Wedding ceremony locations in Yosemite National Park


Things to consider When Picking a Yosemite wedding venue

 

Yosemite National Park is a wonderland of towering granite, and thunderous waterfalls. This majestic valley is one of the best places to elope in the US and while it may not be great for larger events Yosemite weddings are nothing short of spectacular. But you may be wondering where you can, and where you should, have your ceremony? Yosemite certainly has plenty of venues to choose from, but being a national park there are some restricts you will have to work with.

 

Permit and Site use

All ceremonies in the national park require a permit. The cost is $150, that makes Yosemite not only an amazing place to elope, but one that is budget friendly. But that permit doesn't grant you special access to your chosen ceremony location. Site use is first-come, first-served. That means a park visitor has just as much of a claim to your desired spot as you do. So when picking a location in Yosemite keep that in mind. Two ways to get around that are have your Yosemite wedding ceremony in the off season, September 30th till Memorial day, and/or in the morning.  Ceremonies are also limited to a two hour maximum.

 

Number of guests

This is going to be a big factor in picking the venue for your ceremony location. Many locations in the park have a limit on how big the wedding can be. Have one hundred wedding guests? Then you'll be limited to Sentinel Beach. If you want to get married at Lower Yosemite Falls then your wedding can't have more than fifty people. Other locations may only allow as few as twenty guests. In addition, most locations will require a park official to monitor your wedding if you have fifty or more guests at an additional cost of $50 an hour. 

Now if you are eloping to Yosemite, or will have less than eleven people attending your wedding, the park really opens up and you can have your ceremony basically anywhere with the exception of the meadows and riverbanks of the park. This freedom makes the park one of the best places to elope in California.

 

 

Yosemite Wedding Ceremony venues

 

These gorgeous locations are on the official list provided by Yosemite National Park. They can accommodate ceremonies ranging from intimate elopements to weddings with one hundred guests. Each site has its' own guest limits so make sure it will fit your needs.

 

 

Cascades Picnic Area

The Cascades picnic area is located on the west end of the Yosemite Valley. It's the first major stop when entering the park via the El Portal entrance and across the street from The Cascades viewing area. Wedding ceremonies can be held anywhere in the picnic area as long as you are six feet from the Merced River. While a good number of people stop at The Cascades viewpoint, I've found the picnic area to be lightly used. This also happens to be one of my favorite elopement locations in the Yosemite Valley.

 

MAXIMUM GUESTS - 30

OPEN YEAR ROUND

PARKING AT SITE

 

Once your wedding ceremony is over, we can head across the street to The Cascades viewing area, one of my favorite spots in Yosemite National Park. The Cascades tumble down to the valley floor and end in a delightful babbling creek that winds its' way through granite boulders and ancient oaks on its' journey to the Merced river.

While there are several places in The Cascades picnic area that would make a beautiful ceremony backdrop, this is my absolute favorite. Nature seems to have provided the perfect altar for your Yosemite altar. A towering circle of ancient pines set against the mirror like Merced river.

If you are eloping to Yosemite, or will have less than eleven people at your wedding, there are numerous places among the boulders to have an intimate elopement ceremony if you're willing to climb few rocks. The Cascades area is truly one of the most beautiful areas in the park. 


Lower Yosemite Falls Trail

 

When you try to picture Yosemite National Park, you'll likely imagine Yosemite Falls right after Half Dome. This iconic waterfall is a real beauty. It's no surprise so many want it as the backdrop for their Yosemite wedding. While you can't have your wedding right on the viewing platform, you can have your ceremony at a designated area between a fork in the trail, there the upper section of the falls is in full view. Keep in mind Yosemite Falls is one of the busiest places in the park.

 

MAXIMUM GUESTS - 50

OPEN YEAR ROUND

NO PARKING ONSITE

 

While you can't have your ceremony at Yosemite Falls itself, you can head over there after. Unless your wedding ceremony was early in the morning you'll likely have to compete with a few visitors to get a good shot, but it will be oh so worth it. There were at least a hundred people on the viewing platform beside me when i took this picture.

