07 Jun Visiting Yosemite National Park with Kids
Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Peach Loop. Today to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service we’re sharing some of our favorite National Parks.
Visiting Yosemite National Park should be on everyone’s bucket list. It is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places I have ever seen. Visitors flock to this park from all over the world to take in the sights, and like us, many are traveling with children. If you plan on visiting Yosemite with kids, I have a few tips that will help your trip be a memorable and enjoyable one for the whole family.
1) Don’t be afraid of hiking.
A couple of the most gorgeous hikes in Yosemite are actually incredibly easy to do and can be walked with a stroller.
Lower Yosemite Falls – The trail to Lower Yosemite Falls takes you on a one mile winding wooded path, that remains mostly flat. Taking a stroller on this walk is easily done and rewarded with a gorgeous view of the base of the fall.
Bridalveil Fall – This hike is .5 mile round trip and mostly flat. In the fall, I’ve seen this fall slow to a light spritz, so if you really want to see the water going strong, visit in the spring. There is parking available at the start of the trail, but it gets crowded quickly, so make this stop as early in the day as you can.
The Valley Loop Trail – While this trail is 11.5 miles, it is very flat and a great walk to go on if you just want to get a feel for the Yosemite valley. The thing I like about this picturesque trail is that parts of it run right along the shuttle loop, making it easy for families to walk part of the trail and then catch the shuttle back the rest of the way.
There are also fun guided night hikes that will allow you to wander out as a family and see the stars. Check the guide given to you when you enter the park to see times and locations for these.
2) Stay somewhere fun.
This could mean different things to different families. For us, we recommend one of two places, depending on your mood and your budget.
Housekeeping Camp – Our favorite place to stay that leaves you waking up in the heart of the Yosemite Valley! Located by a beach on the Merced River, a day full of water fun is almost built in to an overnight stay here. For roughly $115, Housekeeping camp provides campers with a 3 walled concrete structure and a canvas roof and privacy curtain. Your camp site has a table, a fire ring, bear lockers, and electricity!!! This is perfect for the family that likes to camp, but doesn’t want to have to drag their tent and air mattresses with them. Forget something? There is a store on site, ready to provide you with everything from a clean shirt to s’mores supplies! (And let’s face it, if you’re going camping, you’re gunna want to make s’mores!)
Tenaya Lodge – Located just outside of the park in Fish Camp, this hotel incorporates deceivingly rustic elements into what is a beautiful upscale establishment (that even has a spa!) The reason I call this fancy schmancy hotel fun is that there are a ton of activities for kids including outdoor movies, indoor and outdoor pools, rock climbing, and archery lessons! (Not to mention the fun holiday activities they have if you’re visiting in the winter!) For the adults who want to take advantage of the afore mentioned spa after a long day of hiking, there is a kid’s camp option open for ages 5-12. If your kids are too young for camp, then there is also daycare available. Also noteworthy is that they make one of the best burgers I have ever had in my life!
3) Get educated.
Yosemite is a gorgeous park to be in, but it is also a fabulously educational experience. The museum and the indian village behind it is a great place to start. While the museum was fun for my older daughter, the little ones loved running in and around the bark houses in the village out back. The ceremonial roundhouse was particularly interesting to me, but what do I know, I’m just a grown up!
Earning a badge through the junior ranger program is also something to take advantage of, especially if you are going to be in Yosemite for a longer visit. Maybe you’re looking for a more artistic form of education. Grab your camera and learn to take incredible pictures in this national park through the Ansel Adams Gallery.
There is a program running through all of the National Parks called “Every Kid in a Park.” This program allows 4th grade students and their families to enter any National Park for free for their entire 4th grade year (September-August.) This program is to get children who may not have otherwise gone to go learn, hands on, about natural wonders and parts of our nation’s history. So grab your 4th grader and get to a National Park.
4) Activities galore!
Maybe you and your toddler aren’t ready to scale Half Dome, but fear not as there are still a ton of activities you can participate in while in Yosemite!
How about some fun on two (or three) wheels? Bring your bikes and tricycles from home and head out on one of the beautiful bike trails in Yosemite! Forget your bikes at home? , Rent one! It is a nice alternative to walking everywhere and can add a bit more fun for younger visitors.
There are plenty of activities on our list that we haven’t gotten to participate in yet, but they’re on our list! River Rafting, tennis, horseback riding, snowshoeing, skiiing, and ice skating are great options depending on the time of your visit. Let us know what you think if you try one of these!
5) Don’t forget the family picture!
I did a lot of research on this one. While just about everywhere in Yosemite is awe inspiring and picture perfect, I wanted to get the postcard pictures that just capture the whole valley in one shot. While there is a great list of viewpoints, here are two spots that I felt did this well:
Valley View – Also known as the Gates of the Valley, this spot crams everything you could possibly want to get a picture of in the Yosemite Valley in one single shot. The Merced river, trees, El Capitan, and Sentinel Rock. It is a gorgeous spot, but it can be a little tricky to get to. There are only a few parking spots in this small turnout, and in the summer, tour busses have been known to cram in there, making it difficult to make the turn off. Since this spot is actually on the way out of the valley on the north western side (heading to Highway 120 and the North Gate) my advice would be to go early in the day to avoid everyone else who will be trying to stop by on their way out. It completely worth visiting.
Tunnel View – This view is also at an entrance/exit of the park, on the southern side. (Coming in from Highway 41.) Having this view as your first glimpse into the valley is breathtaking! My advice would be to not just drive by it but stop and take that family picture. There is plenty of parking at this popular photo stop, so there is no excuse not to. Stopping here will give you a view of the valley from above (as opposed to the Valley View which shows you the view from below!) You’ll see Half Dome, El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall, Sentinel Rock, and a massive amount of trees!
I have one last generic tip for families visiting Yosemite National Park: relax and have fun! You don’t have to plan out your whole trip to have a good time. Spend a restful day by the river and splash around the water. Let the kids find an open meadow and just run around and play with sticks and pinecones. On one of our trips, after visiting the chapel in the Yosemite Valley, we let the kids just run around and play and that was their favorite part of this trip! Who knew a stick could be so fun…they did!
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!
Here is the map of our Blogorail Peach | Family Adventure | National Parks
- 1st Stop – Trips with Tykes | Joshua Tree National Park with Kids
- 2nd Stop – The Mousekatools Mom | Yosemite National Park with Kids
- 3rd Stop – Love Our Crazy Life | Yellowstone National Park
- 4th Stop – Heidi’s Head | Step Back in Time at Jamestown & Yorktown – Colonial National Historic Park
- 5th Stop – This Roller Coaster Called Life | Family Adventures to the Grand Canyon National Park