Post Summary: Yosemite National Park is one of the TOP elopement destinations in the entire country – and for good reason! In this guide, I’ll be giving you the 20 best places to elope in Yosemite National Park, from lower meadows to epic viewpoints to redwood groves. This park truly has it all, and you deserve to know all your options!
Disclaimer: I don't have my own photographs from every location on this list, so the images under a certain location aren't always of that specific location! Refer to the clickable link on each location title for images of that place.
Yosemite Wedding Permits
If you plan to elope in Yosemite National Park, you will need a special use permit, which costs $150. Whether you’re having an official ceremony or you’re just taking wedding photos, this permit will be required. You can apply for this permit up to one year in advance and no more than 21 days prior to your elopement.
Note that wedding groups of 11 or fewer people are not restricted to Yosemite’s list of designated ceremony locations. If you’ve got more than 11 people total (including both of you, your guests, & your vendors that are present), you’ll need to choose one of the below locations for your official ceremony! Then, you can take wedding photos at the rest of the locations once the official part is over.
Designated ceremony locations for more than 11 people:
- Cascades Picnic Area
- Lower Yosemite Fall Paved Trail
- Swinging Bridge Picnic Area
- Cathedral Beach Picnic Area
- Sentinel Beach Picnic Area
- Bridalveil Fall
- Glacier Point Amphitheater
- Chilnualna Falls Trailhead Parking Lot
- Tenaya Lake Beach
- Tuolumne Meadows Lodge Area
- Tuolumne Grove
- Merced Grove
20 Best Places to Elope at Yosemite
Let’s dive into the 20 best places to elope in the park, some that will be available for your actual ceremony, & some that will just be available for epic Yosemite wedding photos!!
We’ll start off with some of the more popular locations in the park, but keep in mind that these are all popular for a reason and can get insanely crowded. I’d recommend visiting these locations at sunrise or during a less-busy time of year in order to enjoy the most intimate setting possible!
1. Taft Point
Taft Point is ideal for sunset. The hike to the top is just a short uphill walk through a lush, green forest that opens up to a viewpoint of the Yosemite Valley. Here you will have your breath taken away by an overlook of the sheer, massive granite walls the valley is made out of, dipped in golden sunlight as the sun sets. It’s about a 15-25 minute walk from the parking lot and open usually from late May through October or November. This lookout is CLOSED in winter. I recommend eloping here on a weekday and to make sure to bring headlamps / flashlights for when it gets dark!
[Glacier Point Road will be closed to all traffic in 2022 to rehabilitate and improve the road. During this time, there will be no vehicle access to wedding sites; the only access will be via a long, strenuous hike.]
Glacier Point is often considered one of the most gorgeous places in Yosemite which is no surprise as it offers insanely majestic views of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls and Yosemite’s high country. It’s just a short walk up a paved trail to the main viewpoint which is great for family member accessibility. It’s also the perfect location for a sunrise elopement! Although it can get pretty crowded up here in the summer. The head of the trail is accessible by car usually from late May through October or November depending on the weather and how soon winter hits. Once it does, this lookout is CLOSED for the winter. I recommend eloping on a weekday and in the late summer / early fall.
3. Tunnel View
This location is a classic favorite for many reasons! It’s one of the most famous, iconic, dramatic and most photographed landmarks in the whole park due to its expansive views of El Capitan, Half Dome, Three Brothers and Bridalveil Falls and on the way from Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point, which means it can have a tendency to attract a lot of tourists. But it also holds so many unique, hidden locations within it and away from all the hustle and bustle of others, which is why it’s one of my favorite spots. Unlike Glacier Point and Taft Point which closes once winter hits, Tunnel View is accessible by car year-round.
4. Artist Point
This location has a similar view to Tunnel View but it's significantly more private! I recommend trying to come here at sunrise instead of sunset, because the sunrise will light up the valley just over Half Dome and will give you the most gorgeous light ever! The trail isn't very long either, which is a plus, however it can be a bit slippery from the melting snow in the early spring / winter months. This trail also has the potential to be closed due to snow, fires or other weather concerns so keep an eye out for this.
