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I’ve visited Yosemite National Park every summer since I was a kid. Friends often ask me what one thing you absolutely must do while you’re there. The answer is easy, take a hike! There are many easy hikes which are perfect for a visit to Yosemite with toddlers.
Easy hikes in Yosemite offer free entertainment for kids while packing in plenty of opportunities to slow down and enjoy the great outdoors. The good news is there are plenty of trails to choose from, but the trick is deciding which is best for your family. Here are some of my favorite short hikes to take with my own two boys, ages five and two.
Yosemite with Toddlers | 7 Easy Hikes
1. Lower Yosemite Falls
There’s a reason this is one of the most popular hikes in Yosemite Valley. The 1/2-mile stroll to Lower Yosemite Falls is almost entirely flat, paved, and perfect for little legs. Plus, the payoff is huge. Yosemite Falls is nothing short of impressive.
Although this walk can be done in 30 minutes, I recommend you take it easy. Enjoy the scenery along the way. My oldest especially enjoys “rock climbing” on all the big boulders beside the trail.
There is more to Yosemite than hiking trails! Here are the top 10 things to do in Yosemite National Park with kids.
2. Chilnualna Falls
I’ve been on all of the popular (and more congested) hikes in the Valley, yet the Chilnualna Falls Trail in nearby Wawona remains one of my favorites. No crowds, stunning scenery and plenty of serene spots to enjoy a lunch make this a hike we take every year.
This is a moderately difficult trail with a consistent incline for much of the way, although there are enough stretches of flatness to give little legs a rest .The complete hike is 8.2 miles round trip, but you can easily accommodate your kids’ skill levels by creating your own endpoint. One of our favorite spots to stop is at either of the two waterfall cascades about a quarter of a mile up. If your kids are older, continue up the trail about 1 ½ mile until you connect with the river. It is a wonderful spot to stop for lunch.
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3. Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias
The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, located just two miles from the South Entrance to the park, is home to some 500 of the largest living things on the planet. We first took my oldest son to the “big trees” when he was two and he was completely awe-struck.
The best way to see these beauties is to walk among them. The 1.6-mile round trip hike to the Grizzly Giant is a good option for kids and will take you right past the California Tunnel Tree. The tree got its name because visitors used to be able to drive their cars right through it! Not only did my two-year-old love all the trees, but he found plenty of bugs to check out on the ground, too!
4. Wawona Meadow Loop
The Wawona Meadow Loop trail is my favorite place to take a nature walk because there are plenty of things to discover right along the trail. And because this 3.5-mile hike is a giant loop, you only have to go as far as your little ones enjoy, then turn back around. There is no real elevation gain.
Along the trail there are wildflowers aplenty, streams begging to be explored, sticks for gathering, and animal tracks to identify. You might even bump into a few of Wawona’s horses – they share this path with hikers during the summer. Beware: This is an unpaved fire road and can get quite dusty, especially during the summer.
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5. Bridalveil Falls
This ½-mile round trip hike makes the list because the trail head is easy to reach by car. The hike itself is one of the shortest around. An added bonus for kids is that during the hot summer months you’re bound to be rewarded with a little shower when you reach the base of Bridalveil Falls. Unlike other falls in the Valley, the water here flows pretty much year-round. The trail is paved and stroller-friendly.
6. Glacier Point
Glacier Point is one of the most popular destinations for families outside of Yosemite Valley, and for good reason! The views from this panoramic point are unbelievable. Expect to see Half Dome, the waterfalls on the Mist Trail (Nevada Fall and Vernal Fall), and even tiny Curry Village down below.
The 1/2 mile (each way) trek from the parking lot to the viewpoint is paved. There is some barrier protection at cliff’s edge but it is still especially important to keep track of little ones. This is a lovely place to watch the sunset but it can also be very crowded at that time.
Trekaroo tip: Reward your little hikers with ice cream from the Glacier Point snack stand.
7. Tenaya Lake
If you are visiting Yosemite in summer or early fall, you will definitely want to make time to head up Tioga Road and enjoy some of the park’s high elevation splendor. Tenaya Lake is a great place to enjoy the beauty of the high country. There is a 2.5-mile loop trail around the lake.
The great thing about the loop is that there are parking lots at either side of the lake so pick one, go as far you would like, and come back the way you came if the loop is too much for little legs to handle. Make sure to take time to skip rocks and play by water’s edge.
Want advice for places to stay in Yosemite from parents in the know? Be sure to read about kid-friendly lodging in Yosemite.
This post was written by Debi Huang. Debi is a Los Angeles-based wife, mom and adventure guide for two young boys. Her blog, GoExploreNature.com, is all about getting kids and families outdoors and connected to nature. She’s fortunate enough to have a family cabin in Yosemite National Park, her family’s favorite national park and one they visit every year. You can follow her on Twitter at @goexplorenature .
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All other photos by WomanInTravel