Yosemite National Park covers a large area, divided into Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point, Wawona – Mariposa Grove, and Tuolumne Meadows.
Tuolumne Meadows, open only in summer season, is a family favorite for generations. It is among the most spectacular scenery on earth – turquoise lakes, sparkling creeks flowing through meadows sprinkled with wildflowers, majestic mountain peaks rising into the sky.
And, even in summer months, Tuolumne Meadows is never as crowded as Yosemite Valley.
Tip: Tioga Rd. (Route 120) which goes through Tuolumne Meadows, usually opens around Memorial Day, but last summer, due to heavy snows, the road did not open until July 1. Check the Yosemite National Park website for current information.
Read all the details on Travel for Kids fun things to do with kids in Tuolumne Meadows – giant redwoods in Tuolumne Grove, panoramic views of Half Dome from Olmsted Point, Tenaya Lake, horseback riding, tips for camping, and more.
Here’s three favorite hikes in Tuolumne, fun for kids:
Picnic at Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River
Take the trail from Dog Lake parking lot or walk through the campground to the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River. At the bridge are sandy beaches where kids can play in the meadows. The trail continues along the river – follow it as long as you like, or just flop down in the grass and look up at the mountains. Bring a picnic and spend the day.
Climb up Pothole Dome
On the western edge of Tuolumne Meadows is Pothole Dome, a glacier-polished rock dome about 200 ft high. From the parking area next to Tioga Rd., follow the trail around to the eastern side of the dome, then climb up the gentle rock slope to the top. From the top are sweeping views (see video) of the meadows and high mountains.
Hike to Elizabeth Lake
From the Tuolumne Meadows Campground, take the trail to Elizabeth Lake, 4.6 miles round trip. Trail winds up through a shady pine forests, goes along green meadows next to the creek, arriving at the lake, nestled at the base of Unicorn Peak. Explore paths around the lake, there may even be snow at the eastern shore.
One of my earliest memories as a child is Tuolumne Meadows, where my family camped. My brothers and I played in the tiny bubbling creeks lined with bright green moss and wildflowers in the meadows.
Years later, we brought our own kids to Tuolumne Meadows to run around the meadows, hike up Pothole Dome, and wade in the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River, beloved by my parents to fish for trout. If it was lunch time, we stopped sparkling Lake Tenaya, where my husband’s family had picnicked on their summer trips to Bishop on the east side of the Sierra.