Yosemite for Families

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Yosemite for Families
With its educational programs, stunning scenery, and all sorts of outdoor recreation opportunities, a trip to Yosemite National Park is entertaining and educational for kids of all ages.
Photo courtesy of Visit California
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    Ranger Programs
    The first rangers started working in Yosemite National Park in the early 1900s and they have been a valuable resource for visitors ever since. Ranger-guided walks and talks are scheduled throughout the year. Whether you are interested in learning about flora and fauna, culture and history, or photography, there is most likely a tour that will pique your interest. Kids also have the opportunity to participate in park education and learn about the nation’s natural resources in the Junior Rangers or Little Cub programs. A self-guided program book is available.
    Photo courtesy of Visit California
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    Yosemite’s Scenic Vistas
    Glacier PointFor scenic road trips, you can drive your own vehicle, take the park’s shuttle to select locations, or join a sightseeing tour from one of the concessionaires. Olmsted Point and Glacier Point are two spectacular viewing areas in the park, and there are numerous pullouts along the Tioga Road between Crane Flat and Tuolumne Meadows Olmstead Point is located along this route; stop for a super view of Half Dome in the park. A one-hour drive from Yosemite Valley,  also has stunning valley views and overlooks a number of glacier-polished granite domes. Getting up high is a great way to experience the grandeur of the valley.
    Photo by Alan Copson/age fotostock
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    Easy Hikes and Walks
    Yosemite’s trail system is extensive and hiking is one of the top activities in the park. Parents need not be left out—there are leisurely walks in the valley that are suitable for light exercise and small children. Cook’s Meadow Loop is just west of Yosemite Village, is mostly flat, and has great views of Half Dome. Mirror Lake is partly paved, and leads to a pool of water in Tenaya Creek. When the water is calm it shows a reflection of Half Dome and surrounding cliffs. The trail is wheelchair-accessible and stroller-friendly. Lower Yosemite Falls is likely the most popular easy hike, and leads to the spectacular waterfall.
    Photo by Kristen Zibell
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    Top Spots for a Picnic
    If you plan on sightseeing in Yosemite National Park, pack a lunch and make a stop or two along the way. Any scenic viewpoint with a pullout is a great spot for a picnic, but the Park Service also maintains day-use campsites and picnic areas with restrooms, tables, and barbecues. Check out the sub-alpine Tenaya Lake on Tioga Road, where the granite domes of Yosemite High Country are reflected in the turquoise waters. Yosemite Creek and Lembert Dome also have picnic areas on Tioga Road. If you prefer the shade of a forest, head to the southern end of the park to Wawona and eat among the giant sequoias.
    Photo courtesy of DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, Inc.
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    Art and Photography
    Much of the world saw the granite monoliths of Yosemite Valley in Ansel Adams’ black-and-white photography before they saw the landscape with their own two eyes. Free photography walks are offered in the park throughout the year; check with the visitors' center for a schedule. Even before Adams visited the park for the first time, American Indians had been creating nature-inspired art. You can express your own creativity in a class at the Yosemite Art Center; alternatively, if you just want to see work by some of the famous and lesser-known local artists, visit the Ansel Adams Gallery or Yosemite Museum.
    Photo courtesy of DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, Inc
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    Spot the Park's Wildlife
    Yosemite National Park is home to more than 400 species of animals. This diversity is directly related to the numerous habitats and ecological systems found in the park. Spotted owls, mule deer, and black bears can be seen readily in the valley, and even the endangered Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep can be spotted in the high regions near Tioga Pass. Visitors can get involved by obtaining an observation card to report sightings to the park. Just about any hike is an opportunity for bird-watching, so don’t forget to bring your binoculars and pick up a guidebook at the visitors' center. The interpretive tours and nature walks in the park also have useful wildlife information.
    Photo by Celso Diniz/age fotostock
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    Horseback Riding
    Much of Yosemite’s trail system was built with the help of mule teams carrying supplies. Today, the saddle is still a great place from which to view the park. There are many guided horseback or mule tours—and pony rides for younger children—so check for stables in the region you're interested in exploring. Yosemite Valley Stable is the most central, and perfect for tours in the heart of the park. Explore high country from Tuolumne Meadows Stable, and visit Wawona Stables for easier rides. Most offer short rides, all-day tours, and even multi-night pack trips.
    Photo by Dorling Kindersley/age fotostock
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    The Ahwahnechee People
    The Yosemite Museum (completed in 1925) is located near the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center and has long been an educational hub. With a focus on the Ahwahnechee people, the facilities have rotating exhibits including early sketches, paintings, and photographs of the area alongside displays from the Miwok and Paiute. Basket weaving and beadwork lessons are offered on-site, and a reconstructed Ahwahnee Miwok village is located behind the museum. For another historic site, check out The Majestic Yosemite Hotel (originally the Ahwahnee Hotel), which was built in 1927 and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987.
    Photo courtesy of Yosemite National Park
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    Dining in the Park
    Fortunately for hungry visitors, Yosemite is well-equipped to feed the thousands of tourists who flock to the park each day the busy summer months, whether you’re looking for a quick sandwich or a fine-dining experience. The Half Dome Village restaurants include a pizza deck and bar, an all-you-can eat breakfast and dinner buffet, and a sandwich/burger grill. The Yosemite Lodge Mountain Room offers breathtaking views from almost every table of Yosemite Falls, while the historic Majestic Yosemite Hotel Dining Room, formerly the Ahwahnee, is the closet you’ll come to national park elegance. If you’re exploring outside of the valley, there are some seasonal options as well: the Big Trees Lodge Dining Room in Wawona, and in the high country, the Tuolomne Meadows Lodge and White Wolf Lodge.