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 you might consider a one-day or half-day rafting trip on the Merced River. Half-day trips start at $114 per person. 1-Day trips start at $168.
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, steep and swift water continues for several miles to where the South Fork joins the main stem of the Merced adding more water and creating even larger waves and rapids. By the time you you reach the always thrilling “Ned’s Gulch” 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 here so you can view pictures of yourself after the trip.
Located just 7.5 miles from our meeting spot for the Merced, the historic goldrush town of Mariposa is a good place to spend the night before or after your trip on the Merced. Mariposa County offers a wide variety of lodging and dining options. Their website (www.yosemite.com) is a great pathway to exploring the region.
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 9:30am and return around 4:30pm 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 8:00am returning around 1pm leaving plenty of time for an afternoon hike. Afternoon half-day trips leave at 1:30pm and return around 6:00pm, 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 rafting season length can vary depending on annual snowpack. Typically trips start in late April when spring runoff begins and run through mid-July as the snowpack slowly melts into summer. But in years with above average snowpack (like 2019!) the Merced can be rafted into August. If your travel plans are for even later in the summer, our Class V Cherry Creek and Tuolumne River rafting trips are sustained by upstream reservoirs and should have raftable flows into early September.
New Merced Trip Meeting Spot
Merced 1-Day and Half-Day trips now meet at Merced Rafting Headquarters, located at 6940 CA Highway 140, Midpines, CA, 95345, about 11 minutes west of Mariposa and approximately 75 minutes east of Yosemite Valley. Directions here.
Nearby Lodging Options
Looking for a place to camp before or after your rafting trip on the Merced? For information on campgrounds inside Yosemite National Park visit the official Yosemite NPS Campground Reservations Page. Campsites in Yosemite can be hard to find in summer months, but there are a few first-come first-served campgrounds in the area around the river. Our Merced River Camping Guide blog post has details on sites located outside the Park. You might also want to take a look at our post on vacation cabins and glamping in the area.
For further information on any of our rafting trips, call Marty at 209.591.8027