The Top Yosemite Wedding and Elopement Locations for Adventure Couples
The List for the Top Locations in Yosemite National Park for wedding and eloping couples.
What is your experience in Yosemite?
As one of the Top wedding and adventure elopement photographers in the USA and world, I have captured many couples all over Yosemite National Park. I am a seasoned mountaineer who has climbed many dangerous high altitude mountains, leading teams and people, like up north America’s highest peak at 20,320 ft, Denali or Mt. McKinley. I have fallen into crevasses, saved lives, had friends perish in avalanches, and also led people to success. Last year, I took the first couple up to Mt. Everest base camp to get married in a wedding dress, backpack and boots, being the first wedding photographer to document a wedding there and igniting the adventure wedding movement.
Yosemite is my backyard, so I’m there often. Further, I have hiked half-dome (16.8 miles round trip) over forty times (I’ve lost count after 40). Taking couples and small groups to the summit for photos is my passion. I have hiked many of the trails in the park and know the area well. I can give you my best opinion for epic and scenic photographs from a photographer’s perspective since I’m always booked up shooting weddings there each year.
What are the best places in Yosemite Park to get married or elope?
Let me just say before I even go into these locations, that as an artist, adventurist, and photographer, I prefer the hidden locations where most people do not travel, the less trodden path, the harder to get to areas, backwoods where it’s uncharted wedding territory. I’m always looking for something different for my couples if they’re up for hiking. The problem is when I take couples on longer backpacking trips, they are sweaty, dirty and do not feel as pretty. Thus, it’s harder to get good photos when couples don’t feel their best. But you can always freshen up. I have many options if couples are open to something different that the popular areas of Yosemite.
So here we go, onto the top places in Yosemite to get married or elope. Engaged couples and photographers often ask me for the best locations. The response I give now is it depends on your level of adventure or preference of backdrops. Yosemite has much to offer for wedding and eloping couples that it would be difficult to capture everything. Yosemite has mountains, lakes, waterfalls, bridges, hiking trails, redwood trees, open fields, rivers and streams, steep granite rock faces, epic views on the summits, wildlife, rustic lodging, camping tents, campgrounds, and beautiful colors for each season for the best photos all over the park.
Whether it be weddings, elopements, engagement sessions, or adventure sessions, each venue and location has its’ strengths and flavor for your wedding photography needs and indulgences. I’m merely the adventure wedding photographer who guides couples around the park for the best photos. So, I have compiled a list of the top wedding and elopement locations and places around Yosemite that are the most scenic for couples to consider for their wedding day. They are not in any particular order, but I can give you some insights below.
All photos below by Charleton Churchill Photography
Taft Point: I was the first known wedding photographer to capture a wedding couple at Taft Point back in 2015 before it became popular (at least at the time, there were no wedding photos at Taft Point on Google with that epic cliff side view). After my Taft image was published in popular photography and wedding magazines, and shown at workshops, photographers were asking me for directions to that area. No doubt, it’s an epic location, and now it’s a popular Yosemite eloping spot.
However, it is dangerous if you’re not safe, as some have fallen to their deaths most recently. You don’t need to be at the edge to get the cliff photos. Actually, you can stand 10-15 feet back and still get the same effect in your photos as I have done with other couples. Give yourself some space. The photographer should know what they are doing and promote safety at all times. Safety is the utmost importance. Bringing radios to communicate for the further away shots is important. Cell phones work occasionally, but don’t rely upon them for communication, as they are spotty.
Glacier Point: What is great about Glacier Point is that you can just pull up, park, and walk fifty yards to the scenic half-dome canyon view. This is a highly popular site for wedding ceremonies and elopements. I have photographed couples there at sunset, sunrise, and all parts of the day. Up at high altitude around 8000 feet, your photographer will need some good lighting for mid-day photos with hard shadows and light hitting your faces. When couples book me, I make recommendations on where and what time is best for couples photos. I have even learned how to get two sunset photo opportunities in one day.
Another part of Glacier Point is you can walk down further to the actual end of the paved trail and get another view of the canyon. You can see half-dome again, and it feels closer, maybe because there is another cliff below you. There are some great photos there like above. If you are into hiking, you can hike the 4-mile Panorama Trail down to the valley for some photos with your adventure photographer if they are into hiking with you. If you’re the rugged couple type, like some of my brides who have hiked 8 miles in their wedding attire, you can hike down the 4-mile trail in your wedding dress and suit. Hiking in your wedding dress and boots is good for photos and and definitely a great experience.
Lastly, be mindful that you will probably have other visitors and tourists watching you and walking around your ceremony. It’s not the most secluded area for a wedding, but you should have a permit so nobody else can get married at the same time. There are better times to get married to avoid the tourists. If your photographer has experience, and they are assertive, but polite, they should be able to isolate you from the visitors in your photos.
Half-Dome: Now, this trail is a trophy hike. Not only are you rewarded with epic views, but you will have hiked just over 16 miles round trip. On top of that, you will have ascended your way up (and down) a steep rock face via cables. It’s a bucket list item for many. You will have accomplished something great.
Before they started issuing permits to hike Half-dome, I was often frequenting the trail for exercise and speed. Now you need to apply for a permit. This year I applied for 7 dates and was denied all of them. Yes, it’s annoying, but it’s certainly a unique area for wedding photos. Most couples would not attempt it for an intimate elopement ceremony, nor even consider it. However, if you successfully accomplish this feat, then you deserve all bragging rights. The parks says the average return time is 12hours, so plan for it with more water than you think you’ll need.
On the other hand, if you wanted to pass on the long Half-dome hike, you could opt for the much easier hike to Taft Point which shares a similar view. It’s only a few miles.
Yosemite Valley Chapel
Yosemite Valley Chapel: This is a quaint little church down in the middle of Yosemite Valley. It’s historic and iconic. Many couples marry there with intimate family and a pastor or officiant. I recently photographed a winter wedding here in December, and the roads where jam-packed with tourists clogging the roads to a stand still. We allowed traffic to do its thing while I took my couple behind the church into the wilderness for some snowy winter wedding images. I actually like the Yosemite Chapel in the woods.
Typically you get married here, and then you head out for some scenic images around the park. There are many photographic options for couples around the valley and also up on top of Glacier Point Road, depending on how much time you have together. I typically have multiple areas of interest to guide my couples. Many times, I have found locations away from the crowds that are just as majestic.
Majestic Yosemite Hotel
Majestic Yosemite Hotel: This is the only 4-diamond hotel in Yosemite Valley. This lodge has at least a few different areas to get married with epic views around the property: the lawn and the east portico. I photograph many weddings here each year and I’m glad to support them. You can google this venue and see so much information for yourself, but they have wonderful rooms, delicious dining, and so much to offer. The Majestic hotel used to be called the Ahwahnee Hotel, but changed names recently. Around the property are a variety of photographic opportunities if you want to explore. I usually have couples get married here, and then I take the couples out for an adventure.
Evergreen Lodge: This lodge is definitely woodsy with beautiful rustic cabins everywhere. It feels like you’re in a secluded village. Just outside the Yosemite entrance, this wedding venue has everything on location with a beautiful ceremony site and reception area for larger groups. Tall trees surround the area, so it feels woodsy and romantic, away from all the noise and tourists. I have even photographed a few celebrities at this lodge, actors from Grey’s Anatomy and Game of Thrones.
Rush Creek Lodge
Rush Creek Lodge: This place is awesome and the newest lodge in Yosemite, even though it’s just outside the park entrance. Your about 30 minutes from the valley, but it’s worth it. This lodge is the sister property to the Evergreen Lodge. I love staying here for their amazing food, clean and modern facilities, large family rooms, pool and hot tub, game rooms for the kids, fire pit, with so much to offer. This is a beautiful place for wedding ceremonies and guests.
Tunnel View: This place is beautiful at the right time, but tourists fill up this location quickly. so I don’t think it’s the best location for a wedding, but it’s worth mentioning and getting a few images here. I have a few areas where I take couples away from the crowds to get the same look.
El Capitan Meadow
El Capitan Meadow: Beautiful for photos in the meadow surrounded by the mountains of granite rock. In the fall season, the colors glow in the background. I take couples here for some photos, but I’ve never photographed a wedding ceremony here. My couples usually want a little more adventure in their images.
Sentinel Dome: Sentinel Dome is in the same parking lot as Taft point, also a few miles round trip of hiking. If I had my choice, I would do Taft Point for the epic view shot as well as beautiful views. However, Sentinel Dome puts on a better show for sunset and sunrise combined; you can pretty much see everything 360 degrees on top of the dome in all directions. The trail is easy and the photos are good.
Bridalveil Falls & Yosemite Falls
Bridal Veil Falls and Yosemite Falls: These both are jaw-dropping locations. However, when the water is rushing, it is very loud for anyone to hear. You can also get really wet when up close to the falls just by the mist, but it’s a gorgeous backdrop no doubt. With Yosemite falls, you can stand further back and get that view, but there are usually many tourists walking around. If you’re planning a ceremony there, just be flexible.
Do you know of any hidden locations in Yosemite to avoid the crowds?
There are many places around Yosemite to get married and elope. I cannot list them all, but it is a massive National Park with applausable features everywhere to discover. Tenaya Lake, Washburn Point, Wawona lodge, to name a few are others.
Personally, I have locations for my couples I have not listed because they don’t fall under the “Top locations in Yosemite” title, but they are epic in nature with usually no crowds. I have hiked multiple trails in Yosemite and know of great locations, some where I haven’t even taken couples yet. But I try and experiment with each couple at a new location if they’re willing. It’s typically for the adventurous couples who have more time around the park. Last month, I photographed a couple for their adventure session and I was able to experiment with them in a few locations and ideas. I’m so glad I did.
Here is the Link to the Yosemite Adventure Elopement Photography
How Do we Contact you for wedding or elopement photography?
If you’re interested in booking your wedding or adventure elopement in Yosemite, please send me a quick email at the contact link above. I would love to hear from you and see what’s possible for your Yosemite plans.
All Photography by Charleton Churchill Photography
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