Yosemite Elopement: A Complete Guide

Sometimes, words hardly seem enough to capture how love feels. When looking at your loved one steals the sounds out of your mouth and being with them makes your breath feel heavy and short at the same time – you might wonder how to express those overwhelming emotions.

Within Yosemite’s drenching mists and subalpine wilderness, your Yosemite elopement is the perfect statement! The sight of the skyscraping, jewel-toned Yosemite Valley leaves you in awe; just like the love you’re celebrating.

Eloping in Yosemite is for the romantic and adventurous, thanks to both landscapes and varied outdoor activities. Read on as I outline the limitless possibilities at Yosemite!

bride and groom elope at Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park

What Makes Yosemite Special?

Set within the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, Yosemite National Park was first declared a public trust in 1800s. 1,500 acres of wilderness give new meaning to the word ‘freedom’, spoiling us with granite cliffs, ancient Sequoia groves, ever-changing landscapes and unfettered views of the skies.

Its deep valleys seem almost endless, like a magical portal! The sheer scale and depth of this national park never fails to inspire awe. Standing inside, you often feel like the tiniest ant in a HUGE universe!

It is no wonder that Yosemite has become a top five elopement destination for many couples who seek both adventure and intimacy.

Tip: In order to enter Yosemite during 2022 peak season and hours you’ll need to get a reservation. This is in addition to the typical park entrance fee. This starts May 20 through September 30, 2022. You can find all the information regarding reservations here.

Where to Elope in Yosemite

Generally, your ceremony and portraits can take place in any nook and cranny, but only if the wedding party is fewer than 11 people. Open meadows and riparian environments are off limits!

Read more about Yosemite’s policies here.

Yosemite Valley

Open all year round, Yosemite Valley is the crème of the crop when it comes to elopement ceremony locations!

  • El Capitan

El Capitan may not be the explosive, deep-seated awe that Glacier and Taft evokes, but the tranquil atmosphere makes you feel warm in the best way. Soft meadows, beautiful trees and waterfalls make for a fairy tale-like setting, while the towering granite gives it the needed drama. There’s nothing like this Yosemite elopement location to capture those ‘us in the big wide world’ vibes.

  • Yosemite Falls

The roar of Yosemite Falls may drown out the hollers of any friends and family you bring along, but not enough to mute those vows. Alpine trees shoot up as high as those white cliffs but the paved roads and stone barriers give this location a ‘rustic lodge’ charm. Located right next to Yosemite Valley Lodge, it’s an extremely popular elopement spot in Yosemite due to accessibility. Book early!

  • Bridalveil Falls

Speaking of thundering waterfalls, Bridalveil Falls is yet another Yosemite icon. Rainbows are frequently spotted thanks to the misty air, and the woodsy copse below the falls offers intimate photos.

The fall does dry up by mid-summer, so a spring elopement ceremony would be best here.

  • Tunnel View

Like a viewfinder positioned just right, Tunnel View is one of the most stunning elopement spots in Yosemite! I love that all elements are present: the rich valley below, rocky edges for you to pose on, El Capitan and Half Dome spread out before you. You can even hear Bridalveil Falls gushing on the right!

It is a very popular spot so be prepared to arrive early.

  • Cook’s Meadow Loop

Hidden in plain sight, Cook’s Meadow Loop is a Yosemite gem! Flat grounds make it easy to access; the trail is open year round. There are plenty of photo opportunities as Half Dome, Glacier Point and Sentinel Rock are spotted along the way!

Your elopement location would be furthest from boring too. Large rock formations and sky-high mountains frame the place you’ll be exchanging your vows, making it an intimate and secure location.

  • Yosemite Chapel

If you appreciate a taste of traditional, Yosemite Chapel is the perfect elopement location. The dark browns of the exterior and its single spire is set within dark green canopies, further shielded by the cliff behind it. It’s also open to larger wedding parties for convenience.

