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The Merced River Trail is an ungroomed, mostly dirt trail that follows the unshaded banks of the Merced River within the Merced River Recreation Area. Ideal for horseback riding, mountain biking and hiking, the trail offers many stunning overlooks and great natural scenery.
Approximately half of the route, once the Yosemite Valley Railroad grade, is shared with infrequent automobile traffic from the Briceburg Visitor Center to the Railroad Flat Campground. To the west, the trail is limited to non-motorized traffic. Two other campgrounds—Willow Placer and McCabe Flat—are accessible from the shared trail and road.
Parking for the Merced River Trail is available at the Briceburg Visitor Center. Daily parking is free, but a camping fee of $10 per night applies at any of the three campgrounds. Restrooms are available at the campgrounds.
To reach the Briceburg Visitor Center from Merced, travel east on State Route 140 for approximately 36 miles to the town of Mariposa, then travel 12 miles north on SR 140 to Briceburg. The visitor center will be on the left.
This trail was highlighted as a terrific way to view some spring mountain flowers while riding along the Merced River. In April 2019 my wife and I decided to give it a try. Unfortunately we got a late start so ended up riding mid-afternoon, a little too hot for the flowers although we did see a few patches.
We started at the Briceburg trailhead. The view along the river was spectacular even though the gravel road was quite a wash board so had to keep our speed down. There were several camp grounds along the river within the first five miles. Unfortunately there is a locked gate at five miles that has a bypass for walkers, but because of the way it was built, there was no way to get our bikes through so our 13 mile trip was cut short. We talked to a local who happened to be there who said the gate had been there for many years. So short of lifting our bikes over the gate, we decided someone just didn’t want us riding on so we turned around.
The day was not a complete loss, however, because you are about an hour from the Yosemite Valley. We headed on over, had lunch and rode through the valley. The water falls were spectacular from all the snow fall this year.
Trip cut short, rattlesnakes, one coiled and leaped. Missed me. That was only 2.5 miles in. So be careful. I was glad my dogs were behind me. I was surprised, usually rattlesnakes don't get aggressive.
My wife and I made a day trip up to the MRT and thoroughly enjoyed it. There were numerous wildflowers blooming and the river was running fast from the recent rains we'd had. It's a great trail for beginners and that's exactly what we wanted.
05/28/2016 Unshaded - Yes; limited.
Tons of sticker bushes - 5 varieties.
Challenging - Meh; Mostly flat with small inclines.
Watch for gopher/varmint holes.
Was easy to find on the Briceburg side. This trail was enjoyable, mostly. Bring your non-cloth hiking boots/shoes or wind up with "Bullet Ant" shoes.
The best part? The "rock fairy" a nice gentleman named Eric. Was very informative about geology.
Next trip is hike upstream, raft down stream.
Went looking for this trail from the Bagby end but nothing!! I went off of the directions given in this website. The directions say that If you're driving south on Hwy 49 you will see Pinetree Rd and then continue onto French Rd.
I never saw either one. There are no street signs for Pinetree Rd or French Rd off of Hwy 49. I drove the area twice. Others bicyclists looking for the same trail had difficulty as well. If somebody could assist I would really appreciate it. I'd like to find this trail....Thanks.
What a fun ride. The scenery is beautiful all throughout the bike ride. We started out at the Briceburg entrance and rode in 11 miles til the soil got really sandy and it was tough to ride. Great workout and lots of challenges mountain biking over rocks. Did had to get off the bikes and walk them over some rocks but it was part of the fun experience. Will definitely do it again and recommend it to anyone who likes beautiful scenery, a good workout and a challenge.
Unattended trail loose shale rock and sand, trail is hard to follow at the bagby end. bagby toward Brisburg first 3 miles a lot of picking up your bike and carry, very dry area no shade it`s more of a cows trail. Brisburg end a little better the waterfall is nice about midways on trail, a few down trees to cross, not a summer ride.
We just came back (4/20/13) from a Spring trip to see wildflowers.We took 140 to Briceburg where we crossed a quaint bridge to the other side of the river.
We drove downstream along the former railway about 5 miles to Railroad Flat where we camped in our van RV. The dirt road to the BLM campground is good ($10, first come first server- no reservations). At Railroad Flat is a gate, letting walkers and cyclists through. We had mountain bikes and could ride down another 2-3 miles before rock slides across the old rail bed made us ditch our bikes.
We hiked downstream to the confluence of the North Fork and a mile or two up that fork. We saw plenty of wildflowers though we found out we were about 2 weeks late.
The Merced River was a little high from spring melt in the mountains. A little later, lots of whitewater rafting trips float down the river.
Intrepid hikers could cross the North Fork )site of former trestle) and continue down stream to Bagby for about 16 miles total.
The next day we drove up to Hite's Cove Trail and enjoyed another lovely hike, this one more rugged.
Merced River Trail is great for hiking and mountain bikes. The old RR grade continues to El Portal though it is washed out in many places.
March 21-April 21 is best time to visit before it gets too hot and dry.
The south end of the trail is nearly impassable. The banks have washed out and covered the trail with loose scree. The only remnant of the trail is a 6 inch wide single track with a severe drop off to the river bed. We are reasonably accomplished mountain bikers but only made it 2 miles up the trail before turning around. "Mountain Biking Norther California's Best 100 Trails" by Fragnoli and Stuart listed the trail as "Easy". I guess that was a few high water years ago.
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