how to elope in 
yosemite national park

a bride's guide on

Like quite honestly, I don’t think you can go wrong with getting married in a place like this.

But if this is your first time in Yosemite, or at least getting MARRIED in Yosemite, there are definitely some things you should know as you get started planning.

i can tell you're on to something amazing.

if you're thinking of eloping in Yosemite,

If you’re over the big “show” that weddings can bring, everyone inputting their own opinions in how you want YOUR day to look, the drama that comes with planning a big luxurious day, the insane amount of money you have to put down just to get married,

THEN ELOPING MIGHT BE FOR YOU.

why should you elope?

why should you elope?

but first,

what we'll

what we'll go over:

go over

time of year

location

vendors

step 1

step 2

step 3

permits

step 4

When planning on when to get married in Yosemite, the first thing you have to consider is the time of year you plan on eloping.

If you plan on eloping between January - May, access to locations like Glacier Point and Taft Point will be more challenging to get to because the roads will be closed for winter. 

Typically these roads tend to open in late May and remain open until early November. With that in mind, if you’d like to get married in either of these places, it’s best to consider getting married between June and October.

Because the roads are open to everyone between June and October, people take full advantage of this to see Yosemite’s beauty, and the popular points like Glacier Point and Taft Point tend to be crowded.

But, there are ways to avoid this.

My best advice if you’d like to get married in a popular spot is to elope on a weekday (Monday - Thursday), and plan around late summer to early fall (August to October). 

The tours and crowds tend to die down at this time as families prepare for the new school year, and vacationers get back to their work routine.

You can check the road status up to Glacier and Taft Point here.

what's best?

what are the crowds like?

Yosemite is in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and because of this, the sun is very different because of the altitude.

Considering this, the best lighting for a place like Yosemite in the mountains is early morning (sunrise), or sunset as the lighting is softer and the valley changes color as the sun moves.

It’s incredible to watch at the tops of the cliffs - like Glacier and Taft Point, and it’s also less crowded most mornings at sunrise (not many people want to get up at 3am). 

However, you will never see a more BEAUTIFUL sunrise than in Yosemite. It is 100% worth it to get up early and experience the Sierras come to life as the sun rises and illuminates the mountains. 

what's best time of day to elope?

time of year

location

Choosing your exact elopement location is definitely something that requires some research to help you decide where you’d like to go. Yosemite is a national park that spans over 1,169 miles, making it one of the largest in the nation. So much so that there are 5 entrances to the park: 










Depending on which route you take in, most take upwards of an hour to actually get to Yosemite Valley - where you can see all the cliffs like Half Dome, El Capitan, and the Cathedral Rocks. 

Since there are so many options on where to go and what trails to consider, my main advice is to start with some of the best ones, which are usually in the heart of Yosemite. 

location is everything.

- Hetch Hetchy Entrance

- Big Oak Flat Entrance

- Arch Rock Entrance

- South Entrance

- Tioga Pass Entrance

01

pros

Glacier Point is a great spot for the perfect view of Half Dome from the top of a cliff. Sunrise is a really popular time to come here, as the sun rises right over Glacier Point and creates magical light for photos, and a magical scene for you to commit your lives to each other. 

When the roads are open, this spot is an easy drive to get to, has lots of parking, is fairly accessible for family members, and is a short walk away from the parking lot.

It’s definitely known to get crowded here in the summer time, especially in the evening time, so choosing a weekday in the early morning is usually my recommendation.

glacier point

- One of the best views of Half Dome. The sun also rises right over Half Dome, making it a surreal experience if you choose to elope at sunrise.

- Parking and access is easy - just a short walk from the parking lot to the edge of the cliffs.

cons

-Parking is limited on the street

- About a mile hike in to the cliff. Hiking in elevation can also be challenging for those who aren’t used to altitude or experience altitude sickness easily

- After the sun sets, the trail gets dark. It’s important to bring headlamps/flashlights with us as we leave.

