Yosemite National Park
Wawona & Mariposa Grove
Wawona - Wawona is quieter and more rustic than Yosemite Valley, but the meadows, rivers, and pines are very scenic. Several families recommend Wawona as their favorite spot in Yosemite.
Pioneer Yosemite History Center - Walk through a covered bridge over the Merced River to this historic turn-of-the-19th-century village, complete with homesteads, an old jail, blacksmith shop, Wells Fargo office and miner's cabin. Wonderfully evocative of the early settlers in Yosemite.
Stage rides - In 1875, the Wawona Stage Road was built to carry visitors to Yosemite Valley. Today you can take a short but sweet ride (10 min.) in such a stagecoach. Buy your tickets at the Wells Fargo office. Summers only.
Go horseback riding – Take a two hour ride on the Alder Creek Trail through manzanita and pine trees. Half day and full day trips into the back country are also available. Stables are open in the summer only, through Labor Day.
Water fun - The South Fork of the Merced River is chock full of swimming holes and fun places to wade and swim. Bring inner tubes or inflatable rafts.
Hike to Chilnualna Falls - Take a short (less than half a mile) picturesque hike to the lower cascade of Chinualna Falls. In summer, if the water is low, kids can stand under the waterfall. Park at the Chinualna Fall Trailhead and follow the trail to the lower falls. Bring a picnic and make a day of it. (Chilnualna Falls is a series of cascades. A much longer trail, 8 miles round trip, continues up the creek to the top of Chilnualna Falls.)
Mariposa Grove of Big Trees - The Mariposa Grove has the biggest bunch of giant sequoias in Yosemite. Sequoias evolved about the same time as the dinosaurs, but unlike the dinosaurs, the sequoia redwood trees continue to thrive. The best way to appreciate these amazing trees is to walk the trails through the grove. It's cool and shady under the immense branches of the trees high above.
In the Lower Grove, don't miss the Grizzly Giant, one of the oldest and biggest trees in Yosemite, about 2,700 years old and 30ft in diameter. One of its branches is bigger than most trees!
In the Upper Grove, look for unusual sequoias like the Telescope Tree (stand inside to look up to the sky), the Clothespin Tree (bottom looks like an old-fashioned wooden clothespin), or the Fallen Wawona Tunnel Tree, the tree that was cut so that cars could drive 26 ft. through the base of the sequoia (eventually the tree fell over in a heavy snow storm.)
Mariposa Grove Tram - If you have toddlers, you may want to take the open-air tram that goes through the Upper and Lower Groves (children under 5 are free). The tram ride takes 50 min. and you can hop on and off at the Grizzly Giant, the Wawona Tunnel Tree and the Mariposa Grove Museum. It's about 2 miles on the trails from the parking lot to the Grove Museum, so another option is to take the tram to the Upper Grove and walk back down to the Lower Grove on the trails.
Tip: The parking lot for the Mariposa Grove can get filled up in the summer. Instead, park at Wawona, and take the free Wawona-Mariposa Grove shuttle bus (April-October). Pick up the shuttle at the Wawona Store.
Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad (Fish Camp) - Kids will enjoy a one hour ride on this vintage steam train, “The Logger.” Roll down the tracks once used by logging trains in the 19th century. The steam train operates March - October, weekends only. During the week, ride on Jenny Railcars, trolley-like cars used by repair crews. Don't miss the Thornberry Museum, a log cabin, over 140 years old, for a glimpse of pioneer life. Click here for schedule and fares.