How to Elope in Yosemite
Yosemite has become one of the most popular spots to elope. Its unique lighting and landscapes creates a beautiful ambience to get married in. You’ve seen the drool worthy instagram posts with little people, staring over the edge of Taft Point. But how do you actually elope in Yosemite? Heres some steps you may need to take if you are planning on eloping in Yosemite!
First things first: Permits.
I know- everyone hates filling out paperwork. All National Parks require you to obtain a permit before you can elope there. Every National Park has its own website + fees to obtain the permit. Please do not skip this step! There would be nothing worse than showing up to Yosemite- dress on, makeup done, vows written- just to have a ranger tell you you cannot be there without a permit. Its a $150 one time fee to get the permit. You can apply for it up to a year in advance. It needs to be submitted at least 21 days prior to your event. Here is the direct link to the permit information https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/weddings.htm
Timing is everything.
Just because Yosemite is in California does not mean it will be sunny and warm year round. The roads up to Taft + Glacier Point often close in the winter, fall, + spring months. When I was there in May, the waterfalls were beautiful! But we also got snow that week and weren’t able to go up top to the points. Sit down with your partner and think about what weather is ideal for your day- then pick out the date that works perfectly for you.
Up, down, or all around.
Yosemite is basically the Disney World of National Parks. There are so many different places to elope! If you want to elope at a point, I highly recommend doing it at sunrise on a weekday. You’ll avoid so many crowds by doing this. I know all the photos make it look like no one is around, but so many people visit Yosemite every day and Taft + Glacier Point are some of the busiest places to go. If you’re not a sunrise kinda person, say your vows somewhere a little more intimate and then head out to the points for pictures. The Valleys are also an amazing option and there will always be less people there then there are at the points. There are a ton of different little hikes with amazing view points if you’re looking for something extremely private. Do some research and you’ll be able to find a ton of different options!
Bring your hiking gear
No matter if you’re eloping at sunrise or sunset, you’ll need a flashlight or headlamp if you’re hiking. You either won’t have light coming into the hike, or you won’t have light while you’re leaving. I also highly recommend wearing hiking boots while you walk to your spot and then changing shoes once you get there (or rocking them your whole day!). Bring plenty of water + snacks. While there are restaurants inside of the park, its smart to bring your own food because it might take a while to drive there depending on where you are in the park (And theres nothing worse than being hangry on your wedding day!).
Stay at Autocamp!
This Airstream hotel is the perfect escape to stay in while you’re in Yosemite. Its immersion in nature is the perfect place to get centered before your big day, while its amenities keep you feeling fresh. Enjoy some s’mores with your fiance around the fire, sleep in their tempurpedic mattresses, or get ready in their spa inspired bathrooms. There are plenty of hiking trails nearby and you’re only about 45 minutes to an hour from the park entrance. They even have a shuttle that will take you up to the park. Click here to learn more about Autocamp!
Grocery Shop in Mariposa
Mariposa is a small town near Yosemite that has a few grocery stores in it. Autocamp has a kitchen that you can use to cook, which will save you a ton of money in the long run (and energy- I mean who wants to go out for every meal). Even if you don’t stay at Autocamp, I recommend getting an Airbnb with a kitchen. If you’re worried about Mariposa not having everything, I recommend grocery shopping wherever you fly into or the last major city before heading in to Yosemite.
Getting to Yosemite
If you need to fly into Yosemite, Fresno is the closest airport. However, San Francisco may be the cheaper flight depending on where you’re flying from. Use Google Flights to compare different rates and see what works best for you. From there, you’ll need to get a rental car and drive in. If you’re close enough, I also recommend road tripping in. Road tripping the week before your elopement can be such a special way to create even more memories around your wedding. For my Oregon/Washington peeps, this can be such beautiful road trip full of fun pitstops! Its an 11 hour drive from Portland to get to Yosemite. If you go the most direct way, I recommend stopping in Bend and checking out Smith Rock State Park. If you have time, you can split it up so you drive down the 101- stopping at coastal towns along the way like Cape Kiwanda. Make sure you stop to take in the Redwoods at some point if you take the 101!
Stop for Pizza + Beers after your big day!
If you’re anything like me, you’ll never say no to a good slice of pizza and some beers! One of the best restaurants in the park is Half Dome village. Trust me, you’ll be hungry after everything you’ve done! Want something a little nicer? Reserve a tent at Autocamp and host a more formal dinner! Just because you’re eloping doesn’t mean you have to give up the pretty table scapes and plated dinners. Eloping just means you get to do whatever you want to do!
Get someone to officiate!
Oh yeah- you’re getting married! Don’t forget about the legal part (unless you want to!). You can either have a friend get ordained and come up there with you, or you can hire someone out. There is even a little chapel in Yosemite Valley you could go to if that is more your vibe! Another thing a lot of couples do while eloping, is signing the paperwork on another day. Its always an option to say your vows in Yosemite and sign the paperwork later. As an elopement photographer, I am ordained to marry because sometimes you just need someone to cross the T’s and dot the I’s. You’ll still need two witnesses, so you can either grab some strangers or bring just a few people with!
Consider who you want to be there. You don’t have to exclude everyone. I recommend limiting it to just parents, siblings, or your very best friends. Want it to be just the two of you? Think of ways to still include people. FaceTime friends and family while you’re getting ready, invest in a good videographer so they don’t feel like they missed anything, or throw a little party when you get back home to celebrate! To figure out whats best for the two of you, talk to your partner about how you both envision the day going and what works best for both of you.
Follow Leave No Trace Guidelines
Simply put, pack in what you pack out (and pick up trash along the way if you see any). Stay on paths and especially don’t go anywhere that says not to step on it. Usually these places are trying to regrow whats been trampled on. Its important to keep our parks usable, clean, and beautiful for others to enjoy. If you’re curious on if you should do something or not, ask a park ranger- they’ll be more than happy to help you out!
Soak it all in.
Consider journalling while in Yosemite for your elopement. The day will go so quickly and you’ll want to remember all the little details. Fill your journal with polaroids, pressed flowers, or ticket stubs. Write down everything you’re feeling and seeing. Trust me, you won’t wanna forget any of it!
But before you go, heres a little about me!
Heyo! I’m Hannah!
I’m a wedding + elopement photographer based out of Portland Oregon. I love to hike, hang out with my two cats, and drinking way too much coffee.
My love for travel brought me to photography. My favorite part of travel is the people. Connecting with others and learning their stories is the thing I’m most passionate about + photography allows me to do that.