Yosemite NP: Lembert Dome

Lembert Dome

Visitors on a quick trip to Yosemite National Park often miss out on the beauty along Tioga Road (Hwy 120 through the park). Lembert Dome is one of many lesser known domes (compared to Half Dome) but SO much fun for a quick hike up!

Why we love it: Depending on your mood, you can either do a 2.8 mile full loop around the dome clockwise from the Lembert Dome parking area, or you can take a shorter (but steeper) direct path from the Dog Lake parking lot. You can also choose to do the full loop and add Dog Lake for a four-mile hike.

For the Young Ones (0-10): Our kiddo was technically nine years-old on this trail, and as an experienced hiker he was winded going up the steep path from the Dog Lake parking lot (you’re at 8k feet!). We didn’t risk going to the tippy top of the dome, but he still really enjoyed the views up top and it wasn’t too challenging overall. I wouldn’t take anyone under age of seven or eight, and would only take any kids if they’re experienced hikers and aren’t daredevils.

L on LembertFor the Big Kids (10+): For the big kids this is is short hike with great views as a reward. We enjoyed a picnic up top and, if you’re more daring than we are, the young adults may enjoy an attempt to get to the very top. We were on the dome by ourselves, so it may be possible there’s a safe route – I just didn’t see it and didn’t want to chance it. Everyone on the dome should have shoes with grip or hang back where my son is in this photo.

Keep in Mind:

  • It’s windy and exposed up top – be prepared and do NOT attempt during thunderstorms!
  • Use the food lockers in the parking lot for any food you’re not taking with you. It’d be a shame to get back to your vehicle with a bear enjoying a meal inside.
  • Tuolumne Meadows hiking map: Print or take a screenshot of this map! The one they hand you at the entrance isn’t detailed enough to help you understand where you need to look for the parking turnoffs. If you’re going the posted speed limit, you should see the Lembert Dome parking lot easily on your left. Not too far past it, there’s a road that goes down to your right for the Dog Lake parking.
  • Tioga Road closes for snow and ice – make sure to check conditions before you head out!

Around the Area: We loved starting our day on this hike and then hitting up nearby Soda Springs, Tuolumne Meadows, and Tenaya Lake!

Difficulty Level: Moderate.

Lembert from top

Yosemite NP: Taft Point

IMG_5065Why we love it: Pretty much anywhere in Yosemite you’ll get amazing views. We loved this hike because it was short enough (2.2 miles RT) to get a cool new experience (the wind draft up at the point and those crazy fissures!) and only required one snack break for the kiddos each way!

For the Young Ones (0-10): Our two year-old was able to easily navigate the trail from the trailhead until the final approach to Taft Point. You’ll know when you’ve reached it when you can see out towards the point and the trail begins to require you to hike down around boulders. For those too young to understand the dangers of cliffs and fissures, please put them up in backpacks, have adults alternate staying back with them, or do not attempt this hike.


For the Big Kids (10+): Talk about an easily earned view! The area around Taft Point is IMG_5036plenty big enough to stay back and feel safe from the fissures (our 9 year-old wasn’t interested in getting close at. all.) and still daring enough to take a peek down at them for those who won’t try to show off near the perilous edges. It was also cool to see what I think were black crows (I know, I need to study up. For bird lovers – check out this Yosemite Bird Checklist!) gliding on the gusts of wind coming up the point.

Keep in Mind:

  • Glacier Point Road, which is the only way to access this hike, isn’t open all months of the year. It’s generally open Late May – Early November.
  • The Fissures are VERY dangerous (there are no railings), and just like the edges of any cliff, proceed with extreme caution and keep those kids back.
  • What’s probably the most seen photo op on a ledge is a huge risk. People die in Yosemite EVERY summer trying to get photos. PLEASE don’t think you’re an exception. There are plenty of other amazing shots to get without risking your life.
  • While much of the trail is shaded, sunscreen is strongly recommended. Taft Point itself is mostly exposed.
  • Parking fills up fast, so be prepared to park at one of the areas along Glacier Point Road before or after the trailhead.
  • Due to COVID-19, reservations for day use are currently required and you will want to be courteous and wear a mask when unable to stay beyond six feet of others.

Around the Area: We took on this hike after doing the incredibly popular (and must-see!)

Glacier Point, which gets busy and stays busy all day. Best to knock it out first, before hiking.

Difficulty Level: Beginner.

Glacier Point

Getting back into the swing of things…

Essentially, I’ve been including some trail information on Instagram posts (sometimes also posting those to Facebook), but my goal is to get back to posting more information here, for easier reference. With everything going on in the world, I just haven’t made the time to do so. If you follow the blog but haven’t checked out Family Trail Time on Facebook or Instagram, please do! I’m still sharing interesting articles on Facebook, and our outdoor adventures on Instagram. When I can, I plan to start posting here again soon, too!

