Travelers to Yosemite have many sights to take in and a variety of choices for how to spend their time. Time constraints can sometimes limit your vacation plans. Not everyone can fit a multi-day rafting trip into their vacation schedule, but there are some other options. If your visit is limited to just a few days consider a one-day or half-day rafting trip on the Merced River.
Yosemite Valley is virtually a must see on your visit to the park. The Valley has a variety of lodging and camping options and provides a good base for exploring the rest of this incredible region. The section of the Merced river that meanders through Yosemite Valley is fairly calm at this point, but just downstream the river begins a radical tumble to lower elevations. At first the elevation drop is quite dramatic, further downstream it begins to level a bit near the town of El Portal, eventually moderating its descent to a create a bouncing 16 mile class III-IV whitewater playground. The trip begins with a series of maneuvers that bring paddlers quickly to attention, the rapids continue for several miles to to where the South Fork joins the main stem of the Merced adding more water and creating larger waves. By the time you you reach “Ned’s Gulch” rapid your crew is warmed up and ready for the fun. Make sure to paddle hard for this one, no time for a selfie, but photographers are stationed at this rapid so you can view pictures of yourself after the trip.
The Merced River offers a trip to fit any Yosemite itinerary. For much of this section the river runs parallel to the path of State Hwy 140, this facilitates shuttles and opens up a variety of trip options. Full-day trips meet at 10am and return around 5pm and include a delicious riverside lunch, covering the entire 16 mile stretch of river. Half-day trips depart twice daily and cover 11 miles of river. Morning half-day trips leave at 8:30am returning around 1pm leaving plenty of time for an afternoon hike. Afternoon half-day trips leave at 2pm and return around 6:30pm, allowing time for a morning walk to view the falls or a late breakfast.
Keep in mind that the Merced is fed only by the natural process of snowmelt and thus can have a relatively short rafting season. Trips usually begin in late April when spring runoff begins and run through June as the snowpack slowly melts into summer. But don’t fret if your travel plans are for later in the summer, our Cherry Creek and Tuolumne River rafting trips are sustained by upstream reservoirs and should have raftable flows well into September.
Merced 1-Day and Half-Day trips meet just 1/2 hour from the Valley, and 8 miles outside the Park’s Arch Rock Entrance at the Indian Flat Campground on Highway 140, about a half-hour east of Yosemite Valley. Half-day trips start at $89 per person. 1-Day trips start at $115. Call Sierra Mac to reserve a trip at (209) 591-8027.