Sequoia National Park is renowned for its groves of giant trees—like nature’s old-growth cathedrals—which soar so far aloft that they instill visitors with an incomparable sense of beauty and awe.
Much of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National parks (together known as SEKI) is virtually unscathed wilderness, but there are nine versatile sites on these 400,000+ acres where couples may exchange their wedding vows and provide the perfect wedding venue for their guests. Even so, this environment bears several logistical challenges and some stringent ground rules for couples looking to marry on the land.
In this guide, we’ll cover:
Getting married in a national park is no easy feat, but with appropriate planning and preparation, you and your nearest and dearest can honor your partnership with comfort in one of California’s—and the country’s—most resplendent natural settings.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks share nine unique, pre-designated sites for couples looking to get married on their lands, each with their own appeal—and their own regulations for public use.
The size of your wedding will likely be a deciding factor in settling on a location: maximum headcounts range from 20 to 100 people, which includes the members of the wedding party and officiant.
Also, note that when COVID-19 restrictions are in effect, wedding parties for every site are limited to 15 people or fewer. If you think your wedding will surpass this maximum, reach out to your local NPS authorities to find out whether pandemic restrictions are in effect.
Midway between Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park is Halstead Meadow, a serene enclave for intimate weddings with no more than 20 people. Weddings may not be held on the meadow itself: The ceremony must take place on the periphery of the grass, though you’ll still have the backdrop of the tree-lined glen and sky behind you—particularly if you get married around sunset.
Be advised that the Halstead Meadow is also a popular place for families and kids to gather and picnic. In addition to picnickers, you may find you have a wilder class of company in your midst—bears are known to frequent the Meadow, so be sure that you keep any honey you have with you stashed in the car.
Lost Grove Turnout rests on the border of Sequoia National Park, shaded by clusters of redwoods. While celebrants may not get married around the base of the sequoias themselves, the fenced-off area where you may hold your ceremony is well-groomed and canopied by the steeple-like trees.
Weddings are limited to 25 people and must be held between the summer and fall to avoid detrimental weather and snow conditions.
For couples looking to strike off and marry off the beaten path, the mountain peak of Sunset Rock boasts a beautiful backdrop for a wilderness wedding.
The site is a 45-minute hike from the trailhead parking lot at the Giant Forest Museum, but the Park’s shuttle service is also there to guide you and your guests to the plateau. Given that Sunset Rock is substantially more rugged than other SEKI locations, there are more restrictions on area use.
If your heart is set on holding your ceremony here, you’ll need to get in touch with the Commercial Services Office directly to discuss the permit requirements for getting married at this location.
Crescent Meadow is another green and gorgeous site in Sequoia National Park Lush, though this area can accommodate a slightly larger wedding party of 30 people.
The journey to Crescent Meadow is one of the highlights of this wedding site: not only is it beautiful, but the trail itself is gentle. It’s perfect if you have older folks, kids, or varying levels of hiking ability in your wedding party.
Given that it’s a meadow, the same rules that applied at Halstead apply here: you can’t marry on the meadow itself, but given how picturesque it is, you may not want to. Seasonality also plays a role in this location. You’ll need to hold your nuptials in the summer or fall because SEKI officials shut down access during the snowier seasons.
Beetle Rock is one of the best Sequoia wedding locations to enjoy the Park’s views, particularly at sunset.
This site is also ideal for couples who don’t want to compromise on their guest list: up to 75 people are permitted to join you for a Beetle Rock ceremony, which can be reached via a brisk hike from the Great Forest Museum parking area, or by a 5-minute shuttle ride.
The Giant Forest Museum is one of the more logistically seamless pre-approved sites to host your wedding in SEKI, though you may have to compromise on your wedding’s intimate feel in exchange for the on-site plumbing.
Nevertheless, the Giant Forest Museum patio grounds are tucked into the Giant Forest, one of California’s most iconic natural sanctuaries. The patio is a manicured, highly walkable, and well-maintained space that can accommodate up to 75 congregants for a wedding.
Wolverton/Long Meadow in Sequoia National Park is the most commodious of all of the SEKI wedding locations, with plenty of space (and state approval) for weddings with as many as 100 people.
While this is an especially popular place for wintertime recreation such as skiing, sledding, and snowshoeing, the atmosphere tends to be less rambunctious in the warmer months, making it a wonderful place to find a slice of seclusion for your ceremony.
