If you’ve ever visited Yosemite Valley during the summer, you know how many cars fill its roads and parking lots. The shuttle system is a great option for getting from point A to point B. But bike riding can give you a whole new perspective on things.
And with 12 miles of paved trails and access to all the roads, there’s plenty to explore. You can roam all of the bike paths in a couple of hours, or stop along the way to enjoy the views, play in nature or have a meal al fresco.
After this year’s experience touring the park on bikes, we realized biking Yosemite Valley with kids is easier than you might think. Here are a few pointers for ensuring a fun time for all.
1. Gear up right.
If you don’t bring your own bikes, don’t worry! Rentals are available at two spots in the park and offer enough options to meet the needs of most families. (Note: Trailers are the only choice for kids not yet ready for two-wheeled riding.) Helmets are also available.
Insider Tip: Rental bikes cannot be reserved in advance and those with trailers go quickly, so try to arrive early.
2. Plan your route before heading off.
The park can feel big and confusing once you’ve left the familiarity of your car. Before heading off, study a map of the trails and create a game plan. Since much of your riding will be on single-lane trails, have one adult lead the kids with a second adult following behind. (This comes in extra handy at busy intersections.)
Insider tip: Even though we’re very familiar with the park, we still needed to stop often to get our bearings. In some spots, it gets a little tricky finding the bike path, so take your time.
3. Know your limits.
With both of our kids in a trailer, the hubby and I were limited only by our own energy. As our kids grow, eventually riding on their own, we’ll set kid-friendly riding goals. (Think: shorter distances and more breaks along the way to rest little legs.)
Insider tip: Most of the trails are flat and well-paved, but there are a few spots where pulling a trailer becomes a bit arduous (because of both steepness and ruggedness). If you’re concerned about either, ask for the lowdown when you rent.
4. Go slow.
There is beauty everywhere in Yosemite. Sure, the bike trails can all be explored in a couple of hours, but why would you want to rush it?
Insider tip: Savor the journey and not the destination. One of my kids said his favorite part of bike riding was the chance to see things up close without having them “whizz by the car door.”
5. Stop and play for a while.
The ability to hop on and off anywhere you like is the No. 1 reason we so loved biking this year. Kids getting tired or bored in the trailer? Pull over and play for a while.
Insider tip: Pick a destination for lunch (or dinner or a snack), then tack on some extra time for exploring while you’re there. There are plenty of spots to practice rock throwing, tip your foot in a creek or enjoy a million dollar view.
- Rental bikes for adults & kids are available at Yosemite Valley Lodge (formerly Yosemite Lodge) & Half Dome Village (formerly Curry Village)
- Rental shops are open daily spring through fall from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- 2016 rental rates: standard bike rentals are $12/hour, bikes with trailers are $20.50/hour (day rates are also available)
- There is a $5 charge for helmets, which are required for all riders under age 18
- Bikes cannot be reserved in advance & those with trailers go quickly, so it’s best to arrive early
* This post originally appeared on GoExploreNature.com.