Tenaya Lodge Review: Fun Family-Friendly Resort near Yosemite

Kim Orlando Avatar
Exteriors of Explorer Cabins at Tenaya Lodge (reviews).
Explorer Cabins at Tenaya. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

The writer was hosted.

Picturesque Tenaya Lodge in Fish Camp, California, is surrounded by 75 acres of nature and the Sierra National Forest, just 2 miles outside of the south entrance of Yosemite National Park and only minutes from the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.  

There are three lodging options at Tenaya Lodge: cabins, cottages and hotel-style rooms at the main lodge. Tenaya Lodge has friendly staff with golf carts to shuttle guests around from the lodge to the cabins to the cottages.

Read More: Best Hotels Near Yosemite for Families

Living room of an Explorer Cabin at Tenaya Lodge (reviews).
Living room in a Tenaya Lodge Explorer Cabin. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

Tenaya Lodge Explorer Cabins

The Explorer cabins opened in 2019 and are a short walk from the main lodge. There are 50 to choose from, all family-friendly, and with the exception of a few that have kid-friendly bunk beds in one of the bedrooms, they have the same layout: two bedrooms, one full bath, kitchen/living room combo with fireplace, firepit in the front and porch on the front, back or both.

The kitchen comes fully stocked with dishes and cooking utensils.

In addition to your own personal fire pit, there are several gigantic fire pits surrounded by Adirondack chairs to relax near.

Plus, my cabin came with a walking stick and binoculars.

The back porch of my cabin overlooked the river and the woods. It was my favorite spot to begin and end my day. The free wifi was recently upgraded and was powerful enough for me to work remotely. These cabins are in high demand, so book early.

Interior of a Cottage at Tenaya Lodge (reviews).
Interior of a Tenaya Cottage. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

Tenaya Lodge Cottages

This section of Tenaya is located between the lodge and the cabins. It looks like a suburban neighborhood and it’s populated by 53 duplexes and triplexes. Renovated in 2017, there are one and two-bedroom options and each unit includes a full bathroom and fireplace.

The Timberloft Pizzeria is closest to the cottages.

View of a room at the Main Lodge at Tenaya Lodge (reviews).
Room at the Main Tenaya Lodge. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

Main Tenaya Lodge

The Tenaya Lodge lobby is gigantic – ranch style, like something from the TV show, Yellowstone, but it was being renovated during my visit so the front desk was in a conference room and other areas were closed off. The gift shop was open and well-stocked with Yosemite souvenirs.

There are several deluxe room styles and configurations at Tenaya Lodge, including 26 suites. All rooms were updated in 2018 with a modern, western theme and native accents.

The queen room I toured was spacious, with two queen beds, desk, TV and large bathroom.

Kid enjoying skee ball in the game room at Tenaya Lodge (reviews).
Tenaya Lodge Game Room. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

Tenaya Lodge Amenities

  • Outdoor pool + hot tub
  • Indoor pool + hot tub
  • Kids’ splash pad at the outdoor pool area
  • S’mores kit
  • BBQ/cookout hub
  • Game room
  • Dive-in movie night at the indoor swimming pool. Takeaway food allowed.
  • $30 resort fee: includes parking, wifi (for all lodging options), access to the steam and sauna in Ascent Spa and complimentary mountain bike rentals or snowshoe rentals, depending on the season.
  • 8 Tesla Superchargers and 2 “Level 2” charging stations
  • Ascent Spa and fitness center
  • Events: The lodge offers several free on-site events and outdoor activities for guests like a morning nature walk and evening telescopes, and additional activities such as gold panning and archery lessons for a fee. Pick up a schedule at check-in and make reservations with the concierge.  
Giant tree seen on Yosemite 360 tour while staying at Tenaya Lodge (reviews).
Giant tree on Yosemite 360 tour. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

Yosemite 360 Tours

Yosemite 360 tours can be reserved through Tenaya Lodge. The tours run daily and pick up guests in front of the lobby.

I was booked on the all-day Yosemite Valley Summer Tour which includes a visit to all the biggies: Tunnel View, Bridalveil Fall, Half Dome, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls and Valley View.

View of El Capitan while staying at Tenaya Lodge (reviews).
El Capitan view. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

I normally like to jump right in to get to know a destination; touring Yosemite on a bus sounded a little flat to me. I changed my mind as soon as I met our driver. He provided historic information, the best photo spots and personal experiences, infused with humor, making the day fun. He also brought along a telescope so we could look for climbers on El Capitan.

