Are you thinking about visiting Yosemite National Park in September? You’re in luck! September is an ideal time to explore the park. In September, Yosemite combines the vast array of activities available during the summer months with comfortable cooler temperatures – perfect for hiking and other outdoor activities.
But what can you really expect?
Keep reading for a deep dive into everything that Yosemite has to offer, and what to expect.
Weather in September
Choose Your Own Temperatures
There isn’t just one answer to what to expect for temperatures in September in Yosemite.
Because Yosemite spans sun-soaked foothill climates at 1,800 feet (549 m) to craggy alpine summits at 13,114 feet (3,997 m), you can find a range of temperatures in the park on any given day. This allows you to choose your own temperatures by choosing activities at lower or higher elevations.
If you’re exploring Yosemite Valley or Wawona, you’ll be at around 4000 feet (1,220 m). The average high temperature for September in Yosemite Valley or Wawona is 83℉ (28℃) and the lows are 51℉ (11℃) on average.
However, if there’s a heat wave during your visit, or you prefer cooler temps, consider visiting Tuolumne Meadows. At 8,600 ft (2,622 m), the high temps average a very comfortable 65℉ (18℃) while evenings drop to a brisk 32℉ (0℃).
Looking for something in between? Try hikes along Glacier Point Road that are around 7000 ft (2,134 m)
Precipitation in September
September is still comfortably within Yosemite’s “dry season”. However, we will occasionally see some afternoon thunderstorms that tend to build over the high country in Tuolumne and can spill down into the lower elevations as well.
Because September tends to be dry, there is also a possibility of smoke and fire throughout California between late June and the beginning of the wet season – usually in mid- or late-October. It’s a price we pay for so much glorious sunshine.
What to Pack to Wear in Yosemite in September
You may have noticed that Yosemite’s temperatures fluctuate a lot between day and night. Plus, since you’ll probably want to explore several different areas within Yosemite National Park, it’s important to arrive with a variety of layers of clothing.
This layering strategy allows you to start with a puffy jacket in the morning. Pull off that jacket and enjoy long sleeves as the day starts to warm up, and then shed even that layer to be comfortable in short sleeves for mid-day.
We recommend carrying a light rain jacket too. It can double as a wind-breaker, and adds a lot of warmth for the amount of space it takes in your pack. Plus, if you are treated to an afternoon thunderstorm, you’ll be glad you have it with you.
Similarly, you might want to trade a warm wool beanie for early morning outings for a sun hat later in the day.
Hiking or trail running shoes with good traction are ideal for walking Yosemite’s sometimes-polished granite.
September is often still warm enough to enjoy a refreshing swim in one of Yosemite’s rivers or lakes. If that sounds like the perfect end to a day of hiking and exploration, be sure to grab a suit and towel too.
How Busy is Yosemite in September?
By September, Yosemite National Park feels calmer, especially mid-week. Schools are back in session, so there are fewer families traveling. There are still plenty of people visiting, but it’s like the park has taken a nice deep breath.
Weekends are busier than weekdays. If you have flexibility in your travel plans, be sure to take advantage of quieter mid-week days in Yosemite.
Yosemite National Park Service has started a text messaging service with information about when parking fills in various parts of the park. We’d recommend signing up for that a few weeks before you plan to visit so you can get an idea of what areas fill (and which do not) and at what times. That will give you a rough sense of when you should plan to arrive in different locations.
Sign up for current traffic conditions by texting YNPTRAFFIC to 333111.
Where to Stay in Yosemite in September
While Yosemite’s visitation is past-peak in September, we still recommend booking your lodging reservations early to get the best selection. Yosemite Valley lodging in particular can fill far in advance.
Check out booking a vacation rental cabin in Wawona instead. The Redwoods In Yosemite has the largest collection of cabins inside the park and plenty of filters that make finding the perfect place, and don’t forget to check out the special offers to get the best deal.
Best Hikes in Yosemite in September
September is a hiker’s paradise in Yosemite. The high country trails are open with many options for walking to an alpine lake or past soaring cliffs. Water flow has receded as the high-country snow melted away, so the waterfalls will be smaller (or gone) but you will be more likely to keep your feet dry by crossing on stones over small creeks rather than having to wade.
Mist Trail/John Muir Trail
Yosemite Valley lies at the heart of the national park, and there are many trail options ranging from short wheelchair and stroller-friendly walks through Cooks Meadow, to the steep trails that climb up from Yosemite Valley floor that provide birds-eye views.
However, with two big waterfalls that run year-round, the Mist Trail is the best, most popular, and most-scenic hike any time of year, and particularly in September. The trail is steep, but there are so many jaw-dropping destinations along the way it’s easy to customize to the hiking ability of your group. Whether you turn around at the Vernal Fall footbridge after getting that view of Vernal Fall (1.6 miles/2.6 km round-trip), the top of Vernal Fall (2.4 mi/3.9 km round trip) or make it all the way to the top of Nevada Fall (5.4 mi/ 8.7 km round trip), you’ll be in for a real treat.