Like Halstead and Crescent meadows, you may not marry on Long Meadow itself, but rest assured no matter the season you will find some jaw-dropping lookout points to frame your special day wherever you are.
True to its name, Panoramic Point in Kings Canyon National Park is sure to add striking natural beauty to your wedding with its epic alpine vistas.
This location’s wedding party limit is the same whether or not COVID-19 regulations are in effect: your guest list (including you, your partner, and the officiant) may not exceed 15 people. The trail to Panoramic Point is usually closed through the winter and spring, making this site ideal for couples keen on enjoying a quieter ceremony or elopement, and letting the beauty of the landscape take center stage.
Muir Rock in the Cedar Grove area of Kings Canyon National Park sits on a placid bend just off the Kings River. When the weather is warm, Muir Rock is a popular spot to take a soak or jump off the boulder—though Parks officials advise against swimming here in the height of summer, when cold water currents can make the river considerably more dangerous.
Whether or not you choose to take a dip post-nup, holding your wedding at Muir Rock will feel elegant and special. Ceremonies are afforded a headcount of no more than 20 people, and may only be held between mid-April and mid-November.
All wedding planning requires a degree of compromise, and getting married in Sequoia or Kings Canyon National Park comes with plenty of regulatory and logistical considerations to take into account.
Whichever location you choose, there are five key things to be aware of in preparation for your wedding day.
Given the state of COVID-19-related restrictions on public gatherings, you’ll need to consult the national parks guidelines for getting married in Sequoia & Kings Canyon territory before you proceed with your wedding plans.
That said, the US Department of the Interior has a series of evergreen non-negotiables for couples looking to hold their nuptial ceremony on park grounds:
Mind the clock – Wedding ceremonies may last no longer than 3 hours at your chosen location. When applying for a wedding permit, the National Parks Service recommends requesting a time earlier or later in the day to make the most of your time, grant your wedding more privacy, and avoid any prospective bottlenecking of other parks-goers you’ll be sharing the site with.
Respect the guest limits – While in effect, COVID-19 restrictions limit weddings at every SEKI location to no more than 15 guests. If COVID-19 restrictions are lifted before your wedding, you must adhere to the guest limit designated to your individual location.
Budget accordingly – Holding your ceremony in a National Park can be a wonderful way to save money on costs normally associated with weddings—but an NPS wedding is still not a freebie. You still have to pay to secure a permit and cover the standard parks entry and parking lot fees for all wedding attendees.
Plan your own transport – The NPS has strict rules around parking, and personal vehicles must be parked in official parking lots. Sequoia’s popularity means that parking lots can get jammed, so larger weddings will require some strategizing to ensure all of your guests secure a spot. Where possible, encourage your attendees to carpool and call ahead to see if the shuttle to your site will be in service on your chosen date.
Lastly, know that while wedding ceremonies are welcome at Sequoia National Parks, you’ll need to hold your wedding reception elsewhere. Fortunately, there are several hotels and lodgings in the area that are excellent wedding reception hosts (we’ll name a few of the standouts later in this article).
Modern amenities such as WiFi, car travel, and reliable plumbing are so run-of-the-mill these days that we barely notice them—until you find yourself in Sequoia country, that is.
While some areas of the parks give you guaranteed access to bathrooms, transportation, and cell service, it goes without saying that some regions of the park will have you and your guests roughing it like John Muir himself.
Keeping this in mind, the best strategy for forging ahead with a SEKI wedding is to channel minimalism:
Fill up on gas beforehand, and check the limits on personal vehicles at your chosen wedding site.
Pack light and save any decorative extravagances for your reception.
Download any maps, directions, or other logistical information to your phone beforehand.
Bring along extra layers, rain gear, and any foul-weather accouterment for any guests who may have forgotten theirs.
Stay in close contact with your guests to see how you can make them as comfortable as possible.
When cell service is a gamble, staying in close communication with your wedding party can be tricky. Your most fool-proof way to ensure that everyone stays on the same page is to relay all information on directions, scheduling, and logistical considerations on your wedding website.
Take a look at Zola’s easy-to-use, free, and customizable wedding website templates. Each template allows you to post and update everything your guests need to know as the details unfold so that everyone will be on the same page (and in the same location) when it’s time for your national park nuptials.
If you’ve fallen in love with the splendor of Sequoia National Park and are ready to make it your wedding’s home, the first thing you’ll have to do is secure a special use permit from the National Park Service.
