How to Elope in Yosemite National Park
The perfect spot for a hike in the woods or a climb to a mountain peak can also be the perfect spot for your wedding. Yosemite National Park’s captivating landscape offers waterfalls, mighty California trees, and snow-capped mountains. Yosemite’s inspirational scenery is a beautiful place to elope. Most of the National Parks allow elopements and ceremonies to take place within their boundaries, but many of them have rules/suggestions when it comes to getting married in their specific park.
To elope in Yosemite National Park, a special use permit must be secured first. The permit itself is $150 plus the entrance fee to the park, and the application for the permit can be found here. An additional $50 an hour may be added if your guest-count exceeds 30-50 individuals at certain sites.
The permit must be received at least 21 days before the requested elopement date, and up to a year in advance. The rangers are typically easy to get a hold of to ask questions about the permits, approved ceremony locations, approved props/décor, etc. In Yosemite there are 12 preapproved sites: Cascades Picnic Area, Lower Yosemite Fall Paved Trail, Swinging Bridge Picnic Area, Cathedral Beach Picnic Area, Sentinel Beach Picnic Area, Bridaveil Fall, Glacier Point Amphitheater, Chilnualna Falls Trailhead Parking Lot, Tenaya Lake Beach, Tuolumne Meadows Lodge Area, Big Oak Flat Area, Tuolumne Grove, and Merced Grove. Since these areas are designated and the only allowed places in the park to get married with groups over 11 people, there’s a chance that some of them are booked well in advance, so the earlier you’re able to turn in your permit, the better. Some people choose to forgo the permit, simply winging it or risking it, but I strongly advise applying for the permit. You certainly wouldn’t want to be fined or asked to leave on your wedding day because of a permit that wasn’t acquired.
Photography by Ansel Adams
Some of the common restrictions in Yosemite National Park are the types of props/décor that can be used. Dogs aren’t allowed, throwing rice/birdseed/other non-native seeds aren’t permitted, drones and balloons are prohibited, as well as, chairs, tables, and directional signs. Unique to Yosemite, standing under sequoia trees or on tree roots is not allowed. To protect the flora and fauna, baby’s breath is prohibited in flower arrangements. Other inquires about what is restricted or not, are great questions to ask a Park Ranger when you ask about your permit!
Some of the approved ceremony locations require hiking, and many of them have limited parking. Yosemite is very accommodating and offers shuttles to sites, and half the approved ceremony locations are wheelchair accessible. Big Oak Flat Area includes some steep trails, and storms might cause road closures, be sure to check Yosemite’s website for access to park locations after storms and potentially a snowfall. Tuolumne Grove has a paved two and a half mile hike, round trip, whereas Merced Grove is unpaved trail for a total of three miles there and back. For all site locations, it is recommended to conduct your ceremony before noon, as the rest of the day will be a very popular time for other park guests, so a sunrise ceremony may be more desirable. If you prefer a quiet location, a site farther away from waterfalls and swift-flowing rivers would be ideal to listen to your spoken vows. Chat with your photographer about what time and location make the most sense to you.
Here are a few things to be sure to bring with you as well:
Hiking shoes, as well as the shoes you’ll be wearing for your ceremony
Sweater/jacket – the mornings and evenings in Yosemite tend to be cool, especially if you’re eloping outside the summer season
Water/snacks, maybe some bubbly?
Any easy, cute props, like a rug/blanket to stand on
Headlamp or flashlight if you are shooting at sunset and need to hike down in the dark
If there is a chance of rain, bring a jacket and/or umbrella. KLEM Studios is all for embracing the weather and running around in the rain—it can be so dreamy! Just be sure to have a jacket or blanket along to warm up afterwards
Have a few locations in mind to take photos after the ceremony (your photographer can help you with this as well.
A Yosemite National Park elopement provides a memorable venue for one of the best days of your lives, filled with gorgeous scenery and amazing photo opportunities. Eloping in a location that can steal your heart with the person who is already sharing yours, Yosemite is perfect for the adventurous couple that wants to start their forever with an unbeatable view. There are so many more tips and tidbits that I have for couples looking to elope in Yosemite, from lodging/campground options to hike suggestions, to restaurants. I would be happy to share them with you; feel free to email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.