Why Tenaya Lodge Is One Of The Best Places to Stay near Yosemite With Kids (or without kids)

Looking for hotels near Yosemite National Park? What about places to stay near Yosemite with kids?

With so many Yosemite National Park accommodation lodging options to choose from, and considering how popular Yosemite is, it can be difficult to know where to stay when planning to visit Yosemite NP.

Tenaya Lodge

I loved our four night stay at Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite during our recent 5 day trip to Yosemite in May.

In fact, it has been one of my favorite resorts stays in the USA so far and is perfect for those looking for an ultimate Yosemite family vacation.

Tenaya Lodge was a warm, comfortable and friendly experience that was a perfect match for the outstanding beauty and outdoor adventure in the Yosemite area.

I loved coming home to the lodge after a day on the Yosemite hiking trails to a hot tub, a glass of wine by the fire, a delicious meal and conversations with other travelers around the world.

Enjoying the indoor hot tub with the kids
Drinks by the fire in the lobby

When traveling we typically spend most of our time interacting with other Americans in campgrounds, and usually in hotels we stay at. Most hotels are super busy and everyone is coming and going on their own agendas!

But in the Tenaya Lodge it felt like more of a global gathering place and I realized how much I missed that and how isolated we are from it.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Americans and am always happy to chat with them.

But I do miss interacting with people from other countries, and Tenaya was like the old hostel environment for me – long before smart phones took our attention away.

The diversity of guests at Tenaya Lodge was awesome – young, old, couples, families, and groups of friends!

We had conversations in the hot tub, lobby, dinner table and around the s’mores campfire at night with people from England, Ireland, Australia and America. I also heard accents from Germany, France and Italy.

Oh this is the goodness of travel all right.

Communal fire pit

No one was too caught up in their phones to ignore each other.

This place was about sharing your memories of the day exploring Yosemite National Park California and tips and tidbits for future travel. Just like the good ole days!

Tenaya Lodge Yosemite had a staff that matched this jovial, friendly atmosphere.

I don’t think I have encountered more genuinely friendly and warm staff before. They must all be treated well as you could tell they liked their job and they liked people.

And did I mention kid-friendly? They even have a kids check-in section at the lobby.

I paid close attention to their interactions with other guests as well just to be sure. And I noticed the same attention and warmth to everyone. I was so very impressed.

Here are more reasons why staying at Tenaya Lodge is a fantastic option for your Yosemite vacation.

Video review of Tenaya lodge Yosemite

Activities at Tenaya Lodge

Kids Adventure course

There are plenty of things to do at Tenaya Lodge, for young and old.

While I loved the inclusion of these activities, I loved how they weren’t the focus of your stay as other family resorts are. They’re additions to the main event – visiting Yosemite National Park.

We planned our Tenaya Lodge activities for our down day we had at the lodge, which is something I recommend you do when you visit Yosemite.

There are so many amazing things to do in Yosemite with kids (or even as a couple) that everyone can get tired pretty quickly. It’s a good idea to soak up the warmth and relaxation of Tenaya for a full day!

Sadly our day of rest (although well timed) was when it rained all day. And even hailed!

Kalyra braving the rain before the adventure course

Our kids (aged 11 and 7) decided they wanted to go outside and do the activities anyway. What’s a little rain for these fearless adventurers?

Although at the end of archery they did ask to cancel rock climbing as their limbs were freezing and they thought it might be a little too slippery.

Kids Adventure Course

Kids adventure course

Our daughters, Kalyra and Savannah, really enjoyed the kids adventure course!

It is kid sized and they typically do much higher and more challenging adventure courses.

But even though this one was much easier, they used it as an opportunity to practice some complex skills like walking backward, doing it with eyes closed and no hands, and timing how fast they could zip around.

They did all of this in the rain too with smiles on their faces.

Archery Lessons

Savannah the sharp shooter

The other activity they loved was archery.

They were both very good at it, landing only millimeters from the bulls eye, and they played pretend bow and arrow hunting games through the lodge halls for the remainder of the afternoon.

Guided Flashlight Hike

On our first evening we joined an hour long guided flashlight hike, which was a cool addition to our Yosemite trip.

Everything is so different when viewed in the dark under the light of a flashlight. Savannah stayed pretty close to my side, especially when learning about the resident black Bear, Booboo.

We learned a lot about the forest – the flora and fauna of this area. It was so interesting and made me fall in love with trees all over again.

We even had the opportunity to snack on a few ants, although passed.

Our guide was very knowledgeable and passionate about the area and the forest. He was a rare native of the local town, Fish Camp, the very small town where Tenaya Lodge is located.

You can organize these activities (for a fee) with the hotel concierge, which I found incredibly helpful. Once again, I really liked the staff at Tenaya.

Campfire S’mores

What’s a Yosemite National Park lodging experience without s’mores?

We were so grateful on our last night for the rain and snow to stop so we could go outside to the firepit and roast s’mores. It doesn’t matter how often we do this, the girls never get tired of it.

It’s a very common thing for them to experience on our 1 year USA road trip!

You can purchase kits from the lodge and they have a specific fire pit for s’mores. If you want to skip the s’mores and have serenity by the fire, outside the main restaurant is a huge fire pit to sit around with a glass of wine, or beer.

Again, both fire pits were buzzing with conversation. The Tenaya Lodge is very social.

Nearby Waterfall Hike

It’s not just Yosemite National Park California that you can explore whilst staying at the lodge. There are hiking trails from the lodge into the Sierra forest surrounding Tenaya. 

We took the 5.5 mile return hike to a nearby waterfall and swimming hole. I think the water was running too furiously to enjoy swimming in this area, and too cold, but apparently it’s a local hidden gem.

It was an easy flat walk through the forest and was so peaceful and quiet with only us on the trail. We saw deer along the way as well!

I loved the last mile of the hike that took you along a narrow tree lined path beside the creek. It was pretty and offered a different experience to other Yosemite National Park trails.

The lodge also offers guided hikes to this waterfall on Saturdays.

List of Tenaya Lodge activities on offer:

  • Mountain biking in the Sierra National Forest
  • Wine and paint night
  • Archery lessons
  • Daily morning guided hikes
  • Guided flashlight hikes
  • Nightly outdoor s’mores
  • Ranger talks
  • Climbing wall
  • Kids adventure course
  • Horse back riding
  • Kids camp
  • Fishing pole rentals

Amenities at Tenaya Lodge

Indoor and /Outdoor Pools and Hot Tubs

I think I mentioned the word hot tub a few times!

You have your pick of two indoor hot tubs (one is adults only) and an outdoor hot tub. While some people were spotted braving the cool temperatures in the outdoor hot tub, we stuck to easing our tired muscles in the indoor one.

The girls enjoyed swimming in the indoor pool while we watched from the hot tub.

The outdoor pool is in a beautiful setting surrounded by the forest and has a couple of different pools and hot tubs. There is also an outside bar – Barefoot bar, opened during warmer times.

On some evenings they have a dive-in poolside movies – which is a movie playing above the Tenaya lodge pool. You can float and swim while watching it.

We didn’t get time to do that.

Arcade Games Room

The girls loved the Arcade Room, which was another place people gathered to shoot pool or play backgammon, checkers and chess.

There was two gaming stations, which is what the girls spent a lot of their time doing.

Since I watched a special on the negative effects of the game Fortnight on a child’s brain while working out in the fitness center that morning, I ensured I limited their time playing that game!!

Ascent Spa

What would make the ultimate Yosemite vacation?

Amongst the physically demanding hikes you can balance it out with a deep tissue massage.

That may not be everyone’s idea of relaxation, but you’ll find other massage options to suit your mood. Or perhaps a facial instead, or go full out and do them all.

After months of hiking in the Southwest, my body was begging for a deep tissue massage. It was awesome and gave some relief to a persistent shoulder issue I have.

It’s important for parents to have their time out moments on a family vacation, and the Ascent Spa Tenaya Lodge is the best place for you to find it.

You can get everything you need at the on-site Spa. Be sure to finish your massage with a steam bath to help those muscles even more!

The Ascent Spa was a beautiful relaxing space and all guests have access to the steam room and sauna and powerful showers. Craig and I liked ducking down there to have a steam room after a day of hiking in Yosemite.

Next door to the spa is also a fitness center. It’s a little on the small side, but has plenty of equipment to give you that workout you need.

Restaurants at Tenaya Lodge

Jackalope’s Bar & Grill

Tenaya Lodge has three restaurants: Jackalope’s Bar & Grill, Embers and Timberloft Pizzeria (open seasonally).

We didn’t eat at the fancier of the two, Embers. It is said to be family-friendly, although the ambiance felt more intimate and quiet so we  decided to stay away with our younger kids.

Jackalope’s Bar & Grill

We loved Jackalope’s Bar & Grill though, and ate their for breakfast and dinner each day!