Welcome to 2020!

The end of 2019 was tough really hard devastating. Our sweet five year-old, Grayson, was admitted to the hospital on November 17, 2019 and passed away on December 7, 2019. He was diagnosed with the terminal illness of Infantile Tay-Sachs disease at 14 months old and the journey was the absolute juxtaposition of excruciatingly painful (watching him lose every ability) and gloriously beautiful (generosity of others). We are extremely thankful for the kind hearts and helpful hands who carried our entire family for so long. We now try to find our “new normal” with and for our other two children (ages nine and one) and the outdoors will continue to be a fundamental key to our perseverance and healing.

Right now I’m posting to the Facebook page and Instagram page, but I haven’t yet decided if/how I will come back to blogging about hikes. If you follow Family Trail Time on either of those platforms, you’ll be able to see what we’re up to in nature right now.

Also, we’d love to have you join us in supporting the Cure Tay-Sachs Foundation through our annual Take A Hike Tay-Sachs virtual 5k. I hope this will become Grayson’s legacy as we work to find a cure for this cruel disease. Please see my blog page Take A Hike Tay-Sachs for more information.

2019 Take A Hike Tay-Sachs Virtual 5k

50048291_2110292622361954_2310588037542707200_oPlease join us by registering January 15-March 31 for this year’s Take A Hike Tay-Sachs Virtual 5k, benefitting the Cure Tay-Sachs Foundation! Hike, walk, or run anywhere and anytime in the month of March! Receive a t-shirt, one-of-a-kind finisher’s metal, and the knowledge that you’re helping us get one step closer to a cure!

Register here: https://raceroster.com/21436

Thank you to this year’s sponsors!


A Time of Transition

When people began to frequently ask me about hiking trails I’d suggest, I started this blog to help other families get out in nature in Northern California. It was a win/win – they could see photos, my description, etc. and could refer back to it and share with friends. For me, it was something fun I could throw myself into and a way to help others, especially since the start of the blog (2015) coincided with our search for a diagnosis for our second child, and I was starting to rely on others to help us.

Today my baby bonding time with our third child ends and tomorrow I return to my full-time job as an attorney, something I really enjoy. However, we are now juggling three children, including one who has lived beyond the life expectancy of age three (he’s 4 1/2 on 9/18) and is very medically fragile. We were just in the hospital with him this week. The baby is doing well and finally took a bottle today. Our oldest kiddo is knocking it outta the park at school but really needs special time with his parents, too. These past few years have really taken a toll and I’m working to purge and simplify where I can…and that leads me to the point of the blog post.

Our family will always enjoy time on the trails together, but keeping up the blog is now something that’s on my “to do” list, and I feel the weight of getting behind on entries. I don’t want to necessarily step away from it forever, but during this time of transition I need it off of my list of things I need to do. I’ve never earned one cent from keeping it up and it’s truly something that gives me joy, so I’ve thought a while about how to proceed from here. I’ve decided to maintain both the Facebook page and Instagram account for Family Trail Time, and lead hikes as I feel up to it (see “Events” on the FB page – Take Your Daughter On A Hike Day will happen in October, I just haven’t posted it yet!). I’ll post details and helpful hints for each hike on the Instagram posts, but there will be no correlating blog post.

I hope you still find the blog entries helpful in finding places to get your family out hiking, and I hope you’ll still continue to follow on Facebook and Instagram. Until there’s a better time, this is Felicia, signing off of the blog.

Happy Trails!

Mather Lake Nature Trails


Mather Regional Park is the park you just haven’t been to yet! Go east on Hwy. 50, exit Zinfandel in Rancho Cordova, and head south. You’ll see the entrance on your left just after you pass Douglas Road.

According to AllTrails, there are two loops, but based on my experience it’s more like two out-and-back trails. Both are easy, short, and have access to the water.

  • Trail with the lake on your left: If you cross over the little bridge/dam with the lake on your left, you start on a paved trail and then turn off onto a dirt path alongside the lake. When we were there, there were several families fishing along this part of the trail. You can continue for about 1/2 a mile before the trail seems to disappear into the brush, so approx. 1 mile total. If I wasn’t baby wearing and had pants on, I may have pushed on but wouldn’t suggest this with the family.
  • Trail with the lake on your right: The trail follows alongside the lake on a path past some picnic tables before turning away from the lake. Along the way there are educational signs until the trail dead ends at a busy street. I saw more wildlife along this way, including a rabbit, lizards, different kinds of birds, and lots of lizards! This trail is about 1/3 mile each way, so less than a mile total.

Why we love it: This is one of those parks that’s great if you’re just starting to introduce the family to hiking. Plus, it’s minutes from restaurants and activities in Rancho Cordova!(It’s just about three miles from Sacramento Children’s Museum!) I think our family would enjoy coming in the morning to fish – they stock the pond, so that may make it a bit easier!