02

pros

This spot has the perfect view of El Capitan from the top of a cliff, and has an amazing view for sunsets. There is also an angle to take photos where you can stand on the edge of a cliff and see the vastness and steepness of the cliff below you - a pretty amazing site! There is lots of cliff to move around here and explore, with many viewpoints for amazing views to get married.

When the roads are open, this spot is an easy drive to get to, has limited parking (carpooling in as least cars as possible is better), and is about a mile hike away from the parking lot. Family members who are agile and hike often should have no issue on the hike as it’s fairly easy.

This spot is also known to get crowded during the summer at sunset, so my recommendation would be to elope on a weekday to try and avoid some of the weekend crowds.

Taft Point

- Best view by far in the entire park of the sunsets. Best view in the world in my personal opinion.

- Not as crowded as Glacier Point because of the hike

- Lots of cliffs and space to take portraits or get married.

cons

- Parking is limited on the street

- About a mile hike in to the cliff. Hiking in elevation can also be challenging for those who aren’t used to altitude or experience altitude sickness easily

- After the sun sets, the trail gets dark. It’s important to bring headlamps/flashlights with us as we leave.

03

pros

This point has the same view of Tunnel View - but better! It’s a private location (Tunnel View has a lot of crowds usually all day), and it’s not terribly hard to access. 

The view itself has both El Capitan and Half Dome as well as the entire valley in the distance - giving you the true essence of all of Yosemite. The best time to come to this point is sunrise in my personal opinion, because the sun rises just over Half Dome in the distance and it lights up the entire valley. You can literally watch the cliffs change colors as the sun rises - and it’s a magical place to get married.

artist point

- Extremely private. No one will be there, I almost guarantee it, as it’s not a well know trail.

- One of the best views of all of Yosemite, including Bridal Veil falls in the distance.

- Not a long hike to get here, and parking is easy (same parking lot as Tunnel View)

cons

- The trail can be a bit difficult in the Spring/Winter months as there is a lot of running water on slippery rocks. Other than that though, the trail is not that hard

- The spot is hard to find unless you have the All Trails app to guide you there (download the map because there is no service)

- The hike is uphill, and mix that with altitude, it makes it a tough situation for someone who is not trained well for it. While it’s not a long hike, it can still pose to be challenging.

- The road may close due to weather and fires.

pros

A great place away from the valley to get married! Yosemite National Park is a big park - one of the largest in the nation!

There are a lot of hidden spots along Tioga Road/Pass which leads you from Yosemite, through the Sierra Nevadas, and ends in Mammoth area. Along the road, there are many lakes and meadows worth checking out, one of them being Tenaya Lake.

Sunrise is the best time to come here and elope, because the water is usually placid and crystal clear - creating a serene picture to get married. 

04

tenaya lake

- Fairly private. There aren’t too many people here at sunrise, even during the Summer and Fall seasons.

- Easy parking and accessibility. Not a far walk to lake shore from parking lot.

cons

- Not in Yosemite Valley - about a 45 minute drive from the valley itself.

- Not open for the whole year. Tioga Road/Pass closes between the months November to May, depending on what the snow and winter season looks like.

05

pros

A large meadow towards the back of the Yosemite Valley loop that has the BEST view of Half Dome from the valley.

It’s easy to get to and a great spot if you’re looking of staying in the valley with the grandeur of the cliffs above you.

half dome meadow

- Great views of the cliffs, including Half Dome

- Easy to get to - park and walk to the meadow easily

- Close to Curry Village where there is food and lodging

cons

- May not be very private because it’s close to Curry Village

- Parking is hard to find in the Summer and on-seasons

quick tip:

DON’T JUST CHOOSE A LOCATION BECAUSE IT’S PRETTY ON INSTAGRAM.

CHOOSE ONE THAT RESONATES WITH YOU, AND WHO YOU ARE AS A COUPLE, MOST.

CHOOSE PEOPLE WHO ARE WILLING TO TRAVEL, OR CLOSE BY.

Vendors

- Cultivated by Faith - Located in Southern California

- Mae&Co Creative - Traveling globally

The Potted Pansy - Located in Utah but traveling globally

Yosemite is a decent distance from any nearest city, so anyone you hire is going to have to trek out to complete their services.

