A bride and groom stand on a log next to a river on their Yosemite elopement day.

2024 Yosemite Elopement Guide

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If you’ve been dreaming of a Yosemite Elopement then this guide is for you! Brian and I collectively have lived in the park for over 15 years so when we say we have some insider knowledge on eloping in Yosemite, we mean it! And we’re sharing it with you to help you have the most incredible Yosemite elopement!

 In this blog you’ll find all the info on how to elope in Yosemite, frequently asked questions about eloping in Yosemite, info on Yosemite wedding permits and the ever changing vehicle reservations for 2024, Yosemite elopement locations, and so much more!

Why You Should Elope in Yosemite 

We could go on and on with reasons why you should elope in Yosemite (the scenery for starters) but instead we’re just going to explain why we love Yosemite so much. We both lived and worked in Yosemite Valley so it holds a special place of memories, friendship, and exploration. It is a place that feels like “going home” every time we go back to visit. And every Yosemite elopement that we get to photograph is another chance for us to share our favorite place with you and for you to see and feel why it’s so special.

Frequently Asked Questions about having a Yosemite elopement

How much does a Yosemite elopement cost?

This answer can vary quite a bit depending on lodging, Yosemite elopement packages, and other variables but the wedding permit is $150.

Where do people get married in Yosemite?

The Park Service has a list of designated Yosemite elopement locations that you can choose from if you are having more than 11 people at your ceremony. If you decide to keep it small and only have 11 people or less (including photographers, officiant, and any other vendors) then you are free to choose anywhere in the park for your ceremony. There are some restrictions like open meadows or on the bank of the river, but other than that your options are endless!

Can you have a Lower Yosemite Falls wedding?

You can not get married at the base of Lower Yosemite Falls. However, you can get married on the paved trail leading up to the falls. You won’t be close enough to feel the mist on your face, but you can see a tiny bit of Yosemite Falls in the background.

How do you plan a Yosemite elopement?

Our biggest tip for figuring out how to elope in Yosemite is hiring a photographer team who knows the ins and outs of the park (hi, that’s us!). Yosemite is a huge park and hiring photographers who are familiar with it will help your day run smoothly. For some tips on planning an elopement in general, check out this blog post we wrote with 9 Tips for How to Elope.

Do you need a permit to elope in Yosemite?

Yes! You will need a Yosemite wedding permit if you plan to have a wedding or commitment ceremony. The National Park Service website is really helpful for planning your day and learning the rules. 

Yosemite Wedding Permits & Vehicle Reservations

It might feel a bit confusing or overwhelming when looking into having an elopement in Yosemite because there are a few permits and passes you need to obtain. We’re going to break them down into the three sections for you to read through below.

Yosemite Elopement Special Use Permit

If you are planning a Yosemite elopement, the first permit you need is the Special Use Permit or the Yosemite wedding permit. This will allow you to have your elopement ceremony in the park. If you are planning on having more than 11 people present for your ceremony, then you will have to choose from one of the designated locations listed on the National Park Service website. Here’s a list of those locations:

  1. Cascades Picnic Area
  2. Lower Yosemite Fall Paved Trail
  3. Swinging Bridge Picnic Area
  4. Cathedral Beach Picnic Area
  5. Sentinel Beach Picnic Area
  6. Bridalveil Fall 
  7. Glacier Point Amphitheater
  8. Chilnualna Falls Trailhead Parking Lot
  9. Tenaya Lake Beach
  10. Tuolumne Meadows Lodge Area
  11. Tuolumne Grove
  12. Merced Grove

If you decided to have less than 11 people present at your ceremony (including your officiant and photographers) then you have way more freedom for where you can elope. The options are pretty much endless here and we can help you find the perfect spot for your ceremony.

You can find all the information you need about the wedding permit on the National Park website and if you need some guidance filling out the wedding permit, check out this step by step guide we wrote to help!

Yosemite Vehicle Reservations

A few years back, Yosemite National Park started implementing a vehicle reservation system during the busy months (i.e. summertime) to help cut back on traffic and parking issues. This year they have changed things up a bit and this is how the vehicle reservations system will look.

  • April 13 through June 30: A reservation is required from 5 am to 4 pm on Saturdays, Sundays, and on holidays (May 27 and June 19).
  • July 1 through August 16: A reservation is required from 5 am to 4 pm every day.
  • August 17 through October 27: A reservation is required from 5 am to 4 pm on Saturdays, Sundays, and on holidays (September 2 and October 14).

