Yosemite is a gorgeous place to visit and a fabulous place for hikes for families. Why? Because there are hikes for all the levels and so many easy and family friendly ones, many with spectacular views. And of course, Yosemite National Park is one of the most gorgeous in the nation.
Hiking as a family is a great thing to do to bond, especially in a place struck by so much natural beauty. We have visited Yosemite several times with our kids in different seasons. I can tell you that planning ahead is crucial to make the most of your trip to this beautiful place, and you have to know what to expect when choosing a trail. Here is the list of the hikes we have done and our experience.
Use this guide to plan you next trip to Yosemite National Park. Take into consideration the time and distance each one takes and plan your day around it. Also, remember that some kids need more breaks and lot of snacks and water. Also, don’t if you need more help in planning, check out this must see in Yosemite list and the different places where you can stay in Yosemite.
Yosemite Valley Hikes for families
Let’s talk about the Yosemite Hikes for Families in the most popular and visited areas in Yosemite
Bridalveil Fall (Easy)
Distance 1.2 miles round trip
This is a perfect hike to do with your little people. It is definitely one of the easiest Yosemite hikes for families. Bridaveil fall is located in the valley and the path has been closed for restoration for a while. However, you can easily park on the side of the road and see the waterfall. The path that is closed is basically a short walk and you can see one of the most famous waterfalls in the world. Beware, you can get wet with the mist especially during spring and when waterfalls are at their fullest. Dogs are not allowed on the trail. It is unfortunate, but many people bring their dogs anyway.
You can also see the waterfall from Tunnel View, about a mile west on Highway 41 from the Bridalveil Fall parking lot.
Cook’s Meadow Loop (Easy)
Distance 2.25 miles round trip
This is one of the most beautiful meadows I’ve ever seen. I recommend you bring your bike and bike together as a family, it is so much fun. Or, you can just park on the side of the road. The path is pretty flat and goes along the meadows and crosses the Merced River where you get a gorgeous view of Yosemite Falls. also goes to swinging bridge where you get a view of Half Dome and El Capitán.
We love walking along the boardwalk on this hike…or maybe you’d call it a stroll! On this walk you are so close to the swimming bridge so I recommend that you bring swimming suits in summertime so you can refresh yourself in the crystal-clear Merced River.
Mirror Lake (Easy-Moderate)
Distance 2 mi / 3.2 km (lake & back) – easy
5 mi / 8 km (entire loop) – moderate
This is an easy trail in the sense that it is pretty flat. However, it is a bit long with not much of a view. The trail is fun to do ion bikes, but bikes are not allowed inside the area that is not paved, but many people leave the bikes at the entrance without incident. If you want to do the whole loop around Morrow Lake it will take you a few more miles and it is more of a moderate effort.
This trail is open all year round but the lake is at its fullest in spring through early summer. During the fall it’s still beautiful. Dogs are not allowed.
Valley Loop Trail (Moderate)
Distance: 6.5 mi (half loop)
13 mi (full loop)
This is a partially level trail. It crosses Cook’s Meadow and could take about 2-3 hours to finish. It passes through roads and meadows with great views of granite cliff as well as Merced River. On this hike you can enjoy solitude but make sure you bring a map!
It’s an unpaved trail and has adults-sized stair steps going up in some parts. It’s a long hike and every section can be different from each other.
Yosemite Falls trail (Easy to Moderate)
Distance 2.0 mi (round trip) – easy
7.2 mi (round trip) – moderate
The first part of this trail is considered easy and it is quite lovely. We could even keep our dog on the paved road. We hiked the paved part and reached Lower Yosemite Fall. When we went, the waterfall was not the fullest and swimming is not permitted. When the waterfall is full, rocks can be slippery so be careful with the kiddos playing on the rocks. My kids really love exploring among the rocks but we stayed on the trail most of the time. The hike can be crowded but we didn’t find the many people when we went last time. However is a must do Yosemite Hikes for Families!
Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall trails (Moderate)
Distance 2.0 mi round trip
7.2 mi round trip
The beginning of the hike to Vernal fall is level but quickly starts getting steep. The distance to Vernal Falls is not that bad. The altitude gain of this path is from 120m to 600m. I recommend that you bring walking sticks and water, at least 2 bottle per person is recommended.
During spring and summer it can be crowded, narrow and slippery. We did it with our 9 year old and 12 year old. It’s definitely an effort, so take your time and don’t forget those hiking sticks!
To reach Nevada Fall, you need to keep going through a path with a fence and uphill. You’ll pass a beautiful body of water at top of Vernal fall and then go over a bridge to keep going on the trail of Nevada Fall.
The way up is beautiful in the fall, the colors around are just dreamy! The waterfall it is at is fullest in winter and spring. We visited Nevada Falls in the autumn.
Check this Yosemite 3 days camping adventure tour here
Glacier Point area hikes for families
Glacier Point Loop (Easy)
Distance 1 mile/1.6 km round trip
Glacier Point is one of the most iconic views in Yosemite. There you can observe the panoramic vista of Half Dome, cloud Rest, Mist trail and Yosemite Valley all together.
This is an easy hike at 7,200 feet. It is almost not a hike, more like a walk around a loop, but totally worth it for the views. We almost skipped the geological exhibit, but you should stop to check it out. Our kids love learning about the formation of granite. It is located at Glacier Point Road. From Yosemite Valley, follow Highway 41 up for 9 miles. You will find a well-developed parking lot and bathrooms. Follow the trail that leads you to the loop and different views of the valley. Parking can get full during high season…be patient, it’s worth it!
Sentinel Dome and Taft Point (moderate)
Distance 2.2 miles round-trip
This is a hike that is easy at first, when you walk through seasonal wild flowers. Later, you are going to need to watch your step around The Fissures and at Taft Point. The views are magnificent!
It’s an easy route but can easily take 1 to 2 hours to complete. It’s open all year round, and remember dogs are not allowed.
Wawona Area Hikes for families
The Wawona area has so many activities for visitors – hiking, swimming, camping, exploring, golf (scheduled to reopen in May 2022), a riding stable, and the crown jewels of Wawona: The Wawona Hotel and the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees.
Wawona Meadow Loop (easy)
Distance 3.5 miles (5.6 km) loop
We discovered this area by a simple twist of fate when we took a dog to Yosemite for the first time. We discovered that dogs are only allowed on paved trails or fire roads, and this is one of the longest such trails in the whole park.
It is located right across from the Wawona hotel and golf course. It is an unpaved fire road surrounded by meadows with many wildflowers. This is one of the largest meadows in the park and the view is lovely. The road is very flat and should be easy for just about anyone.
Interestingly, Wawona – an Indian word believed to mean “big tree” – wasn’t added to Yosemite National Park until 1932. Galen Clark settled present day Wawona in 1857, establishing Clark’s Station, a trading post and way station for visitors continuing their journey into the park.
Clark built a simple rustic cabin, serving as hotel keeper, guide and was known as the guardian of Yosemite and the Mariposa Grove. In 1874 Clark sold the property to the Washburn brothers who then built the Wawona Hotel at its present location, adding to it later. The meadow next to the golf course served as a rough airstrip from 1925 to 1941 where supplies were flown in daily.
It is just a gorgeous, peaceful area but don’t expect to see or find any of the stunning views and formations that Yosemite is renown for.
Check this tour From San Francisco: Yosemite Lodge 2-Day National Park Here
Mariposa Grove family Hikes
There are several Hikes for Families in Yosemite in the Mariposa Grove area.
Lower Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia(easy)
Distance 2.2 miles round trip
This hike is located an hour from the valley floor. It’s an easy hike but if you want to do it, you need to keep in mind the time it will take. Here you find the beautiful Grizzly Giant, the oldest Sequoia redwood tree known to man at 2,700 years, which is also one of the world’s largest living things.
The trees are awe-inspiring but recent storms have damage several trees. You can park at the main parking lot and walk two miles to the arrival area, or take the shuttle to get to the grove. Only cars with disability permit can par next to the grove.
At arrival area you’ll find bathrooms and water. Then, you can do the two mile loop. However if you want to see the Grizzly Giant that is part of the lower grove, you will need to walks 0.75 mile from the arrival area. Also, the trail is not flat and has lots of inclines – there are lots of up and downs. So, round trip, this walk is either around 5 1/2 miles (Grizzly Giant) or 11 miles. Pretty long! I don’t suggest to do it with littles unless you are prepared for an extended expedition.
Carry lots of water!
Big Trees Loop Trail (easy)
Distance 0.3 mile (wheelchair accessible)
This short and beautiful hike/walk begins at the Mariposa Grove arrival area. What you’ll find is a forest with many giant sequoias, which are just spectacular! The beginning of the trail features the Fallen Monarch and interpretive panels on the life and ecology of giant sequoias. It’s a super easy and flat loop and is wheelchair accessible.
White Wolf Area Hikes for families
Let’s talk about the high country in Yosemite and the best Yosemite hikes for families there. You can get to this area via Tioga Road and that is why access to these hikes are only from May to November when this area is open. It’s located an hour and half from the valley floor – quite the drive, but worth the trip!
