Looking for a good campsite on your Merced River rafting trip? There are several excellent options for camping along the Merced as it flows downstream just outside Yosemite National Park. Guests on spring and summer rafting trips often choose to overnight at nearby campgrounds before or after their rafting expedition. This article focuses on campgrounds located outside the National Park. They are open year-round and are a good choice when Yosemite campgrounds are full. Most are located right on the river and all have been upgraded in the last few years.
Sierra Mac rafting trips on the Merced River meet next to Indian Flat RV and camping park located near the town of El Portal just outside Yosemite’s Arch Rock Entrance on Highway 140. Indian Flat is privately owned and has 25 RV sites, 25 tent sites, and a couple of tent cabins a short walk from our meeting spot. Indian Flat sites can be reserved via their website at www.indianflatrvpark.com. There are also several other public campgrounds operated by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management that are located along the river corridor.
Across the river from Indian Flat there are two campgrounds that are operated by the US Forest Service. Sites at Dry Gulch and Dirt Flat campgrounds can be reserved online at Recreation.gov. Located on the North side of the river, these campsites are accessed by crossing the bridge at the Foresta Road turnoff and immediately turning left, following the river downstream. These beautiful sites get booked early and it is good to plan and reserve them well ahead of your visit.
There are also three first come – first served campgrounds operated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) downstream from Briceburg (located about half way between Mariposa and El Portal). McCabe Flat, Willow Placer, and Railroad Flat Campgrounds are all located on a 5 mile stretch of gravel road next to the river that begins at Briceburg. To access, turn off highway 140 at the BLM Information Center (pictured) in Briceburg. The road is passable by most vehicles but is not appropriate for large RVs or trailers. These are walk-in campsites located very close to shared parking areas. All have wonderful views of the river, restrooms, bear boxes, picnic tables and are accessible to persons with disabilities. Cost for these BLM administered sites is just $10 per site per night for up to 8 people — a real bargain for riverside camping near Yosemite. These sites do not have drinking water available so fill up your jugs at the faucet that is located at the beginning of the gravel road just downstream from Briceburg. By June these sites begin to fill quickly, it’s a good idea to send a person up a day or two before your group arrives to claim a site in the morning when campers may depart and sites open up.
When these sites (and Yosemite National Park) are full, the only other alternative is to camp at the County Fairgrounds in Mariposa which can also accommodate RVs. While not as scenic as camping on the river, it allows guests to access restaurants and shops located in nearby Mariposa and is just 40 minutes from our meeting spot for Merced rafting trips. The County Fairgrounds is located at 5007 Fairgrounds Road in Mariposa. Click here for Fairgrounds camping information or call: 209-966-2432.