Self-Guided Trips

Group of students walking toward Yosemite Falls

Exploring Yosemite with your students, even without a guide, can be one of the most rewarding parts of your classroom visit. Yosemite is the ultimate outdoor classroom with opportunities to make critical thinking skills along with classroom topics very real yet fun. Find resources below to help you plan a self-guided visit, or to supplement a Parks as Classrooms Ranger-Led Program.

Entering the Park

When planning a field trip with your classroom or group, begin by seeing if you qualify for the Educational Fee Waiver. Expect two weeks for our Fee Management Office to process your application, and allow plenty of time to submit it before your desired trip date. During the Peak Hours Plus Reservation system, the Educational Fee Waiver acts as a reservation for groups that qualify and receive an approved waiver. If your group does not qualify, be prepared to pay required fees and possibly make a reservation (if required on the date of your trip).

Things to Do

Take a Hike

Even during a short visit, your class may have time to explore at least one of Yosemite's trails. Each area of the park offers something different with trails that range from easy to strenuous. In Yosemite Valley, many classes explore the Lower Yosemite Fall trail, the Cook's Meadow trail, Mirror Lake, or the Happy Isles area. All of these are easy trails with a one hour or less roundtrip time, though they may require a shuttle ride or brief walk to the trailhead.

Visit Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Valley is one of the more popular areas for classroom visits. In addition to many short trails, group can explore a variety of places, including the Yosemite Exploration Center (formerly Yosemite Valley Visitor Center), a reconstructed Indian village, the Indian Cultural Museum, and the Yosemite Cemetery. Classes can view the free park film amongst other activities.

Visit the Mariposa Grove

A popular area for classrooms visiting from Fresno or other areas south of the park during spring, summer, and fall, is the Mariposa Grove. Students can stroll through some of the largest trees in the world. These amazing and unique trees inspired the beginnings of land conservation which led to the national park idea.

Additional Park Programming Options

If you still wish to participate in a guided walk or program, our park partners may be able to help you.

  • Take a look at the Yosemite Guide, our park newspaper, which is updated throughout the year with new program listings, some which are free and offered by park rangers. Check this resource out closer to your visit.

  • NatureBridge offers environmental science programs in Yosemite National Park. They give students in grades K-12 the opportunity to learn hands-on science in one of the world’s most stunning geologic wonders. Two- to five-night residential outdoor science programs are led by experienced educators and customized to enhance your school’s curriculum. Students hike through the dramatic landscapes of Yosemite, explore ancient groves of giant sequoias, ski across snowy meadows, and challenge themselves to reach the tops of waterfalls. Focused on inquiry-based learning, students engage in field research projects and discover how humans and the environment are connected, from past to present.

  • Yosemite Conservancy offers guided walks and programs throughout the year for a fee.

  • Yosemite Hospitality offers guided walks and tours for a fee. Depending of the time of year and the weather they also offer rentals for different activities.

  • The Ansel Adams Gallery offers photography workshops in Yosemite Valley.

Additional Information

Check out field trip planning and logistics for more information on parking, food, accommodations, seasonality, etc.

Last updated: May 6, 2024

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