|MEETING TIME:||9:00 AM|
|RETURN TIME:||Approximately 2:00 PM to the OARS meeting place on day 5|
|DIFFICULTY RATING:||Class III-IV rapids/ Moderate to Strenuous hikes|
|OVERALL MILES:||16 river miles, with 8+ named rapids and 5-8 miles hiking per day|
|TRIP LENGTH:||5 days / 4 nights|
|AGE LIMIT:||Minimum age is 14|
|ACTIVITIES:||Rafting, Hiking and Exploring in Yosemite National Park|
|BOAT TYPE:||Paddle raft; paddle raft with oar assist|
ATTENTION: OARS has developed a COVID-19 General Mitigation Plan that seeks to minimize the chances that disease transmission will occur on our trips. A condition of participation is to read, understand and agree to follow the rules and guidelines and participate in all screening measures. Failure to comply with these conditions of participation will result in declination of service and/or removal from the trip.
This exciting rafting and hiking expedition combines the thrills of the Merced River with the awe-inspiring beauty of Yosemite Valley and Glacier Point Road. We start with experiencing the reawakening of the Yosemite wilderness on the free-flowing Merced, which in the spring and early summer offers up some of California’s best Class III-IV whitewater and wildflower-dotted hillsides just outside the park.
After a full-day of whitewater fun, our adventure moves to Yosemite National Park. This glacier-carved UNESCO World Heritage Site is surrounded by dramatic mountains and filled with sprawling meadows, majestic giant sequoias, rushing streams and jaw-dropping waterfalls. First, we’ll experience the park from above as we explore Glacier Point Road and hike to some of its best viewpoints. Later, we explore the valley and tackle two of the park’s iconic hikes—Upper Yosemite Falls and the Mist Trail to Nevada Falls. The celebrated playground of John Muir and Ansel Adams is ours to discover.
We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. Every trip is different depending upon the group, trail conditions and sometimes the weather. The following is a sample of what your trip might be like:
We will meet at the OARS pullout / Midpines meeting spot on Hwy 140, approximately 35 minutes from the El Portal / Arch Rock entrance to Yosemite National Park. Once everyone has arrived, we board our shuttle and drive to the Indian Flat river put-in where you meet the rest of your OARS crew. The guides will deliver an orientation and safety talk then fit you with your safety gear.
The Wild and Scenic Merced starts off with the excitement of Cranberry Rapid, which sets the stage for the Class III-IV thrills ahead. Spring flows offer up big wave whitewater action and notable rapids like Percolator, Hawaii 5-O, and Ned’s Gulch keep the anticipation going.
Come lunchtime, we’ll pull over to a beach for a delicious picnic, which includes an abundant spread of cold cuts, cheeses, veggies and breads, or perhaps a tasty taco salad for roll-your-own burritos. With full bellies, we hop back on the boats to soak up the last of the spring wildflower spectacle and more exciting rapids like Split Rock and Corner Pockets before reaching our take-out point at Railroad Flat.
At the take-out, an OARS shuttle will be waiting to take us to our lodging accommodations in El Portal, or guests are welcome to caravan to the inn. In the evening, we’ll settle into our rooms at Yosemite View Lodge (or similar), which will be our “home base” for the duration of the trip, grab a shower and enjoy a group dinner at a nearby restaurant.
After a delicious hot breakfast, we’ll travel via shuttle into Yosemite National Park. Today, our explorations will take us along Glacier Point Road where we’ll visit Glacier Point vista and enjoy a picnic lunch before driving to the trailhead for Sentinel Dome. This relatively easy hike to the summit of Sentinel Dome offers breathtaking panoramic views of Half Dome and Yosemite’s high country mountain range. From here, we’ll continue on to Taft Point, which offers expansive views of Yosemite Valley, including El Capitan and Yosemite Falls, before returning to our inn in El Portal. Here, we can relax and enjoy dinner before settling into our rooms for the night.
Today, we’ll grab a quick breakfast before driving into Yosemite Valley to enjoy the spring runoff spectacle in the park. We’ll make our way to the trailhead for the Mist Trail where we’ll begin a moderately strenuous 7-mile round-trip hike to the top of Nevada Falls. The hike begins with a steady climb to the footbridge of Vernal Falls before ascending a steep granite staircase. Don’t forget your rain gear! The “mist” from the falls can soak hikers in spring and early summer months. From here, we’ll continue up a section of steep, rocky switchbacks to the top of Nevada Falls where we can take some time to pause, enjoy a picnic lunch and soak in the beautiful Sierra scenery before descending along a stretch of the iconic John Muir Trail and back to our shuttle. We’ll end our day with a scenic drive through the valley, dinner at a nearby restaurant and a good night’s rest back at the inn..
