Welcome to Folsom Kids, where we invite you to join my family on an unforgettable family adventure in one of America’s most iconic natural wonders: Yosemite National Park! Nestled in the breathtaking Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, Yosemite offers a majestic playground for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages. In this three-day itinerary, we’ll be basing ourselves in the charming town of Oakhurst, just a short drive away from the park’s entrance. Get ready to immerse yourself in awe-inspiring landscapes, marvel at towering waterfalls, hike scenic trails, and create memories that will last a lifetime. So pack your bags, grab your loved ones, and let’s embark on an extraordinary journey through Yosemite National Park, discovering its wonders, wildlife, and the sheer magic of the great outdoors together.

How do I get to Yosemite National Park?

Getting to Yosemite National Park is relatively straightforward, and there are multiple routes depending on your starting point. Here’s a general guide on how to reach Yosemite:

  1. By Air: If you’re traveling from a distant location, you can fly into one of the nearby airports. The two main airports that serve Yosemite are Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT) and San Francisco International Airport (SFO). From either airport, you can rent a car or use other transportation options to reach the park.
  2. By Car: Yosemite National Park is easily accessible by car. The most common entrance for visitors coming from the west is the Arch Rock Entrance, located off Highway 140 near Mariposa. If you’re coming from the south, the Wawona Entrance off Highway 41 is another popular option. Visitors from the east typically use the Tioga Pass Entrance (Highway 120) or the Big Oak Flat Entrance (Highway 120/140). Be sure to check the current road conditions and any closures before your trip.
  3. By Public Transportation: Yosemite offers some public transportation options, particularly during the peak season. YARTS (Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System) operates buses from several gateway communities, including Merced, Mariposa, and Sonora, to various destinations within the park. Amtrak also provides train service to nearby cities like Merced, where you can connect to YARTS or rent a car.
  4. Park Shuttles: Once you’re inside Yosemite National Park, you can utilize the park’s free shuttle system, which operates during the peak season. These shuttles can transport you to various popular destinations within the park, reducing traffic congestion and offering a more eco-friendly way to explore.

Remember to plan your trip in advance, especially during peak seasons, as the park can get crowded. Check the official Yosemite National Park website for the latest information on road conditions, closures, and transportation options to ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey to this remarkable natural wonder.

What is the best time to visit Yosemite?

Yosemite National Park is a stunning destination to visit throughout the year, each season offering unique experiences and natural beauty. Here’s a breakdown of the best times to visit Yosemite based on the different seasons:

  1. Spring (April to June): Spring brings mild temperatures and blooming wildflowers to Yosemite. The waterfalls are at their peak flow, thanks to snowmelt, creating breathtaking cascades. It’s a great time for hiking, wildlife spotting, and enjoying the vibrant colors of the park. However, some high-elevation trails and roads may still be closed due to lingering snow.
  2. Summer (July to August): Summer is the busiest time in Yosemite, with warm weather and long daylight hours. It’s the perfect season for outdoor activities like hiking, camping, rock climbing, and swimming in the park’s rivers and lakes. However, be prepared for larger crowds, especially at popular attractions, and consider making reservations well in advance.
  3. Fall (September to November): Fall in Yosemite brings cooler temperatures and beautiful autumn foliage. The park is less crowded compared to summer, offering a more serene and peaceful experience. It’s an excellent time for hiking, wildlife viewing, and capturing stunning photographs of the changing colors. As the season progresses, some facilities and services may start to close, so check for any seasonal closures in advance.
  4. Winter (December to March): Yosemite in winter is a magical wonderland, with snowy landscapes and fewer visitors. The park’s high country receives significant snowfall, making it ideal for winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing. Lower-elevation areas may still be accessible, allowing for scenic walks and photography opportunities. Note that some roads and trails may be closed or require tire chains during winter, and certain facilities have limited operating hours.

The best time to visit Yosemite depends on your preferences and the activities you wish to pursue. Consider factors such as weather, crowd levels, and the availability of services when planning your trip. Regardless of the season, Yosemite offers breathtaking beauty and outdoor adventures that will leave you in awe of nature’s splendor.

Where should I stay while visiting Yosemite?