Take the free shuttle in Yosemite Valley to Happy Isles (Shuttle Stop #16) or walk the extra 1.5 miles round trip from Curry Village.
Taft Point / Sentinel Dome
The trailhead for these two destinations starts at the same spot along Glacier Point Road. You can either do them one at a time or combine them into a longer loop with stunning views looking down into Yosemite Valley.
Taft Point is known for its striking fissures and the dizzying view from the guard rail down into the valley. Sentinel Dome provides an impressive 360 view of Yosemite’s high country as well as looking across at Half Dome and down into Yosemite Valley.
As separate hikes, each destination is 2.2 miles/ 3.5 km round trip with mostly rolling terrain – although the final climb to the top of Sentinel Dome is quite steep – take your time and enjoy the scenery.
As a loop, expect about 5 miles/ 8 km. The section of trail connecting the two destinations follows the valley rim and is a less-traveled treat.
As long as you’re driving out along Glacier Point Road, don’t forget to stop at Glacier Point too. It’s a particularly good destination for sunset.
Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias – Grizzly Giant Loop
The Mariposa Grove is the largest of the three giant sequoia groves in Yosemite National Park and is located close to Wawona and the South Entrance Gate. A stroll among these ancient giants is always worth the time, especially if you haven’t had the chance to see a giant sequoia before.
In September, most people will park near the South Entrance and take the free shuttle bus to the Arrival Area at the Lower Grove, though you can also walk the Washburn Trail (2 miles/3.2 km) if you want to stretch your legs.
From there, the most popular hike is the Grizzly Giant Loop (2.0 mi/ 3.2 km round trip) which takes you past the Fallen Monarch, Bachelor and Three Graces, and up to the Grizzly Giant (one of the largest trees in the grove). Just past the Grizzly Giant, you can walk through a living sequoia, the California Tunnel Tree.
However, you could also simply follow the wheelchair-friendly boardwalks around the Big Trees Loop (0.3 mi/0.4 km) for a shorter walk. For more time among the giants, hike the Mariposa Grove Trail plus Guardians Loop (7 mi/ 11.3 km round trip) to take in the (quieter) Upper Grove trees as well.
Cathedral Lakes Trail
Like Yosemite Valley, it’s hard to choose just one best hike in the Tuolumne region, but the Cathedral Lakes Trail is certainly a strong candidate. On this trail, you combine the serene beauty of Lower Cathedral Lake with the striking summits of Cathedral, Echo, and Tressider Peaks rising all around. The round-trip is 7-8 mi (11.2-12.8 km) depending on whether you want to see Lower Cathedral Lake, Upper Cathedral Lake, or both of them.
What to Do in Yosemite in September
Yosemite’s hiking is spectacular, but September offers much more than just hiking. If you’re ready to give your legs a break check out some of these other options.
Come join us for the biggest Yosemite Clean Up event of the year with Yosemite Facelift!
All participants should register and you can do so here: https://www.yosemiteclimbing.org/yosemitefacelift2023
There are great prizes (including a chance to win a two night stay at The Redwoods), fun activities, and above all, one great goal of collecting as much trash as we possibly can! Event begins September 20, 2023 through September 24, 2023. Please register before September 11, 2023!!!!
Swing into the saddle for a horseback riding experience. Ride a Quarter Horse with family-owned and operated Yosemite Trails, or take a 2-hour ride along the Wawona Meadow Loop at the Wawona Stables.
Museums and the Yosemite History Center
Wawona’s Yosemite History Center takes you back in time to the era of horse-drawn wagons. A collection of historically significant buildings from around the park sheds light into a part of Yosemite’s history.
Stop by the Wawona Visitor Center at Hill’s Studio to see an exhibit of paintings by Yosemite artist Thomas Hill, and chat with friendly rangers there.
Biking is a fun way to see Yosemite Valley. Plus, mountain bikers will love the nearby trails in the Sierra National Forest.
Cast a line into one of Yosemite’s creeks, rivers or lakes. The region around Wawona is known for brookies, browns, and rainbows. The guides at Yosemite Sierra Fly Fisher have all the details.
Ride a Historic Steam Train
Get a chance to climb aboard an authentic steam train at Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. They have 1-hour tours during the day or spend a magical 3-hour evening that includes dinner, a train ride, and live music around the campfire.
Junior Ranger / Ranger Programs
Learn more about what you’re seeing in Yosemite from one of the park rangers. The Junior Ranger program is appropriate for children and appreciated by people of all ages as a way to experience the park more deeply. See the Yosemite Guide to learn what programs are happening during your stay.
Sightseeing / Wildlife Viewing in Yosemite
So much of Yosemite’s beauty can be appreciated from roadside stops. Take a scenic tour up toward Glacier Point or out along Tioga Road as well as through Yosemite Valley.
