Yosemite Optional Program Additions

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Arrival Day Instruction

Due to relatively long travel times to Yosemite, our standard arrival time is between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m. Small group instruction in the field then begins the day after your arrival. For groups wishing to arrive in Yosemite in the morning or early afternoon, we can arrange for small group instruction on your arrival day. A half-day of instruction on arrival day can begin as early as noon. A full day of instruction can begin as early as 9:00 a.m. A field lunch is included with arrival day instruction.

Day Trips

You are welcome to add day trips to places such as a giant sequoia grove, Tuolumne Meadows, or Glacier Point, depending on the time of year. NatureBridge will either charge you for the cost of bus transportation or you may choose to use your own vehicles.

Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing

NatureBridge educators can teach your participants to cross-country ski as part of your program. Ski and snowshoe season generally runs from January through March, depending on snow levels. If you are staying at our Crane Flat campus, skis and snowshoes are available for loan at no additional charge; please let us know in advance if you are interested. If you are staying in Yosemite Valley at Half Dome Village, a public shuttle is available for transportation to Yosemite’s Badger Pass ski area (the shuttle picks up at 8 a.m. and leaves Badger Pass at 2 p.m.) The cost of ski or snowshoe rental is added to your invoice and you are responsible to cover rental fees for your participants and NatureBridge educators. Due to the limited amount of equipment available, we may need to split your group among multiple days. Downhill skiing is not a part of NatureBridge programming.

Ice Skating

Half Dome Village maintains an open air ice skating rink. NatureBridge does not oversee the ice skating rink, but our operations team can help you schedule an afternoon or evening session with the rink. Participants will pay for ice skating directly to the rink on arrival.

Additional Educators

Learning groups are typically composed of 14 students with 1 NatureBridge educator and 1 adult chaperone from your school. You may have the option of adding additional educators to reduce your trail group size, depending on educator availability. This additional cost is assessed per educator, per day.

Historic Merced Grove Cabin

NatureBridge offers one- to two-night visits to a historic cabin located in the Merced Grove of giant sequoias. The cabin is rustic, with no running water or electricity, and wood-powered stoves for heat. Students hike in a mile and a half to the cabin, carrying their overnight items with them. They sleep on backpacking mattresses provided by NatureBridge.

This one-of-a-kind cabin experience is available only to NatureBridge students, and has become a time-honored tradition for many of our long-standing schools. Students rave about the opportunity to live like Yosemite’s early Euro-American pioneers and get off-the-grid for a night or two.

Groups in sixth grade or younger must have two chaperones per group going to the cabin.

Groups that are interested in a Merced Grove cabin overnight experience should discuss availability of this special program type with the NatureBridge reservations coordinator prior to securing dates.

Backpacking in Yosemite Wilderness

NatureBridge offers unique opportunities for students to study the natural environment in Yosemite’s vast Wilderness on two- to four-night backpacking expeditions. NatureBridge educators will teach students backpacking skills, as well as NatureBridge’s usual suite of environmental science programming.  

Physical requirements and minimum age

Participants who take part in a backpacking experience should be prepared to hike 5–10 miles with a 30–40 pound backpack at elevations of up to 10,000 feet.  Students must be in sixth grade or older for backpacking experiences.  

Packing List

There is a specific packing list for backpacking programs (look for the backpacking equipment list on the Information for Students and Families section of the Plan Your Program page of our website). NatureBridge has very limited gear to loan. Group coordinators should work with the operations manager to determine what gear might be available to loan to participants in need.

Evacuation Support Chaperone Responsibilities

Backpacking groups are also required to have chaperone support in case of participant evacuation due to behavioral or health concerns. Typically, this person stays in NatureBridge lodging in the park while the group is backpacking. They need to have access to a cellular phone and vehicle to assist with communication and transportation as necessary. The specific responsibilities of the Evacuation Chaperone are outlined in this printable Evacuation Support Responsibilities document.

Group Size Requirements

Due to Yosemite Wilderness permit limitations, backpacking groups are limited to 13 participants each (12 students and one adult chaperone or 11 students and two adult chaperones, plus two NatureBridge educators).  

Routes

Backpacking routes are generally planned many months in advance based on typical seasonal conditions and wilderness permit availability. Groups may request certain routes, but these are subject to change depending on weather conditions, road closures, permit availability, and feasibility.  

Additional Fees

The rate for backpacking programs is higher than the rate for our standard residential programs because two NatureBridge staff members are required to lead each learning group. Additional fees for transportation to wilderness trailheads, snowshoe rental, etc. may apply.

Groups that are interested in a backpacking experience should discuss availability of this special program type with the NatureBridge reservations coordinator prior to securing dates.