Best time to visit Yosemite

Kayaking and Canoeing the Merced River in Yosemite

Paddling in Yosemite can be easily characterized with just one word—spectacular!

Best time: May–September

Kayaking and Canoeing the Merced River
Kayaking and Canoeing the Merced River
Kayaking and Canoeing the Merced River

Merced River is the most popular place for paddling in Yosemite Valley. As the current guides your canoe and kayak down the river, the stunning views of Half Dome and Yosemite Falls will open on your way.

Most of the river within Yosemite Valley is available for kayakers, and its straight and quiet stretches are ideal for a slow, relaxed pace. Though some of its sections have more intense currents and rocky shallows that may be challenging even for experienced paddlers. It is important to remember that whenever you kayak in Yosemite, you are required to wear a life vest.

The best months for kayaking on the Merced River are between May and September, but in some years the river can go low by mid-August.

Practical info

What is the best time of year to go kayaking in Yosemite?

Between May and September, the river is high, making it the ideal time of year to go kayaking in Yosemite. However, the river may become low by mid-August, and it's recommended to always check the water level before visiting. Winter is not an appropriate time to kayak due to cold water and potential danger. Show more

Where is the best place to kayak in Yosemite?

The Merced River is the most sought-after location to kayak in Yosemite Valley. The river provides stunning views of Yosemite Falls, and Half Dome and nearly all parts are open for kayaking. Its calm, straight stretches make it beginner-friendly or those who prefer a more leisurely pace. Show more

When kayaking in Yosemite, are there any sections with more intense currents?

Experienced paddlers may find specific sections of the Merced River within Yosemite Valley with more intense currents and rocky shallows. It's important to have awareness of the area to avoid potential accidents. Moreover, visitors kayaking at Yosemite must wear life vests and ensure they have adequate safety equipment to signal for help in an emergency. Show more

What safety equipment is required when kayaking in Yosemite?

Kayaking in Yosemite requires wearing life vests regardless of the experience level, as it's a must requirement. A signalling device, alert horn, or whistle must also be available in case of an emergency. Kayakers should follow speed regulations and not consume alcohol before paddling on the river. Show more

Are there any restrictions on the type of kayak that can be used on the Merced River in Yosemite?

The National Park Service has no specific limitations to any type of kayak. Nevertheless, it's a prerequisite to observe the designated regulations for kayaking and canoeing. Paddlers should review these restrictions before starting and register for a river permit. Visitors should also keep in mind that the park's paddle restrictions may differ annually. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin