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Springtime is generally very pleasant with a 15% chance of cool weather. By May, it warms up pretty well and by late June through August climate is typically very warm to hot. Current Local Weather
Yes! Whitewater rafting enthusiasts have three main choices for rafting trips in the Yosemite region. Each provides a unique level of challenge in navigating the rapids. Reservations are required.
- The Merced River is an 11 mile section of river canyon that includes many fun Class IV rapids suitable for beginner to advanced paddlers. Single day and half day trips meet near the town of El Portal outside Yosemite’s Arch Rock Entrance. Rafting season here can vary, usually running from April to mid July.
- The Main Tuolumne is an 18 mile section of river that includes many exciting Class IV+ rapids suitable for beginner to advanced paddlers. Single and multi-day trips meet approximately 15 miles east of Groveland, California. Rafting season typically runs from late April to mid September.
- The Upper Tuolumne/Cherry Creek is rated Class V and is considered one of the most challenging commercially run rafting trips in the US. It can be rafted in a single day or combined with the Main Tuolumne for a 2- or 3-day excursion. Trips meet approximately 15 miles outside Yosemite’s Northwest entrance.
For Class III & IV whitewater trips, no. A lot of our guests can’t swim and they are fine. You will be wearing a floatation jacket that will keep you afloat and knowing how to swim isn’t really that important when it comes to whitewater, so non-swimmers are welcome.
Class V whitewater trips, yes. Class V requires paddlers to have good swimming skills and be in good physical condition (see Class V Fitness Guidelines). You need not be an Olympic swimmer, but you must be able to swim across the river in moving current wearing a floatation jacket.
Prices vary a little from company to company. We are neither the most expensive nor the least. However we do offer the best value. Our guides are the most experienced and receive the highest compensation in the industry, our rafts are the best money can buy and our food service is over the top.
Typically we start our trips in April of each year and finish in October. This can vary dependent on the annual snow pack. In 2018, thanks to late winter storms and planned water releases from upstream reservoirs, we expect rafting season to run until late September on both our Cherry Creek and Main Tuolumne trips. Merced trips will be available April through mid-June. Call us for up to date information on this year’s rafting season.
Cherry Creek/Upper Tuolumne and Main Tuolumne River trips range from 1 full day to 3 days. On the Merced River we offer half and full day trips. For those on a tight schedule, 1-Day trips are a good fit, but if your travel plans allow, a multiple day adventure allows for more time to explore remote side canyons, and enjoy a night under the stars with delicious riverside meals prepared by our staff.
Sierra Mac’s Main Tuolumne and Cherry Creek/Upper Tuolumne rafting trips meet approximately 15 miles outside Yosemite’s Northwest Entrance along California Highway 120. Merced rafting trips meet near the western edge of Yosemite National Park on California Highway 140 near the town of El Portal.
For detailed maps to meeting spots for our rafting trips see:
- Main Tuolumne Meeting Spot
- Cherry Creek/Upper Tuolumne Meeting Spot
- Combination Trip Meeting Spot
- Merced Meeting Spot
Most of our guests flying to California use the Oakland Airport. Second choices are San Francisco or Sacramento airports. The nearer airports in Stockton and Modesto are seldom used because they have infrequent flights and poor connections. We can secure transportation for guests flying private or charter planes arriving at the local Pine Mountain Airport just 20 minutes away.
Our trips are timed to run when the water conditions controlled by upstream reservoirs are ideal for rafting. We can make special arrangements to shuttle your car to the bridge at the trip’s end, saving you about 45 minutes, call ahead for details.
We emphasize plentiful quality food on all of our trips. We offer beef, fish and vegetarian dinner entree options. Hearty, sumptuous lunches are complete with fresh meats, cheeses, fruits, and vegetables, and desserts. Our food is guaranteed to impress you. Let us know of any special dietary needs in advance of your trip and we will do our best to satisfy you. Vegetarians will find plenty of options on our standard meals. For more complex dietary needs please call us to review our meal plans so we can accommodate you.
Our links page includes list of places to stay is the first options to consider for local hotel and camping accommodations. Prices change dependent on availability. It is best to be somewhere close by.
