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Heading to Bass Lake and the Yosemite Valley area? This is a complete guide to what do with your family during your trip!
The Madera County and Yosemite area is filled with magical experiences, stunning scenes, and is perfect for family vacations that create unique memories. We just returned from a family trip to the area, and loved calling Bass Lake our home base for our 4 day, 3 night family vacation. Bass Lake and Madera County are located at the southern entrance to Yosemite National Park, and have a ton of great activities for each season. We visited in early Spring, and loved the fact that the weather was warm enough for kayaking, hiking and exploring comfortably. Bass Lake is about a six hour drive from our home in San Diego, and was do-able in a day!
Bass Lake: A Family Travel Guide
Looking for a go back in time, get off the electronics and get outdoors vacation? So were we. Bass Lake is an idyllic area surrounding the lake itself (which is warm enough for swimming and water sports in the summer). It's home to amazing small businesses, killer spots to eat and drink and is the perfect place to get away from it all. It's a short drive to Yosemite (about 17 miles to the Yosemite gate and about 77 miles to the Yosemite main tourist areas) and is a great home base for family vacations in the area.
Where to Stay:
We stayed at The Pines resort, and absolutely loved it. Our 2 Queen Bed Chalet was walking distance to the lake access on property and Ducey's on the Lake (highly recommend their amazing breakfast, Lydia loved the rice crispies french toast). The chalets are two level duplexes. Ours had a full kitchen, and a porch with a bbq. The resort has a TON of activities on property including a pool area, tons of space to walk around and explore and the entire Pines Village for shopping and food. If you're looking for a family friendly, laid back resort…..I highly recommend it!
Where to Eat and Drink in the Bass Lake area:
I don't know if it was that fresh mountain air or all the activities we did…..but we showed up to every meal in Bass Lake READY TO EAT. Luckily, the area did not disappoint, and we found some amazing spots!
Fasi Estate Winery (42415 Road 208, Friant, CA 93626): We stopped by the Fasi Estate Winery on the way into Bass Lake and it was the perfect kick off to our trip. They have a great set up for outdoor wine tasting and a ton of space for kids to play and stretch their legs after a long drive.
Ducey's on the Lake: Ducey's on the Lake is located on property at the Pines Resort and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We did both dinner and breakfast and I'm going to say…….this is a DON'T miss breakfast location. They serve amazing omelettes, pancakes and french toast with a side of impeccable customer service.
Miller's Landing: We visited Miller's Landing to kayak during our first morning at Bass Lake, and after a couple hours on the water, we headed up the dock for lunch. Now, we'd been warned that locals place their votes for the best burger on the lake…..between Miller's Landing and the Forks Resort. We tried the burger (obviously), the tacos, cold brew coffee, and unicorn milkshake. The food was AMAZING, I'm going to argue that the milkshake is a must try. My cold brew was stellar, and this got Robbie's vote for best burger. They're got a great patio area for eating, and the prices are stellar!
Forks Resort: After an afternoon of exploring, we made our way to the Forks Resort to try their burger. We had to complete the competition right? The Forks Resort has a great outdoor patio area, and we were lucky enough to not have to wait for a table. They were written up in the New Yorker a few years ago as a don't miss burger, so I was worried there would be a wait. I'd plan for one, because I'm sure in the busier months this is a super popular stop! The verdict? We all tried the burgers and this got both mine and Lydia's vote for the best burger in Bass Lake (Lydia actually asked to order a SECOND BURGER). Another don't miss item? The ice cream cake is DIVINE!
South Gate Brewing Company: After a long day hiking through Yosemite National Park, we headed back to the Bass Lake area……and decided to stop at the South Gate Brewing Company. There was a bit of a wait, but I promise, it is 100% worth it. They've got a great outdoor dining area and a stellar menu. Robbie tried their IPA, we shared the fried pickles (put them on your must eat list), and we loved the entrees (highly suggest the shrimp tacos and fried chicken). If you're a gastropub lover, this is a must visit while in the area.
What to Do:
Bass Lake and the Yosemite area are perfect for outdoor activities, and really getting a chance to unplug. We spent long days in the sun, and soaked up every moment in the fresh mountain air.
Hiking and Outdoor Activities:
Kayak Rentals: If you're staying in Bass Lake, kayaking around the lake is a MUST DO. We rented kayaks at Miller's Landing (they're $20 an hour) and spent about two hours on the water. It was peaceful, and a great way to see the wildlife around the lake (we saw TONS of birds).
Yosemite National Park: A visit to Yosemite could easily be a day or two on it's own. The main part of the park is about a 90 minute drive from the Pines Resort. We arrived at the park around 10:30 and stayed until 5. This was a perfect amount of time to explore, hike, picnic and soak in the stunning scenery.
A Few Yosemite Tips:
park at the Chapel, it's right in the middle of the valley floor
the lower Yosemite Falls hike is GREAT for kids, easy and fun, and provides an AMAZING view at the top
picnics can be done anywhere, we simply walked off the trail and ate on a couple logs…….
don't forget to leave time for a viewing of Half Dome and El Capitan
restrooms are far apart, so highly suggest stopping when you see them
Local Historical Sites:
Lately we've been trying to visit local historical sites on trips, and it really adds a new dimension to family trips.
Fresno Flats: The Fresno Flats museum in Oakhurst is a totally unique opportunity to explore the Bass Lake and Madera County of days past. This property has a number of structures from around the area that were moved there to serve as a museum. From homes to a school house to even a jail, you get an amazing sense of how much things have changed. Lydia loved exploring and even got to ring the bell in the one room school house!
Wassuma Round House: The Wassuma Round House in Ahwahnee is an amazing opportunity to learn about the Native Land we stand on in California. This state historic park is still in use by the local Tribe as a ceremonial meeting place and is absolutely beautiful.
Fun Family Activities in the Bass Lake area:
Yosemite Axe Throwing: Yes, we tried axe throwing. I have to admit, I was a little nervous at first, but it was SO MUCH FUN! This locally owned business has both indoor and outdoor areas, and is perfect for an outside the box family activity.
Wondering what to pack for Yosemite and Bass Lake? We wrote a complete guide for what to pack during a trip to Yosemite in April and the Spring!
Have you visited the Bass Lake and Yosemite Area? What were YOUR favorite activities?