I’m so so excited to share this Glacier Point Elopement with you all.
Katie and Ryan reached out a whole year in advance for this Yosemite elopement. During all of 2021 and 2022 whenever anyone reached out for Yosemite, I always felt like a jerk having to break the news that Glacier Point Rd, the road leading to some of the most iconic and famous views in the park, was closed.
But Katie and Ryan already knew. They knew, and were were still down. Yosemite was already special to them and the idea of eloping there wasn’t just for one particular view. It was about the place as a whole. It wasn’t just about Taft Point or Glacier Point (though we did wind up there anyway- more on that later). I remember listening to them talk about their hopes and dreams for the day, clicking with them *immediately*, and being so stoked for their elopement.
And after lots of consideration (and even venturing to the park for a pre-wedding trip to sample different options) Katie and Ryan reached out asking if I would be down for something a bit *bigger* and *longer* than originally planned. Because Glacier Point was the spot they wanted to say their vows. And since Glacier Point Road was closed, that meant we would be hiking (the poorly named) 4 Mile Trail. All 9.3 miles and 3300 ft elevation gain of her. And while the hike was grueling, this was actually providing a once in a lifetime chance to hang out at Glacier Point with little to no other people around. A totally private Glacier Point elopement? My response was obvious.
We planned out their elopement adventure, a two day love letter to Yosemite. Day 1? A killer sunrise hike and Glacier Point for their vows. Day 2? Adventuring around the Valley. Katie and Ryan actually gave me total freedom for day 2- they said they wanted the best photos in the valley with the best light and that they trusted me to figure that out. There truly isn’t a better (or more flattering) thing a client can say to a photographer. So we planned out their day, and October arrived and it was time for their epic as hell Glacier Point elopement.
We started the day at a new record for earliest start time- 1:10 am (meaning a 12:20 wake up time). We hiked up about 70 billion* switchbacks (*possibly less) with the full moon lighting up the whole valley in blue light. It is my absolute favorite way to view the valley- it does not get more magical than a sky full of stars, the moon shining on, and Half-Dome majestically looking on. I remember when we rounded a corner and she first came into view- we all stopped and stared in total awe.
We arrived to Glacier Point in record time (honestly- that hike was far and away a PR for me haha) and we watched the little lights of climbers on Half-Dome’s imposing face. Eventually Katie started to get ready in the most epic getting ready location of all time.
(Because Katie and Ryan hiked up with not just their clothes, but all the things whey would need to get ready. Battery operated curling iron, rechargeable vanity station…I was legit so so impressed).
As the sun came up, Katie and Ryan put on their finishing touches of their amazing outfits and we set out to their ceremony spot. We had the entire place to our selves, save for one French gentleman who was camping and *so* excited for the couple. It was a truly incredible experience, being there while it was so quiet. I want to be really clear here- these photos? Once in a lifetime opportunity. Being able to get ready in that spot, change clothes, set up shop, stand in that exact spot at sunrise and privately say vows? Is not a thing that can really happen when Glacier Point Rd is open**. It’s just too dang crowded. I genuinely (super genuinely) could not believe I was standing there, in that spot, doing that thing, with *no one* (except our French friend) around.
I often think of the OG elopement photographers who got into this line of work way before I did, and got to experience these places before instagram really exploded and interest in the outdoors skyrocketed. It wouldn’t be outside the norm to have places like this to themselves. I always wondered what it would be like, never thinking the stars would align in such a way where for the briefest of moments, I would experience it for myself. It was truly incredible.
(Full Disclosure: you can hike this trail before the road opens in the spring. So it *is* possible- just risky when it comes to weather!)
After Katie and Ryan exchanged excited vows (and the sun fully appeared) it was official- they were married. They celebrated with champagne before we started the long descent back into the valley.
The next day, we met up for sunset to adventure around Yosemite Valley. More champagne, dancing, and my favorite of all activities, *star photos* were in order. We had so much fun together, with Katie and Ryan always down for any wacky idea. We were all so stoked on all of it- we just fed off each others excitement. The glowy light as the sun dipped low, El Cap standing tall and brilliant, the way the sun cast Half Dome pink at sunset. It was an incredible day-
-That didn’t end there! We played around with some lanterns in blue hour (getting a shot I had in my head for a while… I’m telling you, any time I said “So I have a wacky idea…” Katie and Ryan were so down) and then had a wonderful dinner at The Ahwahnee before heading back out for a few brief star photos (but not before a bear darted out in front of my car while driving. There are signs all over Yosemite that say “speeding kills bears.” This is a true statement. I’m SO GLAD I was going the speed limit and stopped in time.)
We ended the day with the moon shining ridiculously strong light on El Cap, the stars vivid overhead. It was a truly incredible two days. I still can’t believe the whole adventure was real. This Glacier Point elopement, and all its adventures, are truly something I will remember forever. Thank you so much for entrusting me with your elopement, Katie and Ryan.
If you love Yosemite, check out this Yosemite National Park Wedding or this Yosemite Valley Elopement. Better yet- this Yosemite Planning Guide has all the details on planing a Yosemite adventure of your own.
And if you want to learn more about eloping in a National Park, check out my post on How to Elope in a National Park.
Hair and Makeup: The bride!
Hat: Diana Dawn
Flowers: Form Floral
— Ryan + Styhiln