This little meadow is smack in the middle of Yosemite Valley with a stunning view of El Capitan in the background. Depending on which view you want, El Capitan will be best visited in the morning (it’s too bright in the afternoon) or Cathedral Rocks which will be best visited in the morning or right before sunset. I highly recommend visiting this spot in late summer - fall. It’s also accessible by car year-round!
6. Valley View
This spot is INSANELY gorgeous and often overlooked because it can be easy to miss. You pull off onto the side of the road into a super small parking lot (there’s less than 10 spots) and walk out to a little river that will give you the most perfect jaw-dropping reflection of Half Dome and El Capitan.
This spot is stunning! It’s a bit of a drive but it’s so worth it! You get two giant fields to choose from and it's super easy to get to if you're trying to find somewhere in the valley to stay. During the summer though, it can sometimes be hard to find parking and isn't always the most private due to its proximity to Curry Village.
8. Tenaya Lake
Betcha didn't think Yosemite had a lake didja?! Honestly though, Yosemite's got it all and Tenaya Lake is no exception. This beautiful alpine lake is tucked away along Tioga Road which takes you from Yosemite Valley through the Sierra Nevadas and into the end of the Mammoth area. It's about 50-60 minutes from the valley area, but insanely beautiful and crystal clear, especially in the mornings. I definitely recommend sunrise here, but just make sure to check with the park first as it's often closed completely between November through May depending on the weather.
Who says you can’t have a church wedding AND a national park wedding at the same time?! The Yosemite Chapel is located in Yosemite Valley, and is actually the oldest structure in the whole valley. It’s a beautiful little building that you can visit and host your wedding at - or you can just take some gorgeous wedding portraits in front of if you just want some traditional portraits with church vibes.
10. Sentinel Dome
This is an absolutely epic spot to hike to if you’re looking for miles and miles of 360-degree views of Yosemite Valley! The hike up to Sentinel Dome is just over 2 miles long and takes 1-2 hours to complete, and is SO worth the final steep stretch up to the dome. You’ll be able to see the valley, the Merced River Canyon, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, and sooo much more. It gets fairly crowded, but definitely less than the most popular places like Glacier Point, and the amazing west-facing views mean the sunsets are top-notch!
11. Bridalveil Fall
No, I’m not talking about the Bridal Veil Falls that sits along the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon – I’m talking about the STUNNING Bridalveil Fall that you can see from Tunnel View in Yosemite! The hike to Bridalveil Fall is pretty short & easy, at just 1.2 miles roundtrip and only 200 feet of elevation gain. After just 15 minutes of hiking you’ll see gorgeous views of Bridalveil, most likely alongside many other visitors who had the same idea – this is definitely a spot to try and visit during less-crowded times of the day/week/year!
12. Yosemite Falls
Yes, Yosemite has MORE amazing waterfalls!! Yosemite Falls (creatively named, right?) is actually made up of three different falls (upper, middle, & lower) and can be seen from multiple areas of the park. You can hike to the top of the falls but it’ll take ya at least 8 hours and is super strenuous – so I’d recommend taking in the amazing views from the base of the falls instead! Talk about a stunning spot for some magical waterfall wedding photos?!
Less Busy Locations
Now for some less busy locations in the park, since we can’t always avoid crowds unfortunately!
Tuolumne Meadows Lodge is a lodge right next to the Tuolumne River and is definitely a great place to stay during your time in the park, but is also located in a great area that’s usually not as crowded. Fun fact – it’s actually one of the largest high-elevation meadows in the Sierra Nevada range! The subalpine meadow makes for an AMAZING spot for wedding portraits because you get views of the majestic peaks & domes of Yosemite, and you can also take time to drive along the scenic Tioga Road + pull off at a turnout to get amazing vista views. Keep in mind that Tioga Road closes down in the winter & usually opens back up around May or June!
This is one of my favorite less busy spots in Yosemite and is totally underrated, in my opinion. The Cascades Picnic Area, located just a few miles past the El Portal park entrance, gives you a beautiful spot to have a more intimate gathering surrounded by trees & next to the Merced River. Plus, there are picnic tables and grills here that you can use to make a yummy meal and sit down for a while with your loved ones!
15. Washburn Point
This is another absolutely unreal location that’s super easy to get to - literally just drive down Glacier Road, round the corner, park, & walk down 20 stairs and you’re met with epic views of Half Dome. It’s one of the easiest ways to experience the incredible views of the park and if you get there at the right time, it won’t be quite as crowded as other spots with similar views!