Be sure to keep your speed down and your eyes open for some of Yosemite’s magnificent wildlife as you go. If you’re lucky, you may see one of Yosemite’s black bears (they can be brown or even blonde), mule deer, bobcats, coyotes, and so many more.
It may be hard to take a bad picture in this amazing place, but if you’re interested in coming away with the best photos possible, also consider joining The Ansel Adams Gallery for one of their photography walks.
Fall foliage in Yosemite Valley and Wawona usually peaks in mid-October, but keep your eyes open for small pops of color starting in September.
Go Climb a Rock. Yosemite is world-famous for amazing rock climbing. You’ll love the unique experiences and views from high atop Yosemite’s cliffs. Yosemite Mountaineering School offers beginner classes all the way up to multi-day ascents of El Capitan, and the Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides can introduce you to climbing just south of the park.
The days are still warm enough in September to enjoy a refreshing swim in Yosemite’s rivers or lakes. Wawona is particularly known for its delightful swimming holes. You might also enjoy swimming in the Merced River in Yosemite Valley or the sandy beach at Tenaya Lake along Tioga Road.
There’s nothing quite like finding a quiet spot away from the bright lights of the city to appreciate the beauty of the night sky. In September, you might even see a shooting star. The September Epsilon Perseids (not to be confused with the August Perseids from the Swift-Tuttle comet) add an extra spark of celestial excitement to the experience.
More Things to Do in Yosemite
This is a long list, but there are even more things to do in Yosemite. It’s truly a destination with something for everyone.
See You in Yosemite in September!
It’s easy to see that September in Yosemite is an idyllic time to explore the park in more ways than one. We hope to see you soon!
When you visit Yosemite in August, you find the park at its peak season. Everything is open so you’ll find the biggest selection for shopping, dining, and activities. Families are enjoying the last bit of summer travel time before school starts again with plenty of hiking options as well as refreshing trips to local swimming holes.
Pro tip: If you can, take advantage of the lull in late August. Because schools start earlier than they used to, kids often end up back in school by the middle of the month. Meanwhile, those without children often wait until after Labor Day to plan their fall trips, leaving a quiet period at the end of August when you can enjoy summer conditions with fewer people around. In fact, starting in mid-August you will also often find better discounts on Yosemite lodging.
August Weather in Yosemite
In Yosemite, August is the warmest and sunniest month of the year. High temperatures in Wawona or Yosemite Valley are often around 89°F (32°C), but mornings and evenings are cooler, averaging a delightful 57°F (14°C), perfect for hiking or other active pursuits. And when the sun is at its highest, delightful swimming holes with refreshingly cool waters invite wading, swimming, or floating.
Another popular option is to travel to higher elevations in the summer for hiking or exploration. For example, at 8,000 feet (2,622 m), in Tuolumne Meadows, the average high temperature is only 70°F (21°C). Just be sure you bring some warm layers if you want to visit the high country early or stay late because evening temperatures average just 37°F (3°C).
The month of August also has the lowest precipitation of any month, with only 0.2 inches (4 mm) of rain on average, making beautiful cloudless blue skies the August norm. The downside of California’s warm and dry August weather is the possibility for wildfire. Fire is a natural and essential part of this region’s ecosystem, but it can lead to smoky conditions if there are large fires in the area.
What Clothes to Pack for Yosemite in August
With such a big temperature range, it can be hard to decide what to pack without bringing the entire closet. The first step is to figure out where you plan to spend the most time, and then bring a variety of layers that can be added or shed depending on the day’s conditions. For example, wearing a tank top plus sun shirt plus sweater plus a puffy jacket can provide plenty of warmth for cool mornings at altitude, and you can slowly shed those layers as the day warms up. If you plan to sleep in, explore Wawona or Yosemite Valley, and then retire to your cabin for a relaxing dinner, you won’t need as many warm layers. But if you’re planning to stay up until late for astrophotography or a stargazing program, you’ll be grateful for some extra clothes.
Because the sun is so powerful in the Sierra Nevada, many people find that clothing that provides shade can be as cool or cooler than a t-shirt or tank top. Consider a wide-brimmed sun hat or a lightweight, light-colored, long sleeve sun shirt to stay cool and protect yourself from the sun’s powerful UV rays.
And don’t forget a swimming suit to take the plunge at one of Wawona’s popular swim spots.
Things to Do in Yosemite in August
You won’t lack things to do in Yosemite in August. This is the height of the summer season, so whether you’re planning to hike through the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, enjoy a horseback riding trip with Yosemite Trails, or gaze up at the starry skies with a park naturalist, you’ll find plenty of memorable activities for your visit. Here are a few highlighted suggestions to make the most of your August visit.
Hiking in August
With warmer temperatures, it’s time to think about high-elevation and shadier hikes. In Yosemite Valley, trails that face north, like the Four Mile Trail, will tend to be cooler than the Upper Yosemite Fall trail which faces south and can become a giant solar oven – amazing in January, but less welcome in August. The water in Yosemite Fall is usually minimal by this time of year anyway. The Mist Trail is a good selection because it’s in a relatively cool canyon, and the waterfalls along this trail flow year-round. The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias tends to have excellent shade from surrounding trees, so that is another good option.
