No matter when you visit Yosemite National Park, you’ll discover all kinds of talks, walks, and other free, family-friendly activities going on. Nothing else tops off your Yosemite vacation like gathering around a campfire to listen to a ranger chat about wild black bears, or joining a guided wildflower walk or snowshoe trip. After-dark stargazing and nature-film screenings, junior ranger programs, and arts-and-crafts workshops and storytime hours for kids are just a sampling of what the park offers to enrich your Yosemite experience. To find out what’s going on today, check the extensive event listings in the park’s free seasonal newspaper, the Yosemite Guide at www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/guide.htm.
For many park visitors, the Yosemite Valley is where all the action is. The valley is also where you’ll find the most ranger-led activities and programs happening every day of the year. In summer, start your day off by having coffee with a ranger at a campground amphitheater, discussing which ranger-guided hike to take your family on later in the day. And don’t miss Ranger Shelton Johnson’s reenactment talk of Yosemite’s Buffalo Soldiers.
How about a junior rangers’ stroll around the Happy Isles, or a naturalists’ ramble to explore wildlife or Native American traditions? Evening programs around Yosemite Village and at the park’s lodges and campgrounds are always interesting, whether they’re old-fashioned campfire singalongs, colorful slide-show presentations or short films about nature.
Ansel Adams Gallery Photography Walks
Park rangers are not the only ones who lead guided hikes, outdoor activities and other family fun in Yosemite Valley. Located in the heart of Yosemite Village, the Ansel Adams Gallery leads morning photography walks year-round and offers digital camera classes to help you brush up on your skills (reservations required, fees apply www.anseladams.com/photography-education).
Join an Art Class in Yosemite
Between April and October, the Happy Isles Art and Nature Center inspires visitors to explore their creative side with classes (small donation requested) in watercolor and plein-air painting, ink drawing, travel journaling and more. Sign up a day in advance at the Yosemite Conservancy’s nonprofit center, where you can buy art supplies, too.
In 2021, the Art Center came back in a new way, meeting in Yosemite Village in front of the Valley Visitor Center. Make a reservation and participate in a daily art class. Please register online by 4 pm PT the day before your class If you can’t join classes in person, check out the virtual Wine and Paint classes. (visit yosemite.org/experience/art/, email email@example.com or call 209.372.0631)
Yosemite Conservation Heritage Center Evening Programs
From May through September, the Sierra Club’s historic 1904 Yosemite Conservation Heritage Center (previously called LeConte Memorial Lodge) on Southside Drive offers educational evening programs aimed at curious adults who want to learn more about Yosemite’s ecosystem and cultural history. Programs are presented several evenings each week at 8pm. See the current Yosemite Guide for program schedule at www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/guide.htm.
Educational Programs Elsewhere Around Yosemite National Park
When all of the park’s roads are open during summer, the valley is not the only place where rangers give nature talks and lead hikes. You can join a ranger-guided wildflower stroll and go birding at Tuolumne Meadows. Or catch the sunset at Glacier Point while a ranger expounds on the bird’s-eye vista that inspired John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt, then hike out to Sentinel Dome under the light of a full moon. At Wawona, learn from park rangers about Yosemite’s pioneer history and explore the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias. Ranger-led evening campfire programs take place at many campgrounds all over the park during the busy summer season.