The ultimate guide to eloping in yosemite national park

So You're Interested in Getting Married in Yosemite?

You are in for an amazing adventure! Yosemite National Park is a breathtaking location for anyone looking for a romantic, wild marriage story. The great thing about Yosemite is that it can be doable for anybody. With the proper planning, Yosemite elopements are a wonderfully stress-free alternative to traditional weddings.

adventure is calling

Best Time of Year to Elope in Yosemite

know when to go

Yosemite National Park is high up in the Sierra Nevada, meaning it gets a good amount of snow compared to other parts of California. While some places in Yosemite remain open year round, many roads close for the winter. This means that for many people, the summer is the best time to get married, especially if you have a particular location in mind (such as Glacier Point). However, the summer also brings heavy crowds and trouble parking. Generally, you can avoid these crowds by waking up at sunrise.

If you want to avoid the crowds and choose spring, fall, or winter, you will likely need to stick to Yosemite Valley locations, as this is typically the only part of the park open year-round. Glacier Point and Tioga Road typically open in late May or early June.

In this image, there was still snow present around the Glacier Point and Sentinel Dome area in May.

summer sun, and crowds...

will I need a reservation?

In 2024, Yosemite brought back its reservation system for days they expected heavy crowds: weekends and holidays in the shoulder months, and 7 days a week during peak summer months.

As long as you plan far enough in advance, these reservations are actually a good thing. In our experience, the reservations kept the park from getting overcrowded and made for a better experience. On the days when anyone could enter, the entrance stations experienced long lines and the parking was a nightmare between 9am-4pm. The dates you need a reservation have been changing year to year, so please check the national park website for update information before you go.

Best Locations to Elope Within the Park

Choose the right spot

Yosemite is a large national park! That being said, there are so many locations to get married within it! Some locations accommodate more guests while others are best for just private vows. Below I’ve listed a few of my favorites, as well as a pro/con list for each. This is not a complete list of every location you could get married, but rather a highlight of several of my favorites.

Glacier Point

Glacier Point is one of the most iconic locations to elope in Yosemite National Park. Its sweeping views of Half Dome and the valley below are hard to beat. It has an amphitheater that can be used for guests as well as plenty of space to walk around for portraits.

El Capitan Meadow

Taft Point

Taft Point is a gorgeous hike along Glacier Point Road. The hike is 2.2 miles round trip (1.1 miles from parking lot to the view point), and it ends with beautiful view of Yosemite Valley below. It is iconic for these distance shots along the rock ledge. Unfortunately Taft Point does not have great places for guests to sit.

Taft Point has the best light at sunset, though this time of day you will likely see other park visitors nearby. Many couples choose to have a ceremony in another location in the morning, then come back to Taft Point for portraits at sunset.

El Capitan Meadow sits at the heart of Yosemite Valley. From here you look up towards El Capitan and Yosemite Falls 3,000 feet above. The lush grass and beautiful Merced River make this meadow an awesome year-round option for your Yosemite elopement. It is also a convenient walking distance for those staying at Yosemite Valley Lodge or the Ahwahnee Hotel.

Other Locations to Get Married in Yosemite

Cathedral Beach is a small sandy shore along the Merced River in Yosemite Valley. It has great views of El Capitan and it is accessible year-round. It is a great place if you have a few guests coming, as there is room to stand along the beach plus it is convenient for those staying at the in-park hotels. If you are not staying in the park, you may have trouble finding parking during the day in the summer.

cathedral beach

Yosemite valley Chapel

If you're looking for a faith-based location within the park, then Yosemite Valley Chapel is the place to go! The chapel is a quaint New-England style church built in 1879 that can hold 125 guests. They take reservations up to 18 months in advance and are available year-round except on holidays. The chapel does charge a larger fee for rental, and there is no space to get ready on site. They house a resident minister, but allow you to bring your own if preferred. Visit the chapel website for the most up-to-date information.

the ahwahnee hotel

The Ahwahnee Hotel is a four-star hotel located in Yosemite Valley. While not necessarily an elopement site, it is perfect for those wanting to get married in Yosemite in elegance. The hotel offers various wedding packages with both indoor and outdoor options as well as dinner for you and your guests. Please see the Ahwahnee Hotel website for more information.

tunnel view

If you've ever seen a postcard of Yosemite, you've likely seen Tunnel View. Tunnel View is arguably the most well-known view point in the entire park, and it may be the most crowded as well. I would not recommend Tunnel View during the summer, as the crowds will make it unpleasant. However, you may have some better luck when the park isn't as crowded in the winter. 

For an alternative to Tunnel View, consider hiking to Artist Point, a two mile round trip hike with similar views but far less crowds. This location is best at sunset.

When to go:

Glacier Point Road is high in elevation and only open in the summer. Typically the road opens in late May to early June and closes again in October or November.

The best time of day for Glacier Point is sunrise, plus it helps you beat the crowds!


  • Astounding views
  • Amphitheater for guests
  • Restrooms (primitive)
  • No hiking required

When to go:

El Capitan Meadow is located in the Yosemite Valley, and it sits at a lower elevation than other parts of the park (4,000 feet). Therefore it is accessible year-round and is a great option when Glacier Point road has not opened yet. 


