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California with Kids: Yosemite National Park

Next to a giant tree

Next to a giant Sequoia

Yosemite is one of the best known jewels in the National Parks system. It’s an American icon.

We rented a car in San Francisco and headed straight for the Wawona entrance at the Southern tip of the park. We loved it at Wawona. Firstly, the old Lodge is full of character – we stayed in the old rooms (with bath). It really felt like a hundred years ago. The kids loved the pool out front, and there is a ton of space to run around in. Our only concern were the signs around the hotel warning of bears, but we didn’t see any.

Best of all though, Wawona is where you find the giant Sequoia’s. These red trees are gigantic – it’s almost impossible to imagine how big they are, and there are a number of trails in and around the most famous groves. Easy with kids, and lots of fun. They loved exploring the groves.

Our next stop was Yosemite Valley. Yes, its packed with visitors especially in summer, and I would rather have gone when it was much quieter but it is all so breathtaking. The valley, the various waterfalls, Half Dome and El Capitan – are all outstanding. We visited all the major sights – including Glacier Point – where a huge forest fire was burning during our visit and which we could smell throughout the valley. The kids had a great time – with lots of hiking and lots of other kids to meet as well. Probably the best place to stay for families is Curry Village – well located and offers everything you need.

I hiked up the Vernal Falls trail (part of the Half Dome hike) which was spectacular. Some of the time I was right next to the falls, getting soaked. I didn’t have time for the full hike up Half Dome, and today one needs a permit to hike up the cables to the top of Half Dome, which means you really have to plan this long in advance. While I was hiking up, the kids were learning to shoot great photo’s at a special kids’ photography course run by rangers.

If you can, stay a night at the Ahwahnee – perhaps the greatest lodge in the park system. But it is really expensive and the standard rooms in my opinion are not that great. It is worth visiting though, perhaps for a special meal. Although it does have an elegant atmosphere, our kids were made to feel very welcome, even Daniel, who was only three at the time.

Families rafting

Families rafting

We didn’t have time to visit other parts of Yosemite – we’ll just have to go again!

PS: I plan great trips for families to destinations worldwide. Click here for more details.