Yosemite, with kids, revisited, part 4

Filed under: Activities: Babies, Places To Go

Continuing with my series of stories about our trip to Yosemite, today I'll cover the main course -- Yosemite Valley. In my youth, I saw the valley primarily as a trailhead -- park the car, grab the pack, and head into the backcountry. Sure, I'd bought food and supplies at the village store, eaten at the deli, and even gone to court there, but really, I saw it mostly as a place with too many people that you had to deal with to get to Half Dome. In later years, I eschewed the valley altogether, concentrating on the parts of the park around the Tuolomne River. This trip, however, was different. On this trip, I was one of those people in the valley. And you know what? It was good.

We went to the Valley twice, first on Wednesday then on Saturday, our last day in the park. We hiked the short trails to the bottom of Bridalveil and Yosemite falls; the kids enjoyed that, but a jogging stroller is a really good idea for littler kids. Even Jared wanted to ride in a stroller after a bit. When you take the trail to the base of Yosemite Falls, be sure to take the detour to the Yosemite Falls view as well. There's a lovely pool there the kids can dip their feet in on a hot day. When we were there, we saw a couple of eastern monks come and do that as they pondered the gentle power of the falls.

One of the trails that I had hoped to do was the Mist Trail. This is the trail that goes up the East end of the valley, alongside Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls. It gets its name from the mist -- almost a heavy rain in the spring -- that drenches the trail near the bottom of Vernal Falls. I had hoped to go at least as that far, but judging from how tired the kids got even on the shorter hikes, I knew that was right out. Still, for older kids, maybe six and up, it should be doable. With teenagers, you could even shoot for the whole trail, all the way to the top of Nevada falls. That's an amazing, if challenging, hike, but the views are worth it, not to mention the bragging rights.

We didn't rent a raft as was suggested, but we did see others doing it -- it's something we'll definitely plan on for next time. Had it been much hotter, we might have even skipped the raft altogether and just jumped in the water, it looked that inviting. The water is calm and slow, and as long as your kids could sit in the boat without jumping overboard, just about anyone should be able to do it. Another possibility for our next trip is renting bikes and touring the valley by pedal power. Bikes and trailers for the kids are available.

If 12 miles of paved bike paths seems a mite daunting, the free shuttle buses that run throughout the valley were a hit with our kids. They're not as great for seeing the park as a bike or the open-air tram tour but you can't beat the price! They're also indispensable for simply getting around the park once you've parked your car for the day.

While Yosemite Valley isn't the unspoiled, wilderness that the backcountry is, it's much more accessible to families, especially those with small children. It's also, in my opinion, the most beautiful place on the planet.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.