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Rafting Along the Merced River in Yosemite 2024

The stunning landscape of Yosemite makes the perfect setting for the joys of river rafting

Best time: late May–July

Rafting Along the Merced River
Rafting Along the Merced River

Rafting along the Merced River is a popular seasonal activity in Yosemite. Whether you’re looking for an intense adventure or want to cool off and enjoy the scenery, the Merced River has what you’re looking for.

The river provides awesome thrills in the beautiful setting of Yosemite Valley, beneath the iconic features of Half Dome and El Capitan. In spring its green hillsides are covered with numerous wildflowers such as golden poppies, purple lupine, and wild irises that explode with color and make the area intensely beautiful.

The Merced River provides a great experience for rafters of all skill levels. During spring, at peak snowmelt, the river runs high and fast, and rafting will be at difficulty levels 3 and 4. It is a great adventure for more skilled rafters. In summertime when the water becomes more smooth and easy, the difficulty lowers to Levels 2 and 3, which is pretty much for everyone.

The rafting season on the Merced River runs from late spring to the middle of summer but varies from year to year depending on the depth of the rivers, snowmelt, and water temperatures.

You can rent a raft from the Half Dome Village Recreation Centre. There are also several companies that provide guided rafting tours in Yosemite during the season.

Practical info

When is the ideal time for Merced River rafting?

Rafting season for Merced River usually starts in May and ends in July. Late May to July is the perfect time for the best rafting experience, with the water level being dependent on the snowmelt. The level varies, making the duration of the season different every year, with early peak season providing level 3-4 rapids for more seasoned rafters, while the summer is suitable for beginners, with calmer waters and a Level 2-3 rating. Show more

Where can I rent a raft for a self-guided tour?

Half Dome Village Recreation Centre is an excellent starting point to rent the necessary rafting equipment and enjoy a self-guided tour. The location is in Yosemite Valley and offers suitable gear and safety equipment. For those preferring rented options outside of Yosemite National Park's boundary, specific rental options are available in surrounding towns like El Portal and Mariposa. Show more

What is the required skill-level for rafting in Merced River?

Regardless of skill level, Merced River rafting is accessible to all. The experience and skill required will depend on the time of year. During peak season, May through June, the river is high, and the rapids are grade 3-4, adding a higher level of difficulty and intensity. During summer, rapids calm down to a Level 2-3 rating, much smoother and suitable for beginners. For those unsure about their rafting skills, guided tours are always an option. Show more

Are guided tours available for Merced River rafting?

Merced River rafting guided tours are widely available through tour providers who equip visitors with safety gear, explain the rapids, and give briefings before hitting the waters. Tour companies provide all the safety gear, including helmets, wetsuits, and rafting gears, to ensure visitors have a memorable, fun, and safe experience. This option is perfect for those who wish to leave the logistics to an expert guide. Show more

Aside from rafting, what other seasonal activities are enjoyable in Yosemite?

Yosemite has a broad range of activities that visitors can undertake throughout the seasons, mainly in the spring and summer. Visitors can hike through the Yosemite Valley and capture breathtaking views of Yosemite's features, especially the iconic Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and El Capitan. Additionally, one can choose to hike, bike, or horseback ride around Yosemite's given trails. The park also has numerous ranger-led hikes and educational programs to provide informational entertainment for visitors. Show more

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