Yosemite Wedding “Venues”
Adventure elopements are the in thing to do right now, and it makes sense! Traditional weddings are expensive, take tons of planning, and usually very stressful. Take away the stress, add gorgeous scenery and maybe a few family members or friends, and make your big day all about the two of you. Make it about what the two of you want, where YOU want to be. Elopements locations are unique because they can be anywhere in the world, with any type of landscape you want!
Experts of Yosemite National Park
The two of us have spent quite a bit of time here in Yosemite. What started out as a summer job in the Yosemite Valley Village Store, quickly turned into a huge obsession with this park for both of us. That first summer (for me, Brian) turned into about 7 summers, and then I just figured why leave! Working in the park offered tons of time to explore the park and rock climb every minute I could spare. Becky, who has also worked in the park for a few years, and has spent her time hiking high country trails, climbing in the valley, and is on the never-ending search for the best sunset spot ever seen — quite a task, but someones got to do it…. Luckily we both agree that anytime you drive through California, Yosemite is just right around the corner and worth the extra time to stop in for a visit.
Here in this post, we’re going to tell you some of our favorite Yosemite elopement locations. And of course, we’ll mention why, and some of the pros and cons of each place. All of these locations are super easy to get to and tend to be the top spots most photographers suggest. While these are pretty awesome locations, there are plenty of hidden places that can be unique to each and every couple we shoot. Some might involve a bit of hiking, and some could be a short jaunt from the car. We aren’t going to expose these hidden spots, hoping to not only preserve these locations but also allow us to hand tailor each elopement.
One of the easier Yosemite elopement locations to get to for sure, but a bit of a drive. Glacier Point sits directly across from Half Dome and is one of the most popular locations in the park. The hardest part about getting here is the traffic on the way up. The 30 mile drive from the valley can take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half, but the views are breathtaking! When you look over the edge the valley sits 3000 feet directly below you!
Sunrise is amazing here, as well as sunset. This Yosemite elopement location might be our go-to if you are bringing any family or friends, and need to have any wheelchair/ADA access. The trail is paved and flat, and about a 5-minute walk from your car, and there is plenty of parking. There are bear lockers located in the parking lot, so make sure you empty your car of anything with a scent. Bathrooms are available here, but beware, they are composting toilets — so no running water. There’s a gift shop here as well. Glacier Point Road is seasonal, so expect it to be closed in the winter ( November – April). You can click here (nps.gov/yose) to check out current road conditions and weather forecasts.
Taft Point & Sentinel Dome
This spot is the cream of the crop as far as a Yosemite elopement location goes! And notably so, with gorgeous sunsets from Taft, and equally gorgeous sunrises from Sentinal, you’re sure to have some truely epic wedding pics! The drawback to these spots is that its usually very crowded with other folks doing the same exact thing. We worked up here recently and shared Taft with no less than 3 other wedding parties.
These two locations require a hike in, which is about a mile each way. Make sure you plan for that if you want to make sunset or sunrise! And bring a headlamp. There are pit toilets located in the parking area, and bear lockers as well. You’ll need to get all food/scented items out of your car, bears frequent this area and Glacier! It’s the exact same approach as Glacier Point, but you park a few miles closer. Parking is limited and can be tough here though. The Glacier Point Road is seasonal and closed in the winter, so you’ll check the weather and know the conditions before your trip.
***Note that this location is dangerous, and you need to use caution. You don’t need to be right on the edge of the cliff. You can safely stand 10 feet away from the edge and get the same effect for the photos. Wedding dresses are heavy and have a lot of material that can catch the wind and push you around, and it’s usually windy up here. As your photographers, we would never put you in a dangerous position or ask you to do something you weren’t comfortable with.
One of the best views of Yosemite Valley is right here at Tunnel View. You can see El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridal View Falls from here. If you’re lucky enough to have a bit of weather on your big day, you might see a few clouds settle in the valley and create some one of kind, dreamy, and moody backdrops!
This one’s fairly easy to get to, it’s right on the road. There aren’t any bathrooms here, so you’ll have to plan accordingly. You might have to circle the parking lot a few times to find a spot because everyone who drives by stops to check out the views from here. Because of that you’ll be getting plenty of looks from the tourists!
Cathedral Beach is a beautiful fall location for a Yosemite elopement! — same with all of these locations, El Capitan stands majestically in the background and the beach is laced with dogwoods and cottonwoods. So, if you time it right the colors can be amazing! Check out this page for some current fall color reports on the East Side of the Sierra for a reference. (The East Side is going to have to be a whole different blog post, its spectacular!) Of course you’ll have to see what the water conditions are. The Merced River is generally pretty low in the fall, so there’s will be a large beach exposed. In the spring expect this to be completely underwater.
Getting here is very easy. On your way into the valley, this is just past the left turn to El Capitan. There is limited parking, but I’ve never had an issue getting a spot here. There is a pit toilet as well, and a few picnic tables in case you want to have a picnic or bbq with the fam.
El Cap Meadow
This meadow is pretty spectacular any time of year. There are giant peaks looking over you at every angle. El Capitan stands to the north, and the Catherdral Rocks and Spires to the South. Black Oaks line the west, and the mighty Merced River on the east. The meadow is under restoration, so make sure to stay on the paths that have been left for access. This is a great example of a place that sees a lot of visitors and needs to be respected. The meadow used to be very trampled, and people would drive and walk anywhere they pleased. Thankfully, it’s on its way to being a lush, thriving meadow again.
El Cap is very easily accessed, it’s right on North Side Drive (the road out of the vally). There is lots of parking, but all on the side of the road. Use caution here, cars seem to blindingly pull out into the road at all times, and others will be wandering into the road with eyes only upon El Cap. There aren’t any restrooms here, with the closest either at Yosemite Lodge or Swinging Bridge.
The locations here only touch a very small part of the park, there are so many more incredible elopement locations in Yosemite — and then there is still the rest of the Sierra Nevada!! And like I mentioned earlier, these are all very easy to get to. If you are just getting things going we’d love to be a part of your planning. Our knowledge of the park and eastern Sierra is huge, and we have a ton of connections here. Aside from knowing the ins and outs of the park, we can be a big help for finding things such as places to stay that are affordable, hair & make-up, dress boutiques, florals, etc.
Yosemite Elopement Fees & Rules
There is a few more things to think about when planning a Yosemite Elopement. The National Park Service has a few rules to follow that I will mention here. First, to get married in the park you will need a special use permit. It cost $150, and you will need to apply 21 days in advance. If you have 10 people or less you can get married anywhere in the park, but this includes the photographer and the officiant as well. Over 10 people in the party and you’ll have to stick to one of the locations that NP has designated. Finally, you’ll need a marriage license that you can get at the county clerks office. The closest one to Yosemite Valley is in Mariposa, CA (Mariposa County Clerk, 4982 10th St, Mariposa, CA 95338Â 209-966-2007).
One last thing to always remember is to practice the principles of Leave No Trace. If we can all do this we can collectively help sustain healthy and vibrant natural lands that we can all enjoy for hopefully many, many years to come! If you’re not familiar with this, take a few seconds to look over their website here! https://lnt.org