Yosemite National Park is not only one of California's most spectacular sights, but it is also a World Heritage Site. The monstrous granite formations, sweeping valleys, and easy wildlife encounters bring the idea of conservation home to your kids before you even step out of the car. If you only have a day to visit the park, you can still pack in a ton of activities. Dig into this park through hikes, bike rides, and drives that will show your family sights they can't see anywhere else.
Drive through the tunnel
The drive to Yosemite is an adventure all on its own, but it isn't until you drive through the tunnel into the valley of the park that you really get a taste of what you are in for during your visit. El Captain greets you along with Half Dome and all of their friends. This is the perfect spot to grab those family photos or a Christmas card shot to show off to your friends.
Hike Yosemite Falls
If you visit the park in winter or spring you can gaze up at Yosemite Falls from below without hiking. In the summer and fall, especially if it has been a dry year, you may not see any water trickling down the falls at all. If the falls are running, plan to hike up to the lower falls at the very least. If your family is up for it, hike to the upper falls too.
Rent bikes at Yosemite Lodge
Yosemite Lodge offers beach cruiser bikes for every member of the family. Adult bikes, kid bikes, tandems, and even kid carriages are available at reasonable prices. You pay by the hour, but it is worth the money if you didn't bring your own bikes. Ride your bikes to Mirror Lake to snap photos of Half Dome from below. In dry months the lake may be nothing but a desert of sand, which holds its own beauty. Be prepared to do a little hiking to the lake. There are bike stands to leave your bikes at a certain point and then walk the rest of the way to the lake.
Trek to Vernal and Nevada Falls
Bring your baby carrier if you have a baby or toddler, and hang on tight to younger kids who can hike, but may not have the fear they need to survive the trip. The hike up to Vernal and Nevada Falls is possible for families; you just need to be prepared. Pack your water, and warn the kids that this is not going to be an easy hike, but the views will be more than worth it. If you need an easy hike, head to Bridalveil Falls. The paved path has a mild incline that is perfect for kids of any age and skill level.
Sunset at Glacier Point
You've had a full day already, but there is once last stop. Drive up to Glacier Point with a few snacks, and snag your spot to watch the sunset. From high above the park you will see waterfalls you didn't know were still running through the dry season, and look down at all of the tiny cars and people driving the same paths you drove earlier in the day. It's a peaceful way to end your day together, as you marvel at all Mother Nature can do, and remember that you helped to protect this land through your entrance fee and tax dollars.
Have you been to Yosemite? What was your favorite experience there?