Our combination trips begin with an intense day of rafting on Class V Cherry Creek / Upper Tuolumne and continue for an additional 1 or 2 days on the Main Tuolumne for a total of 27 miles of Class IV-V whitewater. This trip will awaken your senses as you travel through California’s most exciting stretch of whitewater and into remote sections of river canyon that few get to experience. Paddle hard during the day, enjoy delicious meals thoughtfully prepared by our staff and relax under the stars at pristine riverside campsites. Take some time to explore the canyon and venture up side creeks with perfect polished granite swimming holes. Escape the crowds and actively engage this unique part of the Yosemite region. Our skilled and experienced guides know these rivers and rapids intimately and are your hosts for the trip. Book now for our 2022 rafting season. Trips start in April.
Flowing from its headwaters in Yosemite National Park, Cherry Creek is Class V like you have never experienced it before. These trips offer the ultimate whitewater challenge and include some of the West’s most exciting rapids. Sierra Mac pioneered commercial trips on this thrilling stretch of river in the 1980’s and we are excited to share these adventures with our guests. It is important to realize that Cherry Creek rafting trips are intense and demanding passenger participation experiences, particularly on the paddle boats, and that a successful Class V run depends on the coordinated efforts of your guide, you and your raft team. Have a look at our Cherry Creek Videos and read over our Class V safety techniques and fitness guidelines to get an idea of what to expect. All guests are required to participate in a training seminar and Class V paddler’s test held at the beginning of each trip.
Located near the northwest border of Yosemite National Park, trips meet at Sierra Mac’s headquarters, just 15 miles outside the Park’s Crane Flat Entrance, 15 miles east of Groveland, CA on State Highway 120. After a short bus ride and power breakfast, guests arrive at put-in for orientation and training.
The action begins on Cherry Creek, two miles upstream from its confluence with the Main Tuolumne and continues unbridled for a total of 9 miles to just above Lumsden Falls. This intense and demanding stretch of river is comprised of long, nearly continuous whitewater and short pools. Her rapids are legendary. Among “The Creek’s” unparalleled array of chutes, holes, ledges and gigantic boulders lie Jawbone, Mushroom, Miracle Mile, Lewis’ Leap and Flat Rock Falls. You’ll feel the adrenaline. With a phenomenally steep gradient averaging 110 feet per mile, this is one of the most thrilling (and fun) rafting sections in the U.S. and the standard by which Class V runs are measured.
Yosemite Challenge guests spend the night at a secluded and beautiful riverside campsite. Here our guides turn their attention to setting up camp, and preparing appetizers and dinner. Late afternoon and early evening are a great time for a swim, a hike, or if you prefer, a glass of wine or a nap. We have spent years refining our river menu. Prepare for a fine meal to meet your appetite after a day of rafting. Evening is spent under the stars with the sound of the river to lull you to some deep rest.
Day 2 continues further into the Main Tuolumne River canyon through 18 miles of legendary Class IV-V rapids including Nemesis, Clavey Falls and Gray’s Grindstone. Here the river gradient begins to mellow a bit, allowing guests to take in the scenery. In springtime the Tuolumne Canyon is a blanket of green and gold wildflowers. Commercial rafting permits are limited to just 20 persons and 18 miles of roadless isolation ensures a true wilderness experience – far from the crowds in nearby Yosemite Valley. You and your paddling crew will enjoy a personal adventure you will remember for a lifetime. Passing through a pristine canyon, the river is joined by several smaller drainages in its course, each a wonder to explore. Exquisite side canyons cradle clear pools for swimming; short hikes reveal Gold Rush and Miwok Indian history and abundant wildlife. The T was designated as a Federal Wild & Scenic River in 1984. It is recognized for possessing outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural values.
This trip can be extended to 3 days allowing even more time to linger in the canyon to savor and explore this truly amazing place.
TRIP DIRECTIONS & MEETING TIME
We meet in the parking lot of Sierra Mac Headquarters at 6:00am (unless otherwise specified) at 27890 CA HWY 120, 13 miles east of the town of Groveland. If coming from the west, after you pass Buck Meadows look for the Vista Point/Rim of the World overlook on your left, followed by Packard Canyon Road on your right. We are just beyond on the north (left) side of the road. If you are coming from the Yosemite area, we are about ½ mile beyond the Cherry Lake Road. About 12 miles from the Big Oak Flat Entrance. Pay attention–our place comes up quickly!