  • Half Dome

Wishing for a marriage full of adventure? Start with the trophy hike up to Half Dome, a striking 16-mile round trip – including climbing a steep rock face! Not many attempt it for an elopement ceremony but the results are worth it. Imagine standing on jutting rock cropping with the brown and grey-hued range around you; absolutely breathtaking.

Glacier Point Road

Closing late fall, the elopement sites along Glacier Point Road are nonetheless extremely popular choices for summer weddings. Try going earlier in the day or risk sharing the space with 9 other couples!

  • Glacier Point

At 8000 feet, Glacier Point offers some of the most epic views over Yosemite National Park! Best of all, these scenic canyon panoramas are just steps away from the parking lot. Catch the sun rising over Half Dome before walking down the paved trail; the 4-mile Panorama Trail also yields stunning photos of the valley.

  • Taft Point

Many prefer the hike to Taft Point over Half Dome as the views are equally amazing. The trek itself brings you through a magical forestscape, which opens up to clifftop photo spots.

You do have to be careful here as people have fallen to their deaths off the edge. I recommend taking photos away from the edge (you can still capture the sheer scale of Yosemite, no worries), and two-way radios are a must for additional security.

  • Sentinel Dome

Sharing the same parking lot as Taft Point, Sentinel Dome is another hike-to trip. Honestly, I find Sentinel Dome offers some of the moodiest, most romantic lighting for both sunrise and sunset shoots. It is 360-degree views up top and the trail is easy to navigate, even in your wedding best!

Wawona/Mariposa Grove

  • Wawona Meadow Loop

Quiet Wawona is all about the woods and meandering creeks. For a picturesque and cozy ceremony, I suggest taking the Wawona Meadow Loop. It’s a simple trail that offers views across the Wawona Basin, filled with wildflowers and lush grass. If you like country charms, this is it!

  • Mariposa Grove

The amazing site of Giant Sequoias is a highlight of Yosemite – and a lovely spot for your elopement ceremony. These centuries-old giants stand witness to your vows; make sure you respect them too. While we won’t be allowed to stand on Sequoia roots or near the tree bases due to how fragile they are, there’s plenty of space along the foot paths.

  • Chilnualna Falls

Pass the gentler cascades along Chilnualna Creek and make your way past at least 5 waterfalls before reaching the final stop: 180 feet-tall Chilnualna Falls. Unlike the other popular waterfall locations, Chilnualna opens up to the skies with moderately-high cliffs. The path is rocky, dusty, and everything an adventurous spirit seeks!

Yosemite High Country

  • Tuolumne Meadows

Peaking at an elevation of 8,600 feet, Tuolumne Meadows is literally, breath-stealing. The beautiful spread of meadow glows under the sunlight; think Sound of Music Vibes but a little more travelled. Spacious copses of trees, mountain ranges, winding paths and hushing rivers gift you with some of the best backdrops in Yosemite for elopements.

  • Tenaya Lake

Seeking a more elegant, gentle setting for your Yosemite elopement? Tenaya Lake lists among the most beautiful you’ll ever see, with a backdrop of granite promontories for those wedding photos. You can also throw off the wedding gear and hop into the lake for a delightful float, or simply relax on the beach with a cocktail. Go from ceremony, straight to your honeymoon!

Hetch Hetchy

For a less common elopement experience, hop over to Hetch Hetchy instead. This reservoir area is less travelled but carries the same stunning views throughout the park. It’s a great alternative for couples who like hiking.

Crane Flat/White Wolf

Plenty of trailheads can be found in the Crane Flat and White Wolf areas. I definitely recommend one of the short hiking paths in these areas for a dreamy, woodsy elopement.

  • Merced Grove

One of Yosemite’s three sequoia groves, Merced Grove is the smallest and most secluded of them all. The darker woods here sit in a tightknit weave – they’re like secret witnesses to your happiest moments. In spring, keep an eye out for the dogwoods! Their blossoms add a soft touch to the photos.

