Where to Go in Yosemite With Kids: Lower Yosemite Falls

Welcome to the fourth installment in a series called “Where to Go in Yosemite With Kids,” especially young kids like mine (5 ½ and 2 years). 

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Be advised: The trail to Lower Yosemite Falls is one of the most popular hikes in Yosemite Valley. During the summer, that means some serious crowds. Thing is, it’s absolutely worth it.

Why? The half-mile stroll is almost entirely flat, paved and perfect for little kids and adults alike. Plus, the payoff is huge – an up-close view of one of the most well-known waterfalls in Yosemite National Park, plus mist from the falls if it’s full enough.

Although this walk can be done in half an hour, I recommend you take it easy, enjoying the scenery along the way. The kids will find something worth exploring, I guarantee it.

OUR NOTES FROM THE FIELD
What I love about this hike is that you get a stunning view of both Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls within minutes of being on the trail.

It doesn’t take long to reach the view you came for. The kids are always so excited that they forget to complain about the small hill they come up to get there.

Being here this year in early July meant the falls was teeming with water. In fact, there was plenty of mist to keep us all cool on this warm summer morning.

The big and little explorer were excited to check out boulders and take a peak at the pools below the falls.

The cool mist left us all feeling especially chipper and playful, so we decided to hop on a long-ago fallen tree that makes for great picture taking.

The breeze and dampness actually left the kids a little chilly, so they were eager to head back to the trailhead.

We took our time. First, we enjoyed some rock climbing on a bunch of boulders just off the trail. Then I sent the kids on a rock hunt in the perfect spot – everything here is made of granite!

Both of the explorers loved running their hands and sticks along the rock walls that line a portion of the trail.

These walls are also low enough to make for great balance beams, which the boys demanded to try.

We left the trail with our energy high and our pockets a little heavier (thanks to all the rocks we picked up!). From here, we headed to the Nature Center at Happy Isles to round out a great morning in Yosemite Valley.

PLANNING ESSENTIALS

  • The Lower Yosemite Falls trail is a 1-mile loop, half of which is stroller friendly
  • This easy hike provides spectacular views of both Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls and can be completed in 30 minutes
  • Restrooms are available at the trailhead
  • There is no parking at the trailhead
  • Easiest access is via the free Yosemite Shuttle; take it to stop #6
  • This waterfall is often dry from late July or August through October; expect spray in spring and early summer

MY TIPS FOR A GREAT VISIT

  • Hit the trail early. If you visit during the summer, make this the first stop of your day. Get to the trailhead by 9 a.m. or 9:30 a.m. and it’ll be relatively quiet. Otherwise, be prepared for crowds on the shuttle and on the trail.
  • Explore the rocks, but stay off those near the falls. The kids loved “rock climbing” on the big boulders beside the trail. But steer clear of those below the falls. The rocks are slippery and not a safe place for kids to be exploring.


FINDING LOWER YOSEMITE FALLS

The Lower Yosemite Falls trailhead can be found at shuttle stop #6.

To read the other posts in this series, click on “Where to Go In Yosemite With Kids” under the Categories heading in the right-hand column on any page. Or click on one of these handy links:

Comments

  1. says

    @Mel: That's not a spot I've ever been, but I can imagine how cool it would have seemed as a teen. Finding hidden away places is one of my favorite things to do — especially in a busy place like Yosemite.

  2. says

    It's not exactly for little kids (and perhaps not quite kosher) but when I was a teenager, we like to hang out in the area between upper and lower Yosemite Falls. No one else seemed to go there…

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