Merced River High Trail

Yosemite, California

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This extended backpack route is one of Yosemite's best-kept secrets. There is lots of trail traffic between Yosemite Valley and Merced Lake, but not much beyond. A few hikers go on to Red Peak Fork, then head south over Red Peak Pass, but very few turn north. Those who do are rewarded with mountain scenery of indescribable beauty, as well as an experience of the Merced River from a perspective you can't get anywhere else. You can trace the river's course from the snowfields of the Clark Range and the lake-dotted country at its base where countless tributary streams originate, then watch the smaller streams merge to become bigger ones that fling themselves over the cliffs of the Merced River gorge in dozens of waterfalls. From here, the river rushes toward the Giant Staircase where it plunges over Vernal and Nevada Falls into Yosemite Valley. Another advantage to this loop is that because it is lower in elevation than the route south over Red Peak Pass, you can get into the backcountry earlier in the season while the higher passes are still under snow.

Merced River High Trail Professional Review and Guide

"This extended backpack route is one of Yosemite's best-kept secrets. There is lots of trail traffic between Yosemite Valley and Merced Lake, but not much beyond. A few hikers go on to Red Peak Fork, then head south over Red Peak Pass, but very few turn north. Those who do are rewarded with mountain scenery of indescribable beauty, as well as an experience of the Merced River from a perspective you can't get anywhere else. You can trace the river's course from the snowfields of the Clark Range and the lake-dotted country at its base where countless tributary streams originate, then watch the smaller streams merge to become bigger ones that fling themselves over the cliffs of the Merced River gorge in dozens of waterfalls. From here, the river rushes toward the Giant Staircase where it plunges over Vernal and Nevada Falls into Yosemite Valley. Another advantage to this loop is that because it is lower in elevation than the route south over Red Peak Pass, you can get into the backcountry earlier in the season while the higher passes are still under snow."

Activity Type: Backpacking, Hiking
Nearby City: Yosemite
Distance: 51.5
Elevation Gain: 6,700 feet
Trail Type: Out-and-back
Skill Level: Difficult
Duration: 4 to 8 days
Season: July through Sept
Local Contacts: Yosemite National Park
Local Maps: USGS Half Dome, Merced Peak, Mount Lyell quads

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