Choosing hikes at higher elevations can also make a big difference in terms of temperature. Hikes along the Glacier Point Road (when it re-opens in 2023) or over in the Tuolumne Meadows area are significantly cooler than those that start at lower elevations.
An alternative strategy for finding cooler hiking conditions is to start hiking early when it is still fairly cool out and then plan more relaxed activities during the warmer part of the day. Spend the middle part of the day with a siesta in your cabin, relaxing by the water, or simply find a shady spot for a picnic. Then you can rally for more hiking as the day cools off again in the evening.
By choosing a local trail, like the one to Wawona’s Swinging Bridge, you can combine some trail time with a refreshing dip in the river.
Easily reached from the Bay Area, Fresno and Los Angeles alike, Yosemite and the surrounding area is the perfect getaway. A place to distance yourself from the crowds, from the noise, and from the city lights. Whether you’re hiking solo on a backcountry trail, or parked with the family on a turnout along one of Mariposa County’s many country roads, whether you’re using the naked eye, a pair of trusty binoculars, or that brand new telescope, the night sky seems to go on forever prompting visitors to scan the heavens, take a deep breath of fresh air and announce…wow, I’ve never seen so many stars.
In August, it is not uncommon to spot amateur astronomers setting up telescopes at Glacier Point on Saturdays. The Yosemite Conservancy offers a few Stargazing events in Yosemite Valley as well, and we highly recommend them!
When you’re ready to give your hiking boots a break, consider exploring Yosemite Valley by bicycle. There are two bike rental stands – one at Curry Village and another at Yosemite Valley Lodge – that rent cruiser bikes for commuting around the valley. Pedal Forward bikes in Oakhurst also rents mountain bikes (and bike racks) if you’re more excited about descents and single-track options in the Sierra National Forest.
Ranger-led Programs and Guided Activities
Rangers and other guides offer many opportunities to learn about Yosemite from local experts. There is everything from art classes, to astronomy programs, rock climbing lessons, train rides, horseback riding and so much more.
Connect with Yosemite’s History
The Yosemite History Center, located right in Wawona, offers a tour of significant historic structures in Yosemite. These buildings tell the story of settlers, artists, and laborers that have helped make Yosemite what it is now.
Chat with Yosemite rangers, and peek into the studio of a locally famous 19th-century artist at the Thomas Hill studio. This small building close to Wawona Hotel is now part visitor center and part free museum.
Hop aboard a historic steam train at Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad and then pan for gold, and visit their museum.
The Yosemite Museum in Yosemite Valley is another wonderful history-filled stop. Displays illustrate the cultural history of the Miwok and Paiute people from 1850 until now. Discover what they used to eat, see demonstrations of basket weaving, beadwork, and learn about traditional games. Be sure to wander through a reconstructed village behind the museum to see some of the plants that they used, and the buildings they used to live in.
Staying at the Redwoods In Yosemite in August
When you’re planning your August trip, be sure to consider getting a vacation rental cabin reservation in Wawona with The Redwoods In Yosemite. Wawona’s location inside the park gates makes it easy to explore the park. And the convenient filters on the Redwoods In Yosemite site make it easy to find just the home you’re looking for, plus you’ll save money by booking direct.
Are you getting ready for an epic adventure in one of America’s most iconic national parks? Yosemite is the land of soaring waterfalls and towering granite cliffs, and Yosemite puts on a real show for April visitors.
Spring has sprung, and this season of rebirth is the perfect time to explore the breathtaking scenery of Yosemite National Park. Grab your hiking boots, pack your camera, and prepare to be amazed by the beauty of this natural wonderland.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you through all the must-see sights, best hiking trails, and hidden gems that Yosemite has to offer during the month of April. Plus, we’ll share some insider tips on how to make the most of your trip, including where to stay, what to pack, and what to expect.
So, whether you’re a seasoned hiker, a nature lover, or simply seeking an escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life, Yosemite in April is the perfect destination for you. Let’s dive in and discover all the magic this incredible park has to offer!
The biggest reasons to visit Yosemite in April
As the days get warmer and longer, the snow in the high country starts to melt. It flows down through small gullies and large granite basins, and then tumbles over Yosemite’s great cliffs in exuberant, rushing waterfalls. April is a remarkable time for waterfall watchers in Yosemite.
April is still a relatively quiet month in Yosemite National Park, especially if you can manage to visit during the week days. This means more of Yosemite just for you! With fewer visitors to the park, you’ll also still be able to find some excellent deals on lodging.
Starting in April, the wildflowers in Yosemite Valley and Wawona begin to appear. The Wawona Meadow Loop is an excellent place to go looking for a wide variety of these blossoms, and if you’re lucky you’ll get to see the expansive blooms of lupine covering the meadows and roadsides with purple.
