Thursday, June 19, 2008

Yosemite with Kids- The Lowdown

I know, I know. Another Yosemite post. I swear I will stop with the Yosemite promotions (for a while anyways) after this. I just wanted to give you all some basic info and links so you can plan your own vacation. I am also always happy to help you in your planning. Just drop me an email. Hopefully this info will prove to be useful to many of you. Please be sure to send me your own stories and pictures if you decide to go!

Yosemite really does have something to offer all budgets, ages, and travel styles. Whether it’s the luxury of the Ahwahnee Hotel or a pup tent in the back country, accommodations are available to suit your needs. There are beaches to lounge on, tours to be taken, horses to be ridden, and a river to float down.
If you only have one day and want to see what Yosemite is famous for, head to the valley. Here you will find Bridelveil and Yosemite Falls, El Capitan, and Half Dome in all their glory. You can take a wonderful two hour tour guided by park rangers in an open air tram to get the complete rundown. I wouldn’t personally recommend this with toddlers since it is asking an awful lot to have them sit still for two hours but school age kids on up should enjoy the ride. Inside the valley you can rent bikes (including those ever so handy toddler trailers) and helmets are included. The Valley is only one mile wide and seven miles long so a bike is a perfect way to explore. You can also rent rafts to float down the Merced River. What a perfectly lazy way to stay cool and enjoy the scenery on those hot summer days. Children must be at least 50lbs to raft down this mellow river. Both the bike rentals and raft rentals are available at Curry Village.

Children at least 7 years old and 44’ tall can take a trail ride on a horse! What a memorable way to see Yosemite. Stables to rent horses are in the Yosemite Valley, Tuolumne High Country, and Wawona. There are 2 hour, half day, and full day rides available.

If you have older children maybe rock climbing is up their alley. Well Yosemite is the perfect place to learn. Yosemite Mountaineering School is happy to teach you the ins and outs.

Of course the big “to do” in Yosemite is a hike on one of its amazing trails. There are long, strenuous climbs to the tops of mountains, short walks to waterfalls, and plenty in between. Even the disabled can still see a lot of what Yosemite has to offer. I could go on and on about all the hikes in Yosemite but I found this site to be a great one and used it in my own research.

It breaks the hikes down by region, difficulty, scenery and crowds. There are plenty of hikes the whole family will enjoy together and hikes that are for older kids. You know your kids. Can they walk 4 miles or will they throw themselves on the ground at mile 2 and refuse to keep going thus causing you to have to walk uphill for two miles with a 50 pound child on your shoulders? My recommendation- start small and if things go well try something more difficult. If the trails are stroller friendly bring it along just in case. (I know Tuolumne Grove, Mariposa Grove, Lower Yosemite Falls, Bridelveil Falls, Glacier Point, and all the bike trails throughout the valley are all stroller friendly) My 21 month old daughter walked about 1.5 miles no problem but her twin brother would never make it that far. He likes to linger in one spot for hours on end and the art of following directions is not his forte. We keep trying with him though because eventually he will get with the program and all the exploring he does do can only help expand that brain of his!
Now for the lodging. If you only travel in the lap of luxury then the Ahwahnee is for you. Be prepared to spend over $300 a night but your money will get you a stay at one of the most beautiful hotels in any of our nation’s national parks. You can still stay in a hotel in the park without spending an arm and a leg. Yosemite Lodge is in the heart of the valley and the pricing is more budget friendly. There is also near the park entrances available such as the Tenaya Lodge and Wawona Lodge at the south entrance. If you would like to semi-rough it then Curry Village is for you. They have hard sided cabins with and without bathrooms. They also have tent cabins. Sure Curry Village is crowded but it is close to lots of conveniences such as groceries, food, rentals, and it has a pool for your kids to cool off in. What I liked about staying there was that there was a place to contain the kids at night without worry of them sneaking out of our tent. As much as I love tent camping I just didn’t feel this was the right age to do it. I think Mari would have done fine but Ben would have been a royal pain in the butt. I think next year may be a good time to try the mighty tent. For those of you who have very little ones who aren’t mobile yet (oh how I miss those days sometimes) or children that are old enough to not continuously run away from your tent or spend hours eating dirt, I say you MUST camp! It is such a fun family bonding experience and Yosemite is the perfect place to do it. There are campsites in the valley and all over the park. The campsites outside the valley will give you more peace and quiet but the ones in the valley will give you lots of convenience. Here is a good link for campsites in Yosemite:

Finally Yosemite has a junior ranger program for children ages 7-13 and Little Cub program for ages 3-6. I think these programs are great because they encourage children to get involved and learn about their national parks. You can find more info at the Visitor Center or at Happy Isles Nature Center (something I am determined to see with my children next time)

I hope all this info inspires you to get started on planning your own Yosemite vacation soon. If you have a story you would like to share about one of your journeys in America’s National Parks or someplace you think is special send me an email and I would love to feature your adventure!


Shannon said...

Thanks for all the great info! I definitely want to check out that Little Cubs program for Luke when we finally get to Yosemite (hopefully this fall?)!

Brandi said...

One day I hope to visit there. Maybe. Who knows. Glad to see your blogging away. It's the only way I keep up with anyone anymore!

debi9kids said...

OH! I just LOVE places like that because there is just so much to offer!

Anonymous said...

Wow! Thanks for the great write-up. Tons of information! It sounds like you had a fantastic trip.

One more thing that families might be interested in on the lodging front is Housekeeping Camp. It's somewhere in between Curry Village and camping - maybe not quite as close-in-able as the tent cabin, but beds are provided, there's a fire ring outside for campfires or cooking, and electricity so I've seen some people go so far as to bring a small microwave that they plug in.

Lots of people come back year after year for family reunions and what not so they have their places *set up*, kids running around or playing on the beach nearby, and bicycles everywhere. I've never stayed there, but I do kinda like the vibe.

Anonymous said...

One thing that we ignored before kids, but take full advantage of with three kids under six is the shuttle system. It's free, clean, the kids love it, and we have met several other nice families on the short trips from place to place in the valley.

Anonymous said...

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My Urban Child said...

I can't wait for Jason to start learning instead of just playing all the time, so we can really begin teaching him about life.

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