Railroad Flat Campground

Merced River RMA
Address:

Bureau of Land Management Mother Lode Field Office Briceburg, CA 95345

Latitude/Longitude:
-120.01967, 37.61823
Directions:

From the city of Merced, located on U.S. Highway 99, travel 40 miles east on State Highway 140 to the town of Mariposa. Then travel another 15 miles along Highway 140 to the Briceburg Visitor Center at the Wild & Scenic Merced River. <P> There are three developed BLM campgrounds along the Merced River between Briceburg and Bagby. The campgrounds are accessed by crossing the suspension bridge just past the Briceburg Visitor Center and heading down river along Briceburg River Road (old Yosemite Valley Railroad Grade). Trailers over 18 feet and large RV's are not recommended crossing the suspension bridge.

CAMPING
FISHING
HIKING
WILDLIFE VIEWING
PADDLING
SWIMMING

Railroad Flat Campground

Overview

At the end of Briceburg River Road and 4.5 miles from the suspension bridge within the BLM, Merced River Recreation Area is the Railroad Flat Campground. Popular with gold prospectors and hikers alike, there is always interesting campfire talk in this campground. It also serves as the trailhead for the BLM, Merced River Trail. The Merced River Trail is a spectacular wildflower walk in spring, has great scenery, fine fishing, and amazing swimming during other times of the year.

Facilities in Railroad Flat Campground (9 sites total):

  • 3 Walk-in camp sites
  • 6 drive-up camp site
  • 1 vault toilet
  • 2 Port-o-let toilet (seasonal near site 21-23)
  • Trash collection cans
  • Recycling collection cans
  • Main parking lot
  • Self-pay Iron Ranger fee system
  • There are picnic tables, fire grills, and food storage lockers at all camp sites.
  • All campsites are within 200 feet of the river

Permits, Fees, and Limitations:

  • Camp fee is $10/night. America the Beautiful Pass fee is $5.00/night.
  • 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.
  • Pay camp fee within 30 minutes of occupying site. Iron Ranger located near Bulletin Board.
  • 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 (tent up).
  • No person shall leave any property unattended for more than 24 hours. (43 CFR 8351.2-1 (1))
  • Fires are allowed ONLY in provided metal fire rings. NO FIRES ON BEACH. (Fire Restriction may apply).
  • No glass bottles allowed within 1/4 mile of the Merced River. 43 CFR 8351.2-1 (i)
  • Dogs must be on a leash at all times. NO DOGS allowed at McCabe BEACH.
  • NO AMPLIFIED MUSIC or unreasonable noise any time.
  • QUIET TIME AFTER 10:00 pm (no speakers, generators, etc.)
  • No Discharge of Firearms or fireworks 43 CFR 8351.2-1 (a)
  • No person shall enter a developed campground between 10:00 pm and 6:00 am, unless that person is a registered camper. 43 CFR 8351.2-1 (g)
  • All California Motor Vehicle Laws Apply. (Seat Belts, DUI, etc.). 43 CFR 8351.2-1 (e)

Any person who fails to comply with these written orders may be subject to a fine not to exceed $500 and/or imprisonment not to exceed six months. Federal Register/ Vol. 66 No. 130/ Friday, July 6, 2001/ Notices Pg 35663.

Special Guidelines for Merced River Recreation Area Campgrounds During COVID-19

In order to comply with the Mariposa County Interim Guidelines for Campgrounds, the following procedures are put in place:

  • Be prepared by bringing your own personal hygiene supplies, including soap, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer.
  • Only one household per camp site (Maximum 8 persons).
  • Only registered campers in developed campgrounds. McCabe Beach is for registered campers only during COVID-19 restrictions. (First come first served, on-site registration/payment only—no advanced registration).
  • No group campsites. Site #13 will only allow 8 persons.
  • Stay home if you are sick.

Please help keep these campgrounds open by adhering to these guidelines. Bureau of Land Management staff will be working hard to meet the new guidelines established to keep visitors and workers safe. Restroom cleaning is scheduled once per day weekdays and twice per day weekends. Visitors should bring all of their own personal hygiene supplies and practice CDC recommended hand washing practices, social distancing, etc. Original Source: Mariposa County Interim Guidelines for Businesses during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

WARNING:

No lifeguard on duty. Swimming is dangerous any time of year, but especially during spring and early summer. The Merced River is un-damned and the flow changes dramatically from year to year and season to season.

SWIMMING IS ONLY RECOMMENDED BELOW 700 CFS.

River flow is posted on-line at: www.dreamflows.com

Potable water is available across the Briceburg Bridge as you head towards the campground facilities. Look for the faucet near the information kiosk. Bring your own water for camping purposes. Potable water is not available at the campground sites.

PLEASE NOTE:

Trailers over 18 feet and large RV's are not recommended crossing the suspension 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.

Return To: Merced River Recreation Management Area

MERCED RIVER TRAILHEAD (RAILROAD FLAT)

Merced River Trail:

The Merced River Trail follows the old Yosemite Valley Railroad Grade for 28 miles from Bagby, on Highway 49, to El Portal, near the Arch Rock entrance to Yosemite National Park.  The trail is not maintained for that entire distance.  The BLM manages the lower 18 miles, while the USFS manages the remaining 10 miles closest to El Portal.  This trail is primitive and is constantly subject to rock and mud slides.  It is common for trees to fall across the trail at any time of year.  All side-creek crossings are rough and will require a mountain biker to “carry” across the gulches.  

The BLM does try to maintain two sections of this trail to a more use-friendly standard.  But, even within these two sections, there are rough patches, portages, and re-routes that traverse rock slides etc.  Every season presents new challenges and wash-outs so expect the unexpected.  The maintained sections of the Merced River Trail are from Railroad Flat to the North Fork, and from Briceburg to the Forest boundary.

Merced River Trailhead (Railroad Flat):

From Briceburg, cross the suspension bridge and head downstream on the Briceburg River Road past all three campgrounds and park at the road’s end (4.5 miles).  Do not block gate. 

This trailhead serves hikers, and mountain bikers access to the North Fork Merced and continues downstream to Bagby.  (Equestrian riders will have difficulty passing Halls Gulch which is only 1/8 mile from the trailhead).   This is a very good wildflower viewing trail during spring (February through April).  There is no bridge at the North Fork so expect to get wet if you are heading all the way to Bagby.  The North Fork Merced can get too high to cross during rainy periods in winter and spring.  By summer, the flow is usually modest enough to cross knee high to ankle deep.  Trail condition deteriorates rapidly downstream from the North Fork along the main Merced River Trail.

The main attraction from this trailhead is the North Fork Merced which offers excellent wildflower viewing in spring and great swimming late spring and summer.  The main Merced River has great swimming holes near the confluence with the North Fork.  Backcountry camping is allowed here.  Make sure you have a valid fire permit if camping overnight.  Check fire restrictions before your trip—usually no fires by early summer.

The trail up the North Fork is narrower and steeper than the main Merced River Trail.  Poison oak and rattlesnakes are common here.  The North Fork Trail leads to a beautiful bedrock gorge with a small cascade about ¾ of a mile upstream from the confluence.  The trail deteriorates rapidly after the falls, eventually disappearing in a distance.