But, there are a couple of ways to get the dreamy vendors you’re looking for at an affordable price.

When it comes to florists, there are some GREAT traveling florists that would love to help out and travel to you for your big day. 

Here are a few of my favorites florists that are willing to travel to you:

If none of these suit your fancy, my next suggestion would be to find a florist local to Fresno, Sacramento, or San Francisco, and then possibly pick up your florals on the way into the park (to avoid any additional drop-off charges for travel).

When it comes to officiants, there are many officiants you can find locally to drive in for the day. There are many close to Fresno, Sacramento, or San Francisco. 

But, my best advice? Have a friend or someone close to you become ordained. It makes it way more personal and fun in the long run. (The photo to right is the sister of the groom! It was super special!). :)

My overall advice for the people you choose for the “details”, is to choose people locally, or the people you REALLY want to travel in.

Speaking as an elopement photographer who shoots in Yosemite regularly, choosing the photographer that’s absolutely right for you is not something you should skimp out on budget wise.

Since you won’t have very many people there, your documentation is important - and you want to make sure you choose a photographer and videographer who fits well with who you are as a couple and what your dreams are. Bonus points if they know the area well too!

You also want someone who isn’t going to control your day, but rather, help your plans and dreams for what you want this day to look like come to life. 

My goal as a photographer for most elopement days is to capture the couple as they are - 100% them, in their element, loving each other naturally. 

Photojournalistic elopement captures. That’s what I aim to bring my couples on their day. Strictly documenting the important moments as they happen, and also helping them plan out their day so it’s exactly what they want.

choose the right photographer

let me plan your elopement!

permits

Good question! This is really important.

You need to make it legal if you want to get married in Yosemite - and I mean ANYWHERE in the national park.

Go here to read more about how to get a permit, and fill out the application here.

Once you fill it out, it’s usually a $150 cost to save your date. After we have that, we’ll be able to head out and have permission from the rangers to get you married!

Keep in mind: Always keep it legal. If there aren’t any papers to prove we can get married, then there is big potential to get in trouble. And we definitely don’t want that!

HOW DO YOU GET A PERMIT TO GET MARRIED IN YOSEMITE?

download permit application

a free guide to Yosemite:

HERE ARE SOME OF MY FAVORITE LOCATIONS AND ACTIVITIES TO DO IN YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK!

hotels

The Ahwahnee Hotel: Definitely one of the higher-end hotels in the park. The architecture and structure of the hotel is magnificent. The hotel is a must-visit destination within Yosemite Valley for its dining, décor and architecture that complements the natural setting of the park. It was designed and built in the 1920s, and is absolutely beautiful on the inside. At the east end of Yosemite Valley, The Ahwahnee is surrounded by many of Yosemite’s most famous icons. It is in the heart of the valley. This hotel tends to book up pretty quickly, so try to book out as far in advance as possible!

Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite: This is a Four Diamond resort just off the Wawona (South) entrance to the park. It’s a very luxurious resort, but beautiful nonetheless! You can rent a room, or even an entire cabin (fit to sleep up to 5 people or more!). There are multiple dining options as well as a spa that’s beautiful. It’s about a 45 minute drive from the valley, but definitely a great spot to check out!

AutoCamp Yosemite: The cutest camp resort in Yosemite, hands down. Custom Airstreams with spa-inspired bathrooms, modern Cabins with chic interiors and kitchens, thoughtfully designed Tents with wood burning stove, and private patios and campfires at all sites. Definitely worth checking out if you’re looking to stay in style! 

camping

Curry Village: Curry Village or Camp Curry sits in an incredible location just below Half Dome and Glacier Point and is a unique and scenic place for families visiting Yosemite National Park. They have options from camping in your own tents, to renting a tent with or without heat. They also have a cafeteria not far away that is open for lots of dining options, as well as a general store if you need something quick like sunscreen.

