View from Glacier Point
Looking out at the Half Dome and Sierra Nevada Mountains from Glacier Point.
Photo Credit: Getty Images

No Shortage of Fun: 7 Things to Do in Yosemite National Park

Discover What Yosemite Has to Offer

As one of the most popular national parks in the country, Yosemite attracts over four million visitors each year. While most are drawn to the promise of a tranquil stay at a rustic lodge among some of nature’s most stunning views, there are literally hundreds of things to do in Yosemite.

Obviously most activities are outdoor-centric, like hiking, horseback riding and whitewater rafting, but Yosemite also provides educational information in the form of museums, galleries and exhibits. There’s no shortage on family-friendly fun, as Yosemite — and other popular national parks — frequently top summer vacation destination best-of lists, catering to all ages.

Although there is a $30 USD per vehicle entrance fee, most traditional outdoor activities are free, especially if you bring your own equipment. However, there are also paid activities for every budget, making it a continuously desirable destination with great value and much to offer.

Glacier Point

Probably the best lookout point in the entirety of Yosemite National Park, Glacier Point has breathtaking views of Half Dome, the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Yosemite Valley and Yosemite Falls. Accessible by car, Glacier Point provides a convenient way for families to access one of the highest areas in the park without strenuous hiking.

From May through October, you can visit the viewing area, which is just a short 10-minute walk away from the parking lot. Nearby, you’ll find the Trailside Museum, also known as the Geology Hut, which has a few plaques and photographs depicting the highlights of the area. A tiny outdoor amphitheater is also nearby, where you can sit down and enjoy a snack after taking in the view.

Boardwalk trail to Yosemite Falls.For a quick hike to see Yosemite Falls, take the Lower Yosemite Fall Trail.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Yosemite Falls

As one of the world’s tallest waterfalls, Yosemite Falls has always been a top attraction within the park. Broken up into three sections, the Lower Yosemite Fall Trail is easily one of the most popular trail hikes because of its relatively short distance (one mile) and proximity to the falls.

If you park at either the Yosemite Falls or Yosemite Village lots, a free shuttle will take you right to the trailhead — a wide paved trail that’s both wheelchair- and stroller-friendly. Along the way, stop at the footbridge for dramatic photos and prepare to get sprayed by the roaring falls above you.

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Ansel Adams GalleryThe Ansel Adams Gallery usually exhibits a single landscape photographer's work.Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Ansel Adams Gallery

Many visitors to Yosemite were attracted there in the first place by the famously awe-inspiring photographs taken in the area by Ansel Adams. Since the 1940s, photography workshops have been held within Yosemite by Adams, his family members and other photographers.

That tradition lives on at his former studio, renamed the Ansel Adams Gallery, which is located in the Yosemite Village Mall. Rotating exhibits usually focus on a single landscape photographer’s work.

Free camera walks are also offered three times a week here in addition to paid classes ($95 USD per), private instruction (around $375 for a half-day session) and a variety of multi-day workshops (starting at $900).

Starry night over Yosemite Valley.Observe and learn about the brilliant night's sky over Yosemite with this program.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Starry Night Skies Over Yosemite

Many ranger-led programs are offered throughout Yosemite, but a unique experience awaits you in Starry Night Skies Over Yosemite. All ages are invited to embark on a nighttime adventure from Yosemite Valley as you observe and learn about constellations, galaxies and other celestial bodies visible from Yosemite National Park.

See the stars amid zero light pollution, taking in the majesty of the heavens as they’re meant to be seen. Offered in fall, winter and spring — for only $10 USD per person — the tour is an affordable add-on to family vacations of any budget.

Two trail horsesNo matter what your skill level you can explore the trails of Yosemite by horseback.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Horseback Riding

Equestrians of all levels will enjoy horseback riding on trails when they visit Yosemite. Three different companies operate out of the park, each providing a slightly different riding experience. The Mariposa Mountain Riders is a members-only club that organizes group rides and events throughout the year for those with their own horses.

If you’re just looking to go on a short two-hour jaunt, Big Trees Lodge Stable offers horseback riding in the summertime with morning and afternoon trips starting at $65 USD per person.

However, if you happen to be visiting during the winter, horse-drawn sleigh rides are also available from Yosemite Trails Saddle and Sleigh Company, where hot apple cider and a warm fire await you at the end of your ride.

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Rafts going down river with mountain in backgroundWhether you want a leisurely ride down the river or a thrilling adventure, rafting in Yosemite has something for you.Photo Credit: Getty Images

River Rafting

Raft rentals are available at various tour and activities kiosks around the park. Rentals are for two- or four-person rafts, which also includes paddles, life jackets and a shuttle ride down to the Merced River. At $29.50 USD per person for a three-mile trip, river rafting is a moderately priced activity for families to enjoy together.

More adventurous types may also enjoy whitewater rafting trips organized by a local tour company. Whether you’re an experienced rafter or a beginner, these half- or full-day group trips will challenge and excite you as you make your way down raging Class III and IV rapids.

Kids standing on platform getting ready to zipline.Families will love ziplining and panning for gold and gems at the Adventure Race just outside Yosemite.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Yosemite Ziplines and Adventure Ranch

Just outside Yosemite National Park, in the town of Mariposa, you can plan a whole day of guided activities with the kids. At the Yosemite Ziplines and Adventure Ranch, you can ride their six-stage zip-lines, play on the aerial adventure course, or enjoy a fun and educational experience panning for gold and gems.

Choose one activity or all three, as each one is priced separately. This activity is best for kids ages 7 and up as there is a minimum weight requirement of 60 pounds for the zip-line and ropes course. However, adults can participate too provided they’re under 250 pounds and at least 5’5” tall.

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