Eloping in Yosemite National Park has got to be one of the most spectacular places to get married. When Chloé and Chris approached me about photographing their Elopement in Yosemite I was all over it. It almost felt a little surreal when I received the email from Chloé.
Yosemite is known for its valleys, pristine meadows and above all for the towering cliffs rising thousands of feet above the valley floor. Chloé and Chris are both climbers, and so am I so Yosemite had an even bigger appeal to all three of use besides the breathtaking vistas. Climbing El Capitan or Half Dome is something that most rock climbers dream off.
Getting to Yosemite
Getting to Yosemite is fairly straight forward. If you are traveling by air, the closest international airport is San Francisco - SFO. If you have the time I would highly recommend you stay in San Francisco for a couple of days and explore the city or Mill Valley, just north across the Golden Gate bridge. The Shoreline Highway to Stinson Beach is definitely worth a drive. Although be mindful of the time you go, it can certainly get a little congested as the roads are narrow and windy. Getting to Yosemite in my opinion is best done with a car. It's about a 4 - 4:30 hour drive if you don't plan to stop very much. If it's your first time going allow 6 hours or so for a few stops along the way. There certainly plenty of bus options as well to get to the park. It all depends on what you plan on doing once you are there.
You are in the mountains
Anytime you are venturing into the mountains and no matter the season check the official conditions report. Often times there are closure and the weather can be very unpredictable.
Accommodation in the the valley is plentiful and there is anything from camping to the fancy Majestic Hotel. I say plentiful but be careful, book early! Especially during the busy summer months.
These are just a view of the options that you will have right in the Valley.
Do I Need A Permit?
Yes, you do! If you are planning to elope or are having a full wedding you will need a permit which costs $150 USD. You can go through the application process here. Again, plan early as some of the locations will have a limited amount of permits per year.
There are certainly many equally beautiful locations in Yosemite to elope but I am going to talk about Taft Point as this is where Chloé and Chris decided to say I do.
Getting to Taft Point is fairly straight forward. If you are leaving from the valley follow the Glacier Point Road, it's well signed. The drive will take you about an hour so make sure that you leave with a little bit of time to spare. On the drive you will also gain a fair amount of elevation, just be aware of this as it can leave some people breathless fairly easy. Park at the Sentinel Dome parking lot. From there it's about a 1.8km hike on a well marked trail to Taft Point.
The time to photograph at Taft point is a tough one. It will mostly depend on what time slot you have the permit for. I photographed Chloé and Chris' elopement around 8AM. Any later then this the light will start to get fairly harsh on a clear day and everything will be front lit. For the dramatic backlit photos, evening are best as the sun will be setting somewhere behind El Cap, depending on the time of year.
If you are already coming up this way, and I would certainly encourage you to do so it's worth driving a little further to Glacier Point. This is where you definitely get the best view of Half Dome.
Just do it. It's a place of such magnitude and you can't really appreciate the scale until you are actually there. Combining a elopement in Yosemite and a trip to San Francisco and Marin County is definitely something I would strongly encourage people to do. If you are a photographer, the light in California is to die for. Oh and one more thing to keep in mind about Yosemite, you are in Bear country and make sure you educate yourself on Bear safety because the chances of seeing one is high.
Finally, check out my gallery of Chloé and Chis' elopement. They just simply wanted to hang out with a few close friends and have the day documented.