Visiting Yosemite National Park
What we wish we had known:
crowds, crowds, crowds!
Do not expect to roll up and find a campsite (like we did) - Summer is the busiest time of year at Yosemite. if you are a last minute planner like us, or more accurately a non-planner, then visit the reservation office prior to driving into the valley and ask if there have been any recent cancellations/openings at the park. You might get lucky! Most of the campgrounds are switching to reservation-only but some of the tent-only sites are first-come first-serve. Other options for lodging: rent a cabin in the valley, or get a backcountry camping permit. Click here to reserve your spot and check availability. If you can't find a spot in the park, we also stayed on Sierra National Forest land outside the park near the west entrance.
We weren't expecting to do much swimming, but we ended up camping at Wawona campground which backs up to the river. It is perfect for drifting down a tube or raft, and has a tree swing toward the bottom. Bring your suits and grab a raft, this was loads of fun for all!
Try to plan your trip so that you stay in the valley because it is a trek to get there from the other campsites. From Wawona we still had to drive an hour to get to the hikes and store... and with kids that is a long time to travel there and back. We did the Lower Yosemite Falls hike with the kids and it was easy, fun, and beautiful! There is also a Nature Center at Happy Isles that is perfect for kids and learning about the park and wildlife. Don't forget to grab a junior ranger packet! Bike paths are also a lot of fun with kids and there are some really great ones (bike rentals are available). Really, you can't go wrong with any of the trails in this beautiful park!