With wilderness the size of the state of Rhode Island, Yosemite National Park in California’s central valley is a destination worth visiting for people of all ages from around the world. It’s natural beauty and iconic rock formations are breathtaking. Yosemite boasts the largest waterfall in North America and the most popular natural rock climbing surface, El Capitan. With the National Park System’s Junior Ranger Program, there is always something for both grown ups and kids to learn and enjoy.
Where to Go
The closest international airports to Yosemite National Park are Sacramento, San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. It is about a three hour drive from any of these locations, but the drive and the views are well worth it. If you prefer to stay inside the park, book early! Campsites book out months to a year in advance and the one hotel inside the park, Yosemite Lodge books up just as quickly. You can reserve a campsite at Recreation.gov.
There are five different entrances into the park. Four are on the western side and one is on the more remote eastern side. You can choose your entrance based on the direction you are coming from and where you want to go in the park. Be sure to check Yosemite Alerts for entrance and road closures, especially during the winter months. Yosemite is beautiful throughout the year, but millions of people visit during the summer months. You may prefer to endure slightly colder temperatures by going before April or after September and avoiding the crowds.
What to Do
Take an Art Class
Yosemite National Park has been a haven for artists and photographers for over a century. Famed American photographer Ansel Adams said “Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.” Yosemite has remained nearly untouched since Ansel’s day and millions of people still flock to paint and photograph the iconic scenery. You can see Yosemite artwork and take an art class at the Yosemite Conservancy.
Take a Drive
Roll the windows down and take a scenic drive through some of the most spectacular scenery you will ever see. Take 39 mile Tioga Road, the most scenic drive through the park from Crane Flat to Tioga Pass. Be sure and look up to take in the massive height of the giant Sequoia trees.
Take a Bike Ride
There are over 12 miles of paved bike paths throughout Yosemite. You can rent bikes in Yosemite Valley Lodge or Half Dome Village.
Grab a fishing line and try your luck in the streams or lakes of Yosemite. Children under 16 do not need a permit to fish in California. You can find special Yosemite fishing regulations on the National Parks Service website.
Take a Hike
One of the best ways to see Yosemite is by hiking. Some of the best hikes in Yosemite are Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point Road, Wawona and Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, Hetch Hetchy, White Wolf and Tuolumne Meadows.
Have a Picnic
Go to the grocery store at Yosemite Village and stock up on picnic goods. Find a quiet place in the park to enjoy the beauty all around you.
Participate in Ranger and Interpretive Programs
What is better than learning about the park than form someone who lives there? Yosemite offers a host of different programs for all ages and interests. You can check the Yosemite Guide which is updated several times a year with a schedule of activities.
If your family is interested in rock climbing, you have come to the right place. El Capitan is the world’s tallest granite monolith and one of the top rock climbing destinations in the world.
See a Show
Catch an on stage production put on by the Yosemite Theater.
See all the Iconic Yosemite Sites
El Capitan, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, Mariposa Grove and more. You can see most of these at Tunnel View lookout and get that classic Yosemite shot to put on your Instagram.
Yosemite is best seen on foot, hiking the various trails throughout the park. Driving through the park is a spectacular way to take in the sites with little ones. Renting an RV and camping inside the park is a great option for those wanting to stay in the park without camping in a tent.
Vanessa Hunt is a full-time traveling mama who is passionate about world-schooling and food. You can find her sharing all about her travels with her family of six (her four children are 4, 7, 9 and 11), as well as her favorite recipes at WanderlustCrew.