When looking at pictures of some of our nation´s most impressive national parks, a lot of us parents most picture in our minds our children running through the open prairies, splashing in the cold creek water, and hiking over boulders on the way to a breathtaking summit view. The majority of our children spend too much time surrounded by school walls, playing on manicured lawns and playgrounds and in front of TV and computer screens. Though we know that it would do wonders for our childrens creativity and imagination to find time to embrace the natural world, it is not always easy to find time to make it out of our urban lives and into the greater world around us.
Planning a family vacation so that we can enjoy with our children the awesomeness of Nature found in so many of our national parks, then, is something that all of us parents dream about. And obviously, we want our children to enjoy the time spent away from the confines of cement and screens.
Though children do have an almost innate ability to reconnect with the natural world and find awe and inspiration in the world around them, it is also important for us as parents to recognize that not all children are going to be able to endure a 15 mile strenuous hike up some gigantic mountain or carry 30 pounds of water on their back as they hike through the desert.
To make sure that your children do thoroughly enjoy the time that they spend in the natural environments found at national parks, it is important to plan ahead and find activities that allow children to enjoy the natural world while not pushing them over their physical limits.
Yosemite National Park in northern California is one of our nation´s oldest national parks and also one of the most iconic places to visit; a truly magical world of towering peaks, massive sequoia forests, and wildlife at every turn. If you have young children, however, you probably won´t want to try and hike up Half Dome; a trail replete with chains to pull yourself up and over huge boulders and steep inclines. In this short article we recommend several family friendly activities at Yosemite that will allow your children to experience the mystical side of Yosemite´s wilderness while not over exerting themselves physically.
Walk Through the Gigantic Sequoia Forests
When you are a child, everything seems bigger. The Sequoia forests at Yosemite, however, don´t necessarily need a child´s imagination in order to appreciate and marvel at towering trees that rise several hundred feet into the air. The Mariposa Grove of giant Sequoias in Yosemite has several short hiking trails that will allow your children´s imaginations to run wild as they feel like ants walking through the forest.
Splash at the Merced River
The vision that many of us have regarding mountain rivers are rushing currents with dangerous white capped waves that splash over jagged rocks as they tumble through the mountain valleys on their way to the lowlands; not exactly a great place to take the kids. The Merced River which runs through much of Yosemite National Park couldn´t be any differnet. This lazy, shallow river meanders throughout the valleys and meadows of the park and is a great place to spend a restful afternoon. At some places along the river, you can even entice your children to try their luck panning for gold as gold specks can still be found in the river sands.
Become a Junior Ranger
Yosemite´s Junior Ranger Program is a great way for your children to learn more about the unique ecosystem of the region while also participate in a few symbolic activities of ecosystem protection and renovation. Your children will wear with pride their junior range badge as they gain special insights into the world of Yosemite National Park.
Enjoy the Views from Glacier Point
If you have young children, chances are that you won´t be able to hike up to the top of some of Yosemite´s most amazing mountain tops. That doesn´t mean that you can´t enjoy the panoramic views that come from the tip tops of the mountain. A short drive will take you up to Glacier Point from where you can enjoy sweeping views of Yosemite Valley and some nearby waterfalls. Head up in the late afternoon to stay and watch the sun set, the moon rise, and the sky fill with millions of stars.
Hike Through Tuolumne Meadows
The best hiking with kids is flatland hiking, and while that might be hard to find in many mountainous regions, Tuolumne Meadows at Yosemite has miles of relatively flat trails that take you through the high country of Yosemite. Not only will your children enjoy the wildflowers and gentle streams where you can take a dip, but this is also a great spot for opportunities to spot some of Yosemite´s wildlife.
Enjoy the Spray of North America´s Highest Waterfall
Yosemite is home to America´s largest waterfall: Yosemite Falls. While you can hike to the top, a more exciting activity for children is taking the short hike to the base of Yosemite Falls where you´ll get misted by the thundering water falling into the river below. Depending on the time of year that you visit, you can walk down to enjoy some crystal clear creeks for a short dip only feet away from the base of the continent´s highest water fall.
What to Bring when Travelling with Children to Yosemite
When Travelling to Yosemite with children, you don´t need to go overboard and bring the whole house with you. Though over 95% of Yosemite National Park is wilderness area, there are several stores at the campground sites where you can easily stock up on essential items. Though it should be common sense, you will need to bring a lot of extra water, even on short hikes, as the summer temperatures in Yosemite can get rather hot.
Other things to bring might include a bear whistle, especially if you are planning any back country hikes, a couple of pairs of binoculars to scan the wilderness areas in search of wildlife, and a good bit of sunscreen since the higher elevation can lead to some pretty serious sunburns. Also, to help your children enjoy the wonders of Yosemite, it might be good to invest in some maps of the area to help them find their way.
For short hiking trips, a small travel backpack is an effective way to carry with you all the things you need. With so many options to choose from, the outdoors blog Live Once Live Wild can help you determine what is the best travel backpack for you and your family.
With a little bit of prior planning and a few basic items, your children will thoroughly enjoy their time spent exploring the awe-inspiring wilderness areas that Yosemite has to offer.