Jackalope’s was buzzing with happy conversation over good food and drinks. Our pick was the curried cauliflower and chickpea stew, the caramelized brussel sprouts, and the burgers.

Our kids enjoyed their mac & cheese and strawberry shortcake dessert.

Tenaya Lodge Breakfast

For breakfast, you can choose from the ala carte menu, or dive into the buffet. The girls loved the buffet, whereas the ala carte worked better for Craig and I with our dietary restrictions.

Although we did have the buffet the first morning, and the quality of the food options was high compared to other resorts we have stayed at.

yummy omelette from the ala carte menu by the fire

There is also the Harvest & Grounds Deli (like a small general store) which offers snacks, picnic lunch, and surprisingly good coffee.

In the summer, they have Timberloft Pizzeria and outdoor Summerdale BBQ with live entertainment.

Rooms at Tenaya Lodge

The accommodation at Tenaya Lodge suits all types of travelers, which is another reason I loved it. All lodge rooms were recently renovated and have a High Sierra design touch.

Lodge Rooms

For solo travelers, couples, and small families, you’ll be happy with the Tenaya Lodge rooms ranging from:

  • Premium Room
    • Two queen beds or one king bed
    • 350 square feet
    • Individual room climate control
    • Work desk with computer data port
  • Extended Two Queen
Our room

Perfect for families and what we slept in.

We found this room to be spacious and comfortable and loved the sitting area which came in handy for working at the desk and playing Clue on the coffee table.

And the girls were very excited by the game options you could check out from the front desk.

    • Two queen beds
    • 450 square feet
    • Sitting area with pull-out sofa bed
    • Private balcony or patio
    • Work desk with computer data port
  • Extended King Room
    • 425 square feet
    • One King bed
    • Sitting area with pull-out sofa bed
    • Work desk with computer data port

For those who want a little more luxury and romance, opt for the Spa Room.

  • Spa Room (spacious bathroom making it perfect for romantic getaways)

    • 550 square feet
    • One King bed
    • Sitting area with pull-out sofa bed
    • Soaking tub
    • Separate shower
    • Private balcony
    • Wet bar

The Deluxe Suite offers a separate bedroom and living space area. And the Luxury Suite offers the same but at a bigger level and mountain lodge décor.

  • Deluxe Suite
    • 650 square feet
    • King bed in bedroom
    • Pull-out queen-size sofa bed in living room
    • Two armoires each with cable flat-screen TV (one in bedroom, one in living room)
    • Coffee table, wet bar and refrigerator
    • Work desk with computer data port
  • Luxury Suite
    • 800 square feet
    • King bed in bedroom
    • Pull-out queen-size sofa bed
    • Two armoires each with cable flat-screen TV
    • Coffee table, wet bar and refrigerator


For large groups traveling together, like multiple families or multi generational families, you’ll love the Tenaya Lodge Cottages.

They are part of a duplex or triplex cottage building nestled into the Sugar Pine and Incense Cedar forest offering a more secluded mountain getaway, but just a short walk from the main lodge.

It feels like a cozy neighborhood, and you still have access to all the lodge amenities.

The duplex (cottage room) or triplex (cottage suits) offer you your own space within a group travel experience.

Your group could rent out the entire cottage, but still have two or three separate sleeping areas. It’s a clever accommodation offering from Tenaya Lodge.

Explorer Cabins

For self-sufficient travelers you will love the new two-bedroom explorer cabins opening July 2019.

There will be a communal Explorer Clubhouse and s’more fire pits.

You can also access everything in the main lodge. They come with a refrigerator and a microwave and a covered porch.

Other Things to Love about Tenaya Lodge Yosemite

Stylish décor with warm, calm ambiance


There was a warm calm ambiance throughout the lodge.

I’ve stayed at many places like this before where the energy has been quite frantic and loud. You didn’t experience that here.

It had a lovely, almost meditative energy.

You almost thought there was no one around, but then at night and in the morning the dining areas were packed and a buzz appeared but it wasn’t too much to annoy you. It was just the perfect amount of happy energy.

You could tell this was a place where special memories were created.

With Yosemite National Park on your doorstep, you had much to talk about over a glass of wine and a delicious meal.

Tours of Yosemite National Park

luxury tour bus with a roll-back roof

If you don’t want to explore Yosemite by yourself, and would feel more comfortable in a small group tour with an expert local guide, Tenaya Lodge offers full-day or half-day Yosemite tours.