Rising early, we’ll enjoy a hearty breakfast in preparation for a challenging day with big rewards. We’ll load up the shuttle and head back into the valley for today’s feat— a strenuous 7.6-mile roundtrip hike to the top of Yosemite Falls, the highest waterfall in North America. Climbing 2,600 vertical feet from the valley floor, our guides will provide consistent support on this seemingly endless stairmaster workout. At the top, up-close views of Half Dome and the granite wonderland sprawl out before us as we take some time to savor the moment and enjoy lunch. Hiking down can prove to be just as demanding, so we’ll take our time descending the trail back to the shuttle. After a drive back to the inn, a shower, dinner and perhaps a toast to our accomplishments are a fitting finale to a big day on the trail.
After a more leisurely breakfast, we’ll load up the shuttle and make our way back to the group’s vehicles. Along the way, we will stretch our stiff legs on an easy wildflower stroll along the South Fork of the Merced River, before saying our good-byes to new friends. If you chose to caravan, we’ll depart ways here, otherwise, you’ll be returned to your vehicle at the OARS meeting place on Hwy 140 (or a similarly secure place in Midpines) around noon.
Included in Your Trip Cost
- Skilled professional rafting and hiking guides
- Delicious meals from lunch on day one through hearty lunch snacks on day five
- Four nights lodging at Yosemite View Lodge (or similar) based on double occupancy
- High-quality inflatable rafts and related river equipment including a paddle, helmet and a personal flotation device, which must be worn at all times on the river in compliance with safety regulations
- 40 oz. Klean Kanteen, single-walled water bottle appropriate for the trail
- One small, shared waterproof bag per raft for your camera and other small items you’ll want during the day (approximate sealed size: 17” tall x 9” diameter)
- All transfers from the OARS meeting place to the river, Yosemite National Park, and back
- Yosemite National Park entrance fee
- Wetsuits and splash jackets. It is important for you to advise the office of your size ahead of time to ensure we pack the proper-sized wetsuit for you. Our wetsuits do not include “wetsuit booties” – please bring your own, or wear wool socks with tennis shoes as a good alternative.
Not Included in Your Trip Cost
- Transportation to and from the OARS meeting place
- Pre- and post-trip accommodations and meals
- River Access Fees
- Single Supplement of $400 per person
- Insurance of any kind, including a travel protection plan
- Items of a personal nature (an equipment list will be provided)
TRIP PREPARATION CHECK LIST
☐ Consider Purchasing Travel Protection: Because there are costs that you will incur if you cancel the spaces on this trip that we’re now holding for you, or in the event you need to be evacuated during the trip due to an unforeseen illness or injury, we strongly encourage our guests to purchase an optional travel protection plan. A travel protection plan may help reimburse the cost of your pre-paid, non-refundable payments in the event you are prevented from taking your trip for a covered reason. Trip participants must understand that in the event of an illness or injury on a wilderness trip, evacuation can be prolonged, difficult and expensive. For complete details and to purchase the plan we highly recommend, visit: https://www.oars.com/tpp
Please note: To be eligible for coverage for pre-existing medical conditions, you must purchase the plan within 21 days of your initial trip payment and you must be medically fit to travel at the time you pay for the plan.
☐ Trip Forms (online): Each participant will need to complete the required trip forms within two weeks of making a booking. Refer to your confirmation email for the link to the online forms. If you prefer to fill out paper forms, please let us know right away. If you are reserving your trip within 60 days of departure, your forms must be completed immediately to ensure we can properly plan for your trip.
☐ Reserve flights, shuttles and lodging: Verify with your adventure consultant that your trip has met minimum numbers prior to booking flights and/or reserving overnight lodging for the night before and after your trip, if applicable.
☐ Whitewater Orientation: To increase your safety, we expect everyone to watch our 23-minute Whitewater Orientation video before joining us. Watch at https://www.oars.com/experience/safety/ or call 800-346-6277 to request a free DVD. Please don’t leave home without watching.
