Explore your Valley
1 Hour from Merced
Offering 160 miles of shoreline with nearly 13,000 surface acres of water (at maximum lake level), there is plenty of water on which to enjoy your favorite water sport. Boating, fishing (for bass, trout, salmon, crappie, bluegill and catfish), swimming, water-skiing, jet-skiing, windsurfing, sailing and house boating are some of the activities enjoyed at the lake.
The Forestiere Underground Gardens in Fresno were designed and hand-sculpted by Baldasare Forestiere, a Sicilian immigrant. A vineyardist and horticulturalist, Forestiere began in the early 1900s to carve and sculpt a thoroughly unique underground retreat to escape the San Joaquin Valley's heat. Full of subterranean citrus trees and arches, the Gardens are on the National Register of Historic Places.
Whether you like to fish, boat, swim, camp or just want to enjoy a picnic day at the lake, Lake McClure and Lake McSwain offer your family some of California's best water-oriented recreation areas. Whatever your favorite great escape, Lake McClure and McSwain have it in a wide variety of recreational opportunities.
1.5 Hours from Merced
Yosemite National Park is one of the first wilderness parks in the United States. It is best known for its waterfalls, but within its nearly 1,200 square miles, you can find deep valleys, grand meadows, ancient giant sequoias, a vast wilderness area and much more.
Home to the longest covered bridge west of the Mississippi, Knights Ferry was an important mining town during the gold rush. Today, it's a popular campground and water-rafting destination. Hiking enthusiasts may enjoy exploring the town ruins, which include a mill and prison.
2 Hours from Merced
The Columbia State Historic Park, located in Sonora, is one of the most well-preserved gold rush towns. There are opportunities to ride a 100-year-old stagecoach, hire a steed for a horseback ride through the "diggins," pan for gold or tour an active gold mine.
Rising out of the chaparral-covered Gabilan Mountains, east of central California's Salinas Valley, are the spectacular remains of an ancient volcano. Massive monoliths, spires, sheer-walled canyons and talus passages define millions of years of erosion, faulting and tectonic plate movement. The monument is renowned for the beauty and variety of its spring wildflowers.
Ranging from 1,500 to 14,491 feet in elevation, these two adjoining parks protect immense mountains, deep canyons, huge trees and stunningly diverse habitats. The Generals Highway climbs over 5,000 feet from chaparral and oak-studded foothills to the awe-inspiring sequoia groves. From there, trails lead to the high-alpine wilderness which makes up most of these parks. Beneath the surface lie many beautiful caverns.
3 Hours from Merced
Nestled in the hills of Placerville's gold country, Apple Hill is a collection of more than 50 farms that offer everything from apples and Christmas trees to wine and delectable treats. Though some farms are open all year long, the area bustles in activity during the fall months when every single operation is open for business. Valley natives often make Apple Hill an annual destination for holiday gifts, pies and dumplings.
4 Hours from Merced
The Devil's Postpile formation in Mammoth Lakes is a rare sight in the geologic world and ranks as one of the world's finest examples of columnar basalt. Its columns tower 60 feet in the air and display an unusual symmetry. Another wonder is in store just downstream from the Postpile at Rainbow Falls, once called "a gem unique and worthy of its name." When the sun is overhead, a bright rainbow highlights the spectacular falls.
- Monterey — about 3 hours from Merced
- Carmel — about 3 hours from Merced
- San Francisco — about 2.5 hours from Merced
- Santa Cruz — about 2.5 hours from Merced