Groveland and Yosemite...let's dream! Toddler edition!
April 20, 2016 8:46 PM   Subscribe

I've never been to Yosemite, which I'd like to remedy this summer. It's totally overwhelming to me, as I want to do EVERYTHING, but probably can do a little since we'll be bringing a toddler. Looking for recommendations!

I'd like to go to Yosemite this summer and stay in or near Groveland. I will have a family+toddler in tow and would stay for...4 days? I'd prefer to rent a cabin or small house and would love recommendations of walkable/easy places to see and stay - that maybe aren't too crowded??? - in an area that would be toddler friendly. I love, love, love hiking and waterfalls and swimming - but with a toddler, everything would have to be pretty easy/low key. Help me?

Also I'm not married to Groveland, so other suggestions of towns to stay in/near are welcome.
posted by Toddles to Travel & Transportation around California (5 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I recommend staying at Evergreen Lodge. I've only stayed in the newer cabins. (They do not have kitchens.) They have a new pool that was great for my 2-year-old.

I wouldn't take a small child on the Mist Trail; the steps were slippery and wet. Lower Yosemite Fall was a great amble with the kid.

We went up to Tuolumne Meadows and did the Lembert Dome hike; our then-2.5-year-old could scramble up the granite dome pretty well!
posted by purpleclover at 9:08 PM on April 20, 2016

Yosemite in the summer is crowded - especially the valley. Go early in the morning or later in the evening to get as much peace as you can. Skip swinging bridge which is always crowded, and do your picnic at Cathedral Beach, which is lovely and usually the least crowded picnic area in the valley. You'll have a wide sandy area for your toddler to play. The river is lazy there, and you can cool off.

(Get a map at the park entrance since this spot isn't well marked with signs. You need to head down a dirt road. That keeps the crowds away.)
posted by 26.2 at 12:29 AM on April 21, 2016 is in West Yosemite. It doesn't have anything walkable, but is in the park and affordable and MUCH closer to drive over to the Valley. You can get more space, a little kitchen, etc which will probably be much better w/ a little one!
posted by CoffeeHikeNapWine at 7:42 AM on April 21, 2016

I agree that you shouldn't spend all of your time in the Valley - which is gorgeous but completely crowded in the summer. Head up to Tuolumne Meadows at least one day, and clamber around on the domes - the granite is very friendly for toddler exploring (as long as you don't get on anything too steep) Tuolumne is also at significantly higher elevation than the Valley, so it'll be cooler if you end up in Yosemite during a hot spell. Tenaya Lake has a nice sandy beach near the parking lot, and the water gets surprisingly warm (warm enough for wading/swimming a bit) in late summer. There's a trail all the way around the lake, but that would be a LONG hike for a toddler (unless you're carrying him). Note that at that elevation the weather can change quite suddenly - in August I've had it go from 75 and super sunny to hailing and temps around 40 in less than an hour.

No great suggestions on trails/things to do with a toddler (altho I'm pregnant and watching this thread with interest), since we normally do overnight backpacking & rock climbing while we're there. Best places to eat within the Valley are Half Dome Village for lunch/dinner (pizza is pretty good), and the cafeteria at Yosemite Village/Yosemite Valley Lodge for breakfast (breakfast burrito with hot sauce or the pastries). Honestly, the main parts of the Valley floor feel a bit like Disneyland (in terms of crowds, food quality, etc.) during the high season, but you can escape that a bit by just wandering a mile or two down the non-main trails - most of the tourists don't go that far off the beaten track. Many of the main trails in the Valley and Tuolumne are pretty level - if you have plenty of space in your car, I strongly recommend bringing your stroller. Rangers are generally super friendly and can probably give you better suggestions of what to do than most of us in this thread, since they're used to outdoorsy (and non outdoorsy) families visiting.

If you're trying to enter/exit the park during "typical" times (8 am - 7 pm), expect a fair amount of traffic at the gate - like 1+ hour waits, potentially. And yes, traffic jams in the park as well as people head out in the morning or home in the evening over windy roads that they aren't familiar with. There are gas stations in the park, but they're an absolute cluster, so fill up in Groveland if you're under half a tank.

If you have time to spare in your itinerary, consider taking the highway over Tioga Pass to see the Eastern side of the Sierras. Mono Lake and the tufas there are a bit surreal, and the scenery is just totally different (so dry!) than Yosemite. Particularly recommended if you've never checked out the landscape east of the Sierras. The food at the big Mobil gas station cafeteria as you're coming to the 395 junction on 120 is surprisingly decent, although there are better options in the town of Lee Vining. If you have a full day to explore the area east of the park, Devils Postpile is really awesome. But spending time in Yosemite ranks over that, unless you feel like you've gotten all you can get out of the park (given toddler constraints) by then.
posted by Jaclyn at 10:55 AM on April 21, 2016

Not sure how old your toddlers are, but make sure to go up to Glacier Point. You might consider Sentinel Dome on the way there (2.2 miles round trip) and the Tuolumne Grove on your way in to the valley (2.5 miles round trip). If your toddlers can make it that far.

Make sure you go to Tunnel View, Bridalveil Falls, Lower Yosemite Falls, stop at the pullouts along Big Oak Flat Road going down into the valley, the Cascades, which are a right turn when you come down into the valley, Olmsted Point (and you can scramble up the dome across the street) and Tenaya Lake along Tioga Road.
posted by cnc at 12:20 PM on April 21, 2016

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