  • Lukens Lake Trail

The path is wet and muddy until August, but if you’re down to earth (hah!), the trail will be up your alley! What I love about this trail is how vibrant and alive the woods are; you’ll be led through a mixed conifer forest, which eventually opens up to a small mountain lake. There, shooting stars and other wildflowers color things up!

  • May Lake

Why not combine your elopement ceremony and honeymoon? May Lake features some stellar backdrops for both ceremony and photo, but what makes it stand out are the tent cabins for rent. It’s a much-loved spot for backpackers due to the High Sierra setting, and Mount Hoffman is within eye’s reach.

Ultimately, it’s all up to what you’re looking for!

Bride and groom enjoy lower yosemite falls

Yosemite Ceremony Locations

The designated wedding ceremony locations really only apply if your wedding party is more than 11 people. You can read more about them on the National Park website!

In order to have your ceremony inside Yosemite, you’ll need to apply for a permit regardless of your group size. The cost for the special use permit is $150.

To summarize the 13 locations for you:

Yosemite Valley

  • The Cascades Picnic Area
  • Lower Yosemite Fall
  • Swinging Bridge Picnic Area
  • Cathedral Beach Picnic Area
  • Sentinel Beach Picnic Area
  • Bridalveil Fall (closed through fall 2022)

Wawona

  • Glacier Point Amphitheater
  • Chilnualna Falls Trailhead Parking Lot

Tuolumne Meadows

While you’re not permitted to host weddings within the meadows, there are a few suitable areas such as:

  • Tenaya Lake Beach
  • Tuolumne Meadows Lodge Area

Big Oak Flat Area

  • Tuolumne Grove
  • Merced Grove

Glacier Point Road

Unfortunately, Glacier Point Road is closed to traffic in 2022! This means access to wedding sites is only available via long, strenuous hikes.

Tip: Keep in mind that since these sites are dedicated elopement locations, they may be less private than you hope. Your ceremony permit won’t restrict other park visitors from your chosen area, so try schedule your ceremony for earlier or later in the day.

adventurous couple says vows at Taft Point in Yosemite National Park

Fun Things to Do for your Yosemite Elopement

Honestly, Yosemite is stunning everywhere! The varied landscape plays into your favor as there are plenty of fun things to do for your Yosemite elopement.

  • Bike rides

Trade your car for bikes instead, whipping down the long pavements with the wind in your hair! Bike rides are a great way to sightsee as you can stop off anywhere. Apart from regular roads, you can ride on 12 miles of paved bike paths through Yosemite Valley.

  • Hiking

You bet Yosemite is full of splendid hiking trails! From gushing waterfalls to placid lakes, alpine forests to soft meadows; Yosemite’s hiking brings you every piece of nature. Some favorites include the Mist Trail, Lower Yosemite Fall Loop, Panorama Trail and Wild Pacific Crest Trail.

  • Rafting

Spring and early summer gifts you with an exciting sport: rafting! Opt between the smoother ride through Yosemite Valley and the rougher waters around Merced River. Either way, you’ll have a blast.

  • Walk among the sequoias

These massive, ancient giants are must-sees when visiting Yosemite. Boardwalks take you through Mariposa Grove, the largest of three. Try to see the tree tops!

  • Horseback rides

Say yes to horseback riding at Yosemite to see it all, off your feet. Various trails take you through Wawona’s thick pine forests while Mariposa offers up its great sequoias.

  • Camping

Why not turn your elopement into a 2-day adventure? Sleep under the stars for a night (or two) as the universe shines away from light pollution. Not only can you take pictures of the starry sky, the vastness of space makes you feel all the smaller – perfect set-up for a cuddle.

  • Rock climbing

Extreme landscapes call for extreme sports! Test your rock climbing skills against the might of the stalwart El Capitan, or the polished Half Dome. Beginner rock climbing classes are also available at more comfortable heights.

  • Delve into history

There’s more history in Yosemite than one expects! Once the wild, wild West, Yosemite housed Native American inhabitants then witnessed the California Gold Rush. Step into the Pioneer Yosemite History Center or embark on the John Muir Hiking Trail. Nearby is the California State Mining and Mineral Museum where a 13.8-pound gold nugget rests!

Bridal Veil Falls in Yosemite National Park

When to Elope in Yosemite

Every season in Yosemite brings unique sights and backdrops – you can’t really go wrong with any destination wedding plans here! That said; weather changes will affect certain locations as some areas close off due to snowfall.

Spring

Wildflowers heaven and prime waterfall season, spring in Yosemite is one of my favorite times of the year! With snow having just melted and pops of color springing out everywhere, it really feels like you’re stepping into something new. It’s a fitting season for elopements (and the right temperature for hiking in those wedding layers too)!

Summer

Summer sees a huge influx of visitors as the woods, the meadows, the lakes and beaches come alive under the sun. With plenty of activities to do, summer elopements are made for couples who love the outdoors. On the flip side, the heat and crowd combo may not be the quiet ceremony you were looking for. In my opinion, shoulder seasons fair better.

Fall

Fall foliage is always a yes for any photographer! The layered oranges and yellows, the crunch of fallen leaves, the rustic and nostalgic vibe… what better season to celebrate your love? October is one of Yosemite’s best months to visit as the valley becomes magical. You’ll also want to avoid road closures starting in November.

Winter

Winter weddings at Yosemite Valley are a sight to behold! Expect snow and winter wonderland vibes and better yet – the park to yourself. Since many popular locations such as Glacier and Taft Point are closed, the number of visitors peters out. This means intimacy and privacy become the theme of elopements.

Yosemite elopement

Sunrise V.S Sunset Yosemite Elopement

After picking the time of the year, it’s time to decide whether you want a sunrise or sunset elopement at Yosemite! The lighting makes drastic changes to the landscape and the mood of your photos. But don’t worry; I can walk you through the specifics so that we capture the exact tone you’re looking for!

Typically, sunrise evokes a very gentle, ethereal feel. On the practical side of things, sunrise elopements are better in the hotter months since you’ll beat the heat and avoid the crowds. The caveat of course, is that you have to wake up EXTRA early! Apart from hair and makeup, you also have to allocate time for travel, especially if your ceremony location requires a hike.

For a moodier setting, sunset elopements are often preferred. Certain locations such as Taft Point also photograph better at sunset; I’d happily discuss which periods of the day work best at which location. Most importantly, sunset elopements allow couples more time to get ready and explore the area. If you want to take photos in a variety of locations or take on a longer hike, this may be the better arrangement for you.

Yosemite Elopement Photographer

I would be so stoked to help you create your dream elopement in Yosemite National Park! I’m here to guide you through the whole process and keep it fun and easy for you – cause, ya know, that’s how it should be! 🙂 You can contact me >HERE< and I can’t wait to get to know you!

A Complete Guide for Eloping in Yosemite

Check out these related blogs!

Glacier National Park Elopement Guide

How to Elope in Olympic National Park

How to Make Your Elopement Special

11 Most Common Questions About Eloping Answered!

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Courtney made the process SO easy! She does more than just photograph your day. She cares about you having the BEST elopement experience possible! I'll never be able to thank Courtney enough for making our dream day happen!

Contact me about your Elopement!

You probably have a million thoughts running through your head making you a bit overwhelmed.

How does this work? What can I do during my elopement? How do I choose my location? Is the ceremony legal? Can I elope with family?

One of the reasons you're probably eloping is because you want to have a stress-free day, but with so much uncertainty on how to plan an elopement how is it even possible?!

No need to stress, you're in the right place! This is where I come in and do the heavy lifting for you.

I'm Courtney, and I specialize in documenting adventurous elopements for couples who love the outdoors, but role is so much more than just an elopement photographer.

I'm here to guide you through every single step of planning your elopement and to give you a clear path tossing that stress out the window!

So, if you're ready to have a unique elopement experience that's actually focused on you, then let's friggin' do this!!


You know you want to elope,

and you know you want it to be meaningful and adventurous, but where do you start?!

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Courtney has a very warm and bubbly personality that shows through her work! She made my husband and I feel SO comfortable throughout the whole day.

We were very confused on how to start planning our adventure and she was there to answer a lot of our questions in the beginning and honestly with a very short time frame! We planned and got married in 6 weeks, because we knew we really wanted her there for our day and that is what she had available! It was a challenge well accepted for all three of us.

Our day was perfect. She captured our true essence of love and laughter and each photo shows it. There weren't very many set up photos unless we asked for them. She just gets you in the moment!

You can absolutely tell that Courtney loves what she does and wants your day to be perfect. She listens to you and really tries to understand you as a couple first and then uses that within her photography skills.

If you are looking for an adventure/elopement photographer I would highly suggest Courtney Lynn. We will be looking at and reliving our elopement forever thanks to her amazing photos. You won't be disappointed!

Amber & Ryan

Courtney was so helpful during the whole process! She helped put together a wonderful day!  She really wanted to make sure our wedding was just right for us. She made our elopement perfectly formulated for us, and I can't think of a more beautiful day!

One of our concerns going into an elopement was wanting to have pictures that let us remember the entire day. Courtney was there from start to finish and captured the whole day! Because of her outstanding work, we can share it with our loved ones, and they can experience the event almost as if they were there. We also really appreciated that she captured genuine moments between us instead of making it a photoshoot.

It felt like we were hanging out with a friend, and we think that helped us enjoy our day to the fullest.
If your dream wedding is an adventurous elopement day, I couldn't recommend Courtney more. She went above and beyond and was such a joy to work with throughout this whole experience.

She made us feel at ease and relaxed. Some wedding photographers are all about capturing posed moments that can be really awkward; that's NOT Courtney's style at all. Not only was she down to do whatever we wanted and go on little side adventures, but she made us feel comfortable.

She captured our true personalities and who we are as a couple! When looking at our gallery, our love for each other and our personalities can be seen in each image! She is extremely talented and did a phenomenal job of capturing the beauty of our wedding location. If you hire her, you will not regret it!

Sadye & Matthew

We are SO happy we decided to go with Courtney for our wedding photos! Originally we were supposed to elope in Italy, and she helped a TON with planning things like travel and what our day was going to look like.

Then the pandemic hit and we realized we probably weren't going to be able to go to Italy. So, we decided to change locations to Glacier!

She made it super easy and stress free, and helped plan what our new day in Glacier was going to look like!

Courtney was super easy to spend the entire day with, very friendly and fun to talk to! Even though our day didn't go exactly how we planned due to the weather, we all just went with the flow of it and it still turned out to be an amazing day!

If you're in doubt, just hire her!! You won't regret it one bit and you will get so many incredible photos to look back on your day!!

robbie & Aryton

When my now husband and I started planning our elopement, we were confused to the max. We didn’t know where to start or how to go about planning anything. We knew we wanted to get married in Ireland, but had too many options on exactly where. After doing some research of elopements, I was scrolling on Pinterest and came across some BEAUTIFUL photos taken by Courtney!

Courtney  made the process so easy! She is organized, professional, sweet, and so so funny!! Courtney does more than just photograph your day, she cares about you having the BEST day! She helped us plan EVERYTHING! Even down to the little details, like what type of shoes to wear! She helped us narrow down where, giving us her informative opinions on each of our options! She gave us cool ideas that we could incorporate into our special day. No idea was too big! When the day came, we had the absolute best time exploring and getting married! After we exchanged our vows, we went to celebrate at a local pub (Courtney’s idea ;) ). It was a blast!!