Google Map to meeting spot for Combination rafting trips
Driving time from the Bay Area is about 3 ½ hours; from Manteca, about 1 ½ hours; from Los Angeles, about 7 hours. If you are driving from Yosemite we are located 25 minutes from the Park’s northwest entrance gate (Big Oak Flat), allow 50 minutes from Yosemite Valley. We can also arrange local pickups at the Pine Mountain Lake Airport for travelers arriving by private plane.
If you will NOT be available by phone before your trip, contact our office at 209-591-8027 within 48 hours of meeting time to reconfirm logistics. Be on time or you may forfeit your trip! If you are late, call us ASAP at the above number. Cell phone coverage is spotty and unreliable along Highway 120. If you need to contact us you may have to stop and use a landline.
Some internet mapping systems incorrectly locate our meeting place and often direct travelers to take much longer and circuitous routes. Reconfirm driving directions with a standard map from AAA or other source. Here is our map location on Google Maps.
Each trip begins with an energy breakfast, followed by wet suit, helmet and floatation vest fitting and an extensive two-hour white water seminar which includes training in swiftwater swimming, navigation and safety techniques. If, in our opinion, you are not ready for this rigorous experience following the training seminar, you will be asked to return to the shuttle van. (In this case you will receive a 50% refund.)
We provide helmets, white water flotation vests, and wetsuits for all passengers.
Appetites run large after a day of paddling. We pride ourselves on serving quality, fresh, delicious meals. Our guides have distinguished themselves with their cooking skills with the guidance of our Chef, Armando. On Yosemite Challenge trips we start the first morning with a high energy breakfast. A delicious afternoon lunch is served at Lumsden Falls. Dinner and dessert is prepared and served in camp that evening. On day two, wake to fresh coffee, tea, and a scrumptious breakfast cooked in camp, lunch is served at a select riverside location around noon. High energy snacks and drinks are provided during the trip.
Guests may bring their own beer, wine, soft drinks or other favorite evening libations to enjoy at camp. Please bring no glass except wine; we’ll pack these for you.
WHAT TO BRING
Wet suit (provided) • Shorts and/or swimsuit under wet suit • Synthetic T-shirt/SUn Shirt • Tennis shoes (sandals do not protect your feet) • Ball cap with visor • Sunglasses (with tie-on)
FOR COOLER WEATHER
Wool, silk or synthetic layer under wet suit • Wet suit (provided by Sierra Mac) • Rubber splash jacket (provided by SMRT) • Wool or neoprene socks • Tennis shoes • Wool hat or ball cap • Sunglasses (with tie-on)
For additional warmth, layers of polypropylene or wool with an unlined shell or parka are best. (Sierra Mac provides a rubber splash jacket in cool weather.) Avoid wearing cotton sweats or pants on the raft: they’ll get wet and never dry out.
FOR WARM WEATHER
Shorts and/or swimsuit • T-shirt • Tennis shoes (Sandals do not protect your feet!) •Passengers with sun sensitivity may wish to wear lightweight long pants and long-sleeved shirts for after the upper section when changing out of the wet-suit
PACKING FOR OVERNIGHT ON THE RIVER
Pack light and compactly. Each person will receive a 3.8 cubic foot dry bag for storing his or her belongings, about the size of a 30-gallon plastic trash bag.
*Sleeping bag • *Air or foam mattress • *Tent (optional) • Personal Gear • Comfortable clothing • Nylon shell jacket • Underwear • Extra tennis shoes or sandals • Socks • Wool Sweater and/or Fleece Jacket • Towel • Toiletries, Kleenex, etc. • Flashlight (one for each person) • Batteries (packed separately) • Extra plastic bags • Day bag (Ziploc plastic) • waterproof camera • Sun block • Lip ointment • Personal water bottle
*Tents, sleeping pads, sleeping bags etc. can be rented from Sierra Mac.
Rain jacket and pants (check the weather) • Fishing license and gear (hard shell case) • Snorkel & face mask • Reading material • Journal & pen • Cards or games • Extra beer, wine, soft drinks or favorite evening libations (no glass except wine; we’ll pack these for you).
We recommend travel insurance to protect your travel investment. Coverage is available to protect yourself in the event of last-minute cancellation. For information and rates, please visit http://www.travelinsure.
For further information on any of our rafting trips, call Marty at 209.591.8027