To go to Yosemite, you need to fly into Fresno. We happened to spot some crazy-cheap deals on Frontier Airlines (around $50 ROUND TRIP), so we decided to go! (Of course, it ends up being a little over the price of the fare when you add in luggage and seat selection, but if you can share luggage with each other, that really helps!)
Let’s Jet, Kids! uses affiliate links. As an Amazon (and other networks) Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. It is no extra cost to you.
Like Rocky Mountain National Park, Yosemite is huge. Not everything inside is kid friendly, but there are tons of hikes and sites to see that kids can manage just fine!
Lodging in Yosemite- where we stayed
There are plenty of campgrounds in the park, but if you are packing for an airplane, chances are you aren’t packing all your camping gear. We stayed at a hotel just outside the park, called Tenaya Lodge. It was one of the closest lodgings to the park entrance. Even at that, it took close to an hour to really get into the thick of the park.
It was really really nice, though a bit heavy on the wallet once you are inside. But nice. There are fireplaces in lobby and entrance/pull-up. There’s a beautiful lobby, a few restaurant options in the hotel, deli/small convenience store inside, indoor and outdoor pool with hot tubs, friendly check-in, valet available, small fridge in room, and again, not far from south entrance to Yosemite. If you have young ones or teens, there is an arcade next to the indoor pool. There’s also a laundromat.
For more options, check out where to stay in Yosemite.
We didn’t spend much time at the hotel though.
Tulomne Grove of Giant Seqouias And Mariposa Grove
With so many things to explore in Yosemite, we only made a small dent. First, before we even checked into the hotel, we visited Tulomne Grove of Giant Sequoias. We did this on our way into Yosemite from the West entrance. It’s a great little hike to see some large trees in a beautiful forest walk. There is parking available right off the road and signs leading you to the trail. I’d say it’s about a mile out and a mile back. STROLLER accessible (with a good stroller.) We had small kids with us (hiking backpack and outdoor stroller). They liked running some of it and hitching a ride on the way back. You have to push uphill on the way back, but it’s not too bad. Great place to stretch out and introduce yourself to Yosemite if you’re coming in from the west and need a break from the car! Bathroom available at beginning of trail.
Near the south entrance, we went to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. These are huge! This was one things on my bucket list: seeing giant trees. And they really are huge!
Sequoias and redwoods are part of a group of conifers that existed back with the dinosaurs. Over time, many species have been lost through climate change over 144 million years. So it’s pretty awesome that the US is lucky enough to showcase some. They have thick bark that retains water, which helps them survive through fires. (More interesting info at Save the Redwoods.)
You may also like:
To begin our visit in the grove, we hiked to the Grizzly tree with two small children. We had a backpack and a nice outdoor stroller. For the most part the stroller was fine; there were just a couple places we had to lift it over tree roots growing out of the ground, etc. (You can step over them, but not roll over them easily). Maybe a mile out to the tree. You can continue after that, but we turned around.
Yosemite Falls Hike
Yosemite Falls is another great hike to take kids on. We did this small hike to the lower falls with a hiking backpack and stroller. Though, they got out and ran most of it; it’s not difficult at the bottom. It’s a beautiful hike on the way there.
Since it was October there wasn’t a drop of water coming out the falls, but I could just imagine it! The mountain is a straight, tall wall of granite shooting out of the ground. They say in spring it is filled with rushing water, so you might want to plan a spring trip to Yosemite if waterfalls are high on your list. You could see dark marks of where the water would have been. The wide, boulder-ed river was pretty, even dry. A great, beautiful hike even when dry. Kid-friendly. The shuttle will drop you right at the beginning and there are bathrooms available.
Other Easy Hikes with Kids in Yosemite
Tulomne Meadows was a beautiful spot to stop and rest and just take in everything. This is an easy walk from Yosemite Falls shuttle stop. Right at Swinging Bridge (a long bridge that does not swing, but it beautiful) you can cut down and over onto the beach of the river. The view here is amazing. We sat here for a while with a duck who followed us around (we were not feeding it, it just liked us I guess). Seriously, the view is from a magazine sitting in front of this river.
We also made a stop at Crescent Meadows, another great viewing area. There were plenty of things to see and explore with kids in Yosemite. These were our favorites. My final advice would, again, be to go in spring when you can really take in the majesty of the waterfalls. And to end, here comes a few photos that were too good not to post…
More great things to do with kids in Yosemite
Glacier Point– this is one of the most popular hikes in Yosemite, and it is stroller/wheelchair accessible to get to the viewpoint. There are bathrooms in the parking lot. In the summer, the gift shop and a cafeteria at the trailhead are open. At just a mile roundtrip, it’s a nice easy one for kids.
Tenaya Lake Trail- At roughly 3.5 miles roundtrip, this trail is an easy hike for walking, birdwatching, or stay at the beginning at enjoy the lake. If you’re brave, bring a suit and jump in the cold water to refresh. There are many reports of impressive amounts of mosquitos, so don’t forget the bug spray!
Tuolumne Grove Trail- Experience some of the grand sequoias on this trail. Plan on an hour-and-a-half to two-hours for this 3.2 mile wide, mostly paved trail. There is a little bit of incline as you head back, but not too bad for some older kids or younger ones taking it easy.
Mirror Lake Paved Trail- Just over 1-1/2 miles and under 100 feet of elevation gain, the lake is a real treat at the end. The lake captures a reflection just like, you guessed it!, a mirror. Bathrooms available at the lake.
When to Visit Yosemite
For best results (great sights and pictures,) visit in spring when water levels are still high. The farther into fall you get, the less water in the lakes and waterfalls. With all the other sites, trees, and hikes to do, there’s still plenty to see no matter what time works to go to Yosemite though!