16. Mariposa Grove
If you’ve been dreaming of eloping in the California redwoods but also want to experience the views of Yosemite, then the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is the place for you!! The Mariposa Grove, located in the southern part of Yosemite, is the biggest sequoia grove in the park & allows you to experience the massive sequoia trees of California while staying close to other popular viewpoints. There are multiple trails you can follow through the grove, from quick 0.3-mile walks to 7-mile roundtrip hikes, so this is a great place for your friends + fam to tag along to!
17. Cathedral Beach
Another less-crowded picnic area comin’ atcha! The Cathedral Beach Picnic Area is a quiet spot along the Merced River with gorgeous views of Yosemite, plus picnic tables & grills as well. It would be perfect for an intimate ceremony with a few guests if you don’t want to bring everyone up on a hike with you – celebrate with them at this easy-access spot with a picnic lunch, then head off for a hike with just the two of you to get an epic sunset!
18. Merced Grove
That’s right, Yosemite has yet ANOTHER grove of giant sequoias!! Merced Grove is the smallest of the three located in Yosemite National Park, but it’s the least crowded because of that. So if you want to explore the redwoods a bit but not necessarily be bombarded by other visitors, this is definitelyyy a location you’ll want to consider. The trees look absolutely beautiful from sunrise to sunset, so you can visit at any time of day – just plan accordingly to complete the 3-mile hike in time for sunset if you don’t want to be hiking back in the dark!
Can you tell yet that Yosemite has a ton of picnic areas that are great to incorporate into part of your elopement day? The Swinging Bridge Picnic Area (named after the bridge that doesn’t actually swing anymore) gives you a small look at Yosemite Falls in the distance, and you can see the epic cliffs that Yosemite is famous for. It’s located a few miles east of Bridalveil Fall on Southside Drive and has got picnic tables for you to chill + eat at on your elopement day, plus peaceful meadows nearby for you to walk through!
20. Columbia Rock
Yosemite Hikes hilariously says that “Columbia Rock is the free trial version of the Upper Yosemite Falls trail” – and that couldn’t be more accurate! The 3-mile long trail takes you up to Columbia Rock, a viewpoint part way up the Upper Yosemite Falls trail. You’ll get freaking stunning views of Half Dome without having to go ALL the way up that trail, and it should only take you between 1.5-2.5 hours to complete. Meaning this is a great hike for couples looking for an elopement day adventure with potentially less crowds + a third of the work you’d need to put in to go all the way up the Upper Yosemite Falls trail!
Yosemite Elopement Packages
Elopement Packages and Pricing for California
- 7 hours – 3 days of elopement photography coverage anywhere in California
- Your own personal elopement guide & consultant
- Unique and personalized location scouting
- vendor recommendations
- permit and marriage license assistance
- hand-crafted elopement timeline
- Created just-for-you activity list
- Unlimited guides and resources
- 100+ page How to Elope Guidebook
- Optional complimentary officiant service
- Digital online gallery with full resolution image and printing rights
- Sneak peak images within 1 week
- Photographer travel fees covered anywhere in California
Starting at $6,500
Because there is SO much important info to know about eloping in Yosemite National Park once you choose your location, I’ve put together an entire separate guide dedicated to How to Elope in Yosemite National Park!! This guide takes you through everything you’ll need to know about planning a Yosemite elopement, from permits to the best time of day to elope to where to stay nearby & so much more. Head over to that guide here if you know that Yosemite is your perfect elopement destination!
If you’re still not quite sure where in California you want to elope + are still considering other locations besides Yosemite, you’re in luck - I’ve ALSO got an entire blog post featuring the 25 Best Places to Elope in California in 2022!
Aaaand finally, if you know you want to elope in NORTHERN California but haven’t nailed down your location or other elopement deets, you’ll want to hop on over to my guide to How to Elope in Northern California.
Did I tell you I was an expert Yosemite elopement photographer + California elopement photographer or what?! 😉
PIN FOR LATER
In order to make your dream elopement day happen, it's super important that we connect and that you feel comfortable with me! The best way to do this is to reach out and schedule a call so you can learn more about me and I can learn about you two so i can document what's real + the most important to you.