  • Accessible year round
  • Shorter drive/walking distance from in-park lodging
  • Beautiful views of El Capitan and Yosemite Falls
  • No hiking required

When to go:

As the Taft Point trail head is along Glacier Point Road, it is only accessible from May or June through October or November. When the road to Glacier Point first opens, there may still be some snow on the trail as the trails are not plowed (the snow must melt naturally).


  • Great sunset location
  • Iconic views
  • Fun, easy hike

Permits & Fees

Generally couples who want to elope in a national park can go about this in two ways: 

1)  Hold the legal ceremony inside the park
2)  Get legally married at a courthouse near your home, then exchange private vows in the park

The second option is typically easier, but some may feel that it takes away from the special moment of truly getting married in Yosemite. I personally feel that this decision is 100% up to you, but if you do decide to get legally married in Yosemite, you will need to apply for and obtain a permit.

Yosemite requires a $150 permit for legal marriages within the park. You can apply on the park website here between 21 days up to one year before your wedding. The good news is that when you receive a permit for your wedding, you automatically receive a park reservation as well. For marriages in the chapel or the Ahwahnee Hotel, you will need to reach out to these locations directly. Please see the park website for up to date information.

If you choose me as your elopement photographer, I will work with you to make sure you have all permits and reservations needed ahead of your wedding.

Make it legally legit

two options

YosemitE permits

Where to Stay

aka where you're going to be getting ready

choosing a place to stay

Where you stay will depend on a few factors:

  • Your ceremony location
  • Your budget
  • How far in advance you book.

There are two primary areas to stay when visiting Yosemite, in the park at Yosemite Valley or outside the park in the town of Oakhurst.
If you have the budget and want the least amount of driving, I’d recommend staying in Yosemite Valley. There are few hotels and lodges within the park, including the Ahwahnee Hotel (the most luxurious option in the park) and the Yosemite Valley Lodge. The park also offers a Victorian-style hotel, the Wawona Lodge, at the southern edge of the park, about half-way between Yosemite Valley and Oakhurst. To stay at any of these options you will need to book far in advance.
The other popular location for visitors traveling to Yosemite is the town of Oakhurst. Oakhurst offers many hotel and Airbnb options, and typically at a lower price point as well. The downside of Oakhurst is the drive: popular locations to elope in Yosemite are about an hour and half from the town, which is a tough haul if you’re waking up for a sunrise elopement. On the plus side, it has a great selection of restaurants to choose from!

staying in the park

staying in Oakhurst

How to Choose Your Vendors

Choosing when and where to elope in Yosemite is only half the battle, right? Next you'll need to choose your amazing team of vendors to help you put it all together! While there won't be as many vendors as a traditional wedding, I would recommend the following:

  • Officiant
  • Photographer
  • Florist
  • Dress

Bonus content


If your legal marriage will be happening outside the park, then you need not worry about an officiant. However, if you will be getting legally married in the park, you have a few options: you can find a local ordained minister, bring your pastor with you from home, or you could also consider getting your friend or family member ordained online beforehand. Whichever you choose, make sure they are completely legal in the state of California!


After your officiant, your photographer is arguably the most important vendor choice! (Maybe I'm a little biased as a wedding and elopement photographer myself, but I seriously mean it!) The way your photographer documents your day will forever impact how you remember it. 

I believe in capturing your elopement in a photojournalistic way: allowing you time to be yourselves, taking photos of the real moments as they happen, letting you have space to enjoy the beauty around you. At the same time, I make sure to  give you plenty of prompts and directions to help you when it's time for portraits.

Posing where you need it, candids where you don't.

After traveling to 33 national parks and photographing couples all over the country, I've learned that no matter where you are, the stand-out factor in the photographs is you and your love story. If you want to chat about how we can tell yours, let me know here!

P.S. This is me and my husband (aka my handsome assistant) hiking Sentinel Dome!

Florist & Dress

There are a few florists based in Oakhurst, and many more in Fresno and San Francisco. Some will deliver your bouquet to Yosemite for you for a fee, which will ensure your flowers are the freshest possible, while others will have you pick up your bouquet from them ahead of time. Another option is to make your bouquet yourself using flowers from a grocery story or farmer's market. There is a Whole Foods in Fresno that has a good selection of flowers, and sometimes someone on staff there can even wrap them for you into the bouquet.

For elopements, many brides order their dresses online and delivered to their home. If you don't live near Yosemite, this may be the best option as it ensures you are able to try your dress on first and make any necessary alterations. A few options I love are Lulu's, great for any budget, Anthropologie, elegant & modern options, and Azazie, which has a wide variety.

Need a photographer for your elopement? Let's chat!

Here at Megan Nicole Photography, I believe that your wedding photos should be both beautiful and authentic. They should reflect your unique relationship and what matters to you.

For that reason, I love to video chat with each and every couple before booking. 

When you inquire, I'll let you know my availability and provide investment information. From there we can schedule a time to meet up and get to know each other before you even book.

Go ahead and fill out the form on the right, and I'll get back to you within 24 hours!

What to expect