When visiting Yosemite National Park, there are several options for accommodations both inside the park and in nearby communities. Here are some popular choices:

  1. Lodging Inside the Park:
    • Yosemite Valley: The Yosemite Valley Lodge, Ahwahnee Hotel, and Curry Village (now known as Half Dome Village) offer convenient access to iconic landmarks like Yosemite Falls and Half Dome.
    • Wawona: The historic Wawona Hotel, located near the park’s south entrance, provides a peaceful setting with easy access to Mariposa Grove and Glacier Point.
  2. Camping:
    • Yosemite Valley Campgrounds: Camp 4, Upper Pines, Lower Pines, and North Pines are popular campgrounds in Yosemite Valley. Reservations are strongly recommended, especially during peak season.
    • Other Campgrounds: There are numerous campgrounds throughout the park, including Bridalveil Creek, Hodgdon Meadow, and Tuolumne Meadows. Some are first-come, first-served, while others require reservations.
    • Curry Village/Half Dome Village:
      • Curry Village, located in Yosemite Valley, offers a unique camping experience with tent cabins and traditional camping options. It provides easy access to hiking trails and other attractions.
  3. Lodging Outside the Park:
    • El Portal: Located just outside the park’s western entrance, El Portal offers a range of accommodations, including hotels, lodges, and vacation rentals.
    • Oakhurst: Oakhurst, a charming town near the park’s south entrance, offers various lodging options, including hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Oakhurst/Yosemite and it was great. Check out my full review of our stay (coming soon – link will be included ASAP)
    • Groveland: Situated near the park’s Big Oak Flat Entrance, Groveland provides accommodations such as hotels, lodges, and cabins.

When planning your visit, it’s advisable to make reservations well in advance, especially for accommodations within the park, as they tend to fill up quickly, particularly during the peak summer season. Keep in mind that each lodging option has its advantages and availability may vary, so it’s essential to consider your preferences and the desired location for exploring Yosemite National Park.

How to get around Yosemite

There is a lot of ground to cover at Yosemite.  Walking is great, but if your kids are young then they might not want to walk too far.  Bicycles are a great option for kids of all ages.  They are suitable for trails and the valley.  

Bicycles and walking are not the only way to get around Yosemite. There is a wide range of public transport available too. Visitors can take their pick from free shuttles to tours.  

There are nineteen stops darted around Yosemite Valley. Visitors can hop on the shuttle at any of the stops. The shuttle buses run all year round, but with shorter hours in the winter. They run every ten or twenty minutes and they even access Highway 120 in summer.  

One of the most popular tours is the Valley Floor Tour.  The tour covers 26 miles and it is 2 hours long.  It goes past some of the most famous places and best photo spots in Yosemite. Expect to see Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, El Capitan and Bridalveil Fall.

Yosemite Valley Shuttle

Parking can be crazy in Yosemite, so I highly recommend taking the free Yosemite Shuttle. Park your car when you arrive and enjoy the free Yosemite buses. These eco-friendly shuttles will take you throughout Yosemite Valley. The shuttles run fully in the summer and have a more limited route in the winter. There are buses available for trips to Tuolumne Meadows or Glacier Point. Click for the Yosemite Valley Shuttle Bus Route Map.

If you choose to drive, you may want to consider; How long does it take to drive through Yosemite? Why? Because while this park does not have long roads, it does have a lot of traffic. Don’t spend your whole time driving instead of getting out and exploring! The drive from Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point is at least 45 minutes one way without any additional traffic! Plan ahead!

3-Day Yosemite National Park Itinerary

Day 1 in Yosemite:


  • Start early and drive to Yosemite National Park.
  • Enter through the South Entrance and drive along Wawona Road to reach Yosemite Valley.
  • Make sure to stop at Tunnel View for some amazing photo opportunities. This is the absolute most popular spot in Yosemite, but don’t let the crowds deter you! Seriously! Wait for a parking spot and then head over to the viewing area. The way the wall is built, you can easily and quickly get one of the best photos of Yosemite National Park without anyone else in it! It will look like you had the park to yourself! From Tunnel View you can see El Capitan and Bridalveil Fall rising from Yosemite Valley, with Half Dome in the background.
  • Take in the awe-inspiring views of iconic landmarks such as El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall, and Half Dome.
  • Visit the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center to gather information and orient yourselves. Your kids can become a Yosemite Junior Ranger by taking a self-guided handbook with you as you travel around the park and complete the activities that are the best fit for you. The Yosemite Junior Ranger handbook is available for free at the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center. 
  • Check out the Yosemite Museum, Indian Village and Ansel Adams Art Gallery while right here in this part of Yosemite. Kids can learn about the history of the park and there are some great touchable exhibits.


Enjoy lunch at Yosemite Valley Lodge. We took a picnic lunch and hung out in the quad area watching the squirrels while we waited for our Yosemite Valley Tour to start loading.

The Yosemite Valley View Tour is a 2-hour tour that takes you to some of the most scenic spots in Yosemite Valley. You’ll get to see El Capitan, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and many other iconic landmarks. The tour begins at the Yosemite Valley Lodge and winds its way through the valley, stopping at various viewpoints along the way. Your amazing guide will point out the different features of the valley and tell you about the history and geology of the area. The tour is a great way to see Yosemite Valley and learn about the history and geology of the area.

