Yosemite National Park with kids

What to do in Yosemite National Park with kids? Yosemite National Park is in our top 10 in terms of favorite and most beautiful national parks in the USA. Fun fact; Yosemite is pronounced Joo-sèh-mèh-tie, with the emphasis on seh and not Djòsemait. It is a large national park and you will not get bored here easily. We recommend that you give Yosemite National Park at least 2 days. If you have less time to spend, then it is wise to really plan your trip well, because driving to and from the middle of the park also takes time and we think that 1 day staying there is really very short. Besides, there is so much fun to choose from that you soon don’t know what to choose. We’ll give you a hand with this and give you some tips below on what’s fun to do in Yosemite National Park with kids.

Best travel time Yosemite National Park with kids

The beset travel time to visit Yosemite National Park with kids is from April through October. Then it is nice and warm in terms of temperature and there is little rain. In the summer months of July and August, it can get hot here, but it is high up and there are also plenty of trails with shade. Of course, you then have to keep in mind that it is also high season and the park can be a lot busier. In addition, the prices of accommodations in the area are then a lot higher.

Many trails in Yosemite NP are only open from late May/early June to late September. As such, it is busier in the park and even without these trails you can easily spend 3 days here. In contrast, April is still nice and quiet, the most wonderful weather often and there is also more than enough to see. As the ice water begins to melt, the waterfalls are the most beautiful to view.

Yosemite National Park with kids

Transportation in and to Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is located in California. San Francisco is the nearest major city and this city has its own international airport where you can rent a car. If you travel with an RV like us, your itinerary often starts here as well. From here it is still a few hours’ drive to Yosemite National Park.

Most families with kids also rent a car or RV to see western America. Most families do this at the Los Angeles or San Francisko airport. At both airports of these cities, you can rent a car through Sunny Cars. Sunny Cars has one price that includes most insurance and often the deductible. For more information on renting a car in Los Angeles take a look here and for renting a car in San Francisko take a look here.

In Yosemite National Park itself, there is a very good bus service between all the trails. So, leave your car or camper at the campsite or at the Visitors Centre and take the bus. This one runs so often that it is not easily crowded. Better for the environment and fun for the kids! There are 2 bus lines and they cross each other. The bus even drives all the way to the lodges, glamping tents and hotels.

The short line runs to the back of the park. Both bus lines stop at the Visitors Center, so you can transfer here as well. The buses are free and really easier than constantly looking for a parking spot somewhere was our experience.

Yosemite National Park with kids

#1 Yosemite Mountain Suger Pine Railroad

Just before entering Yosemite National Park with kids by car or RV, you’ll pass Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. Here you can take a train ride between the Sequoias. Fair? We thought it looked super cute, but also a bit contradictory. Riding a steam train among these ancient redwoods that you so desperately want to preserve for the future sounds a bit contradictory. Consequently, opinions are divided on this,

You can book the train for $30 per person. For kids, you pay $18. The little train runs from April to November and a normal trip takes an hour. Besides a normal tour, you can also choose a package with lunch or an evening ride that lasts 3 hours and ends in darkness.

You can also choose a train ride including dinner or including a drama performance about life in the past. Prices for the latter 2 tours are $75 per adult and $30 for kids age 3 and older.

Prefer to hike among the mighty Sequoias? If you arrive on the 41 from Oakhurst you can approach this park from different directions, so check carefully which route you want to drive), the first thing you will encounter are these hikes: Mariposa Grove or Grant Sequoias. Starting in late April, the shuttle bus also runs here and you can hike to these large Sequoias (a 6.4-kilometer hike).

Please note that if the bus does not run, this hike is 6 miles because you have to walk to the starting point and 6 miles is almost 10 kilometers. That can be a somewhat long walk, especially with small kids. There is also a nearly 4-mile hike to the Grant Sequoias. Both trails are pretty flat and therefore great for hiking.

