We recently went to Yosemite, and there’s obviously a lot of amazing hiking in the area. However, when you’re trailing a 3 year old and a 7 month old, you can’t exactly scale Half Dome and back country hiking, when you’re not experienced is probably not a good idea.
So you’re faced with the problem of going to the major tourist spots with flat concrete paths and masses of people or finding an alternative and realizing when everyone looks at your pictures, you didn’t do the major sites.
We learned a tough lesson on day one about the need to change your expectations when road tripping with a toddler.
Confessions of newbie travelers
So this was our first major national park with the trailer, and if you follow us on instagram (@mattyadventure), you know we have pictures at a few of the main sites, El Capitan, Bridal Veil Falls etc, but what we didn’t take pictures of was the mess that was the valley.
So we were staying at Wawona Campground, which is the South West of the park, but the main sites are around Yosemite Valley and the Village in the middle. So after driving through the terrifying winding roads of Yosemite from North the South, we set up at camp for the night in the beautiful camp sites, lots of space and peaceful serenity of Wawona and made a plan to do the main sites around the valley the next day. We then settled into a campfire and marshmallows with S
Early warning signs
We went first on the drive back from Wawona to the valley which takes in the Tunnel view of El Cap and Bridal Veil from afar. It’s a postcard perfect view which looks incredible, but when we arrived there was the small issue of four coach loads of tourists at the site, and about forty + cars.
As a couple, this wouldn’t bother me, we’ve been to plenty of busy places and waited for a clear shot, a bit of quiet, but when you’ve got small kids, they’ve not got the patience for a) hanging around for people to get out of the way of a photo, and b) more importantly, no patience for driving round a car park looking for a single space to come free.
So we took some quick snaps, and bundled the kids back into the car, could be worse right? The light was too harsh for anything too pretty, and it’s just a vista, we can hike somewhere else.
So we moved on to our next planned location.
Bridal Veil Falls…
So we drove further into the valley and hit traffic going into the car park area for the falls. Monique had found that it was a twenty minute hike up the path to the falls for an easy pay off, so we did a lap of the car park and found a space.
Then we noticed the huge queues for the toilets as we got out of the car. Anyone with a three year old knows this is an issue in itself. However, we queued, it was fine, just another ten minutes of the day.
Onto the trail, but it wasn’t a trail, but a perfect tarmac path up to the base of the falls. This was not what I was expecting. Most trails, even very well groomed in PNW are gravel at most, but this was almost a sidewalk up to the falls, and it was busy.
Wide enough for four abreast, we were dodging in between people and getting out of the way of others. It was so sad to see people jumping fences and walls to get a better view when you could see it fine from the path. It is always a little bit depressing how people treat nature, especially when there’s a clear path you can use.
We got to the top, S spent the entire time jumping in puddles of water, and didn’t care about the 720 ft drop falls above, we took some pictures, picked up some trash we randomly found and headed back down.
Feeling a little deflated, headed across on a loop to some random bridge we’d not heard of.
Best decision of the day, as we headed down the trail, the path broke up and became more disused, there were trees crossing the trail (now in deep woods), and S was ecstatic to be able to climb and jump on the logs now strewn across our way.
About a mile in, we got to a huge conflagration of three rivers joining into one, no way to go without a bridge in sight, and it was wonderful. Roaring rivers, peace a quiet, some random beetles flying around with red butts. S spent the entire time throwing sticks and pine cones into the rushing rivers to see how fast they went.
Realise your situation has changed when you travel with kids
So after all my rambling, the lesson here is, your three year old and your seven month old don’t care if there’s an incredible mountain to see, or if it’s a world famous waterfall. What they care about is spending time with their family somewhere in nature.
It’s more important to them that you are enjoying yourself and have space to point out fun flora and fauna, then trying to get the perfect photo selfie on instagram.
The next day, we did a meadow hike near Wawona, S got to see his first real life snake, ford a small stream on his own, ride on Monique’s back in her https://www.oschaslings.com and see some very pretty meadows whilst we learnt something about the history of the Wawona meadows.
For confessional, S and I then drove like lunatics back to the village to get him sworn in as a Yosemite junior ranger, but that’s another story…
Addendum – So we’re heading to Zion soonish, and are considering avoiding all the major sites for smaller ones, comment us any suggestions you have!