Sunrise Elopement in Tuolumne Meadows

January 9, 2024

1) Reasons to Elope in Tuolumne Meadows

This sunrise elopement in Tuolumne Meadows was perfectly simple, epic, and fun. Tuolumne Meadows is the east side of Yosemite National Park. It is not the Valley, but you will find equally majestic sweeping views, alpine lakes, and granite domes – but with fewer people. And I mean, a LOT fewer people.

Yosemite National Park is one of the most iconic national parks in the world. Tuolumne is the neglected, quieter portion of the park (on the east side, farther up Tioga pass!), and personally, I’m always more interested in exploring off the beaten path. You will find similar granite cliffs and domes, waterfalls, and meadows, and yes you can even find a view of Half dome from Tuolumne.

Read my longer guide about How to Elope in Yosemite National Park

2) Permits, Logistics, Lodging

To elope in Yosemite or Tuolumne Meadows, you will need a Special Use Permit. This can be obtained from the National Park Service. Lodging options range from rustic campgrounds to the Ahwahnee Hotel. Plan well in advance because things book up very fast. In fact, often people need to stay outside of the park as there is limited lodging available.

View this webpage for details about weddings in Yosemite National Park, and getting a permit: Special Use Permit for Weddings

3) Some Specific Locations in Tuolumne to Elope

  • Tuolumne Meadows Footbridge
  • Tenaya Lake (or many other alpine lakes!)
  • Lembert Dome (or many other granite domes!)
  • Olmstead Point (most scenic overlook in Tuolumne that shows Half Dome)

Here’s a list of ceremony locations from Yosemite’s website: Yosemite Ceremony Locations

4) Best Season for a Sunrise Elopement in Tuolumne Meadows

The best time for a sunrise elopement in Tuolumne Meadows is late spring through early fall. These months offer the most stable weather conditions and access to all areas of the park. However, each season has its charm, from the blooming wildflowers of spring to the golden foliage of fall.

A few specific things to consider during each season:

  • Make sure Tioga Pass is open, unless you are coming from the west side (Often end of May, but sometimes not until July depending on snow pack)
  • Mosquitos can be quite dramatic in the summer (Most likely the first 2 months of summer)
  • Wildfires (Most likely end of summer, September and October)

5) Leave No Trace in Tuolumne Meadows

Leave no trace is so important everywhere we explore, but especially important in the places that see big crowds and tons of impact, like Yosemite. Here are some ways to Leave No Trace:

  • Read this page on Yosemite’s website: Leave No Trace
  • Bring a wag bag, or use the official toilets
  • Pack out anything you bring
  • Do not set up installations for your ceremony, like arches, etc.
  • Meadows can be very delicate. The rules here are a little fuzzy, but it is better to avoid walking on them if possible, especially in spring and early summer while they are growing. In late fall, they are usually dying on their own and it is less of an issue. (* notice a couple of photos here on the meadow. We only walked where there was already an obvious trail, and it was October (late fall).

Now for the photos

Early Morning Light

Ceremony in the Meadow with Cathedral Peak

Golden Hour Portraits

Hiking up Lembert Dome