Family and Budget Friendly Yosemite Excursion

Get the family together for a low-cost adventure into the heart of Yosemite! Using public transportation, the Park’s plentiful free amenities, and budget-friendly lodging and dining options, a family of 4 can experience the grand vistas of Yosemite without the grand price tag.

Layers

Day 1

Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS)
1
Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS)
Natural Area | National Park or Monument
Ride YARTS from Merced, and arrive at the Yosemite Valley Visitors Center

The Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS) is a regularly scheduled, fixed route, public transit system that operates year-round in the Yosemite region. YARTS provides service into Yosemite National…

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Half Dome Village
2
Half Dome Village
Accommodation | Lodge or Resort
Check into one of the affordable lodging options within the Park: This historic village has unique rustic tent cabins with electric light and cot beds (bedding is provided). Heated cabins are also available. Restrooms, showers and a pool are centrally located in the village and shared with other Curry Village guests. All amenities in Curry Village are accessible via the year-round Valley Shuttle stop #13b and YARTS.

In 1899, David and Jenny Curry opened a tented camp so that visitors could enjoy the beauty of Yosemite National Park for a modest price. The legacy and model that made…

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Housekeeping Camp
3
Housekeeping Camp
Accommodation | Campground or RV Park
Check into one of the affordable lodging options within the Park: These simple living quarters don’t have telephones or TV, but are surrounded by plenty of amenities, and have lots of rental gear available (including bedding). Curry Village and the heart of Yosemite Valley, with all of its restaurants, gift shops, outdoor adventure access, guided tours and ranger/naturalist programs, is located nearby and accessible by the free Yosemite Valley Shuttle. Just hop on and off at Valley Shuttle stop #12, located across the street from Housekeeping Camp at LeConte Memorial Lodge.

Housekeeping Camp is located at the heart of the Yosemite Valley on the Merced River. With easy access to the river’s sandy beaches and amenities not usually found in a campsite this Camp is perennially popular with visiting families.

It…

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The Pines Campgrounds (Upper, Lower, North)
4
The Pines Campgrounds (Upper, Lower, North)
Accommodation | Campground or RV Park
Check into one of the affordable lodging options within the Park: Upper Pines and Lower Pines Campgrounds are both accessible via Valley Shuttle stop #19. North Pines Campground is accessible via Valley Shuttle stop #18.

The Pines Campgrounds (Upper, Lower and North Pines) are located in the heart of the Yosemite Valley, with many campsites along the iconic Merced River. These forested campgrounds offer a mix of sun and shade provided by the surrounding Ponderosa pine,…

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Nature Center at Happy Isles
5
Nature Center at Happy Isles
Museum, Theater, Interpretive Center | Nature and Wildlife Center
Once you’re settled, stretch your legs and visit the Nature Center at Happy Isles, which is free for the whole family. Accessible via a short walk from the campgrounds or via Valley Shuttle stop #16, this will provide a good intro to the flora and fauna of Yosemite and some easy hiking trails. Bathrooms are available at the Nature Center.

This family-friendly nature center is FREE and open to the public from 9am-5pm May-September. It is a short walk from the Happy Isles shuttle bus stop (#16), and is the center for the Junior Ranger program.

Several short hiking trails…

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Mirror Lake Trail
6
Mirror Lake Trail
Outdoor Adventures | Hiking Trail or Trailhead
If you still have time and energy to burn after the Nature Center, squeeze in a short hike along the Mirror Lake Trail before dinner. You can access the trailhead to this picturesque lake by following the road from the Nature Center or getting back on the shuttle for a short journey to Valley Shuttle Stop 17.

The Mirror Lake Trail is a beautiful, easy hike that can be completed as a one hour round trip or a two to three hour loop. The lake itself is at its fullest during the spring and early summer when Tenaya Creek is flowing. During summer months,…

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Half Dome Village Restaurants
7
Half Dome Village Restaurants
Food or Drink | Cafe, Deli or Coffee House
Eat dinner at one of several budget-friendly restaurants or grill at your campsite! The Curry Village Restaurants are accessible via Valley Shuttle stop #13a or 13b

Half Dome Village, formerly known as Camp Curry, was founded in 1899 by David and Jenny Curry, two schoolteachers from Indiana. The pair dreamed of visiting Read more

Degnan's Deli, Cafe and Loft Yosemite Village
8
Eat dinner at one of several budget-friendly restaurants or grill at your campsite! Yosemite Village Restaurants are accessible via Valley Shuttle stops #2, #10 and #4.

Degnans Deli, Cafe and Loft are located in the centre of Yosemite Village. These conveniently located restaurants provide reasonably priced snacks and meals for visitors to the Valley.

Dengan's Deli serves sandwiches prepared on site,…

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Day 2

Yosemite Falls MoonBow
9
Yosemite Falls MoonBow
Natural Area | Lake, River, or Waterfall
From the Valley Visitor Center, Check out Yosemite Falls. You can either hike a short paved path to a viewing area at the bottom of the falls or hike up a steep trail to one of two spectacular lookout points.

Yosemite Falls is the highest measured waterfall in North America. The total 739 meters (2,420 ft) from the top of the upper falls to the base of the lower falls qualifies Yosemite Falls as the sixth highest waterfall in the world.

