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Midpines and El Portal

Highway 140 out of Mariposa climbs to Midpines Summit (elev. 2960), where East Whitlock Road winds off through the former Whitlock, Sherlock and Colorado mining districts. The highway then descends through the woods and meadows of Midpines on its way to the Merced River at Briceburg. From Briceburg the highway follows the Merced Canyon to El Portal and the Yosemite’s Arch Rock Entrance.

Midpines makes an ideal base for outdoor recreation. Much of the area is Sierra National Forest or BLM land, laced with hiking trails and Forest Service roads.

Bear Creek’s upper reaches include several scenic swimming holes. The Merced River provides rafting (in the spring), swimming (from late spring until winter rains), fishing (pretty much all year round), wildlife, hiking, and camping. Once you pull into your campground, B & B, cabin or motel, there are no crowds, no traffic — yet the restaurants, shops and historic streets of Mariposa are only ten miles to the west, and Yosemite Valley twenty-five miles to the east.

At Briceburg a suspension bridge crosses the Merced, giving access to the former Yosemite Valley Railroad right of way, which runs along the river’s north bank. A well maintained BLM gravel road runs down stream four and a half miles, passing three campgrounds and many beaches and turnouts on the way. Below that you can continue hiking to the North Fork of the Merced (about three miles farther), subject to small slides, and rattlesnakes in late spring and summer. Upstream of the suspension bridge, the right of way is open to hikers only.

Nearing El Portal you will find picnic areas and campgrounds along both sides of the river (paved road access to the north bank is provided via Foresta Road, as you first enter El Portal). El Portal, at the park boundary, was the terminus of the railroad. Today an old locomotive (actually a logger) and caboose are on display near the former Bagby Station, which was moved here in the 1970s. Along with NPS housing, many of the park’s administrative offices are located here, as are two non-profit organizations, Yosemite Conservancy and Naturebridge.

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