April weather in Yosemite
April likes to do its own thing when it comes to weather. And every April is a little different.
In an average April, the weather is shifting from the cool crisp days of winter into a more summer-like weather pattern. The average high temperatures in Yosemite Valley are a comfortable 63°F/17°C, while the average low temperature drops to 38°F/3°C. That means most people will want long pants and warmer layers for the morning and evening that you can shed when you’re in the sun mid-day.
The average precipitation in Yosemite Valley in April is 3.2 inches/81 mm. That puts us nicely halfway between the 7.0 inches/177 mm of precipitation in an average January and the negligible 0.2 in/4mm that you can expect in an average August. In real terms this means that there are a lot of beautiful sunny days in April, but it might still rain or snow occasionally. It just depends.
Of course, when you ascend or descend in the mountains, especially during these transitional spring months, you can choose your own season. Temperatures for El Portal, a small town just downhill of Yosemite Valley along Highway 140 has an average high of 72°F/22°C for the month, while in the high country of Tuolumne Meadows, it’s still a chilly average high of 45°F/7°C.
The bottom line on April weather in Yosemite is to come prepared for all kinds of weather. Dress in layers so that you can put on an extra sweater or jacket for mornings or cooler days, and then shed those layers for mid-day or warmer days.
A rain coat is a good idea. Even on sunny days, the misty blast from Yosemite’s waterfalls can be more comfortable with a good rain jacket.
Waterproof shoes or hiking boots can also be a nice-to-have if you’re planning on hiking. As the snow melts you’ll find water everywhere – running in rivulets down the trail or standing in wide puddles. If you don’t have waterproof footwear, extra socks can help keep your feet warm and dry. Or you can try adding plastic bags over your socks but inside your shoes. Your feet will sweat a lot, but they will stay warmer overall.
Road Conditions and Chain Controls
A quick side note before we get to the fun stuff:
While storms grow increasingly rare in April in Yosemite, there is still a chance of snow during this month, and if that happens to overlap with your planned trip, you’ll be happy to have tire chains in your vehicle to help with traction on Yosemite’s mountain roads. Higher-elevation roads are more likely to have chain requirements, but they can be in place on any park road.
Keep your eye on the weather forecast for Yosemite in the days/week before your trip. You might want to adjust your layering systems, and see if you’re likely to need chains for your car. If there is a storm in the forecast, be sure to read up on our guide to chain requirements in Yosemite.
The Tioga Road that crosses the Sierra Nevada through Tuolumne Meadows, and the Glacier Point Road which connects Highway 41 to Glacier Point, are usually still closed due to snow in April. This is the tradeoff you make for rushing waterfalls. That high-elevation snowpack is what is turning into roaring waterfalls down low. It’s also another good reason to plan multiple trips to Yosemite during different times of the year.
Right before your trip, the best way to learn about road conditions inside Yosemite National Park is to call the road conditions hotline at 209-372-0200 (press 1 and 1 again to listen to the recording).
What to do in Yosemite in April
Lower elevation areas like Yosemite Valley, Hetch Hetchy or Wawona and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias are all excellent places to visit during the month of April with relatively easy accessibility. These locations provide the best of the aforementioned waterfall wandering, mountain meandering, and fun flower viewing opportunities.
Yosemite Valley holds many of the park’s most notorious waterfalls, and after a warm day in April, you’ll find them all flowing fast and free. You don’t even have to leave your car (though we recommend that you do) to see Bridalveil Fall or Yosemite Falls.
In April, you will probably also be treated to the elegant cascades of Sentinel Fall or the tallest single drop waterfall in the park, Ribbon Fall. Parts of the Mist Trail and the John Muir are often closed in winter, but you can hike the Winter Route to see both Vernal and Nevada Fall using the parts of both trails that remain open.
Don’t forget to visit Wawona’s waterfall while you’re here as well. The Chilnualna Fall trail starts just a few minutes from the Redwoods In Yosemite cabins, and leads up past a series of gorgeous waterfalls and cascades.
Tips for exploring snow-covered trails: Traction devices like Stabilicers or Yak-Tracks can help with footing on packed out snow on popular trails, and don’t underestimate the utility of a pair of hiking poles. The snow will be more firm (and slippery) early in the morning and late in the evening when the temperatures are cooler, and will soften during the day. That means that you may be able to walk on top of the snow in the morning, but will sink through as the day goes on, making travel more difficult.
Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequioas
There are over 500 giant sequoia trees in the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. Estimated to be thousands of years old, each is a testament to longevity and endurance. An ancient wisdom permeates the entire grove.
To get there, park at the large parking area near the south entrance gate to Yosemite National Park. If the winter has been relatively warm and dry, there could be a free shuttle service to the Arrival Area at the lower grove. If not, you can walk the Washburn Trail that starts at the far end of the parking area, or stroll up the road to get to the lower Mariposa Grove. It’s about 2 miles each way. This is more effort, but also means that you’ll have the grove more to yourself when you get there.