  • After you return back to the Yosemite Valley Lodge you can take a family-friendly hike to Lower Yosemite Fall, a short walk from the Yosemite Valley Shuttle Stop. This easy 1-mile trail only gains 50 feet total in elevation. Hikers will be rewarded with direct views of the final drop of North America’s tallest waterfall. Lower Yosemite Falls in winter will be flowing, but its peak flow is in Spring. This trail is one of the best Yosemite hikes for first timers to the park. Lower Yosemite Falls Trail is definitely one of the recommended Yosemite trails for kids.
  • Explore the Yosemite Valley meadows and spend some time near the Merced River before you head over to Curry Village for dinner.


  • Head over to Curry Village and have dinner at one of the local restaurants.
  • The Pizza Deck is a popular spot for pizza, pasta, and salads. The deck has outdoor seating with views of Yosemite Valley. The Seven Tents Pavilion just recently reopened after an extensive renovation. All of the dining options in Curry Village are open seasonally. For more information on hours of operation and menus, please visit the Curry Village website.
  • Drive back to your hotel and relax and prepare for the next day’s adventure.

Day 2 in Yosemite:


  • Drive to Mariposa Grove, located near the park’s South Entrance.
  • Take a leisurely stroll through the grove and admire the magnificent giant sequoias.
  • Learn about the unique ecosystem and history of the grove.


  • Return to Oakhurst for lunch.
  • Go ride the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. The Yosemite Sugar Pine Railroad is a historic railroad with two operating steam train locomotives located near Fish Camp, in the Sierra National Forest near the southern entrance to Yosemite National Park. The railroad offers a variety of train rides, including the Logger Steam Train Ride, the Moonlight Special Dinner Train, and the Gold Rush Train Ride. The railroad also has a museum that tells the story of the railroad and the logging industry in Yosemite National Park.
  • Relax and savor the beautiful surroundings.


Have a family dinner at one of the many restaurants in Oakhurst.

Day 3 in Yosemite:


  • Depart Oakhurst early and drive to Glacier Point, accessed via the Wawona Road and Glacier Point Road.
  • From Glacier Point, marvel at panoramic views of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, and the surrounding high country.
  • Pack a picnic breakfast to enjoy at the scenic viewpoint.
  • Glacier Point Overlook is one of the most famous and iconic spots in all of Yosemite National Park. The commanding views of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and Yosemite’s high country are unmatched from any other point in the park. Be sure to bring your camera. The road to Glacier Point is usually open late May or early June to sometime in November. Glacier Point Loop Yosemite has a nice little gift shop and snack bar too, so take some time and enjoy a picnic up here!


  • Drive back to Yosemite Valley.
  • Take the Yosemite Valley Shuttle to Happy Isles.
  • Embark on the family-friendly hike to Mirror Lake, a tranquil spot with stunning reflections of the surrounding granite cliffs. This easy 2-mile out and back trail takes hikers directly to the base of Half Dome. From there, hikers are rewarded with views of Tenaya Canyon, Mount Watkins, Washington Column, and more. We hiked this trail in late May and it was gorgeous and the water was high enough to swim in, but it was COLD. This is one of the easy hiking trails in Yosemite National Park, but packs a punch with incredible views.


  • Return to Oakhurst and have a celebratory dinner at a local restaurant.
  • Reflect on your memorable experiences in Yosemite National Park.

Other things to do near Yosemite National Park:

Bikes in Yosemite Valley:

  • Parking in Yosemite Valley can be a challenge, so riding bikes from place to place is truly the best way to experience the Valley, especially on a Yosemite day trip. I suggest either bringing your own bikes or renting bikes from the Curry Village Bike Rental Kiosk, Yosemite Lodge Bike Stand, or at Yosemite Village Bike Rental Stand is located next to the Village Store.
  • Bicycles, tag-along bikes for children, trailers, and helmets are available for all ages and abilities. Yosemite also offers a select number of tandem bikes and hand-crank bikes for guests with physical limitations.

HOURS: All rental kiosks are open from 8 A.M. to 7 P.M.


Standard Bikes

$30.00 for a half-day
$40.00 by the day

Bikes with Attached Trailer (or tag-a-long): They offer 2-seater trailers with an 80lb weight limit.

$55.00 for a half-day
$74.00 by the day

Helmet Rental: Free with bike rental or $5 if you have your own bike.

NOTE: Bike rentals do sell out and can not be booked in advance. I recommend heading straight to rent bikes before grabbing lunch to ensure you get your bikes. We have had friends who have arrived at 11:30 A.M. to find them sold out of kid trailers and tag-a-longs. So the earlier, the better.

If you have questions, go HERE or call the Yosemite Valley Lodge Bike Rental Stand at 209.372.1208 

  • Make sure to check Travel Yosemite for updates for new tours and more ways to explore that your family will enjoy.
  • Yosemite National Park offers a range of natural and cultural history programs that will enrich your experience while in the park. Check out the Yosemite Guide to see what programs fit into your plans.

