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 young kids and people with mobility limitations.
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.
Note: 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.
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 Swinging Bridge: 0.75 miles (1.2 km) round trip.
Wawona Meadow Loop
Just across Highway 41 from the Redwoods In Yosemite cabins, this peaceful trail 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.
Wawona Meadow Loop: 3.5 miles (5.6 km) with a 5-mile (8 km) variation.
Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias:
Park in the main lot and 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.
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.