There is also a Glacier Point sunset and starry skies tour (seasonally).

If you have only one day, a tour can be an excellent way to make sure you see the highlights.

And you’ll be exploring Yosemite in the comfort of a luxury tour bus with a roll-back roof.

Free laundry

This may not be of interest to some travelers, but it definitely was to us.

Finding places to do our laundry on a long road trip is a weekly task for us.

Having access to the washer and dryers in Tenaya, and for free, was so helpful. And if you’re out doing lots of Yosemite activities, you’d probably need your closed washed at some stage too!

On the day we checked out we were able to do our laundry so we were ready for San Francisco.

Things to Keep In Mind

We know no accommodation is perfect, and we like to include any negatives or challenges we experienced at places we stay.

There really wasn’t much at all. We had a lovely stay and look forward to going back again.

Limited dining options nearby

I didn’t like how there wasn’t many dining options nearby to the resort. The nearest town was a 20-minute drive away.

The food at Jackalope was delicious, but I do however like variety and trying different places to eat while on vacation.

Given it was a resort, the food was a little pricier so eating out would be easier on your wallet. You could eat out while in the Yosemite National Park, or have a picnic, and just eat at the resort once, or on your down days.

The drive into Yosemite

Tunnel View overlook on the drive from Tenaya Lodge to Yosemite Valley

Tenaya Lodge is about an hours drive from Yosemite Valley, but it’s only two miles from the south entrance to the park, and then a few minutes to the Mariposa Grove section of Yosemite.

You can read more about that in our Yosemite travel guide. You definitely don’t want to miss it. It’s also not too far from Wawona which is another village area in Yosemite.

To be clear, I didn’t mind it being that far away from the valley. The drive in and out was beautiful, especially the higher sections covered in now and the spectacular Tunnel View we got toe experience each time we drove back to Tenaya Lodge.

Plus, I use travel time to get work done in the car, so it was super handy for me to get those two hours each day.

driving through snow in May

After seeing Yosemite Lodge in the Valley (another Yosemite accommodation option we were considering) I was so glad we decided to stay an extra two nights at Tenaya, despite the commute in.

Yosemite Lodge has the location in Yosemite Valley, but the rooms didn’t look that great (this is after only seeing the outside and small glimpses through the opened doors).

They were motel style buildings so had no central inside space.

What I didn’t like about the idea of staying in the Valley was it was way too busy.

People were everywhere and there wasn’t that warm relaxed, communal gathering feel that I loved so much about Tenaya.

Noise in room

There was this strange tapping/knocking noise in our room, near the bathroom walls, which was quite noticeable during the still of the night, which we reported to the front desk.

We don’t know if it was because there was so much rain and something was continually dripping, or it was a pipe vibrating, or what?

I’m a pretty heavy sleeper so it didn’t bother me too much, but it annoyed Craig and Kalyra. I’m sure we just had a bad pipe or something.

Our things to do in Yosemite National Park with kids video:

Directions to Tenaya Lodge

Above is a map of Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite Fish Camp CA.

Tenaya Lodge is located 2 miles from the South Gate Entrance to Yosemite NP in the town of Fish Camp. And 207 miles southeast of San Francisco.

The address is: 1122 CA-41, Fish Camp, CA 93623

How far is Tenaya Lodge from Yosemite Valley?

To drive from Tenaya Lodge to Yosemite Village takes approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.

What elevation is Tenaya Lodge?

5,288 feet in elevation, above the heat of the Central Valley.

Getting to Tenaya Lodge

Driving times:

San Francisco Airport to Tenaya Lodge:

  • Distance: 208 miles
  • Time: approx 4.5 hours

Los Angeles to Tenaya Lodge:

  • Distance: 277 miles
  • Time: approx 5 hours

Las Vegas to Tenaya Lodge (via Bakersfiled):

  • Distance: 455 miles
  • Time: approx 8.5 hours

Book Your Stay at Tenaya

In writing this Tenaya Lodge reviews post, I think Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite can give you a better, more memorable Yosemite family vacation experience.

Staying in Yosemite Valley would be purely for the location.

But staying at Tenaya Lodge Fish Camp was a highlight of our Yosemite trip.

Book your stay and read more Tenaya Lodge reviews at Booking.com, our accommodation partner.

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Tenaya Lodge hosted us for two nights, and we paid for two additional nights. We chose to write this post because we loved it and feel it is one of the best places to stay near Yosemite. We were under no obligation! 

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