Merced Lake Trail
ElevationAscent: 1,505' 459 m
Descent: -312' -95 m
High: 7,328' 2,234 m
Low: 6,117' 1,865 m
GradeAvg Grade: 4% (2°)
Max Grade: 39% (21°)
Popular runs nearby
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13.1 mi 21.0 km • Point to Point • 3,990 ft Ascent 1216.16 m Ascent
Taft Point to Sentinel Dome Loop
5.5 mi 8.9 km • Loop • 1,051 ft Ascent 320.3 m Ascent
Lower Yosemite Fall Trail
1.0 mi 1.6 km • Loop • 75 ft Ascent 22.74 m Ascent
North Dome Out and Back
15.5 mi 24.9 km • Out and Back • 4,760 ft Ascent 1450.88 m Ascent
Clouds Rest Viewpoint Trail
12.4 mi 20.0 km • Loop • 2,129 ft Ascent 649.04 m Ascent
“A rewarding, yet sometimes grueling route along the North Fork of the Merced River.”— schleppy schlepenstien
Features Birding · Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife
As the trail continues, towering walls of granite start to loom above you on either side of the river. Soon the sounds of Bunnell Cascades can be heard and a footbridge crosses the river at the foot of Bunnell Point. This is a great place to take a break to fill water bottles and warm-up the legs for the upcoming Bunnell Switchbacks, which many consider to be the most strenuous section of the trail.
Well-built stairs switchback up the downriver side of exposed granite slabs, eventually gaining a little shade towards the top of the climb. Use caution when leaving the little forest at the top and when traversing the slabs. It is well-marked and safe, yet wander too far off the downhill side and you might not stop until you reach the river, hundreds of feet below.
Once past the slabs, cross a footbridge at the top of the Bunnell Cascades. The view down river from here is impressive, to say the least. The trail leaves the Merced River for the next mile or so of the journey. Pass the trail junction at Echo Creek and the Cathedral Fork to Merced Lake Connector. The trail crosses a bridge and then winds its way through the meadows of Echo Valley, which has been ravaged by several fires over the years. Occasionally, wild strawberries can be found in the meadows and along the trail in Echo Valley...Keep your eyes out for them! Enjoy a stunning view of Mount Clark to the south as well.
The trail rejoins the river at yet another large pool. Recharge, refuel (or just blast off) for the last steep section of steps to finally reach the foot of Merced Lake. Meander along through the ancient forest beside the lake to reach the Merced Lake Backpackers Campground. A small rudimentary cattle gate will be encountered, before the campground. Please make sure to keep the gate closed, NPS crews depend on Mule teams to deliver supplies to the High Sierra Camp and the Ranger Station 1 mile upriver.
Land Manager: NPS - Yosemite