Summer can be a dicey season to hold your wedding, so be aware that permits will not be issued during the following high-traffic visiting periods:
You may submit your permit applications as early as one year in advance of your wedding date. Applications must be received no fewer than 90 days before your wedding, along with a required non-refundable fee of $150. If approved, you must return your finalized (signed) permit document no fewer than 30 days before your selected date.
Once you’ve secured your permit, you’ll want to get the ball rolling on wedding invitations to ensure that your guests—especially those who are traveling long distances—have enough time to plan ahead for the off-the-grid trip.
To send out your save-the-date cards (along with invitations, thank you notes, and, if necessary, change-the-date cards), check out Zola’s wedding paper designs to get the word out on your Sequoia National Park wedding.
Having a wedding in one of the United States’ most treasured national parks is a remarkable experience, but it doesn’t necessarily grant you privacy.
The National Park Service stresses that your wedding may not impede other visitors’ enjoyment of the park, so don’t be surprised if you see some admiring (albeit uninvited) hikers ooh-ing and aww-ing at your ceremony from the sidelines.
California has its own hazards to deal with that have, unfortunately, affected normal operations around its public parks.
Many of California’s parks are dealing with unprecedented wildfire risks, and the Department of the Interior is hard at work trying to ensure that Sequoia and Kings Canyon remain safe, sustainable, and beautiful places for all to enjoy.
As such, you’ll need to check out the NPS’s fire-management projects planned for your wedding year to see if any of your potential locations will be affected. Permits cannot be refunded even in the event of fires, poor air quality, or weather-related closures, so it’s important to maintain a flexible attitude while controlled burns and conservation efforts are in progress.
After you hold your wedding ceremony, you’ll want to find the perfect spot to celebrate with your loved ones in one of Sequoia National Park’s lodges and hotels.
The SEKI National Parks service is affiliated with three popular venues of Delaware North Parks & Resorts.
At an elevation of 7,200 feet, the picturesque stone-and-cedar Wuksachi Lodge is ideal for small to medium-scaled wedding receptions. Guest lodgings are located 100-200 feet from the main lodge, and pets are welcome on the property.
The Lodge’s American-style Peaks Restaurant can host up to 100 seated guests for your wedding meal, which can be served sit-down or buffet-style. Their cozy banquet hall will give guests a view of the thousand-year-old forests and mountains, with space to venture onto the outdoor patio to take in the sunset when the weather is warm.
While the accommodations are comfortable, space is limited at Grant Grove Cabins, making this site best for tight-knit wedding groups and elopements.
Hiking trails and landmarks like the General Grant Tree are all within walking distance, so it’s a wonderful place to restore, unwind, and continue your expeditions of the SEKI parks after your stay.
Cedar Grove Lodge is a modest, yet comfortable hotel tucked away in Kings Canyon National Park. The Lodge is open from May to mid-October, with day hiking trails and even mountain horseback rides available a stone’s throw away.
You won’t find the resources to host an extravagant wedding banquet here, but there is a no-frills café that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you’re looking for spots to host your reception meal, you’ll need to drive an hour or so to find restaurants that can accommodate you.
The John Muir Lodge is located in Kings Canyon National Park near Grant Grove Village. If you’re feeling like digging your heels into the atmosphere and roughing it for your reception, the nearby Grant Grove Market can provide you with plenty of hot dogs, canned beans, and s’mores ingredients for a firepit wedding meal under the stars.
Alternatively, the John Muir also has a restaurant on-site where you can enjoy a relaxed wedding meal and some well-deserved coffee in the morning.
While you may be thrilled to hold your ceremony in the majesty of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, there’s no shame in postponing your wedding reception so that you can celebrate somewhere nearer to civilization, and a little more accessible to all of your desired guests.
To find distinguished vendors a little closer to home, check out Zola’s catalog of venues, caterers, photographers and more in your area. Whether you search based on budget, style, or popularity, every supplier is pre-screened to meet Zola’s standards, ensuring that you’ll assemble the right team to help you and your partner ring in the wedding bells.
Holding your wedding ceremony at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks testifies to the spirit of adventure and independence with which you and your partner are consecrating your next chapter.
Nevertheless, even the most intrepid trailblazers among us need a little assistance when it comes to wedding plans. Whether you hold your wedding in a meadow, a mountaintop, or knee-deep in the Kings River, Zola has a suite of complementary tools to streamline the wedding planning process:
With Zola in your back pocket—and a healthy dose of trail mix and bug spray—you’ll be able to enjoy pulling off your Sequoia National Park wedding easily.