Explore Yosemite National Park: Facts & Things to Do With Kids

January 28, 2022

Sarah Shelton

Sarah Shelton

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Have you ever considered a trip to visit one of the national parks? There is so much natural beauty and wonder associated with visiting a national park in the U.S.A. Learn about the favorite travel destination of Yosemite with these resources and Yosemite National Park facts for kids.

Free Resources for Discovering Yosemite National Park text overlay with photo of national park.


Where is Yosemite National Park Located?

Yosemite National Park is a scenic mountain region located in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountain Range in Mariposa County in Northern California. Almost 95 percent of the park’s 747,956 acres of land is classified as wilderness land. This vast wilderness area is full of natural wonders and natural beauty.

Yosemite National Park Sign Entrance California U.S.A
Yosemite National Park Sign Entrance California U.S.A – photo by Checubus

What is Yosemite National Park Best Know For?

Yosemite is nicknamed as the Land of Giants. It is best known for its granite cliffs and giant rock formations that are mostly composed of granite. This is a rock climbers paradise.

It is also home to groves of giant sequoias. The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is home to 500 mature giant trees that can reach over 300 feet high. 

Half Dome Peak Cliffs Yosemite National Park Granite
Half Dome Granite Peak Cliffs at Yosemite National Park – photo by eric1513

Visiting Yosemite National Park

Before 2020, the park saw over 4 million visitors each year. The peak season is in the late spring and summer months, and it gets extremely crowded with long waits to get in. 

There are over 800 miles of hiking trails in the park and more than 1,000 square miles to explore. There are some short easy hikes on the valley floor, longer more strenuous hikes and hikes up the granite cliffs with cables for experienced hikers.

Even if you can’t take a trip to visit this fascinating place, your family will enjoy doing a unit study or taking a virtual field trip to Yosemite.

Historical Dates of Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park was the third national park in the United States. It is a very old park, and so it brings with it some amazing history with lots of dates to remember.

  • Yosemite Valley was home to the Ahwaneechee Native Americans when the first outsiders met them in the 1800s. 
  • In 1851, during the California Gold Rush the valley was supposed to be cleared by the U.S. Army. This caused a conflict between the tribe and a fight broke out called the Mariposa Wars. The tribes were relocated to reservation land.
  • After the war is when tourists and photographers began to visit the valley. Some conservationists began to express their concerns of the land being taken over by people and developments.
  • In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln was convinced of the threats that could be posed by humans and the development of roads and hotels to Yosemite. This is when he signed a bill called The Yosemite Land Grant which transferred Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove to the state of California.
  • In 1890, naturalist and conservationist John Muir helped to pass the Yosemite Act. This protected the trees, minerals and natural rock formations from further developments of roads. At this time the park was still owned by the state of California. 
  • In 1903, John Muir took President Theodoore Roosevelt camping in Yosemite and he fell in love with the nature of it. This helped him to create a bill which made all of Yosemite the property of the United States Government in 1906.
  • In 1916, the National Park Service was created to ensure that the park was being properly preserved.
  • In 1920 the park became open to camping visitors to stay there overnight.
  • In 1984, the park was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Yosemite Valley during a cloudy autumn morning
Yosemite Valley during a cloudy autumn morning – photo by haveseen

Fascinating Facts for Kids

  • Yosemite is home to the tallest waterfall in North America: Yosemite Falls with a 2,425 feet drop.
  • There are 7 major waterfalls in Yosemite Valley.
  • The climate in the park is considered a Mediterranean Climate.
  • The brown bear is now extinct inside the park. The last known brown grizzly bear seen in California was in the early 1920s.
  • Famous granite monolith, El Captain and Half Dome appear to glow and light up at sunset each day as the sun reflects on them.
  • You can see rainbows appear in the waterfalls of the park.
  • This park is home to over 400 species of animals
  • On a full moon night, with a clear sky you should be able to see a rainbow at night.
  • You have to apply for a permit and be an experienced climber to hike the Half Dome with cables to hold on to.
  • There are between 300 and 500 black bears located in the park.
  • Yosemite park is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Over 500 giant trees reside here. 
Giant Sequoia Trees at Yosemite National Park California, U.S.A.
Giant Sequoia Trees at Yosemite National Park California, U.S.A. – photo by Elena Skalovskaia

Yosemite National Park Educational Resources

Stewardship of Yosemite National Park – In this lesson, middle schoolers will design a plan that would be true to John Muir’s spirit of stewardship and conservation toward Yosemite.

Yosemite National Park Coloring Page – Color the beautiful granite rock sculptures of the park as if you were seeing them in a photograph.

Printable Yosemite National Park Bucket List – This checklist is a great way to make sure you don’t miss the best places to see and things to do in the park.

Yosemite National Park Locations and Facts Quiz – This is a unit study lesson with an online quiz about the history of the park and what can be found there. 

Granite – All of the rock formations and giant cliffs are made from granite stone. Learn about the geology of granite rocks of the rock formations that can be found throughout the park. Read up on the research that scientists are doing on the large monoliths. 

Google Slide Presentation – You can show this google slide presentation to your students to help them learn about national parks and Yosemite.

Sequoia Research – Read about the research being done to protect the sequoias, the science behind prescribed burns and forest fires and how they help the forest.

12 Things You Can’t Miss on Your First Trip to Yosemite – Find out about the 12 must-sees at this park such as; Bridalveil Fall, Mirror Lake, the waterfalls, Glacier Point, Mariposa Grove and more. There are even some sample itineraries to help you plan. 

U.S. Natural Landmarks 31 Page Notebooking Journal Instant Download – Take your children on a journey to learn about 30 natural landmarks that can be found in the United States with Yosemite included. They will record the facts and information they have researched in their own notebooking journal.

Recommended Resource: National Parks Notebook – A Notebook Companion™ for National Parks of the U.S.A.

Explore the national parks of the U.S.A with our publisher-approved Notebook Companion™. Using the notebook alongside the popular book book National Parks of the U.S.A. will help you squeeze all the amazing content out of it and use it for your homeschool.

National Parks Notebook spiral bound and National Parks of the U.S.A. book

Wildlife of Yosemite National Park

Yosemite has a rich wildlife of animals that you may encounter when you visit the park such as: such as: mule deer, black bear, foxes, Sierra Nevada Big Horn sheep, mountain lions, coyotes, bob cats,  bald eagles and more.

There are 90 mammal species found in the park, 262 species of birds, various amphibians, reptiles, fish and insects. If you are visiting there you will be sure to hear coyotes howling and singing to each other in the distance. 

Yosemite Wildlife Guide – Explore the different animals of the park. When you click on the photo of each animal it will take you to a page full of information and fun facts on the animal.

Bird Checklist – Download the Yosemite Bird Checklist and start your search of the 262 species of birds as if you were going on a birding adventure.

Special Status Animal Species – This is a chart of 40 different animals that fall under the California endangered species list. 

Animal Life in the Yosemite – Online download book of the animal life found at Yosemite and the scientific research from the University of California. 

Coyote at Yosemite National Park, California, USA
Coyote at Yosemite National Park, California, U.S.A. – photo by fotowalk

Ansel Adams and His Connection to Yosemite:

Ansel Adams is one of America’s most famous photographers known for his breathtaking and dramatic, black and white photography of the American wilderness. When he looked through the lens of his camera at the vast wilderness land, he saw art and spent the rest of his life being inspired and capturing nature in such a beautiful way.

The big turning point for getting the word out about Yosemite National Park is when the park hosted famous photographer of the American west, Ansel Adams.

He fell in love with the park when he was only 14 years old when he went to Yosemite for the first time on a family vacation. In 1927, his first photographs of Yosemite were printed. Half Dome and El Capitan are two of the formations made famous by his photography. His most famous work is Monolith, the Face of Half Dome which was taken on his first photographic visit to the park. 

He lived and worked in the park for 50 years. The Ansel Adams Gallery is home to many of his famous prints and is located directly inside Yosemite National Park. Ansel Adams died in 1984.

Shortly after his death the south part of Yosemite was renamed Ansel Adams Wilderness. The next year an 11,760-foot peak on the edge of Yosemite was named Mount Ansel Adams.

Read About Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams Biography  – Discover Ansel Adams by reading a biography of his life and his work. 

Ansel Adams and Yosemite – Learn about Ansel Adams and his relationship with the park. He lived and worked in the park almost his whole life and was a huge part in getting the word out about it.

Conserving the Spirit of Yosemite: Ansel Adams’ Early Years in the Sierra Club – Find out about the Sierra Club and how Ansel Adams was a park conservationist.

Yosemite National Park Virtual Tours & Webcams:

The kids and I have been really enjoying searching for virtual tours of places we want to visit or learn about. They sure do provide a nice, mental escape from the mundane. Virtual tours can give your children the opportunity to explore somewhere they may never get the opportunity to physically visit.

Virtual Yosemite – This website is full of virtual tours of the most famous spots in Yosemite.

Virtual tour of Yosemite – Launch a virtual tour of the park with Xplorit.

Yosemite Webcams – Take a peek in on the different webcams that are located at famous locations throughout Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite National Park Resources:

Yosemite Nature Notes Video Series – Learn about rockfalls, moonbows, bighorn sheep, snowplants and more with these nature video series from the national park service. 

Virtual Field Trip – Take your children on a virtual field trip to Yosemite with this Power Point presentation and exploration to the park. This can be student led or teacher led with an opportunity for students to create a slide of their favorite place at the end. 

Become a Virtual Junior Ranger – Your kids can become junior rangers at home with these free activity worksheets. Print the worksheets and when they have completed all of the activities you can email pictures and scans of their work to the park. It will take 6-8 weeks and your kids will receive their very own ranger badge in the mail while supplies last.

More On National Parks:

If you enjoyed this post and would like to learn about other national parks in the U.S.A. then be sure to check out our series Learning About the National Parks.

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