Hello! My name is Araceli from @roaminggonzalez. I’m a mom of three and my family and I live in the beautiful state of California. We love exploring wild places and are always up for a new adventure. We recently spent time exploring the High Sierra regions of Visalia & Tulare County as well as Madera and Mariposa Counties (the Western & Southern parts of the High Sierra region). Our family vacation in California High Sierra weaved through two of the most AMAZING National Parks and so much more!

Day One – Visalia & Tulare County 

We’re always in search of family friendly destinations with close proximity to amazing outdoor adventures. Impressed with how much Visalia has to offer, we quickly discovered why it’s a charming gateway to one of the oldest national parks. 

Visalia Adventures

visalia adventure park in california high sierra
It’s hard not to smile in a go-kart

To kick off day one, we made our way to Visalia and stayed at the Holiday Inn Express. Located just steps from Visalia Adventure Park, the Holiday Inn makes for a great stop over on your way to Sequoia National Park.

We spent the evening at Visalia Adventure Park and had the best time. With seven acres of fun, there was something for the entire family! We played a few rounds of mini golf, laser tag, had a family go-kart race, and ended with hours of interactive arcade games! We enjoyed dinner right in the Adventure Park at Kritter Cafe and then walked back to our hotel. An evening at Visalia Adventure Park was the best way to kick off our national park family vacation in California High Sierra!

laser tag in visalia california
Time for laser tag

This was the perfect time of year to visit Visalia. Much cooler weather and we enjoyed experiencing the first snowfall of the season. The proximity to outdoor adventures and national parks makes Visalia a pretty special place, while charming, family friendly and a beautiful gateway into the High Sierra.  

Getting An Early Start

sequoia national park family vacation in california high sierra
Surrounded by Giant Sequoias in Sequoia National Park

The next morning we woke up early to get a head start. We enjoyed complimentary breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express and then made our way to one of the oldest national parks, Sequoia National Park. Did you know that Sequoia National Park is home to the largest living thing on earth? General Sherman is the largest and most magnificent tree in the world!

general sherman on a family vacation in high sierra
General Sherman sure is mighty

Visalia is only about a 45 minute drive and the perfect stop over on your way to this beautiful park. Spending the day among “Giant Sequoias”, we took in stunning views of the High Sierra from beautiful vista points. We spent the day exploring and made a stop at iconic locations such as Hospital Rock, Tunnel Rock, Giant Forest Museum, Beetle Rock before making our way to see the biggest tree in the world, General Sherman.  We learned that five of the 10 biggest trees in the world live in Sequoia National Park, and our kids enjoyed walking among them! Definitely a memory that our family will treasure forever!   

Day Two – Madera County 

To kick off day two, we made our way to Madera County and checked into a cozy cabin. The Pines Resort is the only lakeside resort in the Yosemite area! And at only 17 miles outside of Yosemite’s south gate, it’s an amazing gateway to unbelievable outdoor adventures! Our cabin overlooked Bass Lake as the resort is tucked in the Sierra National Forest. 

Time To Choo-Choo

Yosemite sugar pine railroad family vacation california high sierra
Railroading at Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad

We enjoyed breakfast and dinner at Ducey’s on the Lake. Great food selection with a fantastic view of Bass Lake. After breakfast, it was time to make our way to the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. Just outside of Yosemite boundaries, you’ll find this historic railroad station offers scenic train rides through the Sierra National Forest. We enjoyed a one hour train ride aboard an original locomotive. The kids absolutely loved it! After the train ride, we stopped by the museum, gift shop, and you can even pan for real gold. Such a fun stop!

Giant Sequoias Everywhere

mariposa grove on family vacation in california high sierra
Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park

After the train ride, we hopped in the car and made our way to Mariposa Grove which was about ten minutes from the Railroad Station. We packed snacks and set out on a hike along a snow covered trail taking in the most magnificent views! After a two mile hike, we made it to the top and arrived at Mariposa Grove, the largest sequoia grove in Yosemite and home to 500 mature giant sequoias. Our kids enjoyed playing and hiking right up to the grove. Absolutely beautiful and worth the hike to the top!

wawona in yosemite high sierra vacation
A stop in Wawona

To end our day, we made our way to Wawona and stopped by the Yosemite History Center. A covered bridge, rustic cabins… there’s so much to see. A rich history lesson and a wonderful way to wrap up day two. 

Day Three – Mariposa County 

We wrapped up our family vacation in California High Sierra by visiting one of the most BEAUTIFUL national parks! As we made our way to yet another cozy destination, the weather, snow covered mountains, and fall colors still lingered, making this time of year truly magical. 

Nestled Among The Pines

tenaya lodge with fire pit in yosemite
Warming up next to the Tenaya Lodge fire pit

We checked into Tenaya Lodge, nestled among beautiful pine trees right in the middle of the Sierra. Tenaya at Yosemite is quite honestly the most beautiful gateway to Yosemite National Park and particularly spectacular this time of year. We loved the cozy ambiance, large fire pits throughout the lodge, and unbelievable views. I have to admit, this is my favorite time to visit. Gorgeous fall colors against the first snowfall of the year was pure magic!

tenaya in yosemite explorer cabin
Explorer Cabin at Tenaya

We stayed in the Explorer Cabins located on 27 forested acres. It felt as if we were sleeping out in the meadow surrounded by gorgeous pine trees. The kids loved the bunk beds, indoor pool, and play center. Tenaya Lodge is one of the most family friendly locations we’ve ever been to. All the comforts with access to the great outdoors right outside our doorstep. The lodge offers guided nature walks, archery, mountain biking, and so much more! We just love discovering unique family friendly destinations with adventures available for everyone.

Yosemite Is Up Next

yosemite hike in snow
An afternoon wintry hike in Yosemite

After breakfast we set out to visit Yosemite National Park, about an hour away. Yosemite is so beautiful this time of year, all the beauty minus the summer crowds! The park was covered in white from the first snowfall of the season. We made several stops along the way visiting Tunnel View, Yosemite Falls, Yosemite Chapel, and Cathedral Beach. Yosemite is an absolute gem and we truly enjoyed our winter visit.

jackalopes bar and grill in tenaya at yosemite
Dessert at Jackalope’s

Finally back at Tenaya Lodge, it was dinner time at Jackalope’s Bar & Grill, the perfect place to enjoy a meal after a day full of adventure. Great food, drinks, and a round of dessert to top off our night. 

Thank You High Sierra Visitor’s Council for this amazing opportunity to explore such gorgeous destinations on our family vacation in California High Sierra.

Author: Araceli Gonzalez

Adventure Family Travel; Digital Creator & Executive Team at Run Wild My Child

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