Updated June 8th, 2019.
Are you considering a Yosemite elopement? If you are, you’ve chosen a beautiful place. Yosemite National Park sits in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. It’s famous for many things. Ancient Sequoia trees are one of them. Tunnel View is another, as visitors get to enjoy the renown vista of granite cliffs of both Half Dome and El Capitan with the towering Bridalveil Fall. Yosemite Village has lodging, shops, and restaurants. Here, you can also find the Yosemite Museum, as well as the Ansel Adams Gallery, which features prints of the famous photographer’s black-and-white landscapes from this area.
You might be wondering what time of year is best for your Yosemite elopement. That’s going to have a significant impact on how your day feels and looks. If you’re looking for a winter ceremony, then you’ll have to do something in the valley. The Glacier Point Road leading up to any lookout point gets closed down for the winter. Even in the valley, it can be freezing, and maybe even snowing. If you want road access, aim for spring, summer, or the fall. Keep in mind that the months of June, July, and August are peak times for Yosemite’s 5 million annual visitors. Even sunrise times can mean crowds. If you want natural beauty without the crowds, you can’t beat October.
Another detail about your Yosemite elopement to figure out is whether or not to do things at dawn or dusk. Both of them are gorgeous, and yet both give very different vibes. A sunrise ceremony is usually better for summer dates. You can avoid the tourists more at dawn, although not completely. You can further get away from the crowds by going up to Glacier Point or Taft Point though, as you’ll have more intimacy and silence (hopefully). The downside is that you need to get up and have make-up done really early, since you’ll need to drive up there in the dark. If you’re not a morning person, this is really a rough way to start a marriage.
Are you determined for a sunrise Yosemite elopement? Start at Glacier Point. Depending on the time of year you do it, you’ll get sunrise right over Half Dome! Once you head down into the valley, there’s going to be many places where the sun hasn’t hit yet, so there’s soft morning light left for some really great photos.
A sunset Yosemite elopement means you have the whole day to get ready, and you can get the first look down in the beauty of the valley, followed by portraits. You can then follow with a ceremony at a lookout and then sunset photos practically anywhere. The downside is that there are going to be lots of people. If you’re going to do it, go for Taft Point. This ending point means some epic sunset pictures, and the lookout area is also big enough that you should be able to discover your own space even if many others are out there.
Taft Point does require a word of warning. It’s dangerous if you’re not being safe, and a few people have actually fallen to their deaths there. You can get great cliff photos even 10 to 15 back from the edge, so maintain a safe space. Only use a photographer that knows what they’re doing. If you’re doing any long-distance shots, take radios for communication. Cell phone coverage is intermittent, so don’t rely on them.
Glacier Point is great because you’re just able to roll up, park your vehicle, and walk 150 feet to get the super-scenic canyon view. It’s really popular all day long, especially at sunrise and sunset. The altitude is about 8,000 feet, so mid-day photos might need some good lighting given the hard shadows and facial lighting.
You can also walk a bit farther down to the real end of the trail that is paved for another canyon view. Here, you’ll see Half Dome once more, and it might even feel closer given how there’s another cliff.
Half Dome is definitely a trophy hike if you want an adventure wedding. It’s 16 miles round trip, full of epic views, and a frequent item on bucket lists. However, you need a permit for it nowadays. Nearby Taft Point hiking is a lot easier, and the views are quite similar.
You don’t have to do your Yosemite elopement outdoors, though. Yosemite Valley has a chapel. It’s as iconic as it is historic. It’s typical for someone to get married there without having to worry about the traffic nearby. It’s also great for winter winter weddings.
Need a place to stay? The Majestic Yosemite Hotel is one of the most luxurious accommodations in Yosemite Valley. The lawn, as well as the east portico both, are common spots to get married with epic views around you. It used to be known as the Ahwahnee Hotel before a name change, but the rooms are still awesome, and the dining is still delicious.
Evergreen Lodge is certainly a woodsy spot, but the gorgeous rustic cabins make you feel like you’re in some kind of secluded village. It’s just a bit outside the actual park entrance, but it’s a full-service wedding venue that has all you need, including a pretty ceremony site and reception area. Given the tall trees surrounding it, it’s quite romantic, and it shields you from tourists and the noise. Given the proximity to the entrance, everyone can still get into the actual park quite easily to see all the sights and get great photos, as the falls are not to be missed.
There’s no place on Earth like Yosemite, but getting here can take a bit of work. If you’re flying in, you might want to look at San Francisco for flights. The closest big city is Fresno, but the airport isn’t that major. In fact, the Interstate system doesn’t really come through here either. Still, it’s only a few hours out of the Bay Area, which can make for a great honeymoon.