This is the designated wedding ceremony location for Lower Yosemite Falls. It is a roughly eye drop shaped spot between two paths in the trail to the falls. Last I visited, it was midweek, and rainy and there was still a steady stream of visitors going by.

If you are planning to elope to Yosemite, there are lots of great options for elopement ceremony locations around The Lower Yosemite Falls area. It's heavily wooded with lots of little creeks, wooden bridges, and plenty of granite.


Swinging Bridge Picnic Area

 

The Swinging Bridge Picnic Area is a lovely little spot located along the Merced river in the Yosemite Valley. Featuring fantastic views, stony beaches, pine trees, and open meadows. Wedding ceremonies can take place anywhere in the picnic area but sadly not on the bridge itself. The site is moderately trafficked due to the beautiful views from the wooden bridge.

 

MAXIMUM GUESTS - 20

OPEN YEAR ROUND

PARKING AT SITE

 

The Swinging Bridge itself offers one of the best views of Yosemite Falls in the park. While you can't have your ceremony here, nothing stops you from taking advanrage of these beautiful views for your wedding photos.

While there are many places at Swinging Bridge suitable for a wedding  or elopement ceremony, this spot definitely has the best view. If getting married between noble pines with a view of Yosemite Falls across a meadow is your dream, this is the place.

Sunsets at Swinging Bridge are particularly stunning, offering great views of El Capitan, and Cathedral Rocks. The meadows are also quite beautiful in the soft light of dusk.


CATHEDRAL Beach Picnic Area

 

Cathedral Beach offers one of the larger ceremony locations in Yosemite National Park. The tranquil waters of the Merced, rocky beaches, easy access, and spectacular views of El Capitan make it a favorite spot among couples and park visitors alike. 

 

MAXIMUM GUESTS - 50

CLOSED NOVEMBER THROUGH MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND

PARKING AT SITE

 

If you're a fan of El Capitan, Cathedral beach is a great choice for you. Wedding and elopement ceremonies here are guaranteed to deatuer that majestic hunk of granite. It is a popular spot for family picnics so keep in mind there is likely to be other visitors unless your ceremony is in the morning. But between the three river ceremony spots, Swinging Bridge, Sentinel Beach and Cathedral, Cathedral tends to be the less crowded of the bunch.

A big plus for Cathedral Beach is that the river rafters are forced to get out up river at Sentinel beach, so no inflatable rafts in the background of your wedding photos. The Merced river is rather lazy and shallow at Cathedral Beach perfect for a dipping your toes in. Looking east you'll be rewarded with spectacular views of Yosemite's famous granite peaks.

While most couples opt to have their wedding ceremony on the shoreline at Sentinel Beach, there are several options for a more wooded look for your ceremony. There's also trails through the woods and meadows nearby.


Sentinel Beach Picnic Area

 

If you have a bigger wedding party, Sentinel Beach is the place for you. It allows for the greatest number of guests of all the ceremony locations in the park.  Unsurprisingly, the beach here is a bit bigger than Cathedral. It also tends to be a bit more crowded. As for looks, it's no slouch. While Cathedral Beach may have better views of El Capitan, Sentinel's backdrop includes views of upper Yosemite falls. That's not a bad trade.

 

MAXIMUM GUESTS - 100

CLOSED NOVEMBER THROUGH MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND

PARKING AT SITE

 

Sentinel Beach is a lovely spot for a romantic wedding or an intimate elopement ceremony. I'm pretty sure Yosemite Falls is a welcome backdrop in everyones wedding photos. One downside to this location is that it is where river rafters are forced to exit the Merced River and drag their rafts up on the beach. So if having your wedding during the peak season in Yosemite, you may end up with a few additional wedding guests.

For couples eloping, there are several spots at Sentinel Beach that could accommodate a more intimate ceremony. These escape both the crowds at the beach and the folks rafting making them perfect for elopement ceremonies.

Sentinel Beach is a bit more beach like than the other river locations, with sand instead of rocky shores, but it still offers the lush woods and towering granite as the other sites.


