Guide: Planning Your Yosemite National Park Elopement
I can still remember my first time visiting Yosemite National Park so vividly. It was back in 2007, but it’s as clear in my mind as if it were yesterday. When I arrived in the Valley, I was overwhelmed by the mountain views that surrounded me. I had never seen anything like it. To hike Vernal Falls and be able to enjoy the views from the top was truly something else. I fell in love instantly, and everytime I return, I am awestruck again. Yosemite’s beauty just never gets old!
Did you know that over 3.5 million people visit Yosemite National Park every year? And after just one visit, I had no difficulty understanding why. Yosemite is home to giant Sequoia trees, iconic views such as Half Dome and El Capitan, and magnificent waterfalls. It is also a climber’s ideal playground! So for those adventurous couples out there, Yosemite National Park is a perfect place to elope.
Where is Yosemite National Park?
Yosemite National Park is in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, 140 miles east of San Francisco and 100 miles southeast of Sacramento. The closest airport is Fresno, but there are three other airports within reasonable driving distance: San Francisco International Airport, Oakland International Airport, and San Jose International Airport.
When to Plan an Elopement in Yosemite
Choosing the best time to elope in Yosemite is important. Some of the park roads close at the first major snowfall — usually during October or November. They will remain closed until at least March, but sometimes don’t open until as late as May. Because of these limitations, the busy season for Yosemite is usually between May and September.
If you would like to avoid the crowds, I recommend planning a mid-week elopement. Better yet, plan for a sunrise elopement and have almost the whole park to yourself! Depending on where you would like to elope in Yosemite, another great option would be to elope towards the end of the busy season or even during the slow season. Snowy, winter elopements in Yosemite are breathtaking, and the quiet of a mid-week celebration is intimate and magical.
Of course, May and June are still great times to visit Yosemite, since waterfalls are roaring from all the freshly melted snow and temperatures rest between 30 and 60 degrees.
Between June and August will be the busiest time of year at the park, and accommodations will be the most expensive, to say nothing of the summer heat! While the thermometer might say 80 degrees, I can guarantee that the elevation will make it feel a whole lot warmer.
September is a great time to visit because of cooler temperatures, which make it perfect for an elopement that requires some additional hiking. Temperatures range from mid 40s to mid 70s, and it won’t be as nearly busy as it is in June, July, and August. There is one downside to consider, however: dry waterfalls. But with the cool weather and brilliant fall colors, you won’t notice anything missing.
Once we reach October and November, those road closures I mentioned begin. Temperatures really drop, but if you happen to go when there’s snow, it is absolutely beautiful!
Finally, December through April is a great time to visit Yosemite if you are a winter sport enthusiast. While access areas are limited, Badger Pass Ski Area is a great place to visit, as are Yosemite Valley and Wawona.
Where to Stay for your Yosemite Elopement
When planning your elopement, I recommend getting as close to the action as possible! Staying in the park is definitely worth the additional expense if you have the option. My favorite secret place is Yosemite West. It’s right in the park, so you don’t have to deal with the hassle of getting through the gate in time for your elopement, but it’s technically not on park land (I know, it’s weird), which makes it cheaper!
However, if you want to splurge for your elopement weekend, check out Ahwahnee. I also recommend Tenaya Lodge, although it’s a bit of a drive. Or, you can break out your tents and smores and go camping instead! Reservations for the campgrounds book up quickly, so book as early as you can. Especially for bookings during the busy season, you may need to reserve 6 months in advance.
When it comes to planning your elopement in Yosemite National Park, it’s important to have a back plan. Because of the ever-changing weather conditions, road closures, and lack of reception, you always want to make sure that you are prepared! This came in handy for Christine and Jeff’s elopement. Since they were eloping in Yosemite at the end of November, there was a high chance of road closures. We planned for their dream elopement at Glacier Point but made sure to have a backup elopement site in case Glacier Point was closed. Luckily, Glacier Point was still open, and we didn’t have to switch our location to Lower Yosemite Falls. We kept our eyes on the weather forecast and road updates, and because of the lack of reception around the park, we made sure we had designated touch points to guarantee that everyone in the party was up to date with the plans.
Additional Tips for Planning an Elopement in Yosemite National Park
Pack accordingly. Check the weather. Bring sunscreen and bug spray.
Get your permit early – the process takes about a month.
Have a list of places you would like to elope at so you can work with the park; sometimes your first pick isn’t an option.
Keep Leave No Trace principles in mind: we all must do our part in conserving this beautiful landscape. There’s truly no other place like it! Refresh on the basic LNT principles here.
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