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Biking at Yosemite with little kids and a toddler

I’ve long been a fan of John Lennon’s song “Imagine,” but during our recent trip to Yosemite I began to take serious issue with the line: “Imagine there’s no heaven.” As the early May sun lit up the meadow and we pedaled through the Valley with our entire family of 5 for the first time, I thought, “Nope. I like to imagine that if there is a heaven it’s a lot like riding my bike through Yosemite in spring.”

As some of you might recall, I’m not the world’s most confident bicyclist, though it’s something I’m working hard to overcome in the interest of my children and our family ‘s recreational pursuits. Yosemite Valley, I have found, is one of the most spectacular and easiest places to bike together as a family—and once your children are too big to lug around in backpacks on the hiking trails—and before they are sturdy with stamina enough to hit the more rugged trails themselves, biking with them is one of the hands-down best ways to see and experience Yosemite with young children.

I sincerely hope that all of you reading this will get the chance to do it. Here are my top tips to help:

1)    Bring your bikes—and locks.
If you’re bringing your own bikes from home be sure to carry a couple of U-locks. Bikes generally seem pretty safe around Yosemite, but the locks will give you piece of mind any time you stop along the way on your road trip, or while you pull over to picnic in the park–or take photos at some of the busiest spots. Since bikes are very common in Yosemite, you’ll find plenty of places to park them.

2)    Rent bikes, bike trailers, or tandems in Yosemite.
Bike rentals are available at two locations in Yosemite: Yosemite Lodge (next to the swimming pool) and at Curry Village. Yosemite’s rental bikes have at most two gears, but this is generally perfectly adequate for cruising the valley floor (with two kids in a trailer, you’ll get some extra exercise on the slight inclines). In addition to renting adult bikes and kids bikes ($9.50 hr / $25.50 day), you can rent an adult bike with a double trailer ($16 hr / $50.50 day). Helmets are also available for rent, though the smallest available is a toddler size – you may want to bring your own if biking with an infant under 1 year. A couple of tandem bikes are also available and may work for you and your school-age child.

3)    Bring a lightweight backpack, preferably with support straps.
Having my “Mommy’s Action Pack” with me made a world of difference on this trip. A lightweight backpack with chest & waist support straps make it easy to bike comfortably with the pack and stay out on the trails for hours. Must haves: diaper changing pack, our picnic and snacks, extra water bottle pockets, lightweight picnic blanket (or NeatSheet), sweatshirts, sun hats  for when we stop and take off those helmets to play, sun block, baby-friendly insect repellent (in case), antibacterial hand wipes or gel, and camera. (BTW, I’m loving my new Kelty day pack— bought on my own dime—big enough for all our stuff, two water bottle pockets, and the top zip pocket is perfect for easy access to my cumbersome camera.)

4)    Use trail-a-bikes with preschoolers in Yosemite.
Trail-a-bikes (trailer bikes, tag-along bikes) we’ve found to be invaluable when biking Yosemite with our kids who are not ready to be out on their own bikes, but are a bit too big for the trailer. They are also a great way to help them get some biking confidence and skills—not to mention exercise. I also appreciate the extra help on the hills! As I’ve written before (see How to bike with a baby or toddler plus a little kid), the “Frog Seat” front-mounted baby bike seat from iBert is also helpful when using trail-a-bikes. Unfortunately neither of these are available at Yosemite’s bike rentals, so you will need to bring your own or make other arrangements (we brought two trailer bikes on this trip – and it was worth it!). I was thrilled to find out Evergreen Lodge at Yosemite is now offering trailer bike rentals to its guests as well, so those of you staying in their cabins or campsites can now take advantage of that as well ($55 per day adult bike + trailer or adult bike + trail-a-bike).

5)    Picnic during bicycle outings in Yosemite.
It’s hard to imagine a more perfect day with small kids in Yosemite than biking around the Valley and stopping to enjoy a picnic on one of the beaches along the Merced River. There are a number of to-go lunch items you can pick up at either the Yosemite Lodge cafeteria (our favorites include fresh fruit cups, salads, sandwiches) or at Curry Village’s  informal restaurants or market. In mild weather, try the sunny beaches by Swinging Bridge or Chapel Bridge where your kids might enjoy throwing rocks in the water for hours, or in hot weather, head to the Cathedral Picnic area where you’ll find shady picnic tables and shady patches to pitch your picnic blanket along the river.

6)    Use the best bathrooms for potty trainees and diaper changes.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with changing diapers al fresco in the middle of a national park, but in chillier weather and to help accommodate sensitive potty training children, know that there are diaper changing stations and clean, flushing restrooms in the entrance to the Curry Village indoor restaurant, in the cafeteria of the Yosemite Lodge, and at the enormous restrooms by the Yosemite Falls shuttle stop—though this final restroom can overwhelm some kids with the loud automated hand dryers and auto-flushing toilets (the other two are far more tame). Vault or “pit toilets” can be found throughout Yosemite Valley.

For more tips on Yosemite trips with kids and biking with little ones, see the related posts and pages below. This post is part of the Photo Friday fun at DeliciousBaby.com.

Related posts and pages:
Yosemite bike rules and trails map
The Celebrated jumping frogs of Birch Lake
Roadstop: Oakdale Cheese and Specialties
Travels with Baby Review of Evergreen Lodge
Travels with Baby Review of Wawona Hotel

Safe journey,

Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning guidebook Travels with Baby
The Ultimate Guide for Planning Trips with Babies, Toddlers, and Preschool-Age Children
www.travelswithbaby.com   facebook   twitter

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3 Responses to Tips for biking Yosemite National Park with a baby, toddler, or little kid

  1. cd duplication says:

    Such wonderful bonding moments with the family!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I'm so glad i found your article. I read your book last year (super helpful while planning several trips with a 6 mos old) and was hoping for tips for our weekend stay in Yosemite next week with now 19 mos old. This is perfect. We already have the frog seat for the bikes (love it!) but we're staying at the Ahwanee in a cottage… Fingers crossed it goes well!!

    • Kelly MacConomy says:

      Ahwahnee cottages are right near the bike trail to Mirror Lake and Happy Isles. You will love the quiet retreat and privacy of the cottages. You have a little patio. Perfect for that first and all-too-early (with a toddler!) cup of coffee! Heaven on earth! Enjoy!

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