Yosemite with a Toddler: How to Make it Simple

Yosemite with a Toddler: How to Make it Simple

We just spent a long weekend in Yosemite with our toddler, and it was awesome. Traveling with a toddler is never easy, but we’ve found a way to make Yosemite enjoyable with our little one. As someone who loves to travel and explore new places, I’ve learned to be mindful when choosing family vacations now that we have a little one. Keep reading for ten tips to make going to Yosemite with a toddler more enjoyable.

Mountain View with river and three people walking

1. Make a plan to not really have a plan

Beforehand, pick out the activities you are interested in doing. Loosely plan to do one activity each day. For example, we were in Yosemite for three days, so we picked three activities to do while there. One activity on the first day to do near the southern entrance when we drove in, and two more activities to do in the Valley near our lodge.

Then we were able to pad our schedule spontaneously based on our location and time of day. But, don’t overschedule yourselves. Over-extending your family, while in Yosemite, will make everyone miserable. And no one wants to be around a miserable toddler.

Women running with baby in stroller in the park and man carrying baby in baby carrier in front of a waterfall.

2. Pack a jogging stroller, hiking carrier, or both

Due to our space limitations, we only brought our jogging stroller and didn’t pack our hiking carrier for Chulengo. But looking back, the hiking carrier would have been a nice option, instead of the jogging stroller, for some of the hikes. Especially if Chulengo was taking a nap since he naps well in the hiking carrier.

If you are looking for a good hiking carrier for your toddler, check out this one HERE. We have some similar and we love it!

If you are looking for an affordable jogging stroller, we’ve had one like THIS for over a year and it works great on trails and hikes. It’s not nearly as expensive as your typical jogging strollers

Person walking in the park while pushing a baby stroller.

3. Make note of stroller-friendly activities beforehand

Do your research ahead of time to find out what hikes are stroller friendly so you don’t waste time adventuring up a path where you won’t get far. We had some time to kill one afternoon, so we started hiking up the trail to Vernal Falls. While the path was paved, it was quite steep. My poor husband was pushing the stroller while trying to walk slow enough for me to keep up. We ended up calling it quits about a half-mile into the hike because we were both so tired.

HERE is a great website to find stroller-friendly hikes in Yosemite.

View of mountain and a toddler sitting .

4. Pack Snacks and a Case of Water

One way to my toddler’s heart is through snacks. During the drive to Yosemite and throughout our daily activities, we didn’t always have quick access to groceries or diners. So, snacks were the best way to keep Chulengo happy during some activities. I opted for things there were non-refrigerated like granola bars, pretzels, plantain chips, bananas, and dried fruit. Click HERE to see an example of how I like to pack snacks for our toddler. Wanting to make your own snack box? This one HERE works well.

I didn’t even think to bring water, but I realized once we got on the road to Yosemite my husband had packed case of water in the back seat. I am so glad he did! It was so nice to be able to just reach back and grab water on the drive up to the national park. I appreciated being able to throw a couple of bottles of water in our backpack for daily activities. Being pregnant and having a toddler, I never want to consume potentially unsafe drinking water. So having bottles of water easily accessible kept us hydrated and healthy.

View of lake, trees and mountains.

5. Bring sunscreen, sun-protected clothing, and insect repellent

Protect your family from the elements. I always opt for UPF clothing with built-in protection and hats, if possible. Keeps me from having to apply so much sunscreen. But, I still pack and use sunscreen and insect repellent on areas that cannot be covered. Getting a sunburn or bitten by bugs sounds like a bad idea while being so remote from the real world. One of my favorite sunscreens, with fewer chemicals, for kiddos, is this one HERE!

Restaurant setting with empty table and menus.

6. Make note of the opening and closing times for dining options

We usually eat pretty late, so like normal, we were in no hurry to get to dinner. We quickly found out that many of the dining options in Yosemite closed at 6 pm. This posed a problem for us when we arrived at 630 pm to eat. One night we were able to piece together a last-minute meal at the Village Store, but it wasn’t ideal. So I recommend checking dining hours before you have hungry parents and a hungry toddler.

Wild animals in the forest.

7. Remember wildlife animals are wild

Wild animals are fascinating to watch. It’s easy entertainment for a toddler. Heck, I even enjoyed sitting back and watching a buck graze near our back patio. But remember, wild animals are wild.

Even squirrels. Don’t feed them. Don’t chase them. Enjoy them from a distance. Allow the animals to live safely in their natural habitat. Wild animals, who can carry diseases, may bite or attack when they feel threatened. Keep your family safe by maintaining a good distance.

Toddler's potty

8. Have a potty plan

Chulengo was potty-trained by the time we vacationed to Yosemite. But, I would be lying if I said he didn’t have accidents if we weren’t proactive about making him use the potty regularly. My biggest worry about getting Chulengo to use the bathroom while in Yosemite was the limited access to actual toilets. The national park is full of latrine-type bathrooms, which are daunting enough to use as an adult, let alone as a toddler.

So, we put Chulengo in a pull-up for daily activities but treated him as though he was wearing underwear — just in case there were accidents. We still prompted him to use the bathroom before and after each activity and at every toilet, we passed throughout the day. We also brought a travel toilet seat, like THIS, to put over a normal toilet so his little bum would be a bit more comfortable for bowel movements.

One perk of having a boy is that he can stand and pee. Thank goodness!

If your toddler is still in diapers, make sure to bring along plenty of diapers and wipes. As well as a changing pad, because you will find yourself changing a diaper on the dirt ground in some places. I also recommend packing little bags to put dirty diapers in after changing, because a trash can won’t always be available when you need it.

View of lake, trees and mountain

9. Be cautious around areas with water

Rocks near rivers, streams, and lakes can be slippery, making it easy to fall into the water. Even though water may look calm on the surface, there may be a swift current just underneath that can be life-threatening. Even if your toddler is a strong swimmer, they may be no match for nature’s most abundant resource on the planet. So, keep an eye on your kiddo around water or avoid areas with flowing water, if possible.

Mother and children looking at view of mountains

10. Bring a backpack to carry your items

A diaper bag will not do justice to your needs in Yosemite. Your purse will not be user-friendly either. Throw your items in a backpack and sling it over your shoulders. It’s easy to carry and more ergonomic for your body.

I like THIS backpack I got off Amazon because when I am not using it I can fold it up very small and store in our garage. But, it is also large enough once I open it up that I can put bottles of water, a lunch box, change of clothes for the whole family, and bottles of sunscreen and insect repellent. It has enough pockets for me to keep things organized, too! This backpack was also small enough to fit in the basket under the jogging stroller, which came in handy when I got tired of carrying it around.

Traveling with a toddler may be an emotional roller coaster for the whole family. It’s the little moments that can sometimes be the most significant memories. Don’t discount the simple, low-key activities and moments that bring joy to the family. If you take a trip to Yosemite with your toddler, I’d love to hear how it goes.

10 tips for traveling to Yosemite with a toddler

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