Mother Lode Field Office

Merced River Trail

Merced River with Redbud and California poppies in bloomHikers along the Merced River TrailClose up photo of a Brodea wildflower

General Information


The site is located 12 miles north of Mariposa, California.

Merced River Recreation Area

Merced River Recreation Area Map (pdf 478 kb)

This ungroomed and, for the most part, unshaded 18-mile trek for hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders follows the old Yosemite railroad grade from the Briceburg Visitor Center, along the north side of the river, to the Highway 49 bridge at Bagby.

Phone Number:  Briceburg Visitor Center (209) 379-9414

From Merced, located on U.S. Highway 99, travel 37 miles east on State Highway 140 to Mariposa. Then travel another 12 miles on Highway 140 to the Briceburg Visitor Center.

Visitor Activities:
Whitewater rafting (Class III-IV), hiking, camping, picnicking, mountian biking, nature study, hobby gold prospecting, horseback riding and swimming. Wildflower viewing in the spring is great!!

Permits, Fees, Limitations:

  • There is a camping fee of $10.00 per site per night with a maximum of 8 people per site.
  • No glass bottles allowed within 1/4 mile of the Merced River.
  • Dogs must be on leash at all times.
  • No dogs allowed at McCabe Flat swimming beach.

 Camping and Lodging:
There are three BLM campgrounds along the Merced River between Briceburg and Bagby. They are the McCabe Flat Campground, Willow Placer Campground, and the Railroad Flat Campground. The campgrounds are access only by crossing the bridge at Briceburg and heading down river on the trail (old Yosemite railroad grade).

Please note: Trailers over 18 feet and large RV's not recommended to cross bridge. The old Yosemite railroad grade is accessible by vehicles up to the Railroad Flat Campground. Only equestrian, pedestrians, and bicycles are permitted beyond the Railroad Flat Campground.

Commercial lodging is available in the town of Mariposa.

Campgrounds are accessible to persons with disabilities.

Campsite Procedure:

  • Camping is allowed only in designated, numbered camp sites. Maximum 8 people and two vehicles per site.
  • Camping is first come, first served: No reservations available.
  • Camp fee is $10/night—Pay within 30 minutes of occupying site.
  •  A campsite is rented ONLY once it has been paid in full, pay-stub is properly completed and attached to campsite post, and site is occupied by campers. No person shall leave any property unattended for more than 24 hours.
  • Fires are allowed only in provided metal fire rings. (Additional fire restriction may apply, typically no fires or charcoal briquettes allowed by mid-summer).
  • No person shall enter a developed campground between 10:00 pm and 6:00 am, unless that person is a registered camper.
  • Persons who fail to comply with these written orders may be subject to a fine not to exceed $500 and/or imprisonment not to exceed six months. Title 43, section 8351.2-1 (A-L).

Food and Supplies:
Food and supplies are available in Mariposa. Potable water is not available. Bring your own water.

First Aid:
BLM crew with Emergency Medical Technicians are on duty on weekends during the rafting season, generally April through July. The County Sheriff and Fire Department also provide first aid.

Additional Information:
The Merced River Recreation Area is near the entrance to Yosemite National Park, and provides overflow or alternative camping for park visitors, as well as a beautiful setting for river enthusiasts. The best times to visit are spring and summer. Many commercial raft outfitters, licensed and supervised by BLM, offer trips on the Merced River. Contact the BLM Mother Lode Field Office for a list of approved commercial raft operators and their schedules.