Yosemite National Park Water Activities

If you ever had an inkling to spend the summers in the woods, Yosemite National Park offers a ton of water activities to choose from.

Water activities in Yosemite National Park are best enjoyed during the summer and spring and include swimming, fishing, boating, rafting, padding, and more. 

Some summer water activities:

Swimming in Yosemite National Park

Image: Latimes.com

Nothing beats a dip in water to cool off after a hike on a hot and sunny summer day.

Fortunately, all of Yosemite’s lakes, rivers, and streams are open to swimming.

During summer, outdoor swimming pools are also available at Curry Village and Yosemite Valley Lodge.

The best places for swimming at Yosemite National Park include Merced River, Tenaya Lake, Carbon Falls and Rainbow Pool along the south fork of the Tuolumne River.

The Merced River in Yosemite Valley features a number of beaches and swimming craters depending on water levels.

Its dynamic characteristics change with the season and so do the extent of its beaches.

While swimming in the Merced River, remember to enter and exit only on sandy beaches to help protect the river. 

Some of the best swimming spots include

  • North Pines Campground (shuttle stops 18 or 19)
  • Sentinel Beach Picnic Area (shuttle stop 11)
  • West end of Housekeeping Camp Beach (shuttle stop 12)
  • Devil’s Elbow (along Northside Drive)
  • Path across from El Capitan Picnic Area (summer-only El Captain shuttle stop E3)
  • Cathedral Beach (along Southside Drive)
  • Near Wawona Swinging Bridge (Wawona Road, Highway 41)
  • The Ledge near Wawona Campground

The Tenaya Lake off the Tioga Road offers several easily accessible swimming spots. 

The lake hosts a major sandy beach on its northeast shore, while on its southwest shore, you find smaller beaches. 

In Yosemite National Park, swimming is prohibited at the following locations:

  1. Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, any tributary within a mile of it, including Rancheria Falls.
  2. Dana Fork of the Tuolumne River
  3. Emerald Pool and Silver Apron, above Vernal Fall
  4. Lake Eleanor Reservoir
  5. Wawona Domestic Water Intake and 100 yards upstream

Boating and Rafting in Yosemite

Image: Biltema.dk

Plunge into the Merced River’s refreshing waters for exciting Yosemite National Park activities like rafting, boating and more.

The Merced River is open for rafting and boating in June and July, but it varies from year to year, depending on the water level. 

For the river to be accessible to boats and rafts, the water level at Pohono Bridge must be lower than 7 feet.

Every person needs a personal flotation device (PFD) when the water level is greater than 4 feet.

The popular starting point is Stoneman Bridge near Curry Village along the Merced River. 

The typical take-out point is at Sentinel Beach Picnic Area, some 3 miles downstream.

There is no river access between these two places.

Rafting is also available on the South Fork of the Merced River, below Swinging Bridge in Wawona.

You can bring your own raft and other nonmotorized vessels or rent one at the following locations:

  • Yosemite Valley Lodge Tour and Activity Desk
  • Half Dome Village Tour and Activities Kiosk
  • The Majestic Yosemite Hotel Concierge Desk
  • Yosemite Village

Rafts are in high demand, so try to make a raft reservation at least a day in advance or do it as soon as you arrive at the park at the Half Dome Village Tour/Guest Recreation Kiosk. 

If you bring your own gear, you can get a $5 ticket for the shuttle bus ride back to Half Dome Village.

For experienced boaters, there are other opportunities in the Merced and Tuolumne rivers.

Paddling in and Near Yosemite National Park

Image: Adventuresportsjournal.com

Yosemite offers a variety of possibilities for paddling with views of Half Dome, Yosemite Falls and Yosemite Valley.

Merced River and Tenaya Lake are the two main options for paddling in Yosemite, with Tenaya being quieter and less crowded.

Additionally, other Yosemite National Park activities are available for canoeing, kayaking, raftering, and tubing on the boating portion of the Merced River. 

The put-in point is below Stoneman Bridge, and Sandy Beach on River Left, following the wooden bridge, is the takeout point for all vessels.

You can also locate ideal water for floating outside of the park.

Some places near Yosemite are the Kern River, close to Sequoia National Park south of Yosemite, the rapids of American River forks and Lake Tahoe with calm waters.

Sierra Nevada lakes, such as Lake Tahoe, offer various rental shops with equipment and lessons in stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) for all skill levels.

Other SUP spots include Half Moon Bay, San Diego Bay, and Santa Barbara Harbor.


Image: Facebook.com(YosemiteFlyFishingGuide)

Another exciting outdoor adventure in Yosemite is one of the most famous Yosemite National Park water activities.  

In the park’s hundreds of miles of water, you can try fly fishing and catch native Brown trout or other fish, including wild brook trout, cutthroat and rainbow trout.

It is one of the many Yosemite National Park activities for you to choose from.

You can choose among various sites to fish in Yosemite National Park. Enjoy fishing with the Fly Fishing Adventure ticket.

Some options include Merced River, South Fork of the Merced River, Merced Lake, Tenaya Lake, Lake Eleanor, Tuolumne River and its Lyell and Dana Forks and Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.    

Best Time for Water Activities in Yosemite National Park

Most of the Yosemite National Park activities to do with water are offered throughout the summer when the weather is pleasant.

The swimming season in Yosemite is summer and fall, as during late spring and early summer, the water may remain cold. 

On the other hand, spring and early summer are the best times for fishing. 

Boating and other floating activities on the rivers and lakes are typically accessible around June and July. 

The best time for these activities varies yearly due to changing climatic conditions. 

Enjoy a relaxing Yosemite river float to beat the heat and recharge during your trip.

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