10 Fun Activities in Yosemite for Families

Whether you’re headed to Yosemite for your first family vacation or you’ve been a dozen times already, you may be looking for ideas to help your kids experience the best of this beautiful park. This list of ten activities in Yosemite is kid-approved and offers fun for the whole family.

toddler in a dress walking along a boardwalk in Yosemite
Yosemite offers fun activities for kids of all ages. Photo © Star80z/iStock.
  1. Rent bikes at Curry Village or Yosemite Valley Lodge recreation centers and ride around Yosemite Valley. Don’t worry about it being a tough ride; 12 miles of smooth, level paths make it easy for everybody to keep up. Bikes are available year-round, and bikes with kid-trailers attached are available for children too young to ride on their own.
  2. Go for a hike on the quieter trails off Glacier Point Road. The easy trails to Taft Point and Sentinel Dome make good family hikes; each is only 2.2 miles round-trip. The Glacier Point Snack Stand is a nice stop for a tasty reward for all that hard work, and the view is amazing. If you’re there in the evening, there’s a ranger talk to get kids interested, and the point is a great place for stargazing with or without a telescope.
  3. Sign up for rock climbing lessons at the Yosemite Mountaineering School and Guide Service. The guides there are well equipped for beginners of all ages, and kids will always get a kick out of permission to climb all over everything.
  4. Go see a live show at the Yosemite Theater. Kids’ tickets are discounted.
  5. Drive to Wawona to see the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.
  6. Take a trip through history at the Pioneer Yosemite History Center in Wawona and treat everybody to a ride in a horse-drawn wagon.
  7. In early summer, float in a raft on the Merced River. You’ll start your river journey at Half Dome Village and meander three miles downstream to a shuttle bus that’ll return you to your starting point. Since rafting is generally only safe in June and July, a nice alternative for water fun later in summer is a swim at Sentinel Beach.
  8. Sign up for a guided two-hour morning mule ride at the Yosemite Valley Stables or Big Trees Stables. Calm and even tempered, mules are a great companion for kids to explore the park, and these sure-footed animals are perfect for the rugged terrain. The two-hour ride at Yosemite Valley Stables heads to beautiful Mirror Lake, and the popular Big Trees Stables two-hour ride travels the historic wagon road.
  9. Go for a Junior Ranger Walk. Part of earning an official Junior Ranger badge, a Junior Ranger Walk is a one-hour expedition full of activities to keep kids hooked on the fun. Learn more about Yosemite’s Junior Ranger Programs.
  10. Stop in at the Yosemite Art and Education Center in Yosemite Valley to take part in children’s art classes. Watercolors are the focus here, so don’t worry too much about packing paint-friendly clothes but be prepared for the inevitable face and body painting with some easy clean up wipes.

Ann Marie Brown

About the Author

Ann Marie Brown made her first solo trip to Yosemite at age 22. Like many first-time visitors, she was immediately inspired by the Valley's sheer granite walls and shimmering waterfalls. Parking her car at the first trailhead she saw, she set off on the Four-Mile Trail. Carrying nothing but a water bottle, she intended to hike only a short distance but was so wowed by the scenery that she kept on walking. Two hours later she found herself at Glacier Point, considered by many to be the grandest viewpoint in the West. Scanning the scene, she noticed tourists dressed in everything from high heels to a nun's habit, and realized that she could have driven to Glacier Point instead of walking. Ann Marie vowed she'd never again go hiking without a map.

More than two decades later, Ann Marie has gained substantially more outdoor savvy and is a dedicated California outdoorswoman. She hikes, camps, and bikes more than 150 days each year. She is the author of 13 Moon guides, including several outdoors titles, like Moon 101 Great Hikes San Francisco Bay Area, and is the co-author of Moon California Hiking with Tom Stienstra. Her work has also appeared in Sunset, VIA, and California magazines.

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