Miles of trails let visitors of all ability levels take a load off their own feet and explore Yosemite from the back of a horse…or a mule! For some of Yosemite’s more rugged terrain, especially in the high country, easygoing, surefooted mules are the best animals for the job of getting both people and gear around.
Three rides begin at the Yosemite Valley Stable (end of Southside Dr., 209/372-4386, www.yosemitepark.com/Activities.aspx , half-day $59–119). The sedate two-hour trek to Mirror Lake  works well for kids and beginning riders. As part of the ride, your guide explains the geologic forces that are slowly drying out the lake. A half-day ride takes you out to Vernal Fall, where you can admire the views of Nevada Fall and the valley floor. This ride takes about four hours, but isn’t terribly difficult. The all-day ride requires a great deal more stamina—going all the way out to Little Yosemite Valley and back.
You’ll find more horses than mules at Wawona Stable (Wawona Rd. at Pioneer Yosemite History Center, $59–119), and more tourists, too—reservations for the rides out of Wawona are strongly encouraged. From Wawona  you can take a sedate two-hour ride around the historic wagon trail running into the area. Or try the five-hour trip out to Chilanualna Falls—you’ll get to tell your friends about a waterfall that few Yosemite  visitors ever see. Be sure to bring a camera! Both of these rides are fine for less experienced riders, and the wagon trail ride welcomes children with its easy, flat terrain.
Out of Tuolumne Meadows Stable (Tioga Pass Rd. past Tuolumne Visitors Center, north side of the road, short dirt road to stables) you can get the perfect overview of the Yosemite high country by taking the introductory-level two-hour ride. For a longer ride deeper into the landscape, do the four-hour trip that passes Twin Bridges and Tuolumne Falls. An all-day ride with a variable route beckons the adventurous traveler, but you need to be both in good shape and an experienced rider for this one.