Posted by
Member since Aug 2007
3522 posts

Yosemite trails and hikes

I'm planning to take my kids to Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon at the end of May / early June next year. My daughter will have just made 11, and my son will be 9. They are both fairly athletic.

Obviously, we're not doing Half Dome. What are some trails / hikes that you would recommend as a must see and suited for an 11 and 9 years old. I'm planning to stay in Yosemite for 4 days.

Mist Trail to Vernal Falls?
Mariposa Grove?
Upper Yosemite Falls?
This post was edited on 10/30 at 10:36 pm

Member since Jul 2005
5633 posts

re: Yosemite trails and hikes
Mist trail is great. Did it this year. Water was insane.
Mirror lake is easy and nice.
The very lowest Yosemite Fall trail is paved and very easy.
The Upper Fall takes you to the bottom of the upper fall. Most who were hiking back said the extra part to the top of the Upper Fall was pretty strenuous and it was warm so we didn’t do that.
The Sequoias trail (Mariposa Grove) is fairly easy, its on the other side of the park.

The meadow trails and areas around the valley are fairly easy. Much of the park was closed on the East side due to snow in June.

Edite to add: I’d stay in the Valley to save much time. Keep an eye on the snowfall situation.
This post was edited on 10/31 at 7:41 am

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Member since Aug 2003
Member since Dec 2007
13298 posts

re: Yosemite trails and hikes

Yosemite is America's best national park and the perfect place to bring children. Upper Yosemite Falls is a great hike with good variety, but it is tough. The granite is unforgiving and in some ways, because of the potential for a lot of traffic, I think of it as more challenging than Half Dome. I would rather hike twice as far if I do not have to deal with a crowded path, the cables, notwithstanding, of course.

Mariposa Grove is a letdown. The last time we were there, the road to the Grove was closed, so we had to do an unexpected five mile out and back to get there, and this after doing a twenty mile hike the day before. If you're going to Sequoia and are only going to be at Yosemite for four days, I probably would skip Mariposa. If the parking lot is open, and you do not have to do a good hike to get to the trees, it might be worth it if you are heading south as your exit.

Vernal Falls is an absolute must. It is easier than Upper Yosemite Falls, but still a good challenge for a ten year old. The Mist Trail is worth doing if they have the energy and you have the time. Again, it is shorter than UYF, but still tough.

I have never done any real hiking in the Valley, but it is beautiful nonetheless. While in the Valley, park and walk up to El Capitan. You can walk straight up to it and look up and see just what a sight it is. Stunning. You will probably see some wall climbers and may even do a bit of free climbing if you are brave. Going up ten or so feet is usually not too hard and your kids would be able to say they partially free climbed El Cap. Tunnel View and Valley View are musts and I think most people drive to them, at least we did.

Cloud's Rest is the most underrated hike in Yosemite and is in my Top 5 hikes in America. It is not particularly challenging other than it being 14 miles out and back. Elevation gain is only 3000 in that distance, which is about the same for UYF. Much of the path is forested with soft ground and is much easier on the knees and feet. It is an all day hike, and it is a good drive from the Valley (but there are some beautiful views along the way and it puts near Toulume Meadows).

A fun and easy hike for kids would be Sentinel Dome. You can park there and do the short hike and drive to Glacier Point. But I would recommend getting to Glacier Point about three hours before sunset, parking, and doing the easy out-and-back to Glacier Point. It is a gradual slope and when you return to Glacier Point, you will have the best seat in the house for the best place to watch sunset in all of Yosemite. It can get quite crowded, but it is crowded for a reason.

It is a life changing place. I hope you enjoy. Will you be staying at The Ahwahnee? It is our favorite NPS lodging, even more so than Phantom Ranch and Many Glacier Hotel. Even if you are not staying there, you should bring your kids for a tour and have a meal in the dining room. Though the food is expensive, the atmosphere and views are spectacular. Enjoy!

This post was edited on 10/30 at 11:17 pm

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Member since Apr 2014
1988 posts

re: Yosemite trails and hikes
Get ready for gridlock traffic and people everywhere. Bikes are a good way to get around.

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Dirty Coast
Member since Aug 2008
38613 posts

re: Yosemite trails and hikes
Research hikes in Tuolumne…it’s very nice up there compared to down in the ditch.

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Member since Aug 2017
2104 posts

re: Yosemite trails and hikes
I started my hike to the upper falls just before daylight. I was by myself at the top for 45 minutes before I saw anyone else. It's not a hike I would suggest for kids, even athletic ones.

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MintBerry Crunch
Member since Nov 2010
4791 posts

re: Yosemite trails and hikes
Personally, there's not a better trail in the park/around the rim than Panorama Trail from Glacier Point to Nevada Falls and down the JMT. You are on the bus line when you finish/start.

Cathedral Lakes were great but that might be too tough for kids at 7,000 feet and probably won't be open anyways.

Don't skip Taft Point or Sentinel Dome when you go to Glacier Point.

Whether Tuolumne will be open is dependent on the snowpack. It didn't open this year until July, but opened in 2021 in May.

Also, a little pro-tip. If you go to Mariposa Grove after about 6pm, you can press the button by the handicap gate and it will let you in and you can drive up to see the Grove. At least you could in 2021.
This post was edited on 10/31 at 9:44 am

Houston Astros Fan
Cypress, TX
Member since Nov 2018
5781 posts

re: Yosemite trails and hikes

Panorama Trail from Glacier Point to Nevada Falls and down the JMT. You are on the bus line when you finish/start.

This was absolutely gorgeous, but might be a bit more strenuous than he wants for the kids. I could see them getting tired/bored by the JMT part. I know I was really tired by then.

When we went, Tuolumne didn't open till the 3rd week of June. It seems to be pretty common that it's sometime in June, but you can't plan when.

The easy/short ones are Bridal Veil Falls and Lower Yosemite Falls. I'd recommend renting bikes and riding the Valley Loop. It's 11 miles, I think and if you pack snacks, lunch, etc. you could take your time and enjoy it.

I do think Mist Trail is great. Just take your time. If you are doing this hike, start very early in the morning. Be on the trail by 7, if at all possible. There are so many people and more and more the later you go. Also, make sure to take a lot of water. Take more than you think you will need. Although it was cold at night, it warmed up a lot during the day and got warmer than I expected.

Sentinel Dome is a nice evening hike. Drive up in the late afternoon to Glacier Point, hike to Sentinel Dome and picnic and see the sunset (or close to sunset views)

I really loved our trip to Yosemite and hope I get to go back some day. It is truly one of the most beautiful parks I've seen.

Dallas, TX
Member since Oct 2007
3124 posts

re: Yosemite trails and hikes
I went over to Hetch Hetchy one day. The trail surrounds a reservoir and you can walk around as far as you’d like to go and come back. The kids will get a kick out of walking along the top of the dam. There are some waterfalls along the way. Not strenuous. Not crowded. Beautiful drive from the main valley over there.


Crow Pie
US Space Force Fan
Neuro ICU - Tulane Med Center
Member since Feb 2010
25218 posts

re: Yosemite trails and hikes

It is truly one of the most beautiful parks I've seen.

sportsmans paradise
Member since Oct 2006
10647 posts

re: Yosemite trails and hikes
I proposed to my wife on Vernal Falls

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