The vehicle reservations are valid for 3 consecutive days and to obtain a vehicle reservation you must visit recreation.gov. There is a $2 nonrefundable service fee that you will be charged when securing your vehicle reservation.

If you have reservations for any of the following you will not need a vehicle reservation during those days. You also won’t need a vehicle reservation for your Yosemite elopement day since your Wedding permit will act as a vehicle reservation.

Yosemite Entry Fees & Passes

In addition to the Yosemite wedding permit and the vehicle reservation you will also need to either pay the entry fee ($35 for 3 days) or purchase an America the Beautiful Pass ($80) which will allow you access to any national park in the United States for one year. 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed about any of this information, don’t worry, we’re here to help!

Best Yosemite Elopement Locations

Now that we’ve gotten the logistics and permits out of the way, let’s dive into the best Yosemite elopement locations! We’re listing our top 7 Yosemite elopement locations below with info on how to access them and any difficulty! Most of these spots are pretty easy to get to and don’t require too much hiking. 

As we mentioned, we’ve lived in the park for over 15 years so we know lots of incredible spots that we won’t be sharing on this list, mainly because we want them to stay incredible spots. When you work with us as your Yosemite elopement photographers, you’ll get all of the insider locations that other people don’t know about! If you’re looking for more private and intimate locations that are a bit more off-the-beaten-path, head over to our contact form and fill it out so we can chat!

1. Taft Point

Taft Point is probably one of the most iconic locations in Yosemite National Park. A short hike takes you out to the point where you have views of the valley below you and views both east and west. This location will definitely give you an “on top of the world” feeling and the sunsets here are incredible. 

One thing to note about this location is that the road leading up here (Glacier Point Road) is closed seasonally. The historical opening and closing dates can be found on the park website but usually the road closes in November and opens anywhere from late April to mid June depending on the snow levels.

Hike info:

  • Distance: 2.2 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: you actually drop 200 feet on the way to Taft Point so there’s a slight incline on the way back.
  • Difficulty level: easy
  • Average completion time: 30-45 minutes depending on how many times we stop for photos
  • Trailhead location: There is a very small parking area on Glacier Point Road and then parking along the road as well.
  • Dog friendly: this location is not dog friendly
  • Wheelchair friendly: this trail is not wheelchair friendly 

2. Glacier Point

Another classic Yosemite elopement location is Glacier Point. From here you’ll have Half Dome in the background as well as views of the valley including upper and lower Yosemite Falls, Vernal Falls, and Nevada Falls. Depending on the time of year they could be a trickle or absolutely raging. 

Similar to Taft Point, the Glacier Point Road is closed seasonally so you won’t be able to drive up here at some points in the year. You can access Glacier Point when the road is closed but it does require a pretty difficult and steep hike out of the valley. 

If hiking on your elopement day sounds amazing to you, let’s chat! We’ve hiked up to Glacier Point for an elopement before and it was incredible having the whole place to ourselves!

Hike info:

  • Distance: when the road is open there is a parking lot very close to Glacier Point so no hiking is required. When the road is closed the hike is 9.4 miles roundtrip from the valley.
  • Elevation gain: no elevation gain while driving. When hiking, there is 3200 feet of elevation gain.
  • Difficulty level: it’s a pretty strenuous hike since you’re just going straight up the whole time.
  • Average completion time: 5ish hours one way.
  • Trailhead location: the 4-mile trailhead is located in the valley across from Swinging Bridge
  • Dog friendly: no
  • Wheelchair friendly: Glacier Point is wheelchair friendly when the road is open

3. El Capitan Meadow

El Capitan Meadow is a stunning location for a Yosemite elopement. You are surrounded by towering granite peaks, tall grasses, and in the springtime lots of wildflowers. 

The only downside to this location is that it can be pretty crowded. Since it’s very close to the road, most people stop to stare up at climbers on the side of El Capitan. But if we’re your Yosemite elopement photographers, we know a couple of spots a bit further from the crowds where we can go for your intimate elopement ceremony.

Hike info:

  • Distance: a short walk from the road
  • Elevation gain: none
  • Difficulty level: easy
  • Average completion time: 5-10 minutes
  • Trailhead location: at El Capitan Meadow
  • Dog friendly: no
  • Wheelchair friendly: no

4. Tenaya Lake

Tenaya Lake is in the high country, meaning it’s not in Yosemite Valley. It’s a beautiful alpine lake that sits at 8,150 feet of elevation. It’s a great spot to hang for the summer, swimming and laying in the sun. There are also tons of great spots around the lake for your Yosemite elopement. 

