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Film Location: Yosemite National Park, California

Written on September 9, 2017

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is one of the world’s most famous parks. Yosemite Valley is known for its impressive waterfalls, meadows, cliffs, and unusual rock formations including El Capitan and Half Dome. Other locations of interest to filmmakers and photographers include Tuolumne Meadows, Glacier Point, Mariposa Grove, Crane Flat, Hetch Hetchy Valley, and Wawona Tunnel.

Horsetail Falls which flows in the winter and early spring. If the water is flowing in February and the weather conditions are just right, the setting sun illuminates the waterfall, making it glow orange and red, giving the water the appearance of fire.

Located in California’s Sierra Nevada, the park is a 4 hour drive from San Francisco and 5.5 hour drive from Los Angeles.

Yosemite National Park is home to hundreds of flora and fauna species. The John Muir Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail run through the park.

National Geographic’s Oscar award winning documentary Free Solo filmed in Yosemite.

When to Shoot?

May through September is Yosemite National Park’s busy period. The Tioga Road and the Glacier Point Road are closed during winter and usually re-open in June. The Mariposa Grove Road is intermittently closed in winter due to icy conditions. Nesting sites also restrict land and aerial filming.

Film & Photography Permits

Small commercial film and photography projects that require minimal oversight from parks authorities, incur a $200 application fee. Small projects are defined as shoots that do not require exclusive use of park space, working in non-wilderness areas, with a crew of up to 2 people, minimal equipment, shooting no talent or sound.

More complex commercial film and photography projects that require greater oversight from parks authorities, incur a $300 application fee. Complex projects are defined as shoots that have a larger footprint including crew of more than 3 people, sound recording, access to sensitive locations, filming in wilderness areas, parking of commercial vehicles, props and larger equipment setups.

The above fees already cover entrance fees to Yosemite National Park.

Additional costs may apply depending on the specifics of your shoot.

Permits for smaller projects typically take 30 days to process, whilst more complex projects can take at least 90 days to process.

Stills photography does not require a permit if it involves only hand-carried equipment (tripod, lenses or flash) and does not involve professional crews, product or service advertisement, or use of models, props or sets.

The National Park Service will not permit filming or photography if the shoot is:

• Going to conflict with the visitors’ normal use of the Park
• Expected to damage Yosemite National Park
• On the weekend or a public holiday
• Portraying activities that are not permitted within Yosemite National Park
• Insufficiently insured (commercial liability insurance of a minimum of $1 million issued by a US company)

Larger footprint shoots that may interfere with visitor use or damage Yosemite National Park will be assigned a National Park Service officer to monitor activities.

For more information and to apply for permits directly with Yosemite National Park, see here.

California Film Production Services & Shooting Crew

If you require a California based line producer or fixer to assist with your permitting application or other production support, contact us. We are also able to recommend San Francisco or Los Angeles based directors, DoP’s, videographers, and photographers.