Final Yosemite Elopement Tips
Before I send ya off, I wanted to include a few final Yosemite elopement tips for you to keep in mind while planning!
- Because Yosemite National Park doesn’t have a specific address that you can plug into your GPS, the NPS recommends keeping a map of the park on hand to guide you.
- On that same note, cell service is pretty limited in the park – so it’s best to have offline maps downloaded (of both the roads + trails) and/or paper maps with you.
- Keep an eye on up-to-date info about winter road closures here to make sure the locations you want to go to are open when you visit in early spring or late fall. Snow can arrive earlier or later than expected so you can’t be sure that certain parts of the park will be open at the same time every year.
- Pets aren’t allowed on trails in Yosemite, only in developed areas, on fully paved roads, and on sidewalks. So it’s best to leave your pups at home and maybe just take some cute in-home photos with them instead!
- Make sure you wear proper footwear to explore the park. I promise you can find super cute hiking boots to go with your elopement attire, here are some of my personal fave hiking boots for adventure elopements.
I hope you’re feeling ready to plan an EPIC Yosemite elopement after all that, I know I’m sure ready to tag along with you 😉 If you’re looking for a Yosemite elopement photographer to take you around the park and document your one of a kind day in this incredible national park and help you open your bottle of celebratory champagne, pick your dress up off the ground, and hand you tissues during your ceremony, I’m your girl. Let’s do this!
More California Elopement Resources
Know you wanna elope in Cali but aren’t sure where yet?? I got you!! Check out more of my California elopement guides below!