Camping with the President is one of my family’s favorite books. We’ve read about Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir’s adventures in Yosemite multiple times. My family and another one, all with young kids, recently visited Yosemite and visited some of the same spots as Muir and Roosevelt. Here’s some of our recommended family friendly adventures in Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove.
Family Hikes: Yosemite Valley & Mariposa Grove
Yosemite Falls at 2,425 feet is the tallest waterfall in North America. The view is world class, and a family friendly Lower Yosemite Falls 1.5M loop circles the falls. For a quick out and back, the trail to the falls is only ½ mile one way. Yosemite falls is in view after the first 200 yards as well. The wide paved, path is ideal for strollers. Other attractions include boulders to scramble, trees to climb, and streams to follow. Snow melt is the only source for Yosemite Falls, so the waterfall is at its peak in May during normal water years and in April during a drought.
The Ahwahnee Hotel is one the man made landmarks of the National Park System. It also forms an excellent starting point for family friendly trails to Mirror Lake in northwest Yosemite Valley. The route follows the Merced River & Tenaya Creek and features views of Half Dome, Yosemite walls, mountain streams, and Sierra forests. The paved bike path was perfect for our family since it had snowed earlier in the day. The trail is about 2 miles to Mirror Lake from Ahwahnee. We took an out and back hike of about a mile.
Mariposa Grove & Yosemite Valley were the original areas protected in Yosemite by Abraham Lincoln. Mariposa Grove, an hour drive from Yosemite Valleym has many excellent family hikes with multiple loop options. The grove protects sequoia trees, the largest living creature by mass. The red trees were impressive and massive. We took a 3 mile loop that passed multiple groves including one that had notch cut out of the bottom. The drive also passes Tunnel View with one of the iconic views of Yosemite Valley and Glacier Point with its famous views.
Three Seasons in a Day: Yosemite Valley Indoor Adventures
A spring snowstorm dropped 3-6 inches of snow in Yosemite Valley on Saturday morning. The snow quickly melted into a sunny day, but it also inspired our family to visit a few indoor Yosemite sites.
We took the shuttle buses that circle Yosemite Valley to the visitor center in Yosemite Village. Our family enjoyed the visitor center museum about the flora, fauna, and geology of Yosemite Valley. The Yosemite movie featured Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir’s visit – which was a hit. Yosemite’s two Junior Ranger programs (for ages 3-6 & 7+) provided many hours of enjoyment. Then, we also rode the Yosemite shuttle around the valley and enjoyed the snow capped mountains and trees from the warm, dry confines of the bus.
Where to Stay: Yosemite Lodge
Yosemite Lodge is only one of two hotels in Yosemite and is perfect for families. It sits adjacent to Yosemite Falls trails and trails in the center of the valley, so the kids have many places to explore. The rooms are in clusters next to the forest. While unloading our car, we watched a bobcat stalk some unsuspecting birds. Staying at the Yosemite Lodge requires advance planning. We made our reservations in August. The area has three flexible food options for families. Options include a cafeteria with good fare for kids, a brew pub with a massive fire pit in the center, and a sit down restaurant with views of the falls.
Recommend Hike: Upper Yosemite Falls
During family outdoor adventures, I enjoy waking early in the morning for a rigorous hike. I can hike while my family is sleeping, and I return with a hot chocolate or a muffin as they wake up. Upper Yosemite Falls is a world class hike and an outstanding early morning hike. The trail climbs ~2400 feet in 3.7 miles. The trail construction is excellent with many switchbacks. I hiked about half way to the base of the upper falls before turning around. Columbia Rock, the way to the falls, is another good turnaround point with its clear views of Yosemite Valley from above. Highlights included unfolding views of the valley, the roaring sound of the falls when turning a corner, feeling the spray of the falls, and the smell of bacon from historic Camp 4 next to the trailhead on the descent.