Yosemite National Park is iconic. From it’s glacial peaks to it’s lush meadows to it’s waterfalls that cascade down the granite so beautifully, it’s no doubt a must-see natural wonder of the world! Some people’s dream is our daily reality as we can easily drive to the park for a day trip, but making a weekend out of a visit allows us more time to explore the area. Recently we visited and stayed in nearby Mariposa, a small town with an old West feeling, lots of activities, California history, and local charm. Just over an hour’s drive to Yosemite Valley, we drove from Mariposa with the kids to enjoy a day in the park and found just the perfect amount of fun to be had!
TUNNEL VIEWFind your way to Tunnel View for one of the most famous views of Yosemite Valley. From here you can get a little taste of the major spots in the park in one stunning photograph. El Capitan and Bridalveil Fall rise from the valley, with Half Dome in the background. This viewpoint is at the east end of the Wawona Tunnel along the Wawona Road (Highway 41) and you won’t miss it, tour buses and tourists fill the lot and you’ll see professional and amateur photographers vying for the best shot.
Let me start off by saying our whole family is athletic is some form or fashion. But, hikes over a mile in length will be sure to have someone whining in protest. Good thing there are two fabulous hikes in the valley that are short but still provide an album of photo opportunities that you’ll be in awe of.
One of the tallest falls in North America, the hike to Yosemite Falls is just enough to get the heart rate up, and keep smiles on the kids faces. Made up of three separate falls: Upper Yosemite Fall (1,430 feet), the middle cascades (675 feet), and Lower Yosemite Fall (320 feet) you can catch some great photos as well as a mist of the falls at the base. Starting near Yosemite Lodge, the hike is just about a half-mile on a paved surface.
On another paved trail, we enjoyed the hike to Bridalveil Fall. This spot is one you’ll find in every photo taken at Tunnel View and one of which Ansel Adams has made famous. The Ahwahneechee Indian tribe once believed that inhaling its mist would improve one’s chance of marriage. 617 feet above the valley floor, the hike is uphill on the way up that you’ll appreciate on the way down. We watched tourists even push a wheel chair to the vista point, it’s doable thanks to paving and some muscle.BIKING
Take in the sights around Yosemite with a family bike ride. Bring your own or from the Yosemite Lodge (and Curry Village in the summer), you can rent bicycles and helmets to explore for a few hours with the wind in your hair.
With two teenagers, I was ready for the complaining, but thankfully the comfortable bike seats and easy flat paved path we took was pleasant for all of us! For about a 5-mile ride, you can leave Yosemite Lodge, follow the path across the meadow and toward the Chapel. Continue past the Le Conte Memorial and on to Curry Village. To loop around the Valley, head back to Yosemite Lodge by following the signs to Yosemite Village. The highlight of our ride was taking in Half Dome, it was spectacular!
Biking and hiking will sure build up your appetite! Take an hour to relax, park your bikes at Yosemite Village and enjoy sandwiches at Degnan’s Deli. With hot and cold made to order sandwiches, soups, fruit, veggies, chips, nuts, water, soda, juices and so much more, it gave us the necessary recharge to continue our day!
Take a walk down to the Visitor’s Center and you may come in contact with a live bobcat! My photo is from zooming in. We were at a safe distance and respected the animal’s space and made sure we didn’t provoke it. Beautiful creature for sure and known to be seen in the valley and around the village!
From mid-November until early March, the Curry Village Ice Rink is open daily for several 2.5-hour skating sessions, conditions permitting and is so fun even for us parents! My youngest was brave enough to don a pair of skates with mom and dad and we took to the ice. The rink is tucked beneath the majestic forms of Half Dome, and Glacier Point so the views surrounding us were amazing.
It had been a few years since I’d done it and it was my 9 year old’s first time. She looked like a newborn deer getting her legs but it was so special! She held on to the rail around the rink for the most part but even when she did fall, she kept getting back up to try again! The rink has safety in mind and offers cones (like pictured above) for beginners and unsure parents to balance as well as helmets free of charge. While in season, the ice rink is also available for private parties on weekdays.
You can find family activities to enjoy on a day trip to Yosemite all year-round that will create awesome memories and keep smiles on everyone’s faces! To plan your trip, visit http://www.yosemiteexperience.com/.
Our experience was part of a press trip with the Yosemite/Mariposa County Tourism Bureau, all opinions 100% our own.