YOSEMITE VALLEY & MARIPOSA GROVE
Today, you’ll be exploring YOSEMITE VALLEY from the valley floor, so if you’re staying outside the park, make sure you get an early start. Over 800 miles of trails run through the park’s pine forests and meadows, down scooped-out ravines and up into the High Country, and Yosemite Valley is home to some of the best ones for children. Short, easy walks lead to BRIDALVEIL FALL and LOWER YOSEMITE FALL (less impressive in summer, when it slows to a trickle) or you could tackle the longer hike to VERNAL FALL; depending on how much time you have (and how old your children are), you could make the 1.5-mile round-trip (around one and a half hours) to the footbridge at the bottom of the falls or the more strenuous three-mile round-trip (3 hours) up the granite steps of the so-called Mist Trail to the top of the falls. All of these trails can be accessed on the shuttle buses that loop round the Valley.
In the afternoon, head back out on the Wawona Road, but instead of turning off for Glacier Point, continue south for a further 22.5 miles to the park’s South Entrance (around 35 miles or around an hour and a quarter) from the Valley. A free shuttle bus ferries visitors the two miles from here to the MARIPOSA GROVE OF GIANT SEQUOIAS. You can explore the grove, the largest of its kind in Yosemite, on one of several trails, but the most suitable for kids are the aptly named Big Trees Loop Trail and the longer Grizzly Giant Loop Trail. The former is an easy half-hour walk amongst lots of ancient sequoias, including one rather touchingly known as the Fallen Monarch; the latter also winds past trees such as the Bachelor, the Three Graces and the Grizzly Giant and actually through the California Tunnel Tree, and takes around two hours to complete.
TOP TIP For an enjoyably alternative way of viewing the Valley, you can spend the afternoon RAFTING ON THE MERCED RIVER [$28.50 per person | no children under 50lb]. Rafts put in near Half Dome Village and float for three miles downstream, under bridges and past little white beaches and with continually lovely views of Yosemite Falls, Half Dome and Sentinel Rock; a shuttle runs you back again. Reservations (try and book a day in advance) can be made at the tour desk in Half Dome Village. Rafting season varies, but it can sometimes last into September.
THE LIJOMA LOWDOWN
Delve deeper with our tips on what to read and watch before you go, foods and drinks your kids must try, and some key cultural advice
From beachfront hotels to Downtown B&Bs – our pick of the most memorable places for families to stay in California
NEED TO KNOW
A handy overview of California’s weather and climate throughout the year, with recommendations for the best time to visit
Pre-trip practicalities, including getting there, visas and passports, health and safety, and how to get around
MORE AMAZING TRIPS
Inside glaciers, under waterfalls and out into the Atlantic to watch whales
Two weeks exploring the most family-friendly country in Southeast Asia