Merced County Parks

Lake Yosemite - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Merced County offers three large regional parks –

Hagaman

Henderson

and Lake Yosemite. 

Hagaman and Henderson are both situated on the Merced River. 

Lake Yosemite wraps around the southern side of a reservoir just outside the City of Merced. 

Henderson is my personal favorite with the nicest facilities and plenty of shade provided by tall trees.

Note:  pets are not allowed in Merced County Parks, but are welcome in California State Parks and at reservoirs operated by local irrigation districts and the Army Corps of Engineers.

County Park Resources:  

County Park Facility Rental Fees:  http://www.co.merced.ca.us/index.aspx?NID=761 

Frequently Asked Questions About County Parks:  http://www.co.merced.ca.us/FAQ.ASPx?QID=279 

County Park Rules:  http://www.co.merced.ca.us/index.aspx?NID=789 

Hagaman Park: 

Located on a bluff above the Merced River in northwestern Merced County, Hagaman Park is especially popular with residents of the west side of the county.  A large picnic area is available for rent.  Because of drownings, this area is not open to fishing and a fence runs along the bluff to discourage river access.  If you want to swim or fish in the Merced River, try Henderson County Park, George J. Hatfield State Recreation Area, or McConnell State Recreation Area.

Location:  19914 River Road, Stevinson, CA (Intersection of River Road and Highway 165)

Distance from Merced:  24 miles

Distance from Los Banos:  23 miles

Facilities and activities:

  • Flush restrooms
  • Drinking fountains
  • Picnic areas with tables, shelters, and BBQ grills
  • Group picnic areas and shelters
  • Playground
  • Fishing or boating?  No

Website:  http://www.co.merced.ca.us/index.aspx?NID=1410 

Nearby Parks:  Camping and picnic areas are available at George J. Hatfield State Recreation Area, McConnell State Recreation Area, and San Luis State Recreation Area.

Henderson Park: 

Stretched along the bank of the Merced River in eastern Merced County, Henderson Park is shaded by tall trees and further back from the road than the facilities at Hagaman County Park or George J. Hatfield State Recreation Area. 

Like McConnell State Recreation Area, it feels more distant and removed than it actually is.  The park is popular for picnicking, large gatherings, river recreation, and fishing.  Three rental facilities are available, including an indoor clubhouse with kitchen and fireplace.  

Location:  Merced Falls Road, 1 mile east of Snelling

Distance from Merced:  20 miles

Distance from Los Banos: 55 miles

Facilities and activities:

  • Flush restrooms
  • Drinking fountains
  • Picnic areas with tables, shelters, and BBQ grills
  • Group picnic/banquet facilities (indoor and outdoor) 
  • Swimming area
  • Playground
  • Softball diamond
  • Horseshoe pits
  • Dogs allowed?  No
  • Horses allowed?  No
  • Hunting allowed?  No
  • Fishing and boating:  Fishing for rainbow trout is popular along the river and small boats can be hand launched from a concrete ramp (vehicles are not permitted near the ramp).
  • Nearby Parks:  Camping is available at McConnell State Recreation Area, and Lake McClure and Lake McSwain.

 

Lake Yosemite: 

Only seven miles from the center of Merced, Lake Yosemite has long been a popular spot for picnics, family outings, group activities, fishing and boating.  It isn’t the largest lake in Merced County, but it is close to home and has extensive recreational facilities.  Most facilities are accessed from Lake Road, but a secondary fishing access point is located at the end of Old Lake Road.  Lake Yosemite’s water comes from the Merced River.  It is diverted into the Main Canal by the Crocker-Huffman Dam, halfway between Snelling and Merced Falls.

 

Location:  5714 Lake Road, Merced, CA 95340

Distance from Merced: 7 miles

Distance from Los Banos:  43 miles

Operating authority:  Merced County Parks and Recreation

Surface area of lake:  500 acres

Facilities and activities:

  • Boat ramp and marina
  • Concessions booth (summer weekends only)
  • Flush restrooms
  • Drinking fountains
  • Picnic areas with tables, shelters, and BBQ grills
  • Group picnic/banquet facilities (indoor and outdoor)
  • Camping area for youth groups
  • Swimming beach
  • Playground
  • Dogs allowed?  No
  • Horses allowed?  No
  • Fish species:  Bass, bluegill, and catfish.  Trout are stocked in the early spring, but don’t last through the summer because of water temperatures.

Rentals:  Non-motorized boats are available on summer weekends from the concession stand.

Website:  http://139.151.188.2/index.aspx?NID=769

Nearby parks:  The closest camping is available at McConnell State Recreation Area, and Lake McClure and Lake McSwain.

Recreation organizations:  The Lake Yosemite Sailing Association organizes sailboat events and races, maintains a docking area, and teaches sailboating skills. 

Membership is open to all who have an interest in sailing. 

Boat ownership is not required and new members can learn to sail by crewing on boats owned by other members.  The LYSA also offers a Sail Camp for youth aged 8 and up during the summer months.  http://www.lakeyosemitesailing.org/

State Parks and State Recreation Areas in Merced County

Los Banos Creek - Photo by adam blauert

Merced County boasts state parks and state recreation areas.  They provide river access, campgrounds, picnic facilities, swimming, boating, fishing, water recreation, OHV recreation, and trails for hikers, bikers and equestrians.  These parks include:

George J. Hatfield State Recreation Area

Great Valley Grasslands State Park

McConnell State Recreation Area

Pacheco State Park

San Luis State Recreation Area

Turlock Lake State Recreation Area


PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

George J. Hatfield State Recreation Area:  This state park has a mile of river frontage and plenty of shade.  It’s proximity to the road and the poor condition of some of its facilities make it less favorable than some of the other parks on the river, but it still provides many excellent fishing opportunities.  Near the park is a historic bridge over the Merced River.  Built in 1910, it is now open only to pedestrians and bikers.  It provides nice views of the river.

Location:  4394 North Kelly Road, Hilmar, CA

  • Distance from Merced: 30 miles
  • Distance from Los Banos:  29 miles
  • Size:  46.5 acres
  • Facilities and activities:
  • Flush restrooms
  • Drinking fountains
  • Campgrounds/group campgrounds with BBQ grills/fire rings
  • Picnic areas with tables, shelters, and BBQ grills
  • Group picnic areas
  • Swimming area
  • Dogs allowed?  Yes
  • Horses allowed?  No
  • Hunting allowed?  No

Fishing or boating?  Fishing can be good at George J. Hatfield Recreation Area.  Rainbow trout and bass can be caught in the spring; catfish and perch throughout the year.  No boating ramp is provided, but it is possible to swim in the river or to launch a float tube or hand-carried boat.

Website:  http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=556

and http://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/554/files/McConnellHatfield.pdf 

Nearby Parks:  Undeveloped Great Valley Grasslands State Park has a six mile hiking trail.


Great Valley Grasslands State Park:  This park preserves one of the few remaining examples of Central Valley grassland.  The primary attraction of this undeveloped park is a six mile loop trail along levee roads.  Along this route you can see, the San Joaquin River,  native bunchgrass prairie, and vernal pools.

Location:  The park’s entrance is on Highway 165 (Lander Ave) just south of Highway 140

Distance from Merced: 21 miles

Distance from Los Banos:  19 miles

  • Size: 2,700 acres
  • Facilities and Activities:
  • Hiking/biking trails
  • Wildlife viewing 
  • Dogs Allowed?  No
  • Horses Allowed?  No
  • Hunting Allowed?  No
  • Fishing or Boating?  No boat ramps are provided, but float tubes could be launched in the San Joaquin River.  Bass and catfish are the primary species caught in this area.

Website: http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=559

and http://www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=25155 for trail description

Nearby Parks:  Camping and picnic areas are available at George J. Hatfield State Recreation Area, McConnell State Recreation Area, and San Luis State Recreation Area.  Picnic areas are also available at Hagaman County Park.


McConnell State Recreation Area:  Like the other Merced River Parks, McConnell has a lot of shade.  It’s also a bit more developed than Hatfield and further from the highway.  If I were to pick a Merced River park in the Valley to camp at, this would be it.  

Location:  8800 McConnell Road, Ballico, CA

Distance from Merced:  22 miles

Distance from Los Banos:  35 miles

  • Size:  74 acres
  • Facilities and activities:
  • Flush restrooms
  • Drinking fountains
  • Campgrounds/group campground with BBQ grills/fire rings, hot showers
  • Picnic areas with tables and BBQ grills
  • Group picnic area
  • Swimming area
  • Dogs allowed?  Yes
  • Horses allowed?  No
  • Hunting allowed?  No
  • Fishing or boating?  Fishing can be good at McConnell Recreation Area.  Rainbow trout and bass can be caught in the spring; catfish and perch throughout the year.  No boating ramp is provided, but it is possible to swim in the river or to launch a float tube or hand-carried boat.

Website: http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=554 and http://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/554/files/McConnellHatfield.pdf 

Nearby parks:  Undeveloped Great Valley Grasslands State Park has a six mile hiking trail.


Pacheco State Park:  This park preserves part of a large Mexican land grant given to the Pacheco family in 1843.  28 miles of trails are available for hiking, biking, and equestrian use.  Thousands of acres of gently rolling oak woodland produces spectacular wildflower displays in the spring.  The ruins of the Pacheco Adobe and a well-preserved line shack from Henry Miller’s ranching operation stand near the picnic area.

Location:  38787 Dinosaur Point Road, Hollister, CA.  Accessed from Highway 152.

Distance from Merced:  59 miles

Distance from Los Banos:  23 miles

  • Size: 6,890 acres
  • Facilities and Activities:
  • Chemical/flush restrooms
  • An equestrian campground is available for special events; other campgrounds are available at the adjacent San Luis State Recreation Area
  • Picnic areas with tables 
  • 28 miles of hiking/biking/equestrian trails
  • Wildlife viewing
  • Wildflower viewing
  • Dogs Allowed?  In picnic area, but not on trails
  • Horses Allowed?  Yes
  • Hunting Allowed?  No
  • Fishing or Boating?  No

Website:  http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=560 and http://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/560/files/Pacheco.pdf.  See http://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/560/files/PachecoTrailMap2006small.pdf for a trail guide.

Special Events:  Ranger-led wildflower hikes in the spring.  A kite flying day is also held annually.

Nearby Parks:  Camping is available at the adjacent San Luis State Recreation Area


 Photo by adam blauert

Photo by adam blauert

 

San Luis State Recreation Area

(San Luis Reservoir, O’Neill Forebay, Los Banos Creek Reservoir): 

The San Luis State Recreation Area is made up of three units.  San Luis Reservoir is the largest and is used primarily for fishing.  Part of both the California Aqueduct and the Central Valley irrigation projects, it is the largest off-stream reservoir in the United States.  At full capacity, it measures nine by five miles at its widest points.

The O’Neill Forebay, a smaller lake below the San Luis Dam, is open to all kinds of recreation and offers the best fishing in the area.  Although this area can be windy, the O’Neill Forebay is more sheltered than the San Luis Reservoir.  O’Neill Forebay is considered to be one of California’s premier fishing areas.  The State record striped bass was caught in O’Neill Forebay in 2008.  It measured 52.5 inches and weighed 70.6 lbs.

Los Banos Creek Reservoir, located a few miles to the south, receives much less visitation.  It is best-known for springtime ranger-led hikes along the creek in the spring.  With a 5mph speed limit, Los Banos Creek Reservoir is primarily enjoyed by anglers.  A shoreline trail is provided for fishing access.  

 

Location:  San Luis Reservoir and the O’Neill Forebay are located on Highway 152, a few miles west of I-5.  Additional access is available from State Highway 33.  Los Banos Creek Reservoir is located on Canyon Road, southwest of Los Banos and I-5.

Distance from Merced:

San Luis Reservoir and O’Neill Forebay:  48 miles

    Los Banos Creek Reservoir:  42 miles

Distance from Los Banos:

    San Luis Reservoir and O’Neill Forebay:  12 miles

    Los Banos Creek Reservoir:  6 miles

Operating authority:  California State Parks

Surface area of lake:  San Luis Reservoir 12,700 acres

O’Neill Forebay 2,250 acres

Los Banos Creek Reservoir 623 acres

Facilities and activities:

  • Boat ramp
  • Chemical/flush restrooms
  • Drinking fountains
  • Visitor center
  • Campgrounds/group campgrounds with BBQ grills/fire rings, shelters, hot showers
  • Picnic areas with tables, shelters, and BBQ grills
  • Group picnic areas and shelters
  • Swimming beach/area with showers
  • Dump station
  • Hiking trails (additional trails available in the adjacent Pacheco State Park)
  • Wildlife viewing areas
  • OHV recreation area (south side of Highway 152 at Jasper-Sears Road.  Novice-level trails for both green and red sticker vehicles are provided)
  • Dogs allowed?  Yes
  • Horses allowed?  Yes, and many equestrian trails are available at the adjacent Pacheco State Park.
  • Hunting allowed?  Yes

Fish species:

San Luis Reservoir and O’Neill Forebay:  bass, bluegill, crappie, perch, shad

Los Banos Creek Reservoir:  bass, bluegill, catfish, and crappie.  Trout are stocked in the early spring, but don’t last through the summer because of water temperatures.

Boat rentals:  No

Website:  http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=558 and http://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/558/files/sanluisSRA.pdf 

Special events:  O’Neill Forebay hosts a Kids Fishing Day in the spring.  The popular Path of the Padres is a Ranger-led hike along Los Banos Creek that is offered from February through April.  Hikers enjoy a creekside walk through wildflowers and learn about the history, wildlife, and plant species of the area.

Nearby parks:  Pacheco State Park is adjacent to San Luis Recreation Area and offers hiking and equestrian trails.  Ranger-led wildflower hikes are offered in the spring.

The California Aqueduct Bikeway begins at San Luis Creek and goes 70 miles north to the Bethany Reservoir State Recreation Area with rest stops ten miles apart and chemical toilets.


 

Turlock Lake State Recreation Area:  Less than an hour from many points in Merced County, Turlock Lake large and easily accessible.