Lukens Lake from Tioga Road (easy)
Distance 1.6 mi round-trip
This trail starts at Luke trailhead on Tioga road, and has an elevation gain of 200 ft. For some, this is more of a stroll than a hike but I guess that depends on opinions from people that hike on their own and not with little ones 🤣 It can be done in just 1-2 hours. It goes around a forest, them a small mountain lake surrounded by a meadow. You’ll find many wildflowers through July. The trail is wet and muddy until early August.
Crane Flat Area Hikes for families
Two of Yosemite’s three groves of giant sequoias are located in the Crane Flat area. The trailheads are accessible year-round, although trails may be snow-covered winter. Both short hikes lead downhill into sheltered areas with flowing water, dogwood, azaleas, and ancient sequoia trees.
Tuolumne Grove & Nature Trail (moderate)
Distance 2.5 mi round trip
This is a great option to see the Sequoias, because it’s closer to the Valley and less crowded. It begins at the Tuolumne grove parking lot on Tioga Road. It’s a nice hike down into the grove. However, it is a much harder hike back up to the trailhead.
Tuolumne Meadows area hikes for families
Distance 2 miles round trip
The meadow runs along the Tuolumne Meadow River. Before heading out, you should know that it takes an hour and a half to get there from the Valley, but again, totally worth it. It’s a peaceful place and you can just wander and chill around the trails and soak in the sun and appreciate the wildflower and granite peak views that surround the meadows. It is a flat hike and you could think of it more like the starting point for the harder hikes.
The meadows are covered in snow during winter time and only open from May to September. It has an elevation of 8,500 feet. You can enjoy the wildflowers and the river and the granite peaks surrounding the meadow. It’s yet another a great place for picnics and just soak up the beauty of Yosemite!
Tuolumne Meadows: Soda Springs and Parsons Lodge (easy)
Distance 1.5 miles round-trip
This is located above the Tuolumne River’s north bank. You begin the hike at the Lembert Dome parking area where the shuttle #4 stops. It’s an easy hike that takes about an hour to finish.
The trail leads you to a carbonated waters known as Soda Spring – a mysterious cold-water, carbonated springs. It is protected within a log enclosure. Also, you’ll find Parsons Memorial Lodge, one of the first stone structures to be built in a national park. If you continue the path to the bridge it leads you to the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center.
Lyell Canyon via the John Muir Trail (easy-moderate)
Distance 8 miles round-trip
This eight mile trail has a small elevation gain of just 200 feet, that’s why I recommend it for hiking in Yosemite with kids. However, the distance can be hard for some kids. Be prepared with a snack, lunch and water is a must. The hike begins across the road from the Dog Lake parking area where you’ll find shuttle stop #2.
It is crossed by many creeks and the trail can be muddy. Spectacular Kuna Creek cascades down the side of the east canyon wall near the eight-mile mark.
If you want to do a shorter trip, just walk a half-hour each way to the Lyell Fork andTwin Bridges.
Tenaya Lake Trail (Easy)
Distance 3 miles round-trip
This is such a beautiful trail ,just 3 miles long round trip with a minimal elevation gain of only 190 feet. It’s a beautiful area and considered easy to access all year round. It takes an average of 90 minutes to complete, and dogs aren’t allowed on this trail. This area is surrounded by beautiful granite views all around. Just a great area to relax and enjoy the non busy high country of Yosemite.
The best time to visit is May to October. In the summer months, swimming gear is a must bring to enjoy a beach day here.
Olmsted Point Nature Trail
Distance: 0.4 mile round trip
Elevation Change: 55 feet
This 0.40 miles, out and back trail is considered one of the easiest yet most stunning Yosemite hikes for families. It doesn’t take much time to do it and the view is wonderful: Half Dome, Clouds Rest, and Yosemite Valley. Easy to walk/hike for an impressive and unique view. The trail is open year round!
And that’s it! Pick and choose your favorite area and go from there.
Check the full list of things to do in Yosemite here.
Try to make reservations early for spring and especially summer season if you want to stay in the valley area. There are numerous lodges and campsites, check here for more accommodation ideas.
I love the fall season because it’s less crowed but of course the waterfalls are not quite as spectacular then. If it’s your first visit first, try either May (usually has gorgeous waterfalls) and September because it’s less packed.
What to bring:
Layers even during summer nights can be so chilly.
Bikes! I love riding bikes in the Valley
Backpacks our favorite are Gregory backpacks we used them for two of our trips here and hikes
TIPS FOR YOSEMITE
- Summer can be very crowded but reservation system is helping this
- Spring usually has gorgeous waterfalls.
- Make your reservations for accommodations as early as possible, it’s usually pretty full!
- Whenever you hike, always bring plenty of water with you!
- If you bring a dog, make sure you know what trails the dog is allowed to go on
I hope all this information is useful for you and if you have any question don’t hesitate about ask or share any other trails you know and love!
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