A warm summer day to explore a majestic park with the one you love. Waterfalls diving off of ledges, a river lazily winding through meadows, and Half Dome towering over all (or maybe on top of the rock). It’s the dream that so many people have, and for years we’ve been able to help couples do exactly that. We’ve been able to help our clients have the experiences and create the memories they’ve dreamed of.
The truth is, that those days seem to be behind us. Park statistics shows that attendance seems to be growing every year with 2016 adding almost 20% visitors than 2015, and so far 2017 looks no different. Park Service is trying to work with what they have to ensure that everyone has the chance to experience nature, but quite frankly they are overwhelmed and lack the resources to solve the problem. Quite simply, there are just too many people coming into the park.
As of today, Park Service is going to keep one of two lanes of traffic in Yosemite Valley reserved for busses and emergency vehicles seven days a week. Perviously this was only done on extreme holiday weekends, but now it’s the new normal. The hope is that this will encourage people to use public transportation and ensure that the park can respond to emergencies. However when there is already no parking available in Yosemite Valley (even after many people illegally park), it forces everyone into a traffic jam that’s slow as molasses with no hope of actually getting out of your car. That’s right, it’s now a common Yosemite experience to be stuck in your car for six hours as you drive through Yosemite Valley and are forced back out of the valley because there is no place to park in that six hour drive. And that’s only after spending two hours getting through the parks entrance gate.
Perhaps worst of all, no one seems to be telling engaged couples about these problems until it’s too late. Sure, you can book your wedding at the Majestic Hotel on a summer weekend and they will sell you the space for you and your guests to sit on the wedding lawn and enjoy the hotel’s fabulous setting for your wedding – but will your loved ones actually be able to get to your wedding through the traffic and congestion? What happens when you are pushing up against your allotted wedding time slot as your wait for your partners family to slog the the traffic to get there and the staff tells you it’s now or never?
Do you see all of these photographs on our website of couples relaxing in meadows, standing alone at waterfalls or perched on a wall at Tunnel View? What if I told you we may not be abel to get to those locations on your wedding day because there are too many cars in the park. Few things are worse on your wedding day than being stuck in traffic an unable to make it to your own wedding ceremony, but this is becoming an everyday issue.
I don’t know what the future holds or how the Park Service is going to handle this issue. It’s a tough one because we want everyone to have access to the park and be able to have a wilderness experience, but I’m not sure if those two things are compatible. In a very specific part of Yosemite, the Half Dome Cables already have a permit system. Likewise, in 2016 it became possible for the first time to reserve a parking space in Yosemite on Recreation.gov. Now local residents and workers are even calling for daily attendance caps to reduce the traffic congestion.
So what can you do?
- Just know that it’s going to be very crowed in and around summer time. Give yourself lots of extra time to travel by car and arrive early.
- If you are staying outside of the park, consider YARTS public transportation to get in and out of the valley.
- If you care coming in with friends and family please carpool.
- If you are staying in the park, make use of valley shuttle buses, walk or bring a bicycle to travel around the valley. Plan on not being able to drive within the Valley once you are there.
- Avoid weekends for your wedding if at all possible. Even having your wedding on a Friday afternoon is preferable to Saturday or Sunday. If you are planning a small elopement aim for midweek and earlier in the morning or late in the afternoon.
- Prepare to walk. If you are staying in Yosemite Valley already, it may be preferable just to walk to some wonderful locations rather than drive to well known views.
- Know that if you decide to have a wedding in Yosemite Valley on a weekend, you will not be able to travel around Yosemite Valley for photographs.
- Think about locations outside of Yosemite Valley. There are miles and mile of trails to explore and find that perfect place for your wedding ceremony.
- According the NPS, 75% of park visitors come in May through October. Think about taking advantage of November through April.