Location:  Lake Road (accessed from Highway 132) between Waterford and La Grange

Distance from Merced:  32 miles

Distance from Los Banos:  67 miles

Operating authority:  California State Parks

Surface area of lake:  3,500 acres

Facilities and activities:

  • Boat ramp
  • Flush restrooms
  • Drinking fountains
  • Campgrounds with BBQ grills/fire rings, hot showers
  • Picnic areas with tables, shelters, and BBQ grills
  • Swimming beach
  • Short hiking trails
  • Dogs allowed?  Yes
  • Horses allowed?  No
  • Hunting allowed?  No
  • Fish species: bass, bluegill, catfish, crappie, trout
  • Boat rentals:  No

Website:  http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=555 and http://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/555/files/TurlockBrochure1.pdf


 

Other Resources:

Fishing and Boating Resources at http://www.takemefishing.org/ 

Department of Fish and Game Regulations:  http://www.dfg.ca.gov/ 

Department of Boating and Waterways Regulations:  http://www.dbw.ca.gov/ 

Reservations for State, Federal, and Army Corps of Engineers Campgrounds:  http://www.reserveamerica.com


San Luis Reservoir Area

San-Luis-Reservoir-e1305509338734

 O’Neill Forebay, Los Banos Creek Reservoir-Part of both the California Aqueduct and the Central Valley irrigation projects.

San Luis Reservoir
San Luis Reservoir

San Luis State Recreation Area

San Luis Reservoir, O’Neill Forebay, Los Banos Creek Reservoir:  The San Luis San Luis Reservoir, O’Neill Forebay, Los Banos Creek Reservoir-Part of both the California Aqueduct and the Central Valley irrigation projects.

Three Units

State Recreation Area is made up of three units.  San Luis Reservoir is the largest and is used primarily for fishing.  Part of both the California Aqueduct and the Central Valley irrigation projects, it is the largest off-stream reservoir in the United States. 

At full capacity, it measures nine by five miles at its widest points.

O'Neill Forebay
O'Neill Forebay

O'Neill Forebay

The O’Neill Forebay, a smaller lake below the San Luis Dam, is open to all kinds of recreation and offers the best fishing in the area. 

Although this area can be windy, the O’Neill Forebay is more sheltered than the San Luis Reservoir.  O’Neill Forebay is considered to be one of California’s premier fishing areas.  

The State record striped bass was caught in O’Neill Forebay in 2008.  It measured 52.5 inches and weighed 70.6 lbs.

Los Banos Creek Reservoir

Located a few miles to the south, receives much less visitation.  It is best-known for springtime ranger-led hikes along the creek in the spring. 

With a 5mph speed limit, Los Banos Creek Reservoir is Los Banos Creek primarily enjoyed by anglers. 

A shoreline trail is provided for fishing access.

Los Banos Creek
Los Banos Creek

Location

  • San Luis Reservoir and the O’Neill Forebay are located on Highway 152, a few miles west of I-5.  Additional access is available from State Highway 33. 
  • Los Banos Creek Reservoir is located on Canyon Road, southwest of Los Banos and I-5.

Distance from Merced

  • San Luis Reservoir and O’Neill Forebay:  48 miles
  • Los Banos Creek Reservoir:  42 miles
  • Distance from Los Banos:
  • San Luis Reservoir and O’Neill Forebay:  12 miles
  • Los Banos Creek Reservoir:  6 miles
  • Operating authority:  California State Parks
  • Surface area of lake:  San Luis Reservoir 12,700 acres
  • O’Neill Forebay 2,250 acres
  • Los Banos Creek Reservoir 623 acres

Facilities and activities

  • Boat ramp
  • Chemical/flush restrooms
  • Drinking fountains
  • Visitor center
  • Campgrounds/group campgrounds with BBQ grills/fire rings, shelters, hot showers
  • Picnic areas with tables, shelters, and BBQ grills
  • Group picnic areas and shelters
  • Swimming beach/area with showers
  • Dump station
  • Hiking trails (additional trails available in the adjacent Pacheco State Park)
  • Wildlife viewing areas
  • OHV recreation area (south side of Highway 152 at Jasper-Sears Road.  Novice-level trails for both green and red sticker vehicles are provided)
  • Dogs allowed?  Yes
  • Horses allowed?  Yes, and many equestrian trails are available at the adjacent Pacheco State Park.
  • Hunting allowed?  Yes
  • Fish species:
  • San Luis Reservoir and O’Neill Forebay:  bass, bluegill, crappie, perch, shad
  • Los Banos Creek Reservoir:  bass, bluegill, catfish, and crappie.  Trout are stocked in the early spring, but don’t last through the summer because of water temperatures.
  • Boat rentals:  No

For More information and special events

Website: http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=558

O’Neill Forebay hosts a Kids Fishing Day in the spring.  The popular Path of the Padres is a Ranger-led hike along Los Banos Creek that is offered from February through April.

Hikers enjoy a creekside walk through wildflowers and learn about the history, wildlife, and plant species of the area.

Nearby parks

Pacheco State Park is adjacent to San Luis Recreation Area and offers hiking and equestrian trails.  Ranger-led wildflower hikes are offered in the spring.

The California Aqueduct Bikeway begins at San Luis Creek and goes 70 miles north to the Bethany Reservoir State Recreation Area with rest stops ten miles apart and chemical toilets

San Luis Reservoir, O’Neill Forebay, Los Banos Creek Reservoir-Part of both the California Aqueduct and the Central Valley irrigation projects.

Visit Hagaman Park-Merced County

 Photo by adam blauert

Photo by adam blauert

Hagaman Park

Located on a bluff above the Merced River in northwestern Merced County, Hagaman Park is especially popular with residents of the west side of the county. A large picnic area is available for rent.

Because of drownings, this area is not open to fishing and a fence runs along the bluff to discourage river access. 

If you want to swim or fish in the Merced River, try George J. Hatfield State Recreation Area, or McConnell State Recreation Area.

Location

  • 19914 River Road, Stevinson, CA (Intersection of River Road and Highway 165)
  • Distance from Merced:  24 miles
  • Distance from Los Banos:  23 miles

Facilities and activities

  • Flush restrooms
  • Drinking fountains
  • Picnic areas with tables, shelters, and BBQ grills
  • Group picnic areas and shelters
  • Playground
Hagaman Park
Hagaman Park

Calaveras Big Trees

 Photo by adam blauert

Photo by adam blauert

The wonder of the Big Trees

A shady grove of giant sequoias is a great place to be during the hot months of summer.  Naturally-occurring populations of giant sequoias – scientific name Sequoiadendron giganteum, also known as Sierra redwoods – are found only along the western slope of our Sierra Nevada mountains. 

These massive trees can grow to be over 300 feet tall and 100 feet in circumference, and can live for as many as 3,500 years. 

Out of about 70 total groves of these amazing trees, only 9 are located north of the Kings River. Close to home, Yosemite’s spectacular Mariposa Grove is probably the best-known, with 500 mature sequoias.

During the summer it can be enjoyed on foot or by taking one of the tram tours offered by the park.  Two smaller groves within the park, the Merced and the Tuolumne, are accessed from easy trails along the Tioga Road (Highway 120).

Highway 4

Another great place to see sequoias is Calaveras Big Trees State Park, located four miles east of Arnold on Highway 4.  Distance-wise, the drive from Merced is only about 10 miles longer than the drive to Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove.

 Mariposa Grove Grizzly Giant  Photo by adam blauert

Mariposa Grove Grizzly Giant  Photo by adam blauert

While Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove is a must-see while you’re in Yosemite, one of the disadvantages is that you can’t actually camp there.  At Calaveras Big Trees, you’ll find 74 comfortable sites with flush toilets and coin-operated showers right next to the North Grove.

Camping in the Big Trees

The campground is so close to the grove that you can start your hike through the trees directly from your campsite.  An additional 55 sites are located at Oak Hollow, halfway between the two groves. 

A small number of more primitive “environmental campsites” are also available throughout the park. 

The campsites at Big Trees are often much easier to book than sites within Yosemite.

The North Grove is one of two groves that make up the park.  Located on the north side of North Fork of the Stanislaus River, it is the most popular of the two. 

Much of this is due to the fact that the trail is accessible to just about everyone – wheelchairs and strollers are commonly seen – and you can see a lot in an easy 1.5 mile loop.

 Discovery Tree Stump -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Discovery Tree Stump - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Big Stump

One of the most memorable landmarks along the trail is the “big stump,” of the “Discovery Tree.”  Cut down in the 1850’s, the stump was sanded smooth and used as a dance floor. 

Today’s guests can stand on it to get an idea of just how massive these trees can be. 

 Pioneer Cabin Tree -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Pioneer Cabin Tree - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Tunnel cut through a Big Tree

Further along the trail, the “Pioneer Cabin Tree” has a tunnel cut through it and is one of the most photographed trees in the park. 

The trees of this grove were the first giant sequoias discovered by European-American settlers that the general public came to know about. 

They immediately became a popular tourist destination.

The South Grove is located on the opposite side of the Stanislaus, a few miles down the Walter W. Smith Memorial Parkway. 

Hiking

For a longer hike, this grove’s 5-mile loop trail will satisfy.  Along the way you’ll see the Agassiz Tree, the park’s largest.  262 feet tall and almost 100 feet in circumference, it is an amazing sight.

A number of longer trails and unpaved fire roads connect major parts of the park, allowing longer hikes. 

For a different landscape, try the 2.5 mile Lava Bluffs Trail above the river.

 Calaveras Sequoias  -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Calaveras Sequoias  - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

In addition to hiking and camping, the park provides picnic areas and the river is open to fishing and swimming. 

Day use is $8 a car

As a day trip or overnight camping destination, it is a great place to escape the summer heat.

It’s also a great place to visit year-round.  The campground is open from March through November and the trails stay open in the snowy months for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. 

The park provides a safe place for kids to play in the snow.  During a winter visit you can warm-up in the warming hut located at the North Grove. 

In the fall maples, dogwoods, and shrubs can provide dramatic fall color among the evergreen sequoias, pines, and firs.

  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

More information

The park’s website provides a lot of useful information for planning a trip. 

Go to http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=551

for more information or call the park at (209) 795-2334. 

To book a campsite reservation, go to http://www.reserveamerica.com/

or call 1-800-444-7275. 

Campsites are $35 a night and can accommodate recreational vehicles.


Merced County Historical Society Museum

 photo by adam blauert

photo by adam blauert

Merced County Historical Society Museum

Merced County’s history comes to life in the museum operated by the Merced County Historical Society.  Housed in the 1875 Italianate-style courthouse, over 8,500 square feet of permanent and rotating exhibits tell of the history and development of the county.

One of the oldest and best-preserved buildings in the region, the old courthouse was designed by the state capitol architect Albert A. Bennett.

It is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

Exhibits

The museum’s displays cover the history of the county from ancient times to the present day including:

  • Yokut Indian artifacts
  • Displays of early ranching and farming, including a blacksmith shop
  • Artifacts from Merced’s Chinatown
  • A display of Merced County schools and a turn-of-the century classroom
  • “Old Betsy” – Merced’s first fire engine, built in 1859
  • The restored 1875 courtroom
  • Displays of home life in the later 1800’s through early 1900’s

Hours and Admission

The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 1-4.  Admission is free and knowledgeable docents are available to provide tours.  The building is wheelchair accessible.

Location

 21st and N Streets, Merced

Gift Shop

The gift shop sells a wide variety of books about local history, along with gifts and souvenirs.

Events

The Merced County Historical Society hosts a wide range of history-themed events throughout the year.  Check the website for a current schedule.

Archives

The museum holds a large collection of county records.  Appointments to access the collection can be made by contacting the museum’s office.

Contact Information

 (209) 723-2401/ http://www.mercedmuseum.org/


Romero Visitor Center – San Luis Reservoir

 Photo by adam Blauert

Photo by adam Blauert

Romero Visitor Center – San Luis ReservoirDrivers heading out of Merced County over Pacheco Pass often notice the sign for the Romero Visitor Center at the San Luis State Recreation Area and wonder what it is. 

For several years I did this – always on my way to get somewhere else.  Finally last month I stopped to check it out.

 Reservoir from Museum -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Reservoir from Museum - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Sisk Dam

Located at the top of the long span of Sisk Dam, the visitor center has exhibits about the history of the area, the construction of the dam, and California’s massive water storage and delivery system.  Tours are available and a variety of films about water in California can be shown upon request.

 If you’ve ever wanted to know more about water use and management in the Golden State, this is a great place to start. 

Hours and cost

Open from 9AM to 5 PM daily (except major holidays), it is an easy and relatively quick stop on your way to somewhere else. 

Better yet, admission is free.  While you are there you can learn about recreational opportunities at the San Luis State Recreation Area and other recreation areas within the California State Water Project System from the Department of Water Resources guide on duty. 

 Exhibits -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Exhibits - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

California Department of Water Resources

Although most of the visitor services within the San Luis SRA are operated by California State Parks, the Romero Visitor Center is operated by the California Department of Water Resources.

 The reservoir was constructed between 1963 and 1967.  Part of both the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project, the reservoir holds water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta before it is delivered throughout the state via the California Aqueduct and the Delta-Mendota Canal. 

This redistribution of the state’s water is part of what makes modern California and possible.  In a state where much of the land is desert (less than 10 inches of precipitation annually) or semiarid (less than 20 inches annually), water management is tremendously important to support a population of 38 million inhabitants, plus agriculture, industry, commerce, recreation, tourism, and wildlife. 

Largest off-stream reservoir in the United States

385-foot tall rock and earthfill Sisk Dam forms the fifth-largest reservoir in California.  Holding 652 billion gallons of water when full, the lake is only surpassed in size by Shasta, Oroville, Trinity, and New Melones. 

It is also the largest off-stream reservoir in the United States. 

Rather than stopping the flow of a river along its natural course, an off-stream reservoir holds water that has been pumped away from its natural location.

 With this year’s worrisome dry winter, it’s a great time to increase your knowledge of this precious and scarce resource. 

Although the reservoir is currently near full capacity after last year’s exceptional winter, it may soon be returning to the low levels that were so common a couple of years ago.  Now is the time to enjoy the beauty of the reservoir. 

For optimal viewing, pick a day with clear skies and clean air. 

If we continue to get precipitation the hills may be very green by March and April.  Great wildflower shows are common after wet winters.

 Looking at the elk -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Looking at the elk - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

 Tule Elk

From the patio behind the visitor center, visitors can use free telescopes to view the lake and the surrounding hills. 

If you’re lucky, the area’s herd of native tule elk may be within sight.  On my recent visit they were grazing close to the dam.

 Tule Elk -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Tule Elk - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

For more information

go to http://www.water.ca.gov/recreation/locations/sanluis/sanluisvisitor.cfm

or call (209) 827-5353.

Turlock Lake State Recreation Area

Turlock Lake Photo from

Turlock Lake State Recreation Area

Less than an hour from many points in Merced County, Turlock Lake large and easily accessible.

Location

Lake Road (accessed from Highway 132) between Waterford and La Grange Distance from Merced: 32 miles Distance from Los Banos: 67 miles Operating authority: California State Parks Surface area of lake: 3,500 acres

Facilities and activities

  • Boat ramp
  • Flush restrooms
  • Drinking fountains
  • Campgrounds with BBQ grills/fire rings, hot showers
  • Picnic areas with tables, shelters, and BBQ grills
  • Swimming beach
  • Short hiking trails
  • Dogs allowed? Yes
  • Horses allowed? No
  • Hunting allowed? No
  • Fish species: bass, bluegill, catfish, crappie, trout
  • Boat rentals: No

Sierra National Forest

  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

National forests

Yosemite National Park is surrounded by national forest lands.  To the northwest, the Stanislaus National Forest provides some of the closest mountain recreation for those of us in the Central Valley.  On the opposite side of the Merced River, the Sierra National Forest provides equally close mountains. 

When you drive to Yosemite on Highway 140 you are on the Sierra National Forest side of the river canyon for most of the journey.  Directly across the water is Stanislaus National Forest.

 McKinley Grove -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

McKinley Grove - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

McKinley Grove

The Park between Yosemite National Park and Kings Canyon National Park

The name “Sierra National Forest” can be confusing because the Sierra Nevada mountain range stretches all the way from Highway 36 east of Chico to Tehachapi Pass (Highway 58) in the south. 

Sierra National Forest comprises only part of this area – specifically the area between Yosemite National Park and Kings Canyon National Park.  Its 1.3 million acres of land provide just about every type of outdoor recreation imaginable.  From dry foothills to snowbound windswept peaks it is a glorious place to explore.

Just as with its vast northern neighbor Stanislaus National Forest, the question “What do you do there?” requires a long answer.  This article is an effort to answer that question and to provide a list of useful resources for learning about the forest and its recreational opportunities. 

One of the best resources to start with is the annual visitor guide produced by Sierra National Forest 

website: http://www.3forests.us/

 Shaver Lake -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Shaver Lake - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Shaver Lake

Popular recreational activities within Sierra National Forest include

  • Auto touring
  • Staying in developed recreation areas within and near the forest
  • Hiking and backpacking in wilderness areas
  • Hiking trails outside of wilderness areas
  • Camping
  • Ranger-led activities
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Hiking and camping with dogs
  • Horseback riding
  • Mountain biking
  • OHV riding and exploring 4-wheel drive roads
  • Hunting
  • Downhill skiing
  • Playing in the snow
  • Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing
  • Snowmobiling   

Within the forest there are many privately owned areas.  Some of these offer additional recreational opportunities plus tent and RV campgrounds, lodging, restaurants, stores, and gas stations.

 Kaiser Pass Road View -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Kaiser Pass Road View - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Kaiser Pass Road View

Ranger Stations

The Sierra National Forest Headquarters is located at 1600 Tollhouse Road in Clovis.  You can get general forest information and recreation permits by contacting the headquarters. 

The phone number is (559) 297-0706 and the general website for the entire forest is www.fs.usda.gov/sierra/.

The forest is divided into districts which can provide more specific information about their respective areas

  • High Sierra District:  29688 Auberry Road, Prather –(559) 855-5355
  • Bass Lake District:  57003 Road 225, North Fork – (559) 877-2218
  • Yosemite Sierra Visitor Bureau:  41969 Highway 41, Oakhurst – (559) 683-4636
  • Mariposa Interagency Visitor Center:  5158 Highway 140, Mariposa –
  • (209) 966-7081
  • Eastwood (seasonal):  Highway 168 and Kaiser Pass Road, Huntington Lake –
  • (559) 893-6611
  • Dinkey Creek (seasonal):  Dinkey Creek Road at Dinkey Creek – (559) 841-3404
  • High Sierra (seasonal):  Kaiser Pass Road – (559) 877-7173
 Ansel Adams Wilderness  -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Ansel Adams Wilderness  - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Ansel Adams Wilderness

Road Access and Auto Touring

 Unlike the national forests to the north, no road crosses the entire mountain range within Sierra National Forest.  Highway 168, the major state highway in the area, penetrates deep into the mountains and the Kaiser Pass Road to Edison and Florence Lakes approaches the crest, but there is no automobile crossing.  This leaves plenty of room for exploration on foot or horseback. 

A number of secondary roads ranging from two-lane paved roads to rough four-wheel drive roads provide plenty of additional access.  Besides Highway 168 and Kaiser Pass Road, the paved roads to Courtright and Wishon Reservoirs are great scenic drives. 

The partially-paved 100-mile Sierra Vista Scenic Byway is also a great choice for auto touring.  Usually the road can be traversed by any car if driven carefully, but high-clearance is recommended. 

For more information about the byway go to www.sierravistascenicbyway.org/

Major Towns, Supplies, Lodging, Food, and Gas

The major supply and service locations are adjacent to the major roads. Each of the major routes has chambers of commerce and/or business associations with websites for information about lodging, food, supplies, gas, local activities, and special events.

I’ve listed them below in order from north to south:

Highway 140 ~ Mariposa, El Portal

Highway 41 ~ Oakhurst, Sugar Pine, Fish Camp

Sierra Vista Scenic Byway ~ Bass Lake, North Fork, South Fork

Highway 168 and Kaiser Pass ~ Shaver Lake, Huntington Lake, Edison Lake

 Courtright Reservoir -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Courtright Reservoir - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Wilderness Areas

 Five wilderness areas are within or partly within the boundaries of Sierra National Forest.  They offer some of California’s best hiking, backpacking, and fishing.  They are also great places to enjoy abundant and brilliant wildflowers and to see a variety of wildlife in its natural habitat.

Ansel Adams Wilderness

Named for the photographer whose timeless images turned the Sierra Nevada’s striking landscapes into universally-recognized icons, this great wilderness area makes up much of the northeastern section of Sierra National Forest.  With stunning mountain peaks, alpine lakes, and the headwaters of the San Joaquin River, the Ansel Adams Wilderness has a lifetime of trails to explore.

Dinkey Lakes Wilderness

One of the smaller wilderness areas in the forest, this often-overlooked region has many lakes and surprisingly easy day hike and backpacking destinations. 

 Dinkey Lakes Wilderness -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Dinkey Lakes Wilderness - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Dinkey Lakes Wilderness

Note:  the lakes are not “dinkey” in size; the wilderness was named for a dog named Dinkey who saved a pioneer from a grizzly bear attack.

John Muir Wilderness

The protection of the Sierra Nevada Mountains is largely due to the work of naturalist John Muir and it is only fitting that one of the largest wilderness areas in the range bears his name. 

The eastern part of the wilderness is part of Inyo National Forest.  This area contains some of the highest peaks in the lower 48 states, glaciers, an amazing number of lakes, and excellent fishing.

Kaiser Wilderness

 This is a small wilderness area that is largely unknown outside the Fresno area.  Centered around Kaiser Peak and north of Huntington Lake, the area contains several small lakes.  Trails are generally more challenging than the equally-sized Dinkey Lakes Wilderness.

Monarch Wilderness

At the southernmost edge of Sierra National Forest, this small and almost unknown wilderness is mostly located within Sequoia National Forest and the Giant Sequoia National Monument.  Although it lacks lakes and contains some extremely rugged terrain it is a place where solitude is likely to be found among old growth giant sequoias.

Trails Outside of Wilderness Areas

A number of excellent trails are found outside of the wilderness areas.  Details can be found in some of the books listed below.  Some of the most popular non-wilderness trails are within the forest’s two groves of giant sequoias:

Nelder Grove

 On the northern edge of the forest north of Oakhurst, this partially-logged grove still has several impressive trees. 

For more information go to: http://www.neldergrove.org/

McKinley Grove

Located along the McKinley Grove Road between Dinkey Creek and Wishon Reservoir.  An easy walk through the trees is a trail that is within just about anyone’s ability range.  

For more information go to:  www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5344073.pdf

Books, Maps, and Other Resources

Although web-based resources are great for planning a trip, cellular service, internet, and electric power are hard to come by in much of the forest. 

If you can store electronic resources on your device and have well-charged batteries, you may be able to continue to access your information this way.  It’s always good, however, to have some paper resources. 

Print out information from the internet and bring both maps and books.  The general guide produced by Sierra National Forest is invaluable to have with you, especially if your plans change while on a trip. 

Weather and other elements outside of your control often require flexibility. 

You can access and print that guide here:  www.3forests.us/sierra

Books

Unfortunately there is no single book that comprehensively covers this area.  For backpacking, Sierra South from Wilderness Press is a great choice. 

For shorter day hikes, pick up a copy of California Hiking by Stienstra and Brown.  Not only does this book highlight the best day hikes in Sierra National Forest, it is also an excellent resource for the entire state with a total of 1,000 hike routes. 

Hiking the Sierra Nevada by Barry Parr is also a good choice.

Maps

It’s good to have a general highway map, but if you plan to explore off the main roads the Sierra National Forest Map is one of the most important things to have with you. 

In addition to roads and trails, it also shows campgrounds, ranger stations, supply locations, and recreation areas.  It supplements the general guide to the forest (see above). 

You can buy it from the U.S. Geological Survey for $12:  store.usgs.gov from a variety of other online retailers.    You can also purchase it at a ranger station. 

For hiking or backpacking, the following maps are the top choices:  No matter what resources you use, always call a ranger station to verify current conditions before you leave on a trip.  Conditions are always changing and even the official websites can be badly out of date.

Ansel Adams Wilderness published by Tom Harrison Maps 

(I generally prefer Tom Harrison’s maps because they have the mileage directly written on each trail segment – this makes for easier trip planning.  They are also waterproof).

Dinkey Lakes Wilderness published by Tom Harrison Maps

Mono Divide High Country Trail Map published by Tom Harrison (covers most of the John Muir Wilderness)

A Guide to the Kaiser Wilderness published by the US Forest Service

For more detailed hiking maps, check the USGS website for 7.5 and 15 minute sections. 

You can order printed copies of these maps or download free electronic copies.

 Edison Lake -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Edison Lake - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Edison Lake

Campground Camping

Within Sierra National Forest you’ll find 82 campgrounds. 

Most are detailed in the forest guide:  www.3forests.us/sierra

Some campgrounds are reservable in advance.  You can search for reservable campsites by going to:  www.recreation.gov.

Dispersed Camping

Camping outside a campground (usually referred to as “dispersed camping”) is permitted in areas of the forest where signs do not specifically prohibit it. 

You can always check with a ranger station before you set up camp.  In order to have a campfire you need a California Campfire Permit, available at any ranger station. 

You can also take an online quiz and get one issued electronically by going to:  

http://www.fs.usda.gov/sequoia/

As long as you follow the rules on the permit and make sure that you have chosen a safe site, your campfire is legal.  Before your trip you should also make sure that additional campfire restrictions have not been put in place. 

In dry years campfires are sometimes prohibited outside of established campgrounds.  This year is no different and some limitations have been imposed.

Ranger-Led Activities

A variety of programs and hikes for all ages and ability levels are offered throughout the year.  For current schedules call the ranger district that you plan to visit.

Fishing

The forest abounds with streams, rivers, natural lakes, and reservoirs.  Many are stocked and most are open to fishing. 

For regulations and stocking information, go to www.dfg.ca.gov.  Tom Stienstra’s California Fishing is a good general guide to the whole state, including Sierra National Forest.

Boating

Motorized fishing boats area allowed on the following lakes:  Bass, Courtright, Edison, Florence, Huntington, Mammoth Pool, Pine Flat, Redinger, Shaver, and Wishon.  Water skiing and jet skis are allowed at Bass, Huntington, Pine Flat, Redinger, and Shaver.

Swimming

Swimming is allowed in most streams, rivers, and lakes, however it can be dangerous.  Make sure that all people in your group have strong swimming abilities and you have flotation devices in case a rescue is necessary.  Check with a ranger for current conditions and recommended areas.

Dogs

Dogs are welcome on trails and in campgrounds in national forests as long as they are on-leash and well-behaved.  They are not permitted on trails in state or national parks.  Dogs may be off-leash as long as they are under voice control within wilderness areas (except in bighorn sheep habitat areas – check with a ranger station if you are planning a backpacking trip with a dog).

Horses

Horses are permitted on trails within the national forest.  For overnight trips they must be included on your wilderness permit.  Check with the ranger station for the best trail parking for horse trailers.  Day rides and overnight pack trips are offered by:

If you are not up to carrying all your gear or if you want to enjoy the wilderness with in a less strenuous way, a pack trip is a good choice.

Mountain Bikes

All roads and most trails outside of wilderness areas are open to mountain bikes.  Check with a ranger for recommended trails and roads.

Off-Highway Vehicles and 4-Wheel Drive Vehicles

Many remote forest roads require 4-wheel drive and several areas are open to off-highway vehicles. 

A copy of the Sierra National Forest map is extremely helpful in locating the best sites.

Hunting

The forest, including wilderness areas, is open to hunting according to DFG regulations.  You can check regulations at www.dfg.ca.gov.  Target shooting is prohibited in wilderness areas.

Winter Activities

Some roads and campgrounds are open through the winter months, especially in the lower elevations.  Always carry tire chains and know how to install them.  Highways 41, 140, and 168 are open throughout the winter except for temporary snow closures. 

Most other roads are closed.  Many lodging facilities are open year-round.

Downhill skiing and snowboarding

Offered at China Peak on Highway 168 at Huntington Lake.  For more information:  www.skichinapeak.com/

Snow Play Areas

Sierra National Forest is also a popular destination to play in the snow.  Five “Sno-Parks” offer snow recreation for a $5 use fee.  Permits must be purchased before you reach the Sno-Park.  Look for signs as you drive up Highway 168 or call the ranger station for a current listing.

Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing

Along trails is also popular.  Occasionally ranger-led snow activities are offered.  Check with the ranger station for details.  If none are offered, try Yosemite or Sequoia National Parks. 

 To find your own route, pick up a copy of Best Snowshoe Trails of California by Mark White. 

Snowmobile Trails

For snowmobiling information go to www.fs.usda.gov/detail/sierra/recreation/wintersports/?cid=stelprdb5303598

or call the ranger station.

Henderson Park

  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Henderson Park popular for picnics

Stretched along the bank of the Merced River in eastern Merced County, Henderson Park is shaded by tall trees and further back from the road than the facilities at Hagaman County Park or George J. Hatfield State Recreation Area.

Like McConnell State Recreation Area, it feels more distant and removed than it actually is.

The park is popular for picnicking, large gatherings, river recreation, and fishing. Three rental facilities are available, including an indoor clubhouse with kitchen and fireplace.

Although Merced County Parks and Recreation discourages swimming in county parks, swimming is not prohibited here. Warning signs are posted and any swimming you do is at your own risk.”

Location

Merced Falls Road, 1 mile east of Snelling Distance from Merced: 20 miles Distance from Los Banos: 55 miles

Facilities and activities

  • Flush restrooms
  • Drinking fountains
  • Picnic areas with tables, shelters, and BBQ grills
  • Group picnic/banquet facilities (indoor and outdoor)
  • Playground
  • Softball diamond
  • Horseshoe pits
  • Dogs allowed? No
  • Horses allowed? No
  • Hunting allowed? No

Fishing and boating

Fishing for rainbow trout is popular along the river and small boats can be hand launched from a concrete ramp (vehicles are not permitted near the ramp).

Nearby Parks: Camping is available at:

George J. Hatfield Recreation Area

 Photo by adam blauert

Photo by adam blauert

George J. Hatfield Recreation Area:

This state park has a mile of river frontage and plenty of shade.  It’s proximity to the road and the poor condition of some of its facilities make it less favorable than some of the other parks on the river, but it still provides many excellent fishing opportunities.

 Hatfield -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Hatfield - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Near the park is a historic bridge over the Merced River.  Built in 1910, it is now open only to pedestrians and bikers.  It provides nice views of the river.

  • Location:  4394 North Kelly Road, Hilmar, CA
  • Distance from Merced: 30 miles
  • Distance from Los Banos:  29 miles
  • Size:  46.5 acres

Hatfield Facilities and activities:

  • Flush restrooms
  • Drinking fountains
  • Campgrounds/group campgrounds with BBQ grills/fire rings
  • Picnic areas with tables, shelters, and BBQ grills
  • Group picnic areas
  • Swimming area
  • Dogs allowed?  Yes
  • Horses allowed?  No
  • Hunting allowed?  No
  • Fishing or boating?  Fishing can be good at George J. Hatfield Recreation Area. Rainbow trout and bass can be caught in the spring; catfish and perch throughout the year.  No boating ramp is provided, but it is possible to swim in the river or to launch a float tube or hand-carried boat.

Website: Hatfield Recreation (click Here)

Nearby Parks:  Undeveloped Great Valley Grasslands State Park has a six mile hiking trail.

 

Great Bike Paths in Merced County

riding bike
 Bike Paths - photo by adam blauert

Bike Paths - photo by adam blauert

Bike Path in Merced

Merced County communities have an extended network of bike paths and bike lanes with many more planned for future construction.  This network is made up of three distinct classes of pathways, lanes, and routes.

 Bear Creek Bikeway  -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Bear Creek Bikeway  - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Class 1:  Separate pathway for bikes, pedestrians, skateboards, and other non-motorized uses.

Class 2:  A separate bike lane along the edge of a road; indicated by a striped line.

 Class 3:  A designated route without painted lines to indicate a separate bike lane.

 Bike Paths  -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Bike Paths  - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

There are many miles of bike paths in Merced

City of Merced city bikeway map  (click here)

Merced bike paths on Google Maps (click here)

Great links for local information about bicycling in Merced County.

 Bear Creek Bikeway -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Bear Creek Bikeway - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Additional Information

For additional information on biking, bike maintenance, bike events, and riding in Merced County, check out the website:  

Merced Bicycle Coaliton : http://www.mercedbicyclecoalition.org/

Trans_Logo_Large_600
Trans_Logo_Large_600
boy on merced city bike trails
boy on merced city bike trails

Bike Licensing

Bikes owned by residents of the incorporated areas of Merced County (Atwater, Dos Palos, Gustine, Livingston, Los Banos, Merced) must be licensed. 

A 3-year license costs $5 and is available from the police station in your city.  The information typically required in the license form includes band, model, serial number, wheel size, and frame size. 

The City of Merced provides its license information here.  CLICK HERE

 

To obtain a license, visit your local police station

  • City of Atwater Police Department - 750 Bellevue, Atwater / (209) 357-6385
  • City of Dos Palos Police Department - 1546 Golden Gate Ave, Dos Palos / (209) 392-2177
  • City of Gustine Police Department  - 682 3rd Ave, Gustine / (209) 854-3737
  • City of Livingston Police Department - 1446 C Street, Livingston / (209) 394-7916
  • City of Los Banos Police Department - 945 5th Street, Los Banos / (209) 827-7070
  • City of Merced Police Department - 611 West 22nd Street, Merced / (209) 385-6912

Bikes on the Bus:  Bike racks are provided on Merced County Transit Busses (The Bus).


Visit the Parks of Merced City

 Photo by adam blauert

Photo by adam blauert

Merced City Parks

The City of Merced maintains a wide range of neighborhood, regional, and community parks within the city limits.  Many of these parks are located along Merced City Bikeways. 

Information on bike routes is included in the descriptions below.  

 Applegate -photo by adam blauert

Applegate -photo by adam blauert

The city’s largest parks include

  • Applegate Park
  • Fahrens Park
  • Joe Herb Park
  • McNamara Park
  • Merced Dog Park
  • Rahilly Park
  • Youth Sports Complex

Neighborhood Parks

...are located within a half mile walk of nearly every home in Merced.  To find a park in your neighborhood, click on this link to view a map on the City of Merced’s website:http://www.cityofmerced.org/civica/filebank/blobdload.asp?BlobID=7595

This map also shows parks that the City plans to build in coming years.

 Kiddieland -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Kiddieland - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Applegate Park

Applegate Park is Merced’s central park.  Located along the Bear Creek Bikeway, the park is an excellent destination on bike or foot.

It offers 32 acres of recreation with a zoo, outdoor theater, picnic tables, bbq grills, volleyball nets, tennis/basketball courts, a skate park, rental facilities, a large playground, a rose garden, fountain, and the Kiwanas-sponsored Kiddieland amusement park.

Plenty of parking is located around the park. 

Many community events are held at Applegate, including concerts and plays in the summer.

 

 Fahrens Park -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Fahrens Park - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Fahrens  Park

Stretched out along both Faherns and Black Rascal Creeks, this park boasts a brand new disc golf course and plenty of shade.

 Fahrens Park -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Fahrens Park - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Fahrens Park features a frisbee course

Location:  Along Buena Vista Drive between R Street and Highway 59.

Size:  48 acres

Facilities:

 bike rider

bike rider

 For information about the bike trails of Merced, click here.

Joe Herb Park

Adjacent to Golden Valley High School, this park provides a large area for recreation in southeast Merced.  City league softball games are often held on the lighted softball fields.

Location:  2200 Yosemite Parkway, Merced

Size:  27 acres

Facilities:

  • Restrooms and drinking fountains
  • Picnic tables and shelters, BBQ grills
  • Playground
  • Concessions stand
  • Baseball/softball diamond
  • Horseshoe pits
  • Soccer fields

McNamara Park

Centrally located in south Merced, McNamara Park offers a broad range of recreational activities and plenty of shade.

Location:  1040 Canal Street, Merced, Ca

Size:  9 acres

Facilities:

  • Restrooms and drinking fountains
  • Picnic tables and shelters, BBQ grills
  • Playground
  • Concessions stand
  • Recreation hall
  • Baseball/softball diamond
  • Basketball courts
  • Horseshoe pits
  • Soccer fields
  • Swimming pool
 Dog Park  -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Dog Park  - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Merced Dog Park

Looking for a place to allow your dog to play off-leash with other dogs?  The Merced Dog Park has well-fenced areas for both small dogs and larger dogs.

For information about the local dog club:

M-DOGS (Merced Dog Owners Group)

Location: Yosemite and R Streets

 Merced Dog Park -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Merced Dog Park - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Size:  8 acres

Facilities:

 Dog Park  -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Dog Park  - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Rahilly Park 3
Rahilly Park 3

Rahilly Park

 A shady creekside park in the center of north Merced, Rahilly Park has long been a favorite with families. 

To avoid confusion, note that Google maps and other online map sources may refer to this park as “Black Rascal Park.”

 Rahilly Park -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Rahilly Park - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Rahilly Park

Location:  3302 Parsons Avenue, Merced

Size: 17 acres

Facilities:

Youth Sports Complex

Location:  1800 Block of Wardrobe Avenue, Merced

Size:  12 Acres

Facilities:

  • Restrooms and drinking fountains
  • Concessions stand
  • Baseball/softball diamond
  • Soccer fields

 


Lake Yosemite, Merced, Ca.

lake-yosemite-sign-e1305510404581

Just down the street from UC Merced....enjoy the beauty!

 YOSEMITE LAKE -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

YOSEMITE LAKE - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Lake Yosemite

Only seven miles from the center of Merced, Lake Yosemite has long been a popular spot for picnics, family outings, group activities, fishing and boating. 

 Lake-Yosemite- -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Lake-Yosemite- - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

It isn’t the largest lake in Merced County, but it is close to home and has extensive recreational facilities. 

Most facilities are accessed from Lake Road, but a secondary fishing access point is located at the end of Old Lake Road. 

Lake Yosemite’s water comes from the Merced River

 It is diverted into the Main Canal by the Crocker-Huffman Dam, halfway between Snelling and Merced Falls.  Surface area of lake:  500 acres.

 Playground -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Playground - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Rentals Available at Lake Yosemite

Facilities and activities:

Fish species:  Bass, bluegill, and catfish.  Trout are stocked in the early spring, but don’t last through the summer because of water temperatures.

Rentals

Non-motorized boats are available on summer weekends from the concession stand. Website: Yosemite Lake (click here)

Nearby parks:  The closest camping is available at McConnell State Recreation Area, and Lake McClure and Lake McSwain.

Recreation organizations

The Lake Yosemite Sailing Association organizes sailboat events and races, maintains a docking area, and teaches sailboating skills. 

Membership is open to all who have an interest in sailing. 

Boat ownership is not required and new members can learn to sail by crewing on boats owned by other members. 

The LYSA also offers a Sail Camp for youth aged 8 and up during the summer months. http://www.lakeyosemitesailing.org/

 Lake Yosemite  -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Lake Yosemite  - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT


Pacheco State Park

  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Mexican land grant

This park preserves part of a large Mexican land grant given to the Pacheco family in 1843. 28 miles of trails are available for hiking, biking, and equestrian use. Thousands of acres of gently rolling oak woodland produces spectacular wildflower displays in the spring. The ruins of the Pacheco Adobe and a well-preserved line shack from Henry Miller’s ranching operation stand near the picnic area.

Photo by akshay
Photo by akshay

Location

 Accessed from Highway 152. Distance from Merced: 59 miles Distance from Los Banos: 23 miles Size: 6,890 acres

Facilities and Activities

  • Chemical/flush restrooms
  • An equestrian campground is available for special events; other campgrounds are available at the adjacent San Luis State Recreation Area
  • Picnic areas with tables
  • 28 miles of hiking/biking/equestrian trails
  • Wildlife viewing
  • Wildflower viewing
  • Dogs Allowed? In picnic area, but not on trails
  • Horses Allowed? Yes
  • Hunting Allowed? No
  • Fishing or Boating? No

Website information

http://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/560/files/PachecoSP_2011.pdf

http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=560

 See for a trail guide

http://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/560/files/PachecoTrailMap2006small.pdf

Photo by akshay
Photo by akshay

Special Events

Ranger-led wildflower hikes in the spring. A kite flying day is also held annually.

Nearby Parks

Camping is available at the adjacent San Luis State Recreation Area


Modesto Reservoir Regional Park

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Modesto Reservoir Regional Park

Popular with residents of Modesto and Turlock, this park is surprisingly close to Merced and offers a lot of recreational opportunities and facilities.

Location

Reservoir Road (accessed from Highway 132) between Waterford and La Grange.

Distance from Merced: 37 miles

Distance from Los Banos: 51 miles

Operating authority: Stanislaus County Parks and Recreation

Surface area of lake: 2,800 acres

Facilities and activities

  • Boat ramp, marina
  • Concessions booth
  • Flush restrooms
  • Drinking fountains
  • Campgrounds with BBQ grills/fire rings, RV hookups
  • Picnic areas with tables, shelters, and BBQ grills
  • Group picnic areas and shelters
  • Swimming area
  • Wildlife viewing area
  • Archery range
  • Radio-control airplane flying
  • Dogs allowed? No
  • Horses allowed? No
  • Hunting allowed? Yes
  • Fish species: Bass, trout
  • Boat rentals: No

Website:  http://www.co.stanislaus.ca.us/er/parks/

Recreation organizations

The Mid-Valley Water Ski Club holds events throughout the year for people of all ages and abilities. http://www.midvalleywaterskiclub.com/ for more information.

The Yahi Bowmen Archery Club operates the reservoir’s archery range. Guests are welcome and regularly-scheduled activities are offered for people of all ages and abilities. https://www.facebook.com/YahiBowmenModesto   for more information.


McConnell State Recreation Area

  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

McConnell State Recreation Area

Like the other Merced River Parks, McConnell has a lot of shade. It’s also a bit more developed than Hatfield and further from the highway.

If I were to pick a Merced River park in the Valley to camp at, this would be it.

Location

8800 McConnell Road, Ballico, CA

Distance from Merced: 22 miles

Distance from Los Banos: 35 miles

Size: 74 acres

Facilities and activities

  • Flush restrooms
  • Drinking fountainsCampgrounds/group campground with BBQ grills/fire rings, hot showers
  • Picnic areas with tables and BBQ grills
  • Group picnic area
  • Swimming area
  • Dogs allowed? Yes
  • Horses allowed? No
  • Hunting allowed? No

Fishing or boating?

Fishing can be good at McConnell Recreation Area.

Rainbow trout and bass can be caught in the spring; catfish and perch throughout the year.

No boating ramp is provided, but it is possible to swim in the river or to launch a float tube or hand-carried boat.

Website: http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=554

and http://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/554/files/McConnellHatfield.pdf

Nearby parks

Undeveloped Great Valley Grasslands State Park has a six mile hiking trail.