Our elopement was an absolute DREAM COME TRUE! I will never be able to thank Courtney enough for making it happen. So for anyone on the fence, swaying back and forth about whether or not work with Courtney on your big day, SWAY NO MORE! You’ve found your person!! My day couldn’t have been any better and my pictures are beautiful and capture the fun we had!!! I can’t wait to work with her again!

Taylor & andrew

"Planning for our day and the day itself would have been completely different without Courtney. We only knew that we wanted to share our vows in the Tuscan countryside and have beautiful photos, and Courtney planned the perfect agenda for that to happen.

She coordinated our timing around sunset, and not only were the photos breathtaking, but the actual evening was too. I remember looking out over the vineyards as the sun set, the view becoming more and more stunning by the minute. There were no moments that felt forced or posed, every shot was comfortable and fun and full of love.

Courtney is such a sweet, kind, fun person and we truly enjoyed spending the day with her. Courtney helped us to turn our dreams into reality, and we hardly had to do a thing. She allowed us to be in control of our day but gently took all of our wants and needs into consideration while making everything happen. Lastly, our pictures are just magical. Courtney is an incredibly talented photographer, and I feel so lucky that we were able to work with her. I would recommend her over and over again to anyone eloping."

Ellie & Zac

"Let. Me. Tell. You. It's not the technical aspects of photography that are the most difficult. It's the human aspect. Remembering that as a Photographer, you may be behind the lens but you are still a human, in front of other humans, in some of the most raw and intimate of moments.

Courtney balances both of these necessities (but rarities) with poise, great direction, and an overall kind calmness that just makes you breathe a sigh of relief. If you've come across Courtney's page and see what you like already, BOOK HER NOW. Don't spend another second looking for another Photographer that doesn't bring anywhere near the amazing light and spirit that this girl brings right here. Thank you again Courtney for allowing my husband and I to marry each other all over again! The images are stunning and I can't wait to blow them up and hang them in our home."

Shannon & Brandon

"Working with Courtney was an extremely easy experience, seamless, positive and obviously fun. My wife and I went on our honeymoon and wanted to surprise her with a surprise honeymoon adventure session.

Courtney worked with me to make that dream gift for my wife a reality. Meeting and posing for a photographer for the first time can be intimidating, but with Courtney it was anything but that.

Courtney is extremely positive and helpful and made us feel very comfortable in front of the camera. She played some of our favorite songs and before we knew we were just having fun and she was catching them every second. Perhaps the best part of our session was that Courtney knew all the characteristic and peaceful places of where we were, which made our photos even more extraordinary.

She kept the focus on my wife and me. When we shared our images with friends and relatives, everyone complimented on Courtney's aesthetics and the emotion she was able to capture. I can't thank Courtney enough for exceeding all our expectations with this photo shoot!!"

NINA & JASON

"Pick her -- she's the best! Courtney is amazing! Seriously! If you're thinking about eloping you should snatch her up to capture your day. She makes the entire experience fun and relaxed plus the pictures just blew us away. I will never forget our magical time in Venice and I'm obsessed with the gorgeous photos Courtney took of us. She's so so good!"

Jami & Tim

Courtney is not only a talented photographer, but she makes you feel so comfortable even though being in front of the camera can be nerve-wracking! She did such an amazing job with our day and if I had to pick my favorite photo it would take FOREVER, because I love so many! Definitely consider her if you want adventurous and beautiful photos coupled with an amazing experience!

walker & mac
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Don't take it from me,
Take it from my past couples!

You’re in the right place!

I’m here to guide you through EVERY. SINGLE. STEP.

Let’s toss that’s confusion out the window and focus on how you want to get married!

Let me relieve those feelings of being lost, save you time, tell the story of your day and let’s get started creating a day that you’ll never forget!

So, if you know you want to elope,
but feel unsure on where to start, 

contact me & let's get starting creating your dream elopement!

...and you want an amazing storyteller to document your day

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