What to do in Yosemite National Park with the family

#2 Viewpoints Yosemite NP

If you drive to Yosemite Valley Visitors Center you will pass all kinds of beautiful viewpoints. Definitely don’t skip this one! In particular, the Tunnel View viewpoint is really too wonderful not to get out for a while!

Before you get to Tunnel view you have the road to Glacier Point. This road is open from late May to late October and was closed when we were there. However, this viewpoint seems to be insanely beautiful as well. This includes the Tioga Road (closed from November through May).

Yosemite National Park with kids

#3 Visitor Center

The visitor center at the beginning of the park (Wawona) is only open in the summer and also has much less information, but can be a good start if you prefer to visit this part of the park first and so you visit the park in the summer. Tuolumne Visitors Center is also open only in the summer.

The main visitor center (Yosemite Valley) is in the middle of the park and there is plenty of parking here as well. Get your maps and information about the park here. The visitors center has a small store for souvenirs, but next to the visitors center is a very extensive store that sells all kinds of merchandise.

Since Yosemite is really a super beautiful park, it is kind of nice to take a souvenir of this. We recommend you check out this store for fun souvenirs. The prices are quite reasonable compared to other visitors centers of national parks in America, which surprised us. We had thought that prices would be much higher here because it is such a popular park among tourists.

Every national park has a Junior Ranger Program. Ask for this at the front desk. This program is great fun for kids because they can earn a badge at each park. They have to do different assignments for this (you have assignments for each age group) and then when they turn in these completed assignments they get a badge.

Every national park in the United States has such a program, so kids can collect a badge in every national park. Super educational and our kids get super fanatical about the assignments in each national park. Of course, it is in English and you may have to help translate especially with young kids, but this is definitely a fun kid’s activity at the Visitor Center at Yosemite National Park.

You can always ask the park rangers present in the visitors center for the latest updates. In fact, you have absolutely no cell phone coverage in most places in Yosemite. So keep this in mind when you go here and, for example, already download the map of the park and its surroundings on Google Maps.

In addition, the visitors center has a small exhibit on the animals present and how this national park was created over time. Outside, you can fill your bottles with fresh drinking water and there are toilets.

What to do in Yosemite National Park with the family

#4 Museum and Old Native Village

A 5-minute drive by car from the visitors center is this museum and old native village. On the way there, you will already be amazed by the beautiful rock formations and waterfalls. The beautiful birds are sure to be seen and who knows, you might even see a bear! When we were there, it was still too early for this (this was mid-April).

The museum displays traditional costumes and original beadwork of the first inhabitants. Definitely fun, but you can walk through this pretty quickly with kids. After all, outside is much more fun. Here is the Old Native Village and the kids can walk through a village as it used to be with the first inhabitants.

There is also a panel where they can press buttons and the native kids tell their stories. In doing so, they tell about: what they had to do during the day, what the village looked like, who was in charge in the village and more stories like this. You can visit this museum and the village in half an hour to an hour. It is not super large, but it is very nice for families with kids.

What to do in Yosemite National Park with the family

#5 Hikes in Yosemite National Park

The day we arrived, the youngest kids wanted nothing more than to go camping. We had also done quite a lot. Driving to the national park, the viewpoints, the visitor center and the museum had already filled our first day. So I took a walk alone with my oldest kid the first day and the day after that we went out with the whole family. We list the different walks below.

Hikes in Yosemite National Park with kids;

Mirror Lake Trail: the day we arrived, I still walked the Mirror Lake Trail with my oldest kid. You can take the bus from Upper Pine Falls campground 1 stop (or if not camping take the shuttle anyway. The shuttles run until 10pm and start as early as 6am) or walk. In total, this hike was 5 kilometers to a beautiful lake and back. A wonderful mother – eldest daughter getaway.