We had plenty of time to explore on our own as well. I learned that I really liked not having to navigate and drive from spot to spot.

Buckshot Rambo Maier, a cowboy met on 360 tour at Yosemite National Park near Tenaya Lodge (reviews).
A true cowboy: Buckshot Rambo Maier. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

Another character I met on the tour is Buckshot Rambo Maier, a cowboy and keeper of the stagecoaches in Yosemite History Center (formerly known as Pioneer Village).

Like the stagecoaches, Buckshot has a long history at Yosemite National Park, working there in various capacities for 50 years. And he’s proud of it. He’s friendly and has loads of stories to share. These days he runs the stagecoach rides at Yosemite History Center.

Read More: When is the Best Time to Visit Yosemite?

Lobby at Tenaya Lodge (reviews).
Tenaya Lodge lobby. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

Food Options at Tenaya Lodge

The on-site restaurant, Jackalope’s Bar and Grill (formerly Sierra Restaurant), serves a buffet-style breakfast and a full dinner menu. Seating is available inside around a huge double fireplace or on the glassed-in deck.

Buffet breakfast includes eggs, pastries, breakfast meats, fruit and oatmeal. The salmon I ordered at dinner was a bit salty for my taste but the locally made carrot cake was amazing.

Parkside Deli

The 360 Tour I booked included lunch from Parkside Deli, the coffee shop/deli in the lobby at Tenaya Lodge. I highly recommend the delicious vegetarian wrap with chickpeas, goat cheese and roasted veggies. It was hearty and delicious.

The grocery store just down the road from Tenaya Explorer cabins (walking distance) carries snacks and camping essentials and serves store-made deli sandwiches. It also serves my #1 sandwich: IT’S. Weirdest name for ice cream but man, is it GOOD! Back in 1928, in San Francisco, George Whitney placed a scoop of vanilla ice cream in-between two fresh-baked oatmeal cookies and then dipped it in dark chocolate. The rest is delicious history.

Room Service with a full menu is available for the lodge but not for the cabins or cottages.

Timberloft Pizzeria

The pizzeria is seasonal and is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Pizza is takeaway only. Online, I found wide-ranging mixed guest reviews but for pizza lovers and kids, is there really such a thing as a bad pizza?

Gold Rush BBQ

Picnic-style dinner buffet, available seasonally, which usually begins mid-May. Hours vary, so check online. Live DJ on Saturdays through the summer. Play corn hole, roping and other lawn games The menu is picnicky stuff – hot dogs, burgers, corn on the cob, apple cobbler.

Tenaya Lodge is Pet-Friendly

Pets are welcomed with homemade treats and fluffy pet beds. Pets are allowed at outdoor dining areas and pet-sitting or kennel services are available. A pet cleaning fee adds $100 to the stay.

Firepit outside the Explorer Cabins at Tenaya Lodge (reviews).
Tenaya Explorer Cabin firepit. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

Tenaya Lodge Activities

There are plenty of things to do at Tenaya Lodge, too:

  • Learn archery.
  • Swim or hang out in the indoor and outdoor pools and hot tubs.
  • Book a hike or a tour of Yosemite
  • Relax in the steam room or sauna at Ascent Spa (included with resort fee)
  • Reserve a mountain bike (included in resort fee)
  • Make s’mores at one of the many fire pits with the free kit you receive upon check-in.
  • Get a massage or facial at the LEED Silver Certified Ascent Spa
2023 Chevy Equinox parked at Tenaya Lodge, near Yosemite.
The 2023 Chevy Equinox helped me travel more responsibly on my solo hiking trip to Yosemite and Mariposa. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

Responsible Road-Tripping

Road-tripping is an incredible opportunity to embrace responsible travel and leave a positive impact on the environment and the communities along the way. While responsible road-tripping can include sustainable travel elements like reducing your carbon footprint by driving an electric vehicle, even if an electric vehicle is not in your garage there are many other ways to travel responsibly. Responsible travel is about conscious choices that minimize the negative impacts of travel. Choosing local hotels and services, and engaging locals in conversation contribute to a positive travel experience.

If you’re not driving electric, choosing a vehicle that offers safety features to assist in courteous driving is a solid alternative. For example, Chevy loaned me a 2023 Chevy Equinox for my first solo hiking trip to Mariposa and Yosemite, CA. It was not electric, so instead I looked for other ways to contribute to responsible travel.