Beyond that you have a selection of trails to explore. Most people try to take in the Grizzly Giant Loop (2.0 miles/3.2 km) which includes named trees like the Fallen Monarch, the Bachelor and Three Graces, the Grizzly Giant and the California Tunnel Tree, but there are shorter and longer options available.
Stopping to Smell the Flowers
Each spring a wave of wildflower blossoms start in the central valley and slowly makes its way up into the mountains. By April, the fields of orange poppies have often passed their peak, and are now giving way to great swaths of purple lupines that line the roads through Wawona. The keen-eyed will also marvel at the variety of wildflowers to be found along the Wawona Meadow Loop, and scattered throughout the forest at that elevation.
Our Furred and feathered friends
As spring’s warmth spreads, you’ll also find more birds and other wildlife filling Yosemite’s landscape too. Bears awaken from a winter’s rest and begin to frequent Yosemite’s meadows looking for food. Peregrine Falcons, still listed on California’s endangered species list return to their nests and begin preparing for the next generation.
As soon as the weather warms, rock climbers return to Yosemite’s clean granite cliffs. In addition to spotting them on bold ascents of El Capitan, keep your eyes open at smaller crags as well, like the rock wall at the back of the Churchbowl Picnic area.
If you, or someone in your group, would like to try climbing Yosemite’s famous rock walls, the Yosemite Mountaineering School has a variety of classes and guided climbs to introduce climbers and would-be climbers to the area.
Don’t forget the simple pleasures too
There are also plenty of small pleasures that you can expect when taking a relaxing vacation in the mountains. Curl up in front of a roaring fire with a good book and good company. Slip out to the hot tub, or relax in the Jacuzzi. Get entirely too caught up in a board game with friends. Or hold a debate about what kind of animal might have left that strange track you found in the snow. Ultimately, these quiet activities and small moments of discovery can be among the most rejuvenating and precious.
Where to Stay
There are many accommodation options inside Yosemite National Park, from camping to the historic luxury. However, the best option for a place to stay in April has to be a rental cabin in Wawona. Yes, of course we’re biased, but hear us out.
Naturally, it’s nice to stay inside Yosemite National Park. You’re closer to all that the park has to offer, and you can spend more of your vacation being here instead of getting here.
Unlike a hotel room, a vacation rental cabin has more of the conveniences of home. You can save money by bringing groceries with you and preparing the food you enjoy. There’s room to spread out and relax. Private homes are… well, more private. No need to worry about the noise coming from the room next door. And if the stray April storm does blow through during your visit, some homes even give you access to laundry facilities. A dryer can come in handy to dry everyone out at the end of a day of exploration. Plus, if you have fur family you can rent a vacation cabin that is pet-friendly, and bring your pup with you.
With some services, it can be hard to tell if the rental cabin that you’re looking at is inside the park or not. With The Redwoods In Yosemite, you know that you’ll be located in Wawona, close to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, and inside the park gate. Plus, The Redwoods In Yosemite makes it easy to find a place that is the perfect fit for you, with convenient filters for amenities like EV chargers, or a fireplace.
Families from around the world travel to Yosemite for the iconic scenery, abundant natural experiences, and a chance to relax and unwind in a beautiful setting. There are plenty of short hikes, beautiful scenery, and fun activities to keep your kids entertained as you explore. It may take a little extra planning to design the ideal trip with your family, but rest assured there is plenty to do. Keep reading for activities galore and tips for traveling to Yosemite with kids.
Is Yosemite Kid-friendly?
Let’s start here with an unequivocal yes. With many stroller-compatible trails and easy access to the most-iconic viewpoints, Yosemite is strikingly easy to get around. That makes it a great national park to visit with kids of all ages, including babies and toddlers.
What Is There To Do in Yosemite for Families?
Hold on tight. There is so much to do in Yosemite with kids that the answer to this question is going to take a while.
Simply being out in the fresh air and attentive to what is happening around you is a way to become more connected with natural spaces, and make fascinating discoveries about the world we live in.
First thing on the list – Junior Rangers! The junior ranger program includes fun activities that get kids to engage with what they are seeing and experiencing in the park, encourages them to interact with park rangers, gives them a chance to earn a cool junior ranger badge, and even serves as a souvenir and memento of their time in the park. There’s nothing like experiencing Yosemite through the eyes of a would-be junior ranger. The Junior Ranger booklet is designed for kids aged 4 – 12, but Junior Ranger activities can be fun for all ages. If you look in the Junior Ranger log book in Yosemite, you’ll find people from pre-school to post-retirement ages who have taken the time to become Junior Rangers. Try it!
Whether you’re traveling with a budding young artist, or simply want a quiet day outdoors, The Yosemite Conservancy offers a wide range of art activities. Taking time to paint or draw in nature gives you time to be still and enjoy the scenery around you, fills the soul, and creates a unique souvenir of your time in Yosemite.
Places to Explore
Sometimes kids want to walk, and sometimes they just want to explore. Fortunately, you’ll find many short walks with great views that are also perfectly suited to a kid’s pace. Here is a small selection of trails you to investigate.
Yosemite History Museum
The Yosemite History Museum has an array of historic buildings on display, including an old jail that kids are free to explore. Best of all, during the summer months, if you’re lucky you can take a ride on a horse-drawn stage coach or watch a blacksmith in action over a forge.
Wawona Meadow Loop
Just across Highway 41 from the Redwoods In Yosemite cabins, the Wawona Meadow Loop is a peaceful trail that circles the Wawona meadow (and golf course), and is a great place to discover a variety of wildflowers in the spring. In true family-friendly spirit, this is one of the few mostly non-paved trails in Yosemite that is open to leashed pets and bicycles. The loop is 3.5 miles (5.6 km) with a 5-mile (8 km) variation.
Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias:
The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is a quick 15-minute drive from The Redwoods cabins. Park in the main lot near the South Entrance gate, and during the summer you can take the shuttle bus to the lower Mariposa Grove. Explore the boardwalks near the shuttle stop on the Big Trees Loop (0.3 miles), take a longer walk to visit the Grizzly Giant and California Tunnel Trees (2 mile loop), or hike all the way up to the Upper Grove of Giant Sequoias (6.5 – 7 miles).
Lower Yosemite Falls & Cooks Meadow
In the spring and early summer when the water is flowing, the short loop to the base of Lower Yosemite Fall gives you a chance to see this waterfall up close. The trail is even paved and stroller-friendly, though steep in spots. As an alternative, or a way to extend the walk to Lower Yosemite Fall, cross the road at the bus stop and walk through Cook’s Meadow on paved trails and boardwalks to zoom out on Yosemite Falls, and take in grand views of Half Dome at the same time.
Lower Yosemite Falls Loop: 0.5 miles (0.8 km)
Cooks Meadow Loop: 0.5 miles (0.8 km)
Happy Isles & The Fen
East of Curry Village, there are two beautiful kid-friendly strolls to explore. The fen is a lush wetland filled with songbirds, which connects to Happy Isles, a short trail out to two islands in the middle of the Merced River. A highlight of the Happy Isles area is the Art and Nature Center with kid-oriented exhibits and art programs.
Both trails are less than 0.5 miles (0.8 km)
This beautiful location is going through an identity crisis. A beautiful, reflective pond in spring, it dries to an open meadow by late summer. In the right part of this transition, the sandy shores create a popular family-friendly beach with shallow pools for swimming and splashing.
Mirror Lake/Meadow: 2.4 miles (3.8 km) round trip.
Indian Village behind the Yosemite Museum
A very short walk behind the Yosemite Museum provides a glimpse into the traditional homes and buildings built by the Miwok people in the late 1800s and early 20th century. If you keep your eyes open for the interpretive signs, you can also learn about some of the plants that were used to make arrows or baskets and food. Within the museum, you can also sometimes find cultural demonstrators who can provide even greater insights into how these people used to live.
Note: Local tribes have requested to be referred to as Indians.
The trail is less than a quarter-mile (0.4 km).
Swinging Bridge – Yosemite Valley and Wawona versions
There are actually two “Swinging Bridges” in Yosemite. The one in Yosemite Valley sports a river-side picnic area with tables and grills and doesn’t actually swing, but provides nice views of Yosemite Valley. In contrast, Wawona’s Swinging Bridge still bounces and sways as you cross, making it a fun adventure for small kids. Both are popular swimming spots once spring run-off has slowed and the water temperatures have warmed.
Wawona Swinging Bridge
Getting to Wawona’s Swinging Bridge is just a matter of stepping out the front door of your Redwoods In Yosemite cabin rental. At just 0.75 miles (1.2 km) round trip (from the Redwoods offices), and mostly flat this is a great place to wander with your little ones. The dirt trail is relatively flat, so it’s relatively easy with a rugged stroller or wagon for all your things. It’s fun to walk across a bridge that sways gently as you walk, and the scenery over the South Fork of the Merced River is a delight. This is also a nice place to get close to the water late in the summer when the river has slowed down.
Yosemite Valley Swinging Bridge: just a few steps from the parking area.
Figuring out Nap Time for Kids While Visiting Yosemite
If your kids are young enough that you want to protect nap time during your visit, there are a couple of easy solutions.
- If you’re staying in one of the cabins rented by the Redwoods In Yosemite, you can try to combine a short local excursion with a return to your vacation rental home for nap time. There is a wealth of options, but a few along those lines might include: the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, Yosemite History Center exploration, a trip to a local swimming hole, or a walk to the first cascade along the Chilnualna Fall Trail.
- Your car is another great place to retreat for a satisfying nap time. It can take a while to drive to various destinations in Yosemite, and many scenic overlooks to stop at along the way where you can keep an eye on the sleeping babes and still take in some amazing scenery. If there are two of you, you can also take turns stretching your legs while the other person keeps an eye on the napping kids. Try doing this on a trip to explore Tuolumne Meadows, for example.
- Admittedly, this solution is more gear-intensive, but some local parents have had great luck getting their kids to nap outdoors by bringing along small tents that can be easily set up anywhere. The tent walls help block out all the things that are going on all around to help little ones relax and rest, as well as protect them from the sun and any mosquitoes or other insects.
More Yosemite Activities for Kids that are a Little Older
If you’ve got a natural climber on your hands, your kid will love a class with the Yosemite Mountaineering School. Learn rope work, safety systems, and get great views while rock climbing. Kids need to be aged 10 or up to join a group lesson (12+ to attend the class without an adult present). However, younger kids (with their parents) can also sign up for a private lesson. This personalized format allows the climbing guide to give their full attention to their young protégé.
There are two kinds of rafting in the Yosemite area. You can take a scenic float through Yosemite, or paddle through the whitewater rapids just west of Yosemite with one of the guide services there.
Get the family together for a relaxing downstream float through Yosemite Valley. You can rent a raft that holds 2-4 people at Curry Village. Kids need to weigh at least 50 lbs to go ride in a rental raft, and you need to have at least 2 capable paddlers on board (at least 5 ft. tall and 12 years old).
Whitewater rafting options are a little further away, but provide a rollicking ride through the waves on a guided rafting trip. Age requirements will depend on the river conditions, so be sure to check with the whitewater rafting guides ahead of time. In spring when the rivers are at their fullest and most wild this will only be appropriate for older kids, but younger kids will be able to join as the water levels drop in late summer.
We like to recommend Yosemite Trails for nearby trail rides. Yosemite Trails is a small family-run business, and these folks really know their horses. No previous experience necessary. You’ll get a quick riding lesson before you set off on the trail. You can sign up for one or two-hour rides through the beautiful Sierra National Forest and experience getting to cross a mountain stream on your mount. Kids need to be at least 7 years old.
You can also take a ride along the Wawona Loop Trail from the guides at the Wawona Stables. The Wawona Stables are even closer to the Redwoods In Yosemite cabins than Yosemite Trails, but a little less remote-feeling. The age requirement here is also 7 and up, and the kids also need to weigh at least 52 pounds and be at least 52 inches tall.
Best Places to Stay in Yosemite with Kids
Of course we’re biased, but we can’t say enough about how great the Redwoods In Yosemite rental cabins are for families visiting Yosemite National Park.
Vacation rental cabins give your family enough room to spread out while remaining together. This means that you can put the kids to bed, close the door, and still have some space for yourselves to relax and talk or watch TV. Or the kids can play happily in the living room while you’re making dinner or getting lunches together in the kitchen.
Rent a large cabin for extended family gatherings so there is room for aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents too. Sometimes we also see extra-large family reunions split up into multiple cabins next to each other for a little extra space and privacy, with the convenience of having more family right next door.
Some cabins also have some laundry access. This is ideal if you have a couple of dirt-lovers in the family, and helps keep the luggage size under control by allowing you to clean as you go. In the winter months, the drier can also come in handy to ensure that jackets and other clothes are warm and dry for the next round of outdoor fun.
Older kids and adults will also find better internet connectivity in a private cabin compared to other in-park hotels. Now, this is the mountains, so you can’t expect city internet in the best of circumstances, but hotel internet is shared between all other hotel guests. That means that in the evenings when everyone is trying to connect sometimes even checking email can be an exercise in patience, to say nothing of trying to stream entertainment.
Note: Regardless of where you stay, plan ahead and download the kids’ movies before you travel to Yosemite. It’ll take less time in the long run, and you won’t have to worry whether the internet capacity is sufficient.
What to Pack for Kids in Yosemite
Of course, you’ll need the normal things you would pack for traveling with kids – diapers, wipes, water bottles, snacks, plenty of clothing, toiletries, etc. Plus, here are a few additional items that could come in handy for a visit to Yosemite.
- Strollers or Collapsible wagons. There are a lot of paved trails where you can use them. And also…
- Baby carriers and backpacks. Strollers aren’t always easy to wrangle.
- Car toys. It’s a big park, and if you want to visit different areas, the kids will be spending time in the car each day.
- Outdoor discovery tools. Binoculars, magnifying glasses, bird guides, or any number of nature apps make outdoor discovery even richer. We love the John Muir Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada. It seems to contain all of the most common plants, animals, and even constellations that you’re likely to see.
- Pre-downloaded movies or other kid entertainment. Yeah, we just mentioned that above, but it’s worth repeating because mountain internet is likely to be slower than what you’re used to in the city.
- Foldable play mat / mini tent shades come in handy for impromptu nap time or just a comfortable place to stretch out for the little ones.
- Small first aid kit. Because letting kids run, jump and scramble in the woods is beautiful, and you might want to be ready with a few band-aids just in case.