Hike info:

  • Distance: 2.5 miles to do a full loop around the lake
  • Elevation gain: none
  • Difficulty level: easy
  • Average completion time: depends on how far we go
  • Trailhead location: There are several parking areas along the shore of Tenaya Lake that allow you access to the lake.
  • Dog friendly: no
  • Wheelchair friendly: no

5. Olmstead Point

Olmstead Point offers incredible views of Yosemite Valley from a different angle than Glacier or Taft Point. Instead, you’re looking at the backside of Half Dome and down through the valley to the west with Cloud’s Rest right in front of you. 

This is a very popular spot for people to stop and snap a quick picture on their way in or out of the valley but not a lot of people actually get out and walk around much. 

Hike info:

  • Distance: .25 mile 
  • Elevation gain: none
  • Difficulty level: easy
  • Average completion time: depends on where we explore
  • Trailhead location: There’s a large parking lot off of Tioga Pass close to Tenaya Lake
  • Dog friendly: no
  • Wheelchair friendly: no

6. Tuolumne Grove

If you’re looking for a Yosemite elopement location that includes giant Sequoia Trees then this one’s for you! The Tuolumne Grove is a magical forest of trees with many loops and trails to explore. 

If you love the idea of a forest elopement but aren’t sure how to plan it or where to go, we wrote a whole blog post on that. From best forest wedding locations in the USA to best timing and lighting for a forest wedding. Check it out!

Hike info:

  • Distance: 2.5 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: the trail drops down into the forest so there’s 400 feet gain on the way back.
  • Difficulty level: easy hike on a well maintained trail
  • Average completion time: 1.5-2.5 hours
  • Trailhead location: There is a parking lot just past Crane Flat gas station on Tioga Pass.
  • Dog friendly: no
  • Wheelchair friendly: no

7. Gaylor Lakes

Gaylor Lakes is one of Yosemite’s hidden gems. We’ve been trying to get couples to elope here for years because it’s so epic! (Want this to be your Yosemite elopement location? Fill out our contact form so we can chat!) 

Because this Yosemite elopement location is on Tioga Pass it is not accessible at certain times during the year, usually late fall through springtime.

Hike info:

  • Distance: 3 miles roundtrip (plus any other exploring you might want to do around the lakes)
  • Elevation gain: 600 feet but you are starting out at 10,000 feet so keep that in mind
  • Difficulty level: moderate. There’s a steep climb at the beginning but easy after that.
  • Average completion time: 2-5 hours depending on how much wandering we do!
  • Trailhead location: There’s a small parking lot just past the eastern entrance gate on Tioga Pass.
  • Dog friendly: no
  • Wheelchair friendly: no

The Best Time of Year to Get Married in Yosemite 

A big thing to consider when planning a Yosemite elopement is what time of year is best. We personally think that there is no bad time to get married in Yosemite, but the location you decide on and what you want to do might be dependent on what the weather is like. For that reason, we recommend eloping in either springtime or late fall. 


In the springtime the waterfalls are usually roaring and everything is starting to bloom in the valley. The only con of eloping in the spring is that not all of the roads are open so you are limited to choosing a Yosemite valley location.

Summertime means everything is open and you can visit locations on Tioga Pass or Glacier Point Road. However, summer in Yosemite also means crowds and traffic. The park has implemented the vehicle reservation system to attempt to reduce some of this but it’s still really busy in the park.

One of our favorite times to elope in Yosemite is in the fall and we’re not talking about September but more October and even November. Yosemite tends to see a later fall foliage pop so if you want those beautiful fall colors for your elopement day, we recommend choosing a date in October or November. 

Winter is also a really special time in the valley. The roads to the high country are not open but the valley is very quiet in the winter and seeing snow on the mountains is truly beautiful. If you’re looking for a moodier vibe for your day, winter in Yosemite will definitely deliver on that.


We touched on this a little bit but summertime is very crowded in the park, as are holidays and weekends. We always recommend planning a weekday elopement if possible to help cut down on crowds a bit. Choosing a date outside of busy season (June-September) also helps with that.

Where to Stay Near Yosemite

Yosemite is a big park with many different areas to it. It can be a bit confusing when trying to figure out where to stay as most places claim to be “only 15 minutes from the park”. When in reality, they are 15 minutes from the gate which means they’re likely 30-45 minutes to the valley. We recommend staying as close as possible to your Yosemite elopement location so that you don’t have to drive a ton on your elopement day. This means booking in advance or checking with the park hotels regularly to see if they have cancellations. We’re listing a few of our favorite lodging options below to help out.


