what to do in yosemite national park with kids

Tips for Visiting Yosemite National Park with Kids

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Planning to visit Yosemite National Park with kids? You’re in the right spot! Read on to find out what to do in Yosemite National Park with kids and the best kid-friendly Yosemite hiking trails. Yosemite National Park is one of the best National Parks to visit with kids!

what to do in yosemite national park with kids

How to get to Yosemite National Park

The closest airport to Yosemite National park is FAT, located in Fresno. Even though we live in Southern CA, we opted to fly to Fresno to shorten our drive time. From the airport, it’s 1.5 hours to the park.

From San Francisco, it’s 3 hours and 45 minutes to Yosemite. From San Diego, 7 hours. Orange County is 6 hours away and Los Angeles just under 5. Of course, you have to account for the awful CA traffic, which is why we opted to just fly. Las Vegas is 5.5 hours to Yosemite.

what to do in yosemite with kids

Best time to visit Yosemite National Park

The best time to visit Yosemite is in the spring and fall, when crowds are lower and the temperatures mild. In the summer, it can get super hot and it’s often crowded. Keep in mind that roads to Yosemite are closed for a good portion of the year due to snow, so plan accordingly!

Where to stay when visiting Yosemite National Park

There are many accommodation options within Yosemite National Park so finding lodging shouldn’t be an issue if you plan ahead. Most camp sites, RV sites and in park hotels book months in advance, so be sure to secure lodging as soon as you know you’re going.

Camping near Yosemite National Park

There are 13 campgrounds in Yosemite National Park. Most are by reservations however some are first come, first served. Keep in mind that the no reservation campground fill up by noon so you still have to get there early.

Best family-friendly hotels near Yosemite National Park

There are lots of lodging options inside of Yosemite National Park that include everything from tent cabins to regular hotel rooms. We chose to stay at the Yosemite Valley Lodge because it was located near everything we had planned to do. I highly recommend staying inside the park to lessen your drive time in and out of the park, especially if you only have a few days to explore.

We kept hearing horror stories of people complaining about the rooms being hot because there is no ac, however we went in mid August when the temps were in the 90s and our room was nice and cool. We kept the fan on all day and night and it was actually cold at night, we used a blanket all night! I guess if your room faces the hot afternoon sun and you keep your shades up, it can get hot however ours was in a shady spot to begin with so we didn’t experience any issues with no ac, it was a very comfortable stay.

The rooms aren’t anything special, but much better than camping for us and we liked the proximity to all of the activities we wanted to do.

where to stay in yosemite national park with kids
Our room at the Yosemite Valley Lodge

Things to bring when visiting Yosemite National Park with kids

  • Trekking Poles: You’ll be hiking a lot! Be sure to have some trekking poles to help with these hikes.
  • Sun Hat: Since you’ll be hiking and outdoors most of the day, be sure to bring a sun hat!
  • National Parks Journal: We bring ours on all of our National Park trips so Milana can fill it out.
  • Sunscreen: We love Blue Lizard and now it comes in a spray.
  • Collapsible bucket: There are lots of places to play in the water, be sure to bring a travel-friendly bucket for your kids to play with!

Books and games about Yosemite National Park

Things to do in Yosemite National Park with kids

There are lots of things to do in Yosemite National Park with kids, the most popular hiking! With many kid-friendly hiking trails in Yosemite, your options are endless.

Best kid-friendly hiking trails in Yosemite National Park

  • Mirror Lake: This 2 mile out and back trail that takes you to the lake. You can loop the lake if you want a longer hike, that would be around 5 miles long. Keep in mind that depending on time of year, there may not be much water here. The guy at our hotel told us that the lake is completely dry so we didn’t do this hike. But if you come at a time when there is water, don’t miss it!
  • Cook’s Meadow: This is an easy 1 mile loop trail that is perfect for even the youngest hikers.
  • Bridalveil Falls: This is a short 0.5 mile out and back hike to a beautiful waterfall.
  • Lower Yosemite Falls: A 1 mile loop trail that features a lake and allows dogs.
  • Mist Trail: To reach Vernal Falls, it is 3 miles round trip. You can continue on this trail to Nevada Falls, making your hike 7 miles long.
best hiking for kids in yosemite national park
Lower Yosemite Falls Trail
best hiking for kids in yosemite national park
Lower Yosemite Falls Trail
what to do in yosemite with kids
Creeks are everywhere!
what to do in yosemite with kids

Visit Tenaya Lake

Milana’s favorite parts of Yosemite was visiting Tenaya Lake. This is one of the best things to do with kids in Yosemite National Park! We were expecting huge crowds since we were visiting in August, however we were the only ones here for the 3 hours we hung out by the lake on a Monday afternoon. We saw 2 kayakers off in the distance but that’s it! It was so nice to have this beautiful lake all to ourselves. The water was surprisingly warm, probably because it was nearly 100 degrees outside and Milana loved going into the lake and playing on the shore. Definitely a must if you’re in Yosemite with kids!

what to do in yosemite with kids
what to do in yosemite with kids
what to do in yosemite with kids

Visit the Swinging Bridge Picnic Area

If you are staying at the Yosemite Valley Lodge, move your car towards the end of the parking lot and you can walk to this in under 10 minutes. There is also parking on the opposite side, however it’s limited and that’s where everyone else parks so we just parked in our empty hotel lot and walked over from there.

There is a river for kids to play in and you can bring your beach gear and hang out for a few hours. This isn’t as nice as Tenaya Lake, but Milana still enjoyed playing in the water here.

what to do in yosemite with kids
Playing in the Merced River.

Junior Ranger program in Yosemite National Park

Just like all of the other National Parks, Yosemite National Park has a Junior Ranger program. Be sure to stop at the Visitor Center to pick up an activity booklet and badge. Note that this is one of the few parks that charges for the activity booklet, $3.50 at the time of our trip.

what to do in yosemite national park with kids

Where to eat with kids near Yosemite National Park

There aren’t many places outside of the park, the closest major city on the South side being Oakhurst which is 30 minutes away. You’re going to want to bring food or you can eat at one of the park restaurants, located at all of the lodging areas. The food isn’t great (pizza, burgers, etc) but there are several throughout the park.

Yosemite Village Lodge had the Base Camp Eatery, which served breakfast, lunch and dinner-cafeteria style. The food wasn’t the best but much better than we’ve had at other National Parks and actually affordable. For breakfast, they had things like oatmeal, pancakes, eggs, bacon, etc. For dinner, the menu varied nightly with things like a veggie curry, fried chicken, meatloaf, etc.

where to eat inside yosemite national park
Breakfast from Base Camp Eatery

One night for dinner, we drove over to the Curry Village to eat at the Pizza Deck. Now I will be honest, the pizza tasted like the cardboard it was served on. The cheese and crust had absolutely no flavor. However your options are limited and this is one of the few places that was open and actually packed and you can sit outdoors on one of their picnic tables to eat.

where to eat inside yosemite national park
Pizza from the Pizza Deck

There is a nice sit down restaurant at the Ahwahnee Hotel however they have a dress code and we weren’t about to dress up for a National Park, so I didn’t even consider making reservations. There is also a candy store at this hotel, with lots of dessert options so be sure to check it out!

best dessert in yosemite national park
Just some of the desserts at the Sweet Shop

Have you been to Yosemite National Park with kids? We’d love to hear all about it! If you’re planning a trip to Yosemite with kids, pin one of the images below to save this post for later.

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