If I had to say which National Park is my most favorite—it would be Yosemite. For me Yosemite Valley is one of the most breathtaking, dramatic views on earth. It is the heart of the park and some of the most famous landmarks in the world are there—Half Dome, El Capitan, Tunnel View, Bridalveil Falls…
There is so much to do and see in the park especially for families. Here are some of my suggestions for things to do with kids in Yosemite.
Take a hike
Nothing brings a family together more than hiking and enjoying nature. There is gorgeous scenery to appreciate every step of the way on the many hiking trails perfect for families in Yosemite. You will find the perfect hike for everyone from toddlers to teens.
Swimming—add water and you have a recipe for a good time
Swimming is a great family activity to do anywhere in the world, but in Yosemite, it is truly a one-of-a-kind experience. The lakes and swimming holes are surrounded by spectacular natural views as far as the eyes can see.
Did you know Yosemite Valley is known the world over as THE destination for big wall climbing? Athletes come from all over the world to test their strength. Yosemite Mountaineering School provides outdoor adventures for people of all experience levels. And you will learn how to climb with qualified instructors on real granite walls!
Yosemite is a natural playground for all ages. From Wild Wee Ones (ages 6 and under) to the Junior Ranger Program (ages 4 – 14), kids will learn and have fun with interpretive programs designed just for them.
Take a tour
A great introduction to Yosemite is the Valley Floor Tour. It’s a 26-mile, two-hour open-air tram tour narrated by a park ranger (weather permitting). The tour departs Yosemite Valley Lodge several times daily. For something a little bit different try a Moonlight Tour!)
Ride a bike
Biking is a fun activity for all types of families. Several miles of bicycle paths wind through Yosemite Valley. You can use your own bicycle or rent one from Yosemite Valley Lodge or Half Dome Village (open 9am to 7pm). Bikes are only allowed on paved bicycle paths.
Horseback riding is also a very popular activity in Yosemite. Even the little ones can tag along on a smaller horse just for them on an easier trail.
Visit the Yosemite Museum
Learn about Yosemite Indians by exploring a museum collection that includes authentic, hand-woven Miwok and Paiute Native American basketry and traditional dress. Tour the outdoor Indian Village and see live cultural demonstrations. There are several other interesting museums to enjoy.
Float on a raft
Rafting is a great way to see Yosemite Valley. Children and adults can engage in this activity and will have an exciting adventure! Multiple rafting trips occur daily in spring and early summer. For a ride that is more suitable for young children and that provides the most stunning views, rent a raft in Yosemite Valley. Rafts can be rented at Half Dome Village (open 10am to 4pm, conditions permitting).
Catch (and release) a fish
There are a ton of places to fish in Yosemite. The season for stream and river fishing begins on the last Saturday in April and continues through November 15. All lakes and reservoirs are open to fishing year-round. Remember to get a fishing license and pay attention to any restrictions.
Create your own Yosemite art
One way to really stop and enjoy the park as a family is by engaging in a Yosemite Art Workshop. Taking place daily throughout the summer, Yosemite Art workshops are led by different artists every week and focus on a variety of subjects, from watercolor to silk painting!
Attend the theatre
After a day filled with exploring, relax and enjoy a show at the Yosemite Theater. Yosemite Theater presents a variety of performances, including plays based on some of the park’s most colorful characters, inspiring films, and celebrations of Yosemite’s culture and history. Yosemite Theater features live shows seven nights a week from May-October.
Take stroll with a Ranger
Learn about the wonders of the park on a ranger-guided stroll. Programs are offered daily throughout the park on a variety of topics including waterfalls, trees, bears, geology, Yosemite Indians and more.
Take a Photography Class
Learn how to best capture the landscape of Yosemite by joining a photography expert from The Ansel Adams Gallery. Several classes are offered each week. Some have fees, some are free. Learn more and sign up at the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite Village.
Be part of the solution and keep Yosemite beautiful! Join park staff to help protect Yosemite’s habitat through ecological restoration and litter cleanup projects. Volunteers of all ages are welcome to work one to three hours. Volunteers must wear long pants and closed-toe shoes. A hat and sun protection are recommended, and volunteers are encourages to bring water and snacks. All tools are provided.
The best resource for finding the schedules for these various programs is the Yosemite Guide. The Yosemite Guide contains information about trip planning, activities, scheduled events, and hours of operations for different facilities and services.
I’ve traveled all over the US and I’ve seen my share of National Parks. I love them all—for different reasons. But Yosemite has my heart. I feel I’m blessed to live only 3 and a half hours drive away.