Bridalveil Falls

 

Bridalveil Falls checks everything off the list for a yosemite wedding ceremony location; stunning waterfall, granite cliffs, lush woods, granite boulders, you name it. There is only one spot you can hold a wedding ceremony at Bridalveil, and it is gorgeous. Interestingly though, despite being one of the smaller ceremony locations, it allows for a surprising number of guests. 

 

MAXIMUM GUESTS - 50

OPEN YEAR ROUND

PARKING 0.2 MiLES AWAY

 

Unlike Yosemite Falls, Bridalveil Falls has a good flow year round making it a great option for those who want a waterfall in their wedding photos in July through October when Yosemite is all dried up. It is a rather busy location as it is one of the first major stops when entering the park. Aim to have your wedding ceremony early in the day. 

This clearinging along the trail is the only spot you can have a wedding with more than eleven people at Bridalveil Falls. It is absolutely gorgeous with the overhanging trees and the window to the falls. Easily one of my favorite Wedding or elopement ceremony locations in Yosemite National Park.

The area surrounding Bridalveil Fails is a wonderland of rushing creeks and and forest. There are several lovely bridges and plenty of that spectacular Yosemite Granite for your wedding or elopement photos.


Tenaya Lake Beach

 

It's hard to imagine a more picturesque lake for a wedding than Tenaya Lake. Located along Highway 120 Tenaya Lake sits at over 8,000 feet of elevation meaning there's always a chance you'll have some snow in your wedding photos. This granite wrapped lake has one location available for larger wedding ceremonies and infinite possibilities for elopements. It's also just down the road from Olmsted Point, my favorite spot in Yosemite National Park.

 

MAXIMUM GUESTS - 50

AVAILABLE FROM ROAD OPENING UNTIL SEPTEMBER 30TH

PARKING NEARBY

 

Tenaya Lake is a pristine example of just how beautiful high sierra lakes can be. It's not hard to image a romantic wedding ceremony taking place on the tranquil shores of this beautiful lake.   As an added bonus it is literally adjacent to the highway so you don't have to trek into the mountains to reach this wedding destination.

Tenaya Lake is rather undeveloped for being so close to the highway. Dirt parking lots, simple trails, and a few picnic benches are the only unnatural things here. That does mean that there aren't any bathrooms here.

In addition to the lake itself, there are many ponds, creeks, and and woodland areas nearby. For elopements, couples can opt to hike around the lake and get even more off the beaten path.


Merced Grove & Tuolumne Grove

 

If you love Yosemite, but want a wedding Giant Sequoias, and don't mind a bit of a hike to your wedding ceremony than getting married in the groves is a great option. As trails go, both groves are relatively easy hikes. But in formal attire, it might be a little much for most. The trail out the Merced Grove is a bit longer, but it is also not as heavily trafficked as the Tuolumne Grove.

 

MAXIMUM GUESTS - 30

AVAILABLE FROM ROAD OPENING UNTIL SEPTEMBER 30TH

PARKING TWO MILES FROM THE GROVE

 

While you can't have your wedding ceremony at the base of the Giant Sequoias, their roots are shallow and it can damage the tree, these gaints are not hard to get in the background of your wedding photos.

The trails out to the groves are more akin to dirt roads than hiking trails. These well maintained and easy to follow paths make it as easy as possible to hike out to your wedding ceremony among the Giant Sequoias.

At the Merced Grove there is this quaint little log cabin that so perfectly competes the forest scene. Not bad for wedding photos either.


Yosemite Elopement Ceremony venues

 

For those couples eloping or having intimate weddings with fewer than eleven people in Yosemite National Park, you are not limited to the locations above. The only locations off limits for your elopement ceremony are the open meadows and riverbanks of the park. That makes the sky the limit here. Through my travels in the park I've found a few elopement venues I think are perfect for an intimate ceremony in Yosemite and I've gathered them for you below.
 

 

Olmsted Point

 

Here's an amazing place to elope. Olmsted Point is hands down my favorite elopement ceremony venue that I've discovered in all of Yosemite National Park. As you can see below, the views, no matter which way you look are breathtaking. While many people stop at the vista point, few take the short trail that leads into the sprawling slabs of high sierra granite. Just down the road is Tenaya Lake and there's even a waterfall nearby, talk about a unique idea for an elopement. It's convenient, it's beautiful, let's go.

