Photo Courtesy of Amanda Geronikosroyal archesone of the many waterfalls in Yosemite ValleyThe view!Crest of Vernal Falls. Very Nice Hike!On the valley floorHalf DomeEvening at glacier pointRoyal Arches

Families will love:

  • Scenery with cliffs, waterfalls and giant sequoias
  • Hiking, biking, rafting, skiing & snowshoeing
  • Lodging options from a hotels to campgrounds

Four hours east of San Francisco is a region where waterfalls pour from dramatic granite cliffs, clear streams run alongside giant sequoias, and grassy meadows capture the sunlight in such a magnificent way that families who come to enjoy any number of outdoor adventures -- hiking, biking and rafting in the summer and skiing and snow-shoeing in winter months -- will be ... more
Four hours east of San Francisco is a region where waterfalls pour from dramatic granite cliffs, clear streams run alongside giant sequoias, and grassy meadows capture the sunlight in such a magnificent way that families who come to enjoy any number of outdoor adventures -- hiking, biking and rafting in the summer and skiing and snow-shoeing in winter months -- will be tempted to just park themselves somewhere and take in the view. That region, of course, is the world famous Yosemite National Park, which each year attracts about 3.5 million visitors, and thanks to the way it was designed, manages to accommodate both the hard-core adventurous families as well as those whose favorite way to see nature is from a car or a cafe window.

Yosemite spans almost 1,200 square miles, but the vast majority of this area is preserved wilderness. Yosemite Valley, where most of the park lodging is concentrated, occupies just one percent of the total land area. This planning was wise not just as a way to minimize the footprint in the park but to set up a community in the thick of so much wilderness where just about everyone in the family really does feel comfortable. Family lodging options in Yosemite vary from a deluxe hotel to basic campgrounds, with moderate hotels and quasi-camping in the form of canvas covered platforms in between. Most of the lodging areas open onto little villages featuring family-friendly pizza and burger restaurants, tourist shops for those whose idea of camping is buying a T-shirt with a bear on it, and even open-air theaters.

On my most recent trip to Yosemite, I brought my 70-something mother and my one-year-old daughter, and we enjoyed scenery on some gentle walks and long leisurely lunches. But in the past, I've traveled there with more serious hikers who got me up at 4 a.m. to climb to the top of Half Dome, the steep rock formation that is one of Yosemite's most famous landmarks. Either way, Yosemite is a delight; you can get a real workout, but you don't have to. Because the park accommodates all types, I find it one of the most family-friendly tourist destinations in the country.

Written by Andrea Orr less

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