Yosemite: What to do with little kids and little time
National Parks, Renter Guest Posts, Traveling With Kids, Trip Ideas & Guides
By Carrie Willink
Yosemite National Park: It’s all the hype right now… and it deserves it!
The drive from the San Francisco Escape Campervans rental site out to Yosemite is an adventure in itself. We got to the steepest, windiest part of our journey just after sundown. When I wasn’t closing my eyes, I was pulling up YouTube videos about more dangerous roads in the world to travel. The concept of “at least it isn’t THIS bad” kicked in and made me feel (only slightly) comforted.
Camping in Yosemite
As we drove through Yosemite Valley at night, we were completely ignorant of the magnificent views that were surrounding us which were completely blocked by the blinding darkness. It was quite an incredible surprise to wake up to! As we sat by our morning campfire I had one of those things where you stop and simply appreciate the entirety of the moment. My handsome husband and beautiful girl sitting by the campfire with the smell of fresh air, coffee, and wood burning. With the whole day in front of us, we planned out our agenda and headed out!
Things to Know
I would definitely find some way to stay in the valley. If you do a day trip from the closest campground outside of the valley, you’re looking at a very LONG day and not seeing nearly enough. The campsites are tight but a perfectly comfortable fit for your campervan. Gorgeous views from every site.
We camped right in Yosemite Valley. We brought our own food from Walmart but there is a cafeteria-style restaurant at the lodge. Also fun souvenirs from the lodge area as well. You’re likely to see some other Escape Campervan buddies too! And when you do, you’ll say “Hey, you have an Escape Campervan, I have an Escape Campervan! Did we just become best friends?” Then, this will be followed by a high-five and an instantaneous bond formed.
Glacier Point (Drive)
There is an awesome hike up or you can be lazy like us and take the windy steep drive! There are MANY amazing vistas to see almost every view possible. Half Dome is very easily seen from most of these.
Once at the top, we got out, got a snack, our camera gear and made the short walk up to where everyone seemed to be walking. WOW! Bam. There it was, Glacier Point!
I noticed how quiet it was… there were many gathered around at each viewpoint but it was almost eerily quiet. Our 1-year-old, Remy, had fallen asleep on the way up and was groggy when we approached the viewpoint. But as we stood in silence, looking at the incredible view, Remy broke the silence with a loud “WOWWWW!!!” People around us chuckled as it seems she voiced what was on all of our minds. She was right, this was a moment no one would forget!
Tunnel View (Drive)
A very popular photographed stop but you will see why: it’s incredible. You can almost see the whole valley from this location. Don’t forget to take the camera!
Bridal Veil Fall Trail (Hike)
About a 0.5-mile easy hike but very heavily trafficked. So many picture ops but a fun hike for really young kids or beginner hikers! You’re rewarded in the middle of this hike with a powerful, gorgeous waterfall!
Yosemite Valley Loop Trail (Hike)
We took a trail by the lake. We skipped some rocks and soaked in the view. Absolute perfection!
Next, we walked down a wooden pathway, behind a campground and sat in a secluded area for sunset. There, we watched the sunset on the Dome and did some star gazing. It was incredibly peaceful and surreal.
Top of Vernal Fall (Hike)
- Distance: 2.4 mi (3.9 km) in and out (via Mist Trail)
- Elevation gain: 1000 ft (300 m)
- Difficulty: Strenuous
- Time: 3 hours
The next day, we were able to hit one of our favorite hikes of all time. But gosh darn-it, our camera ran out of battery. But it’s ok, it’s etched in my mind forever! This trail was mind-blowing. While my mind was set on getting to the top, my husband was concerned we wouldn’t have enough time to see the Sequoia trees. Both valid concerns, but the woman always wins!
We were thrilled to get to the top as the views were like none other. The way this slow-moving stream at the top can turn into a roaring waterfall is unreal! It is very slippery so be sure and wear correct shoes and hold tight to the kiddos. Also, check out the right times of the year as you may need a rain jacket. Highly recommend doing this if you are physically able to!
Mariposa Grove (Hike)
If you haven’t figured this out yet by reading our blogs, we don’t like to plan ahead much with our trips. We love to see what the locals and those knowledgeable have to say about each area we visit. This is one of those times it worked out perfectly. I was SET on seeing Giant Sequoia trees. My husband knew this and was going to drive four hours out of the way to make it to Sequoia National Park.
As we stopped for a quick pit stop on our way out of Yosemite, hubby was a smart one and asked if there were any way to see Sequoias without traveling all the way to the national park. As it turns out, Yosemite has a grove of Sequoias right in their park as well! Who knew?! You have to park and hike a little to get to these trees, but here’s the info.
This trail was so intimidating at first. It is all paved which was so cool but it went down, down, down… and yes the only way out is to go back up! Be ready for a thigh workout. We strapped in and went for it. I remember passing people with faces of “don’t do it” “death is near” but we kept skippin’ our way down. When we reached the bottom, there were small, paved walkways around to see each of the Giant Sequoia trees.
Ok, so you know that feeling when something is so large you feel so small? Take that feeling times 9 with these trees! Oh, someday I hope I can live in one. The magnitude of these trees… you just have to see it to believe it. We read the plaques by each of the trees, learned all about them, became Sequoia Tree experts, and decided it was time to head back up before dark. When we reached the top, they had a replica of the width of the trees you were seeing.
Such an amazing experience and a great end to our Yosemite trip. This is a great hike to hit on the way out of Yosemite as it is quite a ways from the Valley and campgrounds. While we never made it to Sequoia National park, this was a good substitute for us as we wanted to see the trees but didn’t want to drive 4 hours out of the way.
I do think this was a trip of a lifetime not only because of this gorgeous national park but also because it’s where you can be together with no distractions besides the views. Turn off the cell phone, unplug and experience everything that is Yosemite. It’ll be the experience of a lifetime!