The…

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Yosemite Village Store
10
Yosemite Village Store
Local Points of Interest | Unique Shop
Pick up lunch if you didn’t already pack one

Located in the heart of Yosemite Village, the Village Store offers a full line of souvenirs, including t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, and Junior Ranger accessories. This well-stocked shop also carries groceries, fresh meat and produce, baked goods,…

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Picnic Areas at Yosemite National Park
11
Picnic Areas at Yosemite National Park
Outdoor Adventures | Scenic Viewpoint
Enjoy your lunch along the Merced River and take a refreshing dip! Tables and vault toilets are available at the picnic area.

Pack a lunch and visit the Picnic/Day Use Areas in the Park! With your lunches packed and plenty of water on board, pedal along the 12 miles of paved trails and take a lunch break at one of the beautiful Picnic/Day Use Areas in the Park:

<…

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Half Dome Village
12
Half Dome Village
Accommodation | Lodge or Resort
Valley Shuttle stop #13 (Curry Village), where you can rent a raft with space for up to 4 adults ($31 per person daily fee that covers one three-mile trip down the river, personal floatation devices for each person, two paddles and return trip by shuttle to the Curry Village Recreation Center. Rafts are available on a first-come, first-served basis).

In 1899, David and Jenny Curry opened a tented camp so that visitors could enjoy the beauty of Yosemite National Park for a modest price. The legacy and model that made…

Read more
The Majestic Yosemite Hotel
13
The Majestic Yosemite Hotel
Accommodation | Hotel or Motel
Take a short walk from the Picnic Area to the historic Ahwahnee Hotel, where you can view this National Historic Landmark and the treasures it contains!

The Majestic Yosemite Hotel, formerly known as The Ahwahnee shines as Yosemite National Park’s distinctive AAA® Four-Diamond hotel.  Known for its magnificent façade and architecture,…

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Sentinel Bridge
14
Sentinel Bridge
Outdoor Adventures | Scenic Viewpoint
Get back on the shuttle at stop #3 (next to the Ahwahnee) and take it to stop #6, at Sentinel Bridge. Snap some family photos, walk over the bridge, and check out amazing views of Half Dome.

Located within Yosemite National Park, Sentinel Bridge is famous for its spectacular views of Half Dome reflected in the Merced River. From the bridge it is also…

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Degnan's Deli, Cafe and Loft Yosemite Village
15
Have dinner in one of the Yosemite Village Restaurants (accessible via Valley Shuttle stops #2, #4, and #10)

Degnans Deli, Cafe and Loft are located in the centre of Yosemite Village. These conveniently located restaurants provide reasonably priced snacks and meals for visitors to the Valley.

Dengan's Deli serves sandwiches prepared on site,…

Read more
Yosemite Theater
16
Yosemite Theater
Museum, Theater, Interpretive Center | Theater
Treat the family to an evening of entertainment at The Yosemite Theater. Films and live performances are held nightly at this theater behind the Valley Visitors Center. The Yosemite Theater is run by the Yosemite Conservancy, with proceeds supporting conservation, restoration and education programs within the park.

The Yosemite Theater is run by Yosemite National Park's non-profit Yosemite Conservancy with help from concessionaire Delaware North Companies and the National Park Service.

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Day 3

Half Dome Village
17
Half Dome Village
Accommodation | Lodge or Resort
Rent bikes from Curry Village Guest Services and explore even more of the Park! Bicycles are available for hourly or daily rentals (Valley Shuttle stops #13a and 21), on a first-come, first-served basis. Make sure to pick up a trail map at the rental shop.

In 1899, David and Jenny Curry opened a tented camp so that visitors could enjoy the beauty of Yosemite National Park for a modest price. The legacy and model that made…

Read more
Picnic Areas at Yosemite National Park
18
Picnic Areas at Yosemite National Park
Outdoor Adventures | Scenic Viewpoint
With your lunches packed and plenty of water on board, pedal along the 12 miles of paved trails and take a lunch break at one of the beautiful Picnic/Day Use Areas in the Park.

Pack a lunch and visit the Picnic/Day Use Areas in the Park! With your lunches packed and plenty of water on board, pedal along the 12 miles of paved trails and take a lunch break at one of the beautiful Picnic/Day Use Areas in the Park:

<…

Read more
Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS)
19
Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS)
Natural Area | National Park or Monument
Return your bikes to Curry Village and pick up your gear, it’s time to get back on YARTS! The YARTS bus departs from Curry Village and the Valley Visitor Center 5 times daily.Use your return ticket to travel back to Merced, and rest up after your exhilarating adventure!

The Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS) is a regularly scheduled, fixed route, public transit system that operates year-round in the Yosemite region. YARTS provides service into Yosemite National…

Read more
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Trip Plan Details

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In This Trip Plan

1 Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS)
2 Half Dome Village
3 Housekeeping Camp
4 The Pines Campgrounds (Upper, Lower, North)
5 Nature Center at Happy Isles
6 Mirror Lake Trail
7 Half Dome Village Restaurants
8 Degnan's Deli, Cafe and Loft Yosemite Village
9 Yosemite Falls MoonBow
10 Yosemite Village Store
11 Picnic Areas at Yosemite National Park
12 Half Dome Village
13 The Majestic Yosemite Hotel
14 Sentinel Bridge
15 Degnan's Deli, Cafe and Loft Yosemite Village
16 Yosemite Theater
17 Half Dome Village
18 Picnic Areas at Yosemite National Park
19 Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS)