March 31, 2013

Yosemite Valley: Hikes for Kids

Yosemite Valley and Yosemite National Park are wonderful places to visit with children.  There is a lot for them to learn and to do.  High on the list of things to do with kids is hiking.  There are several trails in Yosemite Valley that are easy and short enough for most kids or parents carrying kids.  Here is the official Yosemite Valley hiking brochure. Here are some of the Best Easy Day Hikes in Yosemite National Park,

Kid Friendly Trails in Yosemite Valley


Lower Yosemite Falls


Trailhead: near the Yosemite Lodge.  The Yosemite Valley Shuttle Bus stops here (#6).

Distance: easy half mile from the trailhead or a bit longer 1.5 miles if hiked from the lodge parking lot

Description: The main attraction is the cascading waterfall.  However, in late summer and winter there may not be a waterfall.  The best time of year to visit is spring and early summer when the water is roaring.  The entire trail is paved and stroller friendly although there is a slight incline.  This trail is one of the more busier in the valley.  Go early.


Bridalveil Fall


Trailheadsouthwest of the valley on Wawona Road.

Distance: easy paved one mile from the trailhead

Description: The main attraction is of course the cascading waterfall.  This waterfall runs year round.  But, to see it at its mightiest it is best visit in spring or early summer.  The entire trail is paved and stroller friendly although there is a slight incline.  The spray produced by the waterfall can create slippery conditions.  Again, this trail is pretty busy.  It would be best to go early to avoid the crowds.


Cooks Meadow Loop


Trailhead: near the crossroads of Sentinel Drive and Southside Drive. Shuttle Bus stop #5.

Distance: an easy 2.25 miles

Description: The main attraction are the views.  Cooks Meadow Loop is best hiked in late spring or early summer when flowers are blooming and water is running at its strongest.  From this hike there are some amazing views of Yosemite Falls and Half Dome.  This trail has little elevation gain to it.  Most of the trail is paved or boardwalk and is kid friendly.  This trail is very busy especially at Sentinel Bridge where Half Dome and the Merced River can be lined up for a beautiful picture. Parking can be difficult to find.  Be prepared to deal with crowds.  There are many bathrooms scattered along this trail.

Mirror Lake/Meadow


Trailheadon Happy Isle Loop east of North Pines Camp.  Shuttle Bus stop #17.

Distance: easy 2 miles

Description: The main attraction are the views and the lake which, spoiler alert, mirrors the surrounding cliffs and Half Dome.  For much of the year the lake will not have enough water to mirror anything.  However, this trail still offers great views year round and can be an excellent opportunity to view some of the wild life in the valley. The best time of year to visit is spring and early summer when the water levels are surging.  The entire trail is paved and stroller friendly although there is a slight incline.  Do not expect solitude by the lakeside.  Mirror Lake is a popular Yosemite Valley swim hole.  Bring a bathing suit.

Vernal Falls


Trailheadon Happy Isle Loop Drive.   Shuttle Bus stop #16.

Distance: moderate 3 miles and 1,000 foot climb to the falls; or 1.5 miles and 400 foot climb to falls overlook

Description: The main attraction is the cascading waterfall.  The best time of year to visit is spring and early summer when the water is roaring.  This trail is not stroller friendly and there are over 600 stone steps that may be slippery with spray from the waterfall.  Due to the difficulty and potential danger of slippery rocks, this trail is not super busy.  I would not recommend this with very young kids. Here are some excellent photos from this hike.