Family Travel Question:

Q | What is the best time of year to visit Yosemite when there are still things to do with kids but fewer crowds?

What is the best time of year to visit Yosemite when there are still things to do with kids but fewer crowds? -Meg, CO

A | Yosemite without the crowds

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As a rule, most California natives love Yosemite. Until very recently, I just wasn’t one of them.  Sure, I could see the breathtaking beauty of Half Dome, Bridal Veil Falls, and El Capitan, I just didn’t like looking over the heads of thousands of other sightseers to do so.

Then I discovered that if you stay outside the park and visit the high country, you can get away from the 3.2 million annual visitors who never leave the valley floor. Then you can really enjoy visiting Yosemite with kids. Of course, you’ll still want to see the valley floor–you just may not want to stay there.

My favorite family friendly Yosemite hotel is, without a doubt, the Evergreen Lodge. How do I love it?  Let me count the ways:

1.  The simple luxury of the rustic cabins beats the refugee camp feeling of Curry Village hands down.

2.  They have summer camp-style lodge activities for the entire family, including movies, ranger talks, stargazing, campfires, s’mores, and live music, plus ping pong, pool, horseshoes, foosball, enough board games to go around, and excellent indoor and outdoor toddler play areas.

3.  No kitchens in the cabins, but good food that’s fairly priced. Who wants to cook on vacation anyway?  Not me.

Since the hotel is located in the woods bordering western edge of the park, it’s a fair drive to the valley floor. Once you’ve checked that off your list, be sure to take a day trip to the high country. A drive to Tuolumne Meadows takes you past some of the prettiest ponds, lakes, granite peaks, and vistas you’ll see anywhere.

Swim in Tenaya Lake. Ogle the abundant late-summer wildflowers. Hike. Even on the busiest summer days it’s quieter and cooler up here. If not for the one-of-a-kind scenery, you could almost forget you were in Yosemite at all.

Photos courtesy of Rich and Jamie Pearson

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