The International Scale of River Difficulty classifies rapids, (not rivers), on a scale of I to VI with I being easy and VI being unrunnable, (for guided whitewater rafting, Class III is considered beginning level). The difficulty of a rapid can vary significantly with changes in water levels; the ratings we use are based on normal river conditions.
Absolutely! The youngest we take range from 10 to 12 years old. They should be over 90 pounds in weight and be comfortable in and around water. We have floatation jackets for smaller individuals. Every kid is different and we recommend calling about rafting options appropriate for youth. Class V and potentially higher water conditions may increase minimum age requirements to 16 or 17 years old.
Our Class IV Main Tuolumne and Merced trips not particularly strenuous. You should be in relatively good health, but our guides handle all the heavy work, including camp cooking and cleanup. If you are in the paddleboat, you will be expected to paddle. Normally we prefer to float with the current in the calm sections…we don’t want to wear you out. You should be able to walk over uneven ground.
Our Class V Cherry Creek/Upper Tuolumne is for serious boaters who lead an active physical life. You needn’t be in your prime, but you should be able to dance, jog, bike and be active to contribute to the raft’s successful navigation!
The higher the classification, the better shape participants should be in. Individuals whose weight to height ratio is out of range may not be appropriate for rafting. If you are unsure how to evaluate your abilities and size, have special health physical considerations, or are pregnant, we invite you to call our office to discuss options. Persons with a chest or torso size over 52″ (life jacket maximum size) or over 250 lbs cannot participate in Class V trips. (325 lbs is the limit on Class IV)
Although whitewater rafting like any mode of travel is a potentially dangerous activity, we take many precautions to ensure your safety, well-being and peace of mind. We are very experienced, prepared and safety-conscious. Thorough safety procedures are explained prior to embarking and at various times during the trip. Coast Guard approved flotation jackets are worn at all times on the river. Our guides are all trained in first aid and CPR and a complete first aid kit is carried on each trip. If you have specific personal safety concerns please call us so we can recommend an appropriate trip.
People may not wear sandals. A shoe with well-encased toe box like an old pair of running or tennis shoes is required to best protect your feet. Quick drying clothes that shield from the sun and layers of clothes when cool weather is expected. See the logistics information for each river.
Due to government regulations we can no longer provide beverages that contain alcohol. You are welcome to bring your own favorite libations and we will pack and transport them to camp. Please, bring beer in cans only. Wine bottles are OK but other liquids should be decanted into metal or plastic containers and packed separately in the cargo rafts. Alcohol is definitely not allowed either the morning of your trip, or on the river. (NOTE: If you show up the morning of the trip intoxicated, you will not be allowed to participate. No refunds will be given.)
Fishing at camp is an outstanding opportunity. Licenses are required and poles packed in a hard case. Fishing from the rafts is not practical.
Pets are not allowed by Forest Service regulations.
The first concern should be difficulty: how challenging do you want the whitewater to be? Even though the majority of our trips are suitable for everyone, there are differences in the intensity and frequency of the rapids and in the difficulty of each river based on the season; decide what thrill level you want, then make a choice or ask for a recommendation. Secondary considerations should include length, location, scenery, water temperature and participation levels. Please call us and we can help direct you to a trip that is appropriate for you and your group.
No, river motion is nothing like being at sea and does not induce seasickness.
We recommend disposable waterproof cameras. Special waterproof boxes can be prearranged for more fragile cameras. This is a water and sand environment that has terminated expensive cameras! Often professional river photographers take photos of our trip and make those shots available for purchase.
Many of our guests ask us, “Should I tip my guide?” Our high level of service is not exercised in order to receive a tip. Our guides are honored to be your host. If you feel the service you receive from your guide is exceptional, a tip is one way to express your thanks. Although it is not expected, it is always appreciated. Gratuities typically range from 5-15% of your trip fees.
Definitely. We and all the outfitters that we associate with operate under stringent federal permits issued by various governmental agencies. Sierra Mac River Trips is a permitted Recreation Service Partner with the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the State of California Dept. of Parks and Recreation.