A Family’s Guide to Yosemite: Swim and Hike with the Kids

Family Friendly Vacation: Yosemite National Park

Tucked away in the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains in eastern California, Yosemite National Park is home to an incredibly diverse ecosystem. Its breathtaking landscape covers over 1,100 square miles, ranging from valleys to rivers and waterfalls to granite cliffs. Black bears roam the forests and streams while mule deer and foxes can be spotted grazing in the meadows and woodlands, and if you crane your head up every once in a while you might be lucky enough to see a majestic bald eagle. The park is home to some of the most iconic landmarks that are ‘must-sees’ for the family, such as El Capitan, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls. This environment creates an incredible combination of natural wonder that makes Yosemite National Park one of the top family friendly parks to visit.

Exploring the Natural Wonders of Yosemite

Yosemite offers kid-friendly adventures that are fun for the whole family. With an informative visitors center that has many options and family programs offered, you are sure to fill up your days here with memorable experiences. The top activities during the sunny seasons include hiking and swimming, a few top options are listed below:

Kids’ Hiking Adventures:

  • Cook’s Meadow Loop: Beginning at the Yosemite Valley Visitors Center, this one-mile hike takes you to incredible views of Half Dome, Glacier Point, and Yosemite Falls. Pets, bikes, and strollers are all allowed on this trail, so it is the perfect day activity to check off while seeing some of the top landmarks in the park.
  • Lower Yosemite Falls: This short, easy walk takes you and the kids to the base of Yosemite Falls and will surely be one for the books as you get sprayed with water from the tallest waterfall in North America. This one-mile loop is open year round and is a must when visiting the park.
  • Big Trees Loop Trail: This trail takes you and the family through giant sequoias and right to the iconic Fallen Monarch. The loop is relatively flat and is .3 miles in length beginning at Mariposa Grove Arrival Area.
  • Diana Falls and Swimming Hole: This easy trail is 1.4 miles out and back located next to the historic town of Coulterville. This trail is flat, dog friendly, and leads right to a swimming hole where the kids can cool off in one of the many pools along the trail. Make sure to end the hike at Bower Cave and listen to the history of the Gold Rush at the Northern Mariposa County History Center.

Guided Nature Walks

With more than 800 miles of hiking trails in the park, it can be hard to choose which one is best for you and the family. A great option is choosing from one of the many guided nature hikes that are offered if the kids are nearing their teenage years and want a little more of an adventure and interactive learning built in.

Top Swimming Spots for Kids

  • Merced River: With sandy beaches and lots of room to explore and splash around, the Merced River is the perfect full day adventure. Beyond just swimming, the Merced River offers fishing, gold-panning, rafting, as well as camping spots along the route. Pack lunch for a picnic and find the perfect spot along Highway 140 to relax and enjoy your food after a day of water activities.
  • Swimming Pools at the lodges: Yosemite Valley Lodge and Curry Village both offer swimming pools for all park guests which is a great midday activity for a small entrance fee. The Ahwahnee and Wawona Hotel pools are open to guests staying at those locations, so be sure to keep that in mind when booking your rooms! Make sure to check lifeguard hours and pricing on the official website here.

An Unforgettable Stay in Yosemite: Wawona Hotel

Built in 1856, this Victorian-era hotel is a National Historic Landmark located near the Mariposa Grove. Designed to accommodate every person in the family, Wawona Hotel is a true haven for all. From a nine-hole golf course, to a relaxing and fun swimming pool, and even the inclusion of riding stables, this property promises memorable experiences for the family. The hotel goes above and beyond by hosting Saturday Night Barbeques in the summer to the charming and cozy fireplaces to recline and rest after a day of adventure in the winter.

The Wawona Hotel offers rooms with antique furnishings, so you can step back in time and take the kids to a place where they can unwind, unplug, and tap into nature. Rooms with a bath are offered with one queen bed, 2 double beds, or 1 double and 1 single bed. There are also rooms offered with private or shared bathrooms so make sure to book accordingly!

Tips to Make Your Family Trip Amazing

A few tips and tricks to make sure your next trip to Yosemite National Park is smooth sailing, so all that is left to do is have the adventure of a lifetime making memories with the whole family.

  1. Plan Ahead: Reserve rooms and any activities that are on the top of your list which require booking (such as horseback riding, rafting the river, or a guided hiking tour).
  2. Safety First: When you are choosing the trails you want to hike during your stay, remember to always check weather conditions before you leave and pack the appropriate gear and clothing and water shoes.
  3. Explore Your Options: There are so many choices when it comes to accommodations and activities in Yosemite. Check out our additional suggestions in our sample itinerary here.
  4. Bring a Camera: Include a digital camera or buy a disposable camera for the kids to have on the trip to ensure captured moments of bliss while exploring the park. A few of our top spots for photographers highlighted here as well.
  5. Have the Best Time: Relax and enjoy all that Yosemite has to offer. Being able to experience a National Park with the family is something magical, so be sure to look around and take it all in!

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