Bridalveil Creek Group & Horse Campground: Off the Glacier Point Road, about 8 miles east of its intersection of the Wawona Road (Highway 41), and about 45 minutes south of Yosemite Valley or 45 minutes north of Wawona, at 7,200 ft (2,200 m) elevation. Closed in the winter and spring months, but usually open in the summer to early fall months. The best place to say closest to Glacier Point - especially if you want an easy sunrise morning for a sunrise elopement. :)

Camp 4: Campsite in Yosemite Valley. First come first serve, but cheap camping prices! Campsite is near Yosemite Valley Lodge, and is open all year. Close to amenities like general store and dining options.

airbnb's

Yosemite Cabin Rentals Available: Cabins are available for rent year round, and you can check them out here or on any other Yosemite rental cabin site.

Airbnb’s in Yosemite West: My personal favorite Airbnb’s that are the closest to Yosemite Valley (and Glacier/Taft Point) are the cabins in Yosemite West! Airbnb has always been a reliable resource for me to book cabins in Yosemite. Would highly recommend checking out this area for a cabin - especially if you will have a group with you!

where to stay:

things to do:

Hiking: Yosemite has some of the most beautiful hikes in the world. One of them being the hike up from the valley to Glacier Point- a great option if the road is closed for the winter and you’d still like to have access to the points. Check out some of the hikes you can do in the valley! Some of my favorites include the hike to Artist Point, Glacier Point, and Upper Yosemite Falls.  

Horseback Riding: Available from Spring to Fall. If you’re like me and love to sight-see, and also love horseback riding, this is the one for you! 

Sightseeing: Yosemite has hands down the coolest places to see. Make sure you head out and see all that it has to offer through hikes, long drives, and more. SO many beautiful things to see, making Yosemite worth the stay for more than just a day or 2. 

Some of my favorite activities to do in yosemite:

Yosemite Village Eateries: There are lots of places to eat in the valley - you just have to know where to go! Yosemite Village has a lot of great options. Some restaurants you can check out are:








where to eat:

Degnan's Kitchen - Sandwiches, salads, pizza, breakfast, coffee, and more.

The Loft at Degnan's - BBQ chicken, wings, ribs, and more. Great lunch or dinner option!

Village Grill Deck - Burgers, sandwiches, hot dogs, and salads. Seating is outside on deck.

Village Store - General store with lots of things from groceries to meals you can cook

Yosemite Valley Lodge Eateries: The lodge has 2 places to eat:


 








The Mountain Room - A more luxurious dining option, but a nice steak dinner option

Base Camp Eatery - A food court at Yosemite Valley Lodge which includes a Starbucks coffee bar, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Curry Village Eateries: Lots of eating options for those lodging in Curry Village, near Half Dome:



Pizza Patio - A great outdoor option for some quick and delicious pizza on the patio

Coffee Corner - The place to get coffee and a quick breakfast in the morning for Curry Village. 

Curry Village Pavilion - The food court of curry village. Lots of options for dining depending on the day.

Meadow Grill - Burgers, sandwiches, salads, and other vegetarian options

let me help!

need help planning?

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not only am I a photographer, but i'm also an elopement planner!

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Marlee A.

"We loved everything about Dani! Dani is beyond talented. Her attention to detail is amazing. Her use of lighting is timeless and her attitude is full of energy. Our friends and family keep speaking about how stunning the photos are from the big day. We loved Dani’s use of non posed photos. They came out more authetic and genuine and we couldn’t be more happier. Everything about these photos speaks fairytale dream come true. Thank you so much."

Rebekah H.

"Dani is such a people person, I had no hesitation in booking her because she has such a gracious presence about her on all platforms. She does such a good job at giving you direction but not making you feel forced or awkward about it. She's genuinely there to be a friend, she was so kind to both me and my husband and I may be a little bit biased but honestly I don't think I would ever book another photographer besides her if I needed photos taken."

Bryanna C.

"Dani was more than we expected! She was so happy and very calm on our wedding day. Her passion for photography did not go unnoticed! She even came to the rehearsal to scope it out and stayed longer than she was supposed to take pictures. She got me a few pictures by the next morning which made me even more excited to see all our photos. She was always on time and took all the photos that I wanted to be taken. I highly recommend Dani and will definitely use her in the future!"