Other Tips to know before visiting Yosemite National Park:

  • Every Kid Outdoors Program Provides Fourth Grade Students with Free Entrance to Public Lands
  • Plan and Prepare:
    • Research and plan your itinerary in advance, considering the interests and abilities of all family members.
    • Make campground or lodging reservations well ahead of time, especially during peak season.
    • Check the official Yosemite National Park website for current information on road conditions, closures, and alerts.
  • Pack Essentials:
    • Carry plenty of water, snacks, and food for your family, as services and facilities may be limited within the park.
    • Dress in layers and pack appropriate clothing for varying weather conditions.
    • Bring sunscreen, hats, insect repellent, and comfortable shoes for outdoor activities.
    • Don’t forget your camera, binoculars, and any necessary medications.
  • Stay Safe:
    • Familiarize yourself with park rules and regulations. Ensure children understand and follow safety guidelines.
    • Keep a close eye on children at all times, especially near waterfalls, cliffs, and other potentially hazardous areas.
    • Stay on designated trails, follow posted signs, and respect wildlife by maintaining a safe distance.
  • Be Mindful of Altitude and Hiking Difficulty:
    • Yosemite has varying elevations, which may affect individuals differently. Take it easy and allow time to acclimate.
    • Choose hikes and activities suitable for your family’s abilities and fitness levels. Start with shorter, easier trails if needed.
  • Utilize Shuttle Services:
    • Take advantage of the free Yosemite Valley Shuttle to navigate the park, reducing traffic congestion and parking challenges.
    • Check shuttle schedules and plan accordingly to minimize waiting times.
  • Engage in Junior Ranger Program:
    • Yosemite offers a Junior Ranger Program, encouraging children to learn about the park and its conservation. Participating can be a fun and educational experience for kids.
  • Leave No Trace:
    • Practice Leave No Trace principles, such as packing out your trash, minimizing noise, and respecting nature’s integrity. Teach children about the importance of conservation and leaving the park as you found it.
  • Enjoy Leisure Time:
    • Allow for downtime and relaxation during your visit. Let the family soak in the natural beauty of Yosemite, play games, or have a picnic amidst the stunning scenery.
  • If traveling with your family you can see the items that we never leave home without in my Amazon store.

3-day Yosemite Trip Itinerary Recap:

  • Day 1:  Yosemite Valley View Tour, Curry Village
  • Day 2: Yosemite Sugar Pine Railroad
  • Day 3: Glacier Point Overlook and Mirror Lake

One Weekend In Yosemite Isn’t Enough

One trip is often not enough to fully experience Yosemite National Park with your family due to several reasons:

  1. Vast Size and Diverse Landscapes: Yosemite National Park covers over 750,000 acres of breathtaking wilderness, including towering granite cliffs, majestic waterfalls, pristine meadows, and ancient sequoia groves. Exploring all the different regions and natural wonders takes time.
  2. Abundance of Activities: Yosemite offers a wide range of activities for families, including hiking, camping, rock climbing, biking, fishing, wildlife spotting, photography, and more. With so many options, it’s difficult to fit everything into a single trip.
  3. Changing Seasons: Yosemite showcases unique beauty throughout the year. Each season brings its own highlights, whether it’s the gushing waterfalls in spring, wildflower blooms, the vibrant colors of fall foliage, or the tranquility of a snowy winter wonderland. Returning in different seasons allows you to witness the park’s ever-changing splendor.
  4. Hidden Gems and Off-the-Beaten-Path Trails: While Yosemite’s iconic landmarks like Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, and El Capitan are must-see attractions, the park also harbors hidden gems and lesser-known trails that offer solitude and new discoveries. Exploring these less-traveled paths can take multiple visits.
  5. Educational Opportunities: Yosemite’s rich natural and cultural history provide ample educational opportunities for families. Engaging in ranger-led programs, attending informative talks, and participating in Junior Ranger activities can enhance your understanding and appreciation of the park. Multiple visits allow for deeper exploration and learning.
  6. Limited Time and Seasonal Factors: Depending on the duration of your trip and time constraints, you may not have enough time to thoroughly explore all the corners of Yosemite. Factors such as road closures, weather conditions, and trail accessibility can also impact what you can experience during a single visit.

Yosemite National Park is a place of immense beauty and wonder, and each trip allows you to uncover new aspects of its natural treasures. Returning with your family provides an opportunity to create cherished memories, witness different seasons, and explore the park’s vast offerings more comprehensively.

Thank you for Visit Yosemite, Holiday Inn Express Oakhurst and Yosemite Sugar Pine Train for hosting our family in June 2023. All of these opinions are of my family.

What else would you add to this Yosemite Itinerary?

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