Want to take the kids to Yosemite without making reservations a year out? Consider a day trip in the park. Many people think one day is just not enough, and truly, if I were without kids and wanted quiet, well, I’d probably not even go to tourist-crowded Yosemite. One day was enough for my kids to really see the beauty and not overlook it because they were bored. It was awe inspiring, and full of exploration, even though we were only there for hours.
This is how we did it:
We were staying in Sonora as part of a visit to Columbia, and we left Sonora later than expected, close to 9 a.m., which got us to Bridalveil Fall in Yosemite at 11 a.m. It’s hard to get detailed maps on the park online and distances seem really far, so once we got the map handed out upon admission to the park, we saw how surprisingly close we were to the spots I’d hoped to hit.
Bridalveil Fall has a huge parking lot and bathrooms, leading to the paved trail. Online info said this was an easy hike, which it is until you arrive at the viewing spot. To get closer to the waterfall requires traversing fairly large rocks. The rocks have been walked over quite a bit, making the surfaces slick. I stayed back to watch while my husband took the kids. He was hardly alone, as generally half of each party would go closer to the fall, while the other half stayed back near me. A lot of people fell, so be careful and don’t take your fancy camera along with you on this part. Don’t take your little dog either, as one man started to do.
Next we headed to Tunnel View. It was a Monday, and parking was easy. Even if the spots had been full, people leave quickly enough that it shouldn’t be hard to get a spot. We got out and joined the big crowd to take photos. Luckily the lookout area is large enough that you can get that family Christmas card photo without having to crop out other tourists.
After about 50 photos, we headed toward Yosemite Village. We stopped along the way at one of the many places to park and walk into the meadow or toward the water. The kids had fun using a fallen tree as a bridge across a creek. Another family joined us soon after, finding a picnic spot under a tree. There was plenty of room for kids to run and safely explore, while finding tadpoles, and tiny fish in the still water.
We went into Yosemite Village for lunch, and after we mailed postcard from the Post Office, and went to the Ansel Adams Gallery, which should have been called the Ansel Adams Gift Shop. I knew they’d have things for sale, but I thought it would be more like a gallery of his work. Sure, his work is on display, but not like at a gallery. It was a gift shop.
We made one more stop on our way our at a picturesque spot along the road. There are many of those, making it easy to enjoy different points of Yosemite easily. Swinging Bridge was the only place with full parking, which was fine, because I forgot my kids suits to let them wade in the water.
Two hours later, we were back in Sonora at the inn’s pool.
The kids loved it, we all thought it was beautiful, and no one fought. It was a perfect day.
If we’d wanted to hike a lot, it would have been worth staying for awhile, but at my kids’ ages (six and nine), this was the ideal amount of time for them in the park. It was a lovely, memorable day for all, making it all worth it.