For the Young Ones (0-10): There’s a playground and picnic tables, so you could have IMG_7582hours of exploration and play.

For the Big Kids (10+): I think bigger kids would enjoy fishing and may enjoy just getting out in nature. I wouldn’t tell big kids that they’re going on a hike. My seven year-old would consider this a “nature walk”.

Keep in Mind:

  • There is a $5 day use fee for each vehicle.
  • When I was there a whole flock of geese were gathered between the lake and the playground and there was bird poo EVERYWHERE. Maybe don’t let the little ones sit in the grass…
  • Most of the park is pretty exposed, so have your sun protection for everyone.


Around the Area: All the places you’d go to in Rancho Cordova south of Hwy. 50 are no more than ten minutes away! Restaurants and the children’s museum are what come to mind for me.

Difficulty Level: Beginner


American River Discovery Trail

IMG_6650This short 1/4 mile trail is located at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery, just east of Sacramento in Gold River, California. The best time to come is in the fall, when the salmon are jumping up the ladder at the hatchery, but we had a nice visit smack in the middle of summer.

Why we love it: The trail itself isn’t much, but it’s a nice stroll along the river with some educational signs. Honestly, I’d only do this trail if I’m already at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery for the Visitor Center and to see fish. While the signs say it’s a loop, we took it to be an out-and-back trail because at a certain point it seems like it might narrowly head away from the river and through thick brush. We turned around and, while I forgot to track the distance, it’s at most it’s a 1/2 mile total this way.

For the Young Ones (0-10): If your little one can walk, they can do this easy trail. It’s all exposed, so sun protection is key. Add it on to exploring the Visitor Center and feeding the fish (we fed trout!), and you have a lovely little outing!

For the Big Kids (10+): Big kids might find the Visitor Center briefly entertaining and enjoy feeding the fish. For more of a challenging trail, the American River Parkway trail is immediately adjacent to the parking lot. We didn’t get on the trail and I don’t know IMG_6678much in terms of safety of the trail, but we did see a handful of cyclists going along the trail. Since it’s a really long trail, you can make your hike as short or as long as you’d like!

Keep in Mind: Essentially, just keep in mind that the path is exposed, so you will want sun protection.

Around the Area: The Sacramento State Aquatic Center is close by, so you can always plan to go down to the water after your time at the hatchery!

Difficulty Level: Beginner.

Calaveras Big Trees SP – North Grove


Calaveras Big Trees State Park became a state park back in 1931 in order to preserve the North Grove. On Saturdays at 1pm the park offers a free guided hike of the grove from the Visitor Center! Take the guided hike or explore on your own, like we did!

Why we love it: Our family has seen lots of giant sequoia trees along the coast, from Muir Woods up through Avenue of the Giants, so it was nice to head a different direction with way less traffic! At less than two hours from home, it’s a lovely getaway and lots of families enjoy camping at the state park.

For the Young Ones (0-10): It’s an easy and relatively short loop. At less than two miles, the park totes the North Grove Big Tree trail as stroller-friendly (though not after rain) and there are a couple of places children can easily walk through fallen trees (one even has a handrail!).

For the Big Kids (10+): At the beginning of the loop or in the Visitor Center, you can purchase a pamphlet for 50 cents that explains each of the 26 numbered markers along your way, providing detail on what you’ll see in the area. They may also like the five mile South Grove hiking trail.


Keep In Mind:

  • Sunscreen and insect repellant are a good idea for this trail. We saw mosquitos in the parking lot, so put on Bug Protector (I’m a brand ambassador) and we were fine.
  • The parking lot fills up fast on a Saturday! When we got back to our car mid-day there were zero parking spaces!
  • While it’s a popular trail, it’s always a good idea to have proper footwear. I cringed seeing flip flops and Crocs. Sneakers work great!
  • There’s a $12 entrance fee to the park for day use.
  • There are lots of little things for little hands to want you to buy in the Visitor Center. From the parking lot, you must go through the bookstore area to get to the museum.
  • The famous Pioneer Cabin Tree/Tunnel Tree fell in January 2017, but you can see what remains after it fell.
  • Out of curiosity, we took the Grove Overlook Trail off of the North Grove loop (around marker 2 – it drops you back on the loop around marker 14) and were the only ones on the much quieter trail. About 1/2 way down the trail, however, we came across a rattlesnake and turned ourselves around, back to where we left the North Grove loop. Read this link for helpful information on rattlesnakes in California.

Around the Area: Just outside of the park in Arnold, Giant Burger is known for their shakes. With nearly 20 flavors to choose from, you can have your pick from pumpkin pie to boysenberry! At only $4.25, one is large enough to split!

Difficulty Level: Beginner.