Are you looking forward to biking Yosemite with your baby or young children in the new year? This is the post for you! (Updated for 2022. Post contains affiliate links.)
I’ve long been a fan of John Lennon’s song “Imagine,” but on a certain pre-birthday trip to Yosemite I began to take serious issue with the line: “Imagine there’s no heaven.” Why, you may ask?
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’ve 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 plan your family biking trip in Yosemite.
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 peace of mind any time you stop along the way on your road trip driving to or from Yosemite.
The locks will also help you enjoy your stops along your bicycle ride 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) Or rent bikes, bike trailers, or tandems in Yosemite.
Bike rentals are available at three locations in Yosemite: Yosemite Lodge (next to the swimming pool), Curry Village (next to the front office), and Yosemite Village (next to the Village Store).
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 ($40 full day / $30 half day), you can rent an adult bike with an attached trailer ($75 full day / $55 half 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 for rent and may work for you and your school-age child. See more at Biking & Bike Rentals | Yosemite National Park CA | TravelYosemite.com.
3) Bring a lightweight daypack, preferably with support straps.
Having my “Mommy’s Action Pack” with me has made a world of difference on bike trips with the “very littles.” 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.
My beloved (and still-going-strong!) daypack was discontinued, but you might consider something like the OneTrail Dipsea Daypack with its sturdy construction and always-useful bungee (especially when shedding layers on the go!).
Must haves for your daypack: 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 phone/camera.
We’ve found trail-a-bikes (AKA trailer bikes, tag-along bikes) to be invaluable when biking Yosemite with our kids who are not ready to be out on their own bikes, but are too big for the bicycle 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. Plan a picnic for your biking trip 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 (just be sure to dispose of it properly!).
But in chillier weather and to help accommodate sensitive potty training children, know that there are diaper changing stations and clean, flushing restrooms around and about the valley.
You’ll find restrooms with flush toilets 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. Vault or “pit toilets” can also be found throughout Yosemite Valley.
More tips and ideas for your Yosemite vacation:
Yosemite National Park with Kids – planning guide
The Best Places to Visit California’s Giant Redwoods and Sequoias
The Celebrated jumping frogs of Birch Lake (near Yosemite)
Roadstop: Oakdale Cheese and Specialties (en route to Yosemite)
Travels with Baby Review of Evergreen Lodge (at Yosemite)
Travels with Baby Review of Wawona Hotel (in South Yosemite)
An earlier version of this post was first published in May of 2010. It has since been revised and updated.