Sunrise Hiking Elopement in California

January 16, 2024

1) About Mammoth Lakes and Bishop Hiking areas

Bishop and Mammoth lakes are both set in the Eastern Sierra, that is the east side of the sierra Nevada mountains. I think this area is one of the very best for a sunrise hiking elopement in California. The hiking trails here are endless. The Owens Valley is the deepest valley in the nation, with the valley floor at 4k feet and the surrounding peaks at 14k. You can find a variety of trails ranging from drive up vistas to (very) challenging hikes. The terrain here is diverse, featuring meadows, alpine lakes, and endless granite peaks.

Fanny and Justin wanted the best of both worlds, so they planned a 2 day event. A hiking elopement on day 1, and a micro wedding with friends and family on day 2. They are adventure-seekers, and they knew that a bit of type 2 fun and an intimate ceremony by an alpine lake was just the right vibe for their wedding day. But they also wanted to celebrate with around 25 of their closest friends and family, and knowing they couldn’t ALL hike 3 miles of 1500 ft of vert (haha), they planned a part 2 at June Lake.

This post is focused on Part 1. We met up at 3:30am to hike out of Bishop to an alpine lake. It was just the 3 of us and their pup Bailey, who stood at their side for every single photo! The stars were out for the first 3 hours, and then we watched the sunrise as they said their vows. We had a lot of laughs as Fanny experienced how hard it is to scramble up boulders in a wedding dress.

Check out Part 2 of this weekend elopement: June Lake Micro Wedding with Family

2) Why plan a Sunrise Hiking Elopement in California?

A hiking elopement is a perfect blend of adventure and intimacy. People who love a bit of type-2 fun, and are a bit more private. Maybe you’d rather say your vows at the base of a peak or beside an alpine lake, rather than in front of 100+ people. And you see the challenge of waking up at 3am and hiking several miles in the dark as a positive challenge – something you will remember forever. 

If you want to elope just the two of you, or invite maybe 2-5 friends, this is a simple endeavor. If you want to invite all of your closest friends and family (20-30 guests), it starts to get complicated quickly. At that point, I call it a micro wedding and logistically there are fewer locations where we can simply walk up and wing it.

(read the link at the top of this page for the Part 2 of this elopement with friends and family).

3) Permits, Logistics, and LNT

Conveniently, you don’t often need a permit to elope in this area. If we enter a national park like Yosemite or Death Valley, then we will have to acquire a permit. I can get you started with info, but it will be essential to contact the local ranger station for information on permits, regulations, and best practices for Leave No Trace.

4) Benefits of Sunrise versus Sunset

Sunrise: I love the feeling of walking in the dark, watching as the early light starts to light up the surrounding topography, and saying vows as alpenglow slowly hits the mountains. There’s a fresh energy to this time of day. Sunset will pretty much always be less crowded than other times of day.

Sunset: Usually this feels less rushed at the beginning, because we can start at any time. We can have hours of getting ready and getting to the destination. You get the opposite effect as sunrise, as you watch the sunlight slowly disappear as the stars come out. In some popular areas, sunset will be crowded.

You probably know if you are a night or morning person. Does waking up at 3am give you butterflies and ignite your Type-2 fun personality? Great! If waking up that early gives you a small heart attack – let’s go for sunset. :) Each location will also have details that make the time of day better. For example, if we are on the east side of the Sierra, and you want alpenglow on the mountains, sunrise will always be the most ideal!

5) The Gallery

Getting Ready

The Ceremony

Breakfast and Coffee

Sunrise Portraits