Mist Trail: the next day we started the Mist Trail before 9 a.m. This was immediately the biggest hike of the day. This trail is quite a climb until you reach a bridge that gives you a view of Vernall Fall. You continue walking the trail until you actually reach the waterfall itself (6.5 kilometers and with older kids can be extended by 1.5 kilometers to the Nevada fall).

It was a tough hike for our youngest (aged 3 at the time), but doable. It was also her favorite. The waterfall is so tremendously beautiful and majestic! So don’t miss out!

Lower Yosemite Fall: after lunch at the campground (you can also have lunch at the café behind the visitors center), we first went to pick up our badges and then took a 1.6 kilometer hike to the Lower Yosemite fall. A fun and beautiful green hike with many waterfalls, rock walls and beautiful wooden bridges. Every minute we enjoyed on and off in this park. This trail is also accessible with a baby carriage or stroller.

Yosemite National Park with kids

Columbia Rock Trail: last one that day, we did the Columbia Rock trail. A very steep climb up and despite all the snacks, encouragement and positive words, the youngest two really couldn’t make it halfway. You climb 250 meters in a very short time and that was just too much for late afternoon. The oldest (10 years old) went on with her father and enjoyed a bizarrely beautiful view.

I went back downstairs with the two youngest and we had a great time playing in the sand until they returned. Meanwhile, squirrels hop by, you see beautiful birds and enjoy the wonderful pine scent that hangs there.

Other hikes that are also doable in Yosemite National Park with kids are;

Bridaveil Fall, this one is only 0.8 kilometers around and accessible with a baby carriage or stroller

Cook’s Meadow loop, from this hike you have a view of the valley and Lower Yosemite Falls. Also accessible with a baby carriage or stroller. This walk is 1.6 kilometers around.

In addition to these hikes, there are also (especially in the summer) a lot more difficult hikes to do with older kids such as the Hetchy Hetch. Ask for more information about this at the visitor center. This blog is really written with kids between the ages of 0 and 11 in mind.

Yosemite with kids

Camping at Yosemite National Park

Overnight we did 2 nights at Upper Pine Falls campground. A good base from which to explore the entire park. At each campsite there is a bear locker to put your food in so as not to attract bears. If you sleep in an RV, then your food can stay in the refrigerator, as long as you don’t leave food for in the cabin. And if you sleep in a tent, don’t put it too close to the bear locker.

Blogger Joep did this during his visit to the park, and at night the bears sometimes come to test whether the lockers are properly locked by banging against them. You can imagine how exciting it was that a bear came so close to the little tent ;).

The campground is sheltered and you can have a nice fire in the fire ring. So don’t forget to bring some goodies to the park and then also put them away properly for the bears!

Yosemite with kids

Family-friendly restaurants in Yosemite National Park

You can eat at several restaurants in Yosemite National Park with kids. In Yosemite National Park there is a nice cafe behind the visitors center where you can eat with kids, for example. It has a nice outdoor terrace from which you have a nice view of the park.

Dining options in Yosemite National Park are managed by Yosemite Hospitality and range from groceries to pizza to upscale dining at The Ahwahnee restaurant. For a list of all the restaurants in Yosemite National Park and just outside of it, check out this Yosemite National Park website.

If you are staying at one of the lodges or hotels near the park there will probably be opportunities to dine there as well.

Yosemite with kids

Family-friendly hotel Yosemite National Park

You can stay in the Yosemite National Park area with kids just fine. There are plenty of family-friendly accommodations you can book. We list below the top rated accommodations suitable for families with kids. Click on the blue link for more information.

Budget accommodation: Wildwood Inn

Mid-range accommodations: Cinnamon Bear Inn

Luxury Accommodation: Tenaya at Yosemite

For the entire list of family-friendly accommodations in Yosemite National Park, take a look here.

About the author: this blog is written for Ilse Stelma on IG to follow under traveling_stelmafamily. Ilse has been to 34 countries and she loves to travel with her family. In addition, they love nature, (wild) camping, occasional luxury and places not yet frequented by many tourists.

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