 

MAXIMUM GUESTS - 11

AVAILABLE FROM ROAD OPENING UNTIL SEPTEMBER 30TH

PARKING AT SITE

 

Looking Northeast from Olmsted Point gives you astounding views of Tenaya lake, Tenaya Peak, Pywiack Dome, and so many more. These are views you usually have to backpack to, being able to step out of the car be hit with this sight is mind boggling. Bein able ot have it as the background of your elopemnt ceremony in Yosemite is just a dream come true.

Should you want something a little more iconic, simply turn around and look Southwest. There  at the end of a sprawling sea of granite you'll see Half Dome and the end of the Yosemite Valley. Take the short trail from the Olmsted Parking lot and you will end up at this beautiful granite mountain side that is just begging to be the location of your Yosemite elopement ceremony.

While it is easy to get lost in the stunning vistas, Olmsted Point itself is absolutely beautiful. I spent hours photographing the many gnarled trees that sit atop the granite peaks here. Beneath the peaks there are woods, granite boulders, and even some hidden lakes. It's a world calss elopement destination.


Sentinel Dome

 

Want another incredible venue idea for eloping? Sentinel dome is the elopement location of choice in Yosemite National Park if you want the most iconic images possible. It has arguably the best views of Half Dome in the park and relatively few people make the short hike out to the peak of the dome. If you're eloping to Yosemite, seriously consider this as your destination.

 

MAXIMUM GUESTS - 11

AVAILABLE FROM ROAD OPENING UNTIL SEPTEMBER 30TH

PARKING 1.20 MILES AWAY

 

Your elopement ceremony could be right there, Just picture you and your loved one saying your vows with Half Dome standing majestic and proud, bearing witness to your matrimony  silently in the background. It's just such a fantastic backdrop for a love story. It's a close second for me next to Olmsted Point, but it is definitely a more iconic view of Yosemite National Park.

The trail up to the peak of Sentinel is an easy 1.2 mile hike. That's enough to keep a lot of visitors from making the trip and they simply continue on down the road to Glacier Point for an inferior, and more crowded view. You'll pass through woods get some views, and maybe even see a few dear on your way to the peek.

Atop the peak you'll find gnarled Jeffery Pines bent by the wind. One of them was even made quiet famous by a popular Ansel Adams Photograph. The famous tree has since fallen, but many others remain to spruce up your wedding photos. Pun intended.


Additional Information For Yosemite Weddings and Elopements

 

There are a few rules every wedding needs to follow in the park.

  • As a general rule please be respectful park resources and do you best to tread lightly. Yosemite National Park is a world treasure so let’s do our best to keep it pristine for future generations to enjoy
  • All wedding ceremonies in the park require a permit. The park does not grant Wedding permits on holiday weekends or holidays (Saturday, Sunday, and Monday). As those can be some of the busiest days in the park, you really don’t want to have your wedding then anyways.
  • Sadly pets are not allowed to attend wedding ceremonies in Yosemite National Park.
  • Amplified microphones are prohibited for wedding ceremonies.  Music and speakers are also prohibited with the exception of iPods/iPhones and 2-3 inch speakers. Because of this, keep in mind that most locations in Yosemite are near waterfalls or rivers, it can sometimes be hard to hear people speak.
  • Yosemite also does no allow the throwing of bird seed, rice or flower petals
  • Ceremony decorations are also strictly prohibited. But it’s pretty hard to improve upon Yosemite anyways.
  • You must  avoid standing or walking on plants, grasses and tree roots in the park. Strive to leave no trace and keepo the park pristine. If getting married in the Giant Sequoia groves, standing under the sequoia trees is prohibited. It can damage their shallow roots.
  • For your bouquets and boutonnières is recommended to use hardy flowers and native flower arrangements. This will ensure no unwanted seeds fall out and germinate. Baby’s breath is prohibited