When searching for Airbnbs or VRBOs we recommend looking in Foresta, Yosemite West and Wawona.

Yosemite Hilltop Cabins

Wawona Cabin

The Ahwahnee in Forest

The Redwoods in Yosemite

Yosemite Autocamp

Traveller’s Autobarn – if you’re looking for a different type of accommodation, consider renting a van and turning your elopement into a roadtrip!

Hotels, Lodges, & Resorts

Ideally, the best hotels and lodges to book you Yosemite elopement are in the valley. However, they do book up way far in advance so keep that in mind when planning your Yosemite elopement.

The Ahwahnee Hotel

The Yosemite Valley Lodge

The Wawona Hotel


There are a handful of campgrounds in the valley that could be a great option if you want to spend your wedding night cuddled up by a campfire. Keep in mind that these campgrounds are pretty rustic (there are showers in the valley but not at all campgrounds) but it would definitely be a great story to tell! The valley campgrounds are Lower Pines, Upper Pines, North Pines, and Camp 4. They do require reservations ahead of time to make sure and check out the national park website for all of that info.

Your Yosemite Elopement Photographers

In case you read all the way to the bottom and don’t know who we are, we’re Becky & Brian of Scenic Vows. We’re a Yosemite elopement photography team (and Becky’s an officiant) living on the road in our converted Sprinter Van. We’ve lived in Yosemite and have explored it in depth, giving us an insider’s perspective and we’re here to share those insights with you!

We offer several different Yosemite elopement packages based on what you want to do for your elopement day. You can check those out on the Info page on our website and if you’re not sure yet what you want to do, no worries! We’re here to help you figure that out. The best thing to do would be to head over to our contact page and fill out the form so we can set up a time to jump on a Zoom call and chat about it all!

If you’re looking for an elopement day that leaves you feeling complete, happy, and in the hands of pros, we’d love to chat!

Sample Yosemite Elopement Timelines

If you’re just starting out planning your Yosemite elopement, it might be difficult to visualize how the day might look or how many hours of photography coverage you might need. To help you out a bit, we’ve created two sample timelines for Yosemite elopements that you can look at!

6 Hour Day Timeline: This is just an example of what it could look like.

  • 12:30 pm We will arrive at your Airbnb. We’ll capture getting ready photos for the guys and gals and some detail photos of your dress, rings, vow books, etc.
  • 1:30-2:00 pm Arrange a first look. We’ll go find a spot outside of the Airbnb for a first look for the two of you.
  • 2:00 pm Pile into the cars and head to the ceremony spot. It’s a 42 minute drive.
  • 2:45 pm Arrive at ceremony location. Find the perfect spot for the ceremony and arrange everyone so they can see you two.
  • 3:00- 3:20 pm Ceremony. Say your vows and make it official!
  • 3:20-3:40 pm Candid Family Photos. Grab some fun photos of the whole group and some individual ones as well!
  • 3:40-4:00 pm Hop in the car and head to the second location. This whole area is so cool and the sun will be in just the right spot for amazing photos!
  • 4:45 pm Jump on over to the third location. We went ahead and booked some time here for some photos! It’s a short walk and the views are amazing.
  • 5:30 pm Head to town for photos and a cocktail!
  • 6:30 pm Finish up the night! We’ll finish up here and let you head off to dinner!

Yosemite Elopement Activity Ideas

When planning your Yosemite elopement, don’t forget to think about which activities you want to include in the day. Here’s a list of our favorite Yosemite activities.

  1. Hiking
  2. Horseback riding
  3. Floating the Merced River
  4. Fishing
  5. Slack Lining
  6. Hammocking
  7. Picnicing
  8. Star gazing
  9. Rock climbing
  10. Kayaking or Paddle Boarding

Final Tips for Your Elopement in Yosemite

Your Yosemite elopement is going to be incredible! Here are three final tips for eloping in Yosemite:

  1. Choose a day mid-week and during “off-season” to have a more intimate and private day.
  2. Be bear aware! There are bears in the park and they love food and are attracted to smelly things. Use the bear boxes that are provided and don’t leave things out unattended.
  3. Have an awesome time!

Yosemite Wedding Inspiration 

We know that this blog has a ton of information to digest so we hope you found it helpful! If you’re not entirely convinced yet that you want to elope in Yosemite, check out this beautiful intimate wedding that took place at Cathedral Beach. And if Yosemite isn’t the place for you, head over to our 7 Best California elopement locations blog.

Throwing Out Commonplace Ceremonies For Outdoor Experiences

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