The Equinox is loaded with safety features like lane keep assist, following distance alert and adaptive cruise, warning me if I needed to give other drivers more room on the highway. I especially appreciated the assist while traveling alone. Intelligent stop/start shuts off the engine when power isn’t needed (like at a stoplight), which saves fuel and power. The engine starts back up once driving resumes.

Beyond safety features, I looked at ways that GM, Chevy’s parent company, engages local communities and found that their Ultium cell battery plant in Tennessee is committed to replanting local vegetation around the site perimeter and they sponsor youth sports across the US.

Also, GM’s Sustainable Workplaces teams and interior designers repurpose local oak, cherry, hackberry and beech trees displaced by construction. They enlist a local Tennessee small business Good Wood to design unique furniture pieces and wall treatments from the reclaimed wood to be used in common spaces in the new Ultium plant.

General Motors Commitment: Our Plan to Protect the Environment | General Motors (gm.com)

Kim Orlando, founder of SheBuysTravel, is a lifelong traveler, an entrepreneur and a sought-after social media and marketing consultant. She has made hundreds of appearances on TV and in digital and print media, sharing advice and tips built on decades of travel experiences. Hailing from the hills of Kentucky and taking her story to New York, Los Angeles, and beyond, Kim built an online platform, the original TravelingMom, that has reached millions of moms and empowered them to explore the world with their families. Today, TravelingMom has evolved into SheBuysTravel. Kim has been featured on “News Nation,” “Today,” “Good Morning America” and on numerous satellite media tours. She has contributed travel guidance to outlets including The Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, Forbes, the Wall Street Journal and more. (Read more about Kim’s media appearances here) Her travel mantra is simple: All travel counts. “You don’t have to go far. Leaving your home is travel,” Kim says. “Wherever you go, even just to the next town over, you can learn something new, see someone and something you haven’t seen before. “It’s good for the brain and good for the soul.” An epiphany in early parenthood started Kim on the journey that led to SheBuysTravel. She’d been a fan of a newsletter for women travelers, and she saw an opportunity. “I thought something like that for moms could be extraordinarily helpful,” she said. “I was traveling for work, traveling for fun, and I was looking for support.” That seed grew into the award-winning website TravelingMom, created as a resource for traveling families of all stripes. Today, TravelingMom has evolved into SheBuysTravel, with an expanded mission to serve women travelers at any stage of life. Millions of readers have visited the site for trip planning help, travel secrets, destination information and gear recommendations. What sets SheBuysTravel’s content apart, Kim says, is its foundation in real-world experience. “Our writers and editors have actually gone out there and done this stuff,” she says. “They’ve booked the flights, tried the tour, tested travel clothing, visited that new hot spot to see if it’s worth the hype. It’s all real.” Memorable Adventures A 2022 tour Kim guided to Bhutan was a particularly standout experience. “Bhutan sounds so exotic, of course,” she said. “But the part where my heart just glows and warms is thinking of the people we met – amazing women doing amazing things in Bhutan.” Their ranks included a former police officer whose ventures into food science helped mitigate food insecurity for residents of Bhutan’s highlands. Top Tips Planning for travel can be daunting, Kim acknowledges. “I always say: Go anyway. No trip is going to be perfect. There’s always going to be something you didn’t expect, something that doesn’t go the way you pictured or planned it. And that something is what’s going to make it a great trip.” And on a practical note: “Go early! Getting to the airport or hitting the road just an hour earlier relieves so much stress.” Kim’s Background Kim, a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management, holds degrees in finance and entrepreneurship and has deep experience in developing and running businesses. Her previous work includes developing and running communications workshops and overseeing document management for corporations. SheBuysTravel hits a sweet spot where Kim’s two loves of travel and entrepreneurship meet. “The longer I work in this field, I only want to do more,” she says. “I find the travel world so exciting – not just the trips, but the whole online world of travel. There are still so many opportunities.” The World Awaits “The ‘best trip ever’ probably won’t be the same for an empty-nester or mom of three versus a single woman celebrating a bachelorette party with her friends,” Kim says. “We want to keep it real for traveling women, no matter what their age, life stage, where they came from or where they’re going. “We want to inspire women to travel in any shape or form.” In her free time, Kim enjoys visiting her adult kids, creating trips and traveling with her BFFs to explore the world. Her most recent adventures can be found on InstagramFacebook and LinkedIn.
Read full bio

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *