Hiking Yosemite Valley with kids
Too often we overlook the most apparent marvels while chasing the spectacular sites. Yosemite Valley hike is one of those wonders that many visitors miss out on while hurrying to waterfalls, Half dome, tunnel view and other famous destinations.
Many simply park down below in the valley and use a shuttle to get around from one spot to the next. Like everyone else we also used to hop on and off the shuttle to expedite the “gettin’ round” time. All these years we’ve never realized how impressive the Yosemite valley itself really is until we decided to walk it on foot.
Having a child slowed us down a bit. Not in a sense that our son delays us but in the fact that we became better planners and now look at the same things slightly different. We were never patient enough before to walk the “boring” Yosemite valley trail that runs along the Northside and Southside drive.
Now we’ve experienced the valley in Sierras in a totally new way. Sometimes it’s the simplest things that actually make us wonder and the hike around the Yosemite valley is pretty overlooked miracle by California locals and tourists alike.
Parking at the National Park.
You will be presented with multiple parking choices, however we found good spots along the Northside drive. Strategically parking in that direction since that way it will be easier for you to leave the park later on that day.
Sites to stop by down in Yosemite valley
Pull up a Google satellite 3D map as you’re going through the list below to have a visual of every location.
1. Vernal Falls (followed by the Nevada falls a little further up the trail) – are an absolute must stop; if you want to see the falls up-close – this is the one we’d go to (and always do). The hike runs along the cascading mini-falls culminating in two major drops – the Vernal and Nevada spectacles. The hike starts at the John Muir Vernal Falls Trailhead.
2. Swing by the stables with your kids or if you just like horses to check out the equestrian inhabitants at the Yosemite Valley Stable.
3. We weren’t too impressed with the Mirror lakes, it’s an uneventful hike with a pond at the end. Perhaps if you attempt shooting the mountains during the golden hour, that could be entertaining.
4. The Majestic Yosemite Hotel that was used to be known as the Ahwahnee hotel. It’s a pretty good spot for brunch.
(We were lucky that our son fell asleep mid day, after all the hiking. We placed him into a covered stroller and were able to have an uninterrupted meal.)
5. Degnan’s Kitchen is the second place in the valley to stop by for a lunch. Food here costs a third of Majestic Yosemite Hotel restaurant. This spot has more of a modern-hype vibe / loft type of scene. It is actually more big group with kids oriented eateries. Although important to note – very arts as well. (We ate at both places obviously and highly recommend both
6. We love photography and always enjoy popping into the local galleries, like the ones in Carmel or Laguna. Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite valley that you simply have to swing by for an inspiration jolt.
7. Newly remodeled Yosemite Valley Visitor Center is yet another fun place that we enjoyed seeing with our son. We saw exhibits of the Native American life styles including dwellings and etc. Misha was very excited to explore the visitor center museum.
8. Lower Yosemite Falls is a pretty easy going hike with awesome views.
9. Centrally located meadows along the Merced river. There’s a chance you’ll see deer up close, so have your camera ready.
10. Bridalveil Falls is also located within the valley however it’s not exactly food accessible from the rest of the locations. You will have to drive up there.
Bonus: Any day of hiking and exploring in the National Park is best complete with the Tunnel View observation vista. Yosemite, Tunnel View perhaps is the most iconic place in all of the park and you will absolutely have great time shooting here.
Oakhurst is a little town with ultimately best hotel prices. It is well strategically placed and only about an hour away from most of the hiking locations within the Yosemite National Park valley.