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Yosemite for Families

Ranger Programs
Yosemite for Families
With its learning programs, stunning scenery, and numerous opportunities for outdoor recreation, Yosemite National Park is educational and entertaining for kids of all ages.
Photo courtesy of Visit California
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    Ranger Programs
    Ranger Programs
    The first rangers started working in Yosemite National Park in the early 1900s and have been a valuable resource for visitors ever since, offering guided walks and talks throughout the year. Whether you want to learn about flora and fauna, culture and history, or photography, you can more than likely find a tour to pique your interest. Kids also have the opportunity to participate in park education and learn about the nation’s natural resources through the Junior Rangers and Little Cub programs. A self-guided program book is available to all visitors.
    Photo courtesy of Visit California
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    Yosemite’s Scenic Vistas
    Yosemite’s Scenic Vistas
    To enjoy Yosemite’s many scenic vistas, drive your own car, take the park shuttle to select locations, or join a sightseeing tour from one of the concessionaries. There are numerous pullouts along Tioga Road between Crane Flat and Tuolumne Meadows, including Olmstead Point, from which you can enjoy a spectacular view of Half Dome. A one-hour drive from Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point also offers stunning panoramas, especially of the granite domes below. Get up high to experience the grandeur of the valley.
    Photo by Alan Copson/age fotostock
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    Easy Hikes and Walks
    Easy Hikes and Walks
    Thanks to an extensive trail system, hiking is one of the top activities in Yosemite. Parents need not worry, however, as there are several leisurely walks in the valley that are suitable for light exercise and small children. Just west of Yosemite Village, Cook’s Meadow is mostly flat and offers great views of Half Dome. There’s also Mirror Lake, which is partly paved and leads to a pool in Tenaya Creek—when the water is calm, it clearly reflects Half Dome and the surrounding cliffs. The trail is even stroller-friendly and wheel-chair accessible. If you’re dying to see a waterfall, take the Lower Yosemite Falls trail, which is likely the most popular of the park’s easy hikes.  
    Photo by Kristen Zibell
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    Top Spots for a Picnic
    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 to eat, but the Park Service also maintains day-use campsites and picnic areas with restrooms, tables, and barbecues. Along Tioga Road, you can stop at the sub-alpine Tenaya Lake, where the turquoise waters reflect the granite domes of Yosemite High Country, or sites like Yosemite Creek and Lembert Dome, which both feature picnic areas. If you prefer the shade of a forest, head to Wawona in the southern end of the park and eat among the giant sequoias.
    Photo courtesy of DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, Inc.
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    Art and Photography
    Art and Photography
    Much of the world saw Yosemite Valley through Ansel Adam’s black-and-white photography before they saw it with their own two eyes. To better understand his work, take one of the photography walks offered in the park throughout the year (check with the visitor center for a schedule). If you’d rather express your own creativity, take a class at the Yosemite Art Center. When you need some inspiration, stop by the Ansel Adams Gallery or Yosemite Museum, both of which feature work by famous artists as well as lesser-known locals.
    Photo courtesy of DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, Inc
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    Spot the Park’s Wildlife
    Spot the Park’s Wildlife
    Yosemite National Park is home to more than 400 species—a fact that’s 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 visitor center. The interpretive tours and nature walks in the park also offer useful wildlife information.
    Photo by Celso Diniz/age fotostock
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    Horseback Riding
    Horseback Riding
    Much of Yosemite’s trail system was built with help from mule teams carrying supplies. Today, horseback rides still offer a great way to see the park. There are several guided horseback and mule tours—as well as pony rides for younger children—on offer, 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. Try Tuolumne Meadows Stable if you want to explore the high country, or Wawona Stables for easier rides. Most stables 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 Ahwahnechee People
    Located near the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center, the Yosemite Museum has long been an educational hub in the park. With a focus on the Ahwahnechee people, it features early sketches, paintings, and photographs of the area alongside displays from the Miwok and Paiute tribes. The museum also offers basket-weaving and beadwork lessons onsite, as well as a reconstructed Awahnee Miwok village outdoors. For more history, 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
    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 during the busy summer months, whether they’re looking for a quick sandwich or a fine-dining experience. The Half Dome Village includes a pizza deck and bar, an all-you-can eat breakfast and dinner buffet, and a sandwich-and-burger grill. For something fancier, try the Yosemite Valley Lodge Mountain Room, which offers breathtaking views from almost every table, or the Majestic Yosemite Dining Room, which is steeped in history and elegance. If you’re exploring outside of the valley, opt for seasonal spots like the Big Trees Lodge Dining Room in Wawona, or the Tuolomne Meadows Lodge and White Wolf Lodge in the high country.