Junior Ranger programs are for kids aged 7-13 and include a one-hour Junior Ranger Walk, picking up a bag of litter to help keep the Park clean, completing an activity book ($3.50 plus tax)—and being rewarded with the official Junior Ranger badge. For younger children, the Little Cubs programs offers age-appropriate activities for kids ages 3-6. See the latest issue of the Yosemite Guide for additional details.
From swimming to snowshoeing, there are lots of fun, free activities for families at Yosemite National Park. Video shot by Marilyn Chung, The Desert Sun.
Hiking With Kids
Hike to Lower Yosemite Falls. This is a flat 1.1 mile loop, perfect for little kids. You can take the shuttle here, getting off at Stop #6, which is where the trail starts. The trail starts off with a meander through the forest, along the river, and over a couple bridges. If it’s a hot day, you can be a fun spot to splash around in the water. When the water is flowing, the highlight of this walk is the bridge under the fall, where you’ll be sure to get drenched with spray from the falls. On the other side of the bridge, down the path just a ways, along the right side of the trail, you’ll begin to see lots of boulders, just calling to be climbed. There are also “caves” created by the fallen rocks, which are also fun to explore, as long as you skip the ones with tiny spaces.
Hike to Mirror Lake. This is a 2-mile round trip hike, with a slight hill. To get here, take the shuttle bus, exiting at Stop #17. You’ll find specific hike information in the Yosemite Valley Hiking Map. Note that this is no longer a lake, but more of a pond in the earlier season and a marsh later. Bring a swimsuit and towels!
Visit the Nature Center at Happy Isles and hike the trails behind it. You’ll find this at Shuttle Stop #16. From the official Yosemite website, the Nature Center… “is a family-oriented nature center that features natural history exhibits (with an emphasis on wildlife) and interactive displays. Nearby are short trails focusing on the area’s four different environments: forest, river, talus, and fen. You can also see substantial evidence of the huge 1996 rockfall from the Glacier Point cliff far above the nature center. The nature center is a short walk from the Happy Isles shuttle bus stop, and is open May through September.” If you’re visiting Yosemite with a kid, you have to check this place out. Also, look in the scheduled events section of the newspaper you received when you arrived in Yosemite, and you’ll find when naturalist programs are offered here. After you’ve explored the museum, we recommend you head out back for a walk along the trails. If it’s a hot day, bring along a bathing suit and towels, as this is another great spot for water play (when the water is low enough later in the season!!).