California National Parks Trip with Kids - June 2020

Wolfli

Earning My Ears
Joined
Aug 4, 2018
Hi

My family is taking a 10 day California national parks geared trip with the kids this June. Looking for any and all tips (especially for stops on the drive between the national parks, favorite trails and great kid friendly ideas). Our kids are 7 and 9. We are interested in the starry night guided hikes in Yosemite, but the dates haven't been released yet. We are from the eastern US, so we won't be at these parks again anytime soon.

Our basic Itinerary:

Day 1 Saturday: Fly into Santa Barbara (Summer Solstice Festival)
Day 2 Sunday: Ventura (Maybe Anacapa, Maybe Day Hikes, ideas appreciated)
Day 3 Monday: Channel Islands National Park: Santa Cruz
Day 4 Tuesday : Ventura to Sequoia National Park (IDEAS FOR PRETTY STOPS?)
Day 5 Wednesday: Sequoia National Park
Day 6 Thursday: Kings Canyon National Park
Day 7 Friday: Kings Canyon to Yosemite (IDEAS FOR PRETTY STOPS?)
Day 8 Saturday: Yosemite
Day 9 Sunday: Yosemite
Day 10: Monday: Yosemite to Fresno to Home.

Thanks!!!!
 


  • Jimsig

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Nov 23, 2012
    We did Sequoia last summer with our 10yo DD and loved it. We started the day checking out at DL and driving to Three Rivers where we spent 2 nights. Not sure if you are planning on going via Three Rivers but we drove up I-5 to Rt 99 through Bakerfield to Rt 65 to Rt 198. On I-5 just north of Castiac is pretty interesting as the northbound and southbound sides of the road switch and you also go up quite a grade for a long time and eventually come back down one as well. The only stop we made was just leaving Bakersfield to get a quick bite to eat. Once you get north of Bakersfield there is not much as you will see oil fields and some orange groves and go through some small towns. A little before you get to Three Rivers the road hugs Lake Kaweah for a few miles with some nice views.

    At each of the National Parks you go to be sure to pick up the Junior Ranger Book for the kids. They usually have them at the first Ranger Station you see near the entrance but you should be able to get them at any station. They can do some activities in the book for each park and then answer questions with a Ranger at the end and earn there Junior Ranger Badge. Sequoia and King's Canyon are unique as they are the only 2 parks that share a badge.


    We started up from Three Rivers and got the map at the entrance and stopped at the first Ranger Station we got to and they gave us advice as to what to see etc, We made a few stops before getting to the Giant Forest Museum. From there we went to Moro Rock and climbed it. Near there is a fallen tree you can drive through. When then went and saw The General Sherman Tree and after that we did an easy hike back near the Giant Forest Museum on the Big Trees Trail. It is an amazing park.

    Have fun
     

    Lumpy1106

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jul 2, 2010
    I'm just going to throw another one in for your consideration. Have you ever been to Pinnacles NP? It's kinda-sorta on the way inland, in a totally out of the way sort-of way.

    There's really no good way to get from the coast to the mountains. With your current plan I would opt for taking the 33 through the Los Padres NF over taking the 126 to I-5. That will add about 30 mins to the drive but would be totally worth it.
     

    Kittyblue

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 23, 2020
    You probably already know this, but if you have a 4th grader the whole family gets a free national park pass

    I can't think of anything too scenic along the 99 between Ventura and Sequoia. If you want to go a little out of the way there's Griffith Park in LA and lots of museum options in the area. Our kids liked the California Science Center and the La Brea Tar Pits. Near Bakersfield there's Windwolves Preserve, but in June it's likely to be too hot to enjoy much. If you take the 99 to Visalia and go a little past there's a Bravo Farms in Traver with a 7 story tree house. Our kids used to love running around there.

    Apparently I can't post links, but you can google Every Kid Outdoors for the pass and Bravo Farms Treehouse for that.
     
  • bennifer

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jan 20, 2013
    You probably already know this, but if you have a 4th grader the whole family gets a free national park pass

    I can't think of anything too scenic along the 99 between Ventura and Sequoia. If you want to go a little out of the way there's Griffith Park in LA and lots of museum options in the area. Our kids liked the California Science Center and the La Brea Tar Pits. Near Bakersfield there's Windwolves Preserve, but in June it's likely to be too hot to enjoy much. If you take the 99 to Visalia and go a little past there's a Bravo Farms in Traver with a 7 story tree house. Our kids used to love running around there.

    Apparently I can't post links, but you can google Every Kid Outdoors for the pass and Bravo Farms Treehouse for that.
    thank you!!! I had completely forgotten about the pass and we’ll be in Yosemite in a couple months!!!
     

    Wolfli

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Aug 4, 2018
    Thanks for everyone’s replies!. We have the 4th grade pass. Checking out all the suggestions now :)
     

    MiketheGrate

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Oct 10, 2019
    I'm just going to throw another one in for your consideration. Have you ever been to Pinnacles NP? It's kinda-sorta on the way inland, in a totally out of the way sort-of way.

    There's really no good way to get from the coast to the mountains. With your current plan I would opt for taking the 33 through the Los Padres NF over taking the 126 to I-5. That will add about 30 mins to the drive but would be totally worth it.
    We did Pinnacles last year over Labor Day weekend. Amazing hike up to the reservoir and the hike down through the talus cave was not to be missed. One of the neatest things we've done in a park. Of course, check the weather when you go and bring enough water. We didn't plan that well and it was very hot in the park (over 100 degrees) at a time when it was very pleasant in our home base of Monterey. This shouldn't surprise anyone, but we were just idiots in thinking it wouldn't be hot.
     

    JimMIA

    There's more to life than mice...
    Joined
    Feb 16, 2005
    We have 2 nights at Wawona and 1 night in Curry Village currently.
    Keep checking back to see if you can change to Yosemite Lodge. Everything books up a year ahead, but there are a lot of cancellations as people approach their cancellation deadlines. If you call a couple of times a day, you'll get the lodge. It's right in the middle of everything, and super-convenient.

    On our last visit, we were on the second floor and when I looked out of our balcony, I saw a mother mule deer and two fawns who could hardly walk. They couldn't have been more than a day or two old, and they were directly below our room -- maybe 50 feet away. DW, DD and I stood on our balcony for almost an hour watching them very quietly!

    Key thing not to forget -- SAFETY. There is so much to see, so much fun, so much excitement at seeing critters, so many distractions. But you have to have SAFETY in mind every second of your visit. There may be thousands of people around, but you are in a wild place, with wild things, and fences, railings, etc are at a minimum. Be constantly aware of your surroundings.

    Things to do:
    • @Jimsig 's suggestion of the Junior Ranger programs is a MUST. The kids will love it. It will take some time, but it's time well spent.
    • Family friendly musts at Yosemite
      • Yosemite Falls -- right across the street from Yosemite Lodge, easy walking distance. Flat, easy, and beautiful.
      • Bridalveil Falls -- in the Valley. Again, an easy walk
      • Sunset at the bridge near Half Dome. You can walk this from the lodge, but you can also park and only have to walk maybe 50 yards.
      • Across the valley behind the lodge, there is a path that crosses the river. That area and any of the meadows in the valley are prime deer-viewing sites.
      • Do not miss the view from Wawona Tunnel -- the entire valley is laid out in front of you. Amazing view, and if you are driving from Wawona, it just explodes on you as you exit the tunnel. Plenty of parking above and below the road.
      • Another cool thing to show the kids is the climbers at night on El Capitan. You can see their lights twinkling as they hang from the side of the cliff 1000 feet up!
      • Glacier Point is also a great view.
      • If the upper road is open, that is also a must. Visit Tuolumne Meadows and explore the high country with beautiful roadside alpine lakes and snowcapped mountains. VERY different from the valley.
      • If they have a Firefall at Camp Curry, do NOT miss it. Yosemite tradition that was stopped for decades, but is now done occasionally if conditions permit.
    • Avoid:
      • Mist Trail -- this is my favorite hike in YOSE, but it's too strenuous and too dangerous for your kids
      • Sides of streams/rivers -- In June, the waterways will be full of snowmelt, and that water really moves. One slip and you're washed away -- and it happens almost every year at Yosemite. Last time we were at YOSE, all of the rivers were closed -- no rafting, no wading, etc. Stay off the rocks along the streams -- they are wet and slippery.
    • Critters -- lots of wildlife at Yosemite, from huge to tiny. Three things to remember about all wildlife of any size.
      • They can, and will, HURT you. Every creature has some form of defending themselves, and they will use that defense quickly if they feel threatened. The animal which causes the most injuries every year in the National Park system is the deer. They bite, they kick, and they can definitely hurt you. They will also walk right up to you begging for food. Give Moms with young extra room.
      • Keep your distance...and be quiet. If ANY animal changes their behavior even slightly, you are too close. Even subtle changes, like freezing or looking up from grazing, are defensive moves and indicate that the animal is uncomfortable. If you keep your distance, you can enjoy wildlife as long as you want. If you crowd them, at a minimum they will walk/run away.
      • Don't feed them -- intentionally or unintentionally. Obviously, don't hand them food -- but also discard your trash in appropriate containers, and keep your food secured where wildlife can't get it.
     
    Last edited:
  • Wolfli

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Aug 4, 2018
    I love all of this! Seriously hoping there are no travel restrictions in June ! Thank you so much
     

    VandVsmama

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 28, 2011
    Any ideas on when the cali natl parks are opening up?
    Yosemite's website remains closed.

    Anyone planning on going to a national park anywhere this summer should probably make alternate plans or be able to change your plans last minute, I think.
     

    Lumpy1106

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jul 2, 2010
    Just planned a trip to Zion NP in Utah for July 4th w/e. Hoping the shuttles will be open by then.
     

    JimMIA

    There's more to life than mice...
    Joined
    Feb 16, 2005
    Yosemite's website remains closed.

    Anyone planning on going to a national park anywhere this summer should probably make alternate plans or be able to change your plans last minute, I think.
    Yosemite's website is NOT closed. Neither is Yosemite itself closed, but you need reservations to drive into the park.

    The problem with the big parks is there are lots of commercial sites that pose as the "real" website to arrange lodging reservations at inflated prices. And they pay Google for the privilege, so when you Google one of the big parks, you are much more likely to get a commercial site than the National Park Service.

    Just FYI, all NPS websites start with www.nps.gov Then you have a backslash, and a 4 letter designation for the individual park.

    If the park name is one word, the designation is the first four letters of the name. If the name has two or more words, the designation is the first two letters of the first word, followed by the first two letters of the second word. That pattern also holds true for ALL NPS sites, including monuments, scenic rivers, etc, etc. So...
    As an alternative, you can also go to nps.gov and use the search feature by state to find the individual park site.
     

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