in the Valley Visitor's Center in Yosemite Village
bring the history of the place to life, from its
American Indian origin to the 19th century, when
schoolteachers David and Jennie Curry built the
rustic Curry Village.
won’t admit it, but my 12-year-old was trying hard to
wear her brave face when it came to winter zip lining.
were on our way from our usual Yosemite headquarters—the
Evergreen Lodge, just outside Yosemite’s main gate off
Highway 120 — down the western part of the valley, a
beautiful drive that runs parallel to the Merced River
exiting Yosemite Valley. The goal was Mariposa and a date
with Yosemite Ziplines and Adventure Ranch.
initially thought no one zip lines in winter—especially
in the mountains. It sounded cold. My wife and I zip lined
a few summers ago on Catalina. My 13-year-old zip lined in
Mexico with her mother. It seemed like a warm weather ride
that usually ends up on a beach somewhere.
Put on a jacket and get your zip on.
idea was to take my family of springtime Yosemite regulars
to see what the world’s greatest national park is like
in winter. Of course, we didn’t hike as much. We didn’t
try to get wet near the waterfalls—many of which are
spectacularly frozen in place. With the temperature
hovering in the 20s and 30s, we did things we don’t
normally do in spring—went ice skating (most scenic rink
ever), checked out the visitor center and the Ansel Adams
gallery and, of course, went zip lining.
6-year-old—who would probably try slinging a towel over
a power line, if it meant a good ride—was still too
young. But she watched her family do the two-hour,
six-line course (not including the dual, side-by-side
lines that allow zippers to race, which would technically
make it seven).
the 12-year-old—whom we’ll call Lorelei, because that’s
her name—was a zip line newbie. She was being brave, but
I could tell there was a little concern.
Ziplines and Adventure Ranch was perfect. Situated on
gorgeous, green rolling hills with amazing views of the
valley beyond, the line tour has enough distance, speed
and height to keep it interesting for the die-hards, but
it’s great for first-timers, who find it easier to soar
down gradual slopes and work their way from shorter to
longer lines, rather than having to step off a cliff from
the elevation is perfect. As owner Bryan Imrie said, it’s
below the snow line, but above the fog. And it’s
was great—she felt safe and even raced her sister down
the side-by-side twin zips, and she really benefitted from
the help offered by our very professional and amusing
guides (One stretch allowed riders to try dropping a
beanbag into a box 50 feet below, with winners taking home
a special prize). And on one slope overlooking Mariposa,
we got an unexpected history lesson on the city’s
importance during the Gold Rush days.
our way back through town, we hit the appropriately named
Happy Burger Diner, which claims to have the largest menu
in the Sierra. The walls are covered with LP covers from
the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s and has a great feel that
matches the quality of the food. (At one point, my
picture-snapping wife called it the greatest diner ever).
can’t venture near Yosemite without a few more stops,
though, and the other highlight of our trip was ice
skating at Curry Village, to Charlie Brown Christmas music
with Half Dome and Glacier Point looming large on either
side. Yeah, it’s regular old ice skating—only in the
middle of one of the world’s most beautiful forests, at
the foot of granite spectacles stretching 3,000 feet into
the sky. The vibe is amazing and truly one of the most fun
winter outings in California (plus there’s a giant fire
pit nearby to keep the nonskaters toasty). There are four
21/2-hour sessions during the day, costing $10 for kids,
$10.50 for adults, plus a $4 charge for skates. The rink
is open until early March. (Find more details at
in Yosemite also gives one the chance to see the visitor
center, a gem of a place that gets overlooked during warm
months, when people are running up the sides of Nevada and
Vernal falls and driving up Glacier Point. It’s much
bigger than I remember and covers just about everything
one might want to know about Yosemite, including its
indigenous people, its wildlife, its formation and its
history as a forerunner for the national park system. The
surprisingly large and comfortable theater also shows an
excellent Ken Burns documentary about the park, called
"Yosemite: A Gathering of Spirit."
kids can get easily bored in museums—and anywhere anyone
threatens to educate them—but they were pretty
intrigued. Even in the warm months, the visitor center is
worth carving out some time for and the rangers inside are
helpful there, as they were in the Ansel Adams Gallery
next door. As the title would suggest, there is a ton of
photographs—some on display and some for sale—taken by
the famous Yosemite enthusiast, as well as jewelry and a
surprisingly large book selection. I spent far more money
there than I envisioned. (Everyone, from the 6-year-old,
to the 47-year-old dad found something they had to bring
lucked out in all respects: The weather was cooperative
and the roads forgiving. There was some snow at the upper
elevations and frozen-over waterfalls, which were
stunning. Yosemite is such an incredible place to visit.
It may not have some of the winter tourist draws of
ski-happy places like Tahoe—although there is, of
course, a high-country ski resort at Badger Pass—but
Yosemite in winter is well worth valuable vacation time.
Even when the waterfalls aren’t running, and the hiking
requires way more layers of clothes.
Ziplines and Adventure Ranch, 4808 California 140,
Mariposa, CA 95338, (209) 742-4844, http://yosemiteziptours.com.
Tours are $95 per person, though discounts are available
for groups. Children must be at least 8 years old and
riders must weigh between 70 and 250 pounds. Reservations
are encouraged (call beforehand to get a drive-time
estimate, based on where you’re staying, then add at
least 20 minutes to the estimate)
need to know: Obviously, it’s cold at this time of year,
especially when jetting down a zip line. A knit hat that
fits comfortably under the helmet they provide is a good
idea, as are gloves. Wear sturdy shoes. The tour guides
drive you up the hills, but some walking (and landing) is
eats: For a small town, Mariposa has lots of places to
eat. I highly recommend the Happy Burger Diner, which
boasts the largest menu in the Sierra. It just might—and
it might be the yummiest as well. And the prices are more