Yosemite National Park is known worldwide as one of the most beautiful natural wonders in the United States, offering endless hiking and outdoor fun amidst towering rock formations, roaring waterfalls, winding rivers, and giant sequoia trees. While outdoor enthusiasts of every age can find something to enjoy in the Yosemite wilderness, a few options stand out as family-friendly favorites, including natural sights and short hikes that are easy on little legs. Book a stay at an unforgettable Yosemite vacation rental today. Without further ado, here are the most popular family-friendly activities in Yosemite.
1. Become a Junior Ranger
Stop by the visitor’s center or talk to a ranger to get a Junior Ranger workbook that includes fun nature activities for kids to complete back at the vacation rental or even on the trails. Once they’ve finished, take the workbook back to a visitor’s center to earn an official Junior Ranger patch. While the program is designed for kids ages 7 to 13, the Little Cub program is available for kids ages 3 to 6.
2. Feel on Top of the World at Glacier Point
Widely considered the best lookout in Yosemite National Park, Glacier Point offers breathtaking views of the park’s top attractions. Kids love finding the Half Dome and Nevada Falls from more than 3,000 feet up. Plus, Glacier Point is accessible by car, so even families with infants and small children who wouldn’t be up for a hike can enjoy the stunning panoramic views.
3. Hike to One of the Roaring Falls
A family favorite in every season, especially in the spring when they’re in full effect, the beautiful waterfalls of Yosemite are sure to please visitors of all ages. While many falls are visible from the valleys, scenic drives, and lookouts, both the towering Bridalveil Falls and Yosemite Falls can be reached on foot via a fairly easy hike. Older kids or teens may be up to one of the more challenging hikes to Vernal Fall or the winding Nevada Fall. Many falls offer areas below where kids can wade through the shallows or search for pebbles in the icy creeks.
4. See the Giant Sequoia Trees
Towering more than 200 feet high, the mighty sequoias make people of all ages feel small as you walk through the trunks of dead sequoias and search for pine cones. Find the legendary trees in Tuolumne, Merced, and Mariposa groves, all easily accessible from mild hikes. While Mariposa Grove is the easiest to reach, the other two offer just as many beautiful trees with fewer crowds for families with older kids who don’t mind hiking two to three miles. Be sure to keep an eye out for fallen trees where kids can marvel at the huge tangles of exposed roots.
5. Get Some Ice Cream Under the Half Dome
The Half Dome is one of the most breathtaking formations in the park, making it a must-see for families. Head over to Half Dome Village to grab a few scoops of ice cream that you can enjoy while gazing at the beautiful monument. If you’re traveling during the winter, bring your kids to skate on the outdoor ice rink situated in the village.
6. Hike Through Tuolumne Meadows
If you’re looking forward to a peaceful family vacation away from the crowds, you aren’t limited to the porch of your remote wilderness vacation rental. Drive to this lush meadow featuring easy flatland trails for all ages amid glacial boulders and domes as well as meandering rivers. Tuolumne Meadows also features a visitor’s center, picnic grounds, and a free shuttle between other popular meadows throughout the summer months.
7. Go Rafting or Take a Dip in the Merced River
The rapid waters of Merced River are ideal for a fun guided rafting trip with views of top sights such as the Half Dome and El Capitan. However, you can also find shallow, sandy areas of calm water for wading or going for a swim. A few favorites include Housekeeping Camp Beach and the shores of El Capitan Meadow. Depending on the season, you may want to talk to a ranger about which areas are currently safe for swimming. If the weather’s cool, you can always just walk across the rocks and boulders or enjoy an afternoon picnic on the scenic shoreline.
8. Take a Stroll Around Mirror Lake
Once they walk the easy trail to Mirror Lake, people of all ages stand in awe at the glass-like water that reflects the surrounding rock formations, trees, and tall grasses. Older kids may enjoy jumping off the rocks into the water, and little ones can wade from the shallow sand bar while spotting deer on the opposite shoreline.
9. Stand Under the Shadow of El Capitan
The sheer rock face of this geologic wonder is a sight to behold, and kids love watching the adrenaline-seeking rock climbers scale the 3,000-foot vertical monument through a pair of binoculars. You can view the formation by car from Tunnel View, on foot from the Inspiration Point lookout, or from El Capitan Meadow. After snapping some family photos in front of this Yosemite postcard attraction, enjoy a picnic in the meadow below prepared in your rustic Yosemite vacation rental.
10. See the Sunset From Sentinel Dome
Hike the gradual trail to the top of this dome-shaped geological structure for panoramic views of the park. The two-mile round-trip hike is easy enough for kids of all ages, and once you reach the summit, you can sit back and take in the breathtaking sunset while the little ones scramble up the rocks or make towers of small stones along the trail.
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