☐ Physical Requirements: Your outdoor adventure will be an active participatory trip. Please inform us of any physical limitation you may have as soon as possible. Make sure you are exercising frequently in the months leading up to your trip.
☐ Payments: Final payment is due in our office 90 days prior to your trip (refer to your invoice for final payment date). Please let us know if you would like us to automatically charge your credit card on file when final payment is due.
Meeting Place & Time
We’ll meet at 9:00 AM. The OARS meeting place is a wide dirt pullout on the west side of 140. Look for our vehicles, and the yellow and blue OARS sign! Click here for a Google map.
Getting to the OARS meeting place
- From the San Francisco Bay Area: Take I-580 East to I-205, then east on Hwy 120 to Hwy 99. South on Hwy 99 to Merced, then Hwy 140 east through Mariposa. From the intersection of Hwys 49 and 140 in Mariposa, travel for 8.6 miles up 140E and then you will see our meeting place on the left (1.3 miles past the Midpines Post Office).
- From Fresno, CA: Take Hwy 41 North to Bootjack, CA (1 Hr./ 15 mins). Take Carleton Rd. North to Triangle Rd. West then Hwy. 140 East for approximately 4.5 miles. You will see the OARS meeting place on your left.
- From Yosemite Arch Rock Access: The OARS meeting place is 22.6 miles (approximately 40 minutes) southwest on Hwy 140 from the Arch Rock Entrance to Yosemite, on the right (or west) side of the highway. Our meeting point is 0.4 miles past the Yosemite Bug Hostel driveway and bus stop.
* Check out the Caltrans Quickmap for up to date details on possible delays.
Mileage and Driving Times
|From San Francisco||196 miles (4 hours)|
|From Fresno||77.5 miles (1.5 hours)|
|From South Lake Tahoe||203 miles (4½ hours)|
|From Los Angeles||315 miles (6 hours)|
|From Angels Camp||94 miles (2 hours)|
If you’re arriving by car, parking is available at the OARS meeting place.
OARS cannot accept responsibility for any loss or damage to vehicles or their contents.
For those that are flying, we recommend the Fresno Yosemite Intl. Airport (FAT), which is served by most major airlines. A variety of car rental companies are available at the airport. Oakland (OAK) and San Francisco (SFO) are alternative airports with competitive fares.
Shuttle options from the three-closest major airports are prohibitively expensive. You will find that weekly car rentals are less expensive than most other travel options, even though your car remains at the OARS meeting place while you are on the river.
By Bus or Train
Greyhound and Amtrak do not offer service to the meeting place.
After Your Trip
On the final day of your adventure, you will be returned to your car via shuttle to the OARS meeting place. You will arrive back at your vehicle in the early afternoon.
Pre- and Post-Trip Accommodations (not included in your trip cost)
We recommend that you make your lodging reservations well in advance. Yosemite and its outlying areas are extremely popular, and lodges fill up quickly. Please mention you are rafting with OARS.
- Cedar Lodge, El Portal (209) 379-2612
- Miners Inn, Mariposa (209) 742-7777
- Tenaya Lodge, Fish Camp (888) 514-2167
- Yosemite Bug (866) 826-7108
- Yosemite View Lodge, El Portal (209) 379-2681
- Indian Flat Campground (209) 379-2339
In Yosemite National Park
- Yosemite Lodging/Camping (801) 559-5000
The water on the Merced River is directly related to the amount of snow in the Sierra Nevada, as it is a free-flowing river. This Wild & Scenic, Class III-IV river churns with bold wave trains and exhilarating rapids, which are ideal for rafters of all levels.
The number and variety of boats on an OARS trip will vary based on water levels, the number of participants and other factors we take into account when planning your adventure. Please be aware that in doing so we will ask you to share boat time with your fellow travelers. Generally, we strive for travel units to travel together in boats with no more than one or two travel units per boat, with limited mobility between various boat types during the day. However, the composition of some trips may at times require more than two travel units in a boat, which compromises our ability to achieve six feet of physical distancing between travel units. We don’t assign boats, nor can we guarantee exactly which crafts we bring, but trust us to provide you with the best possible mix for you and others on your trip. The following boats may be a part of your experience:
Paddle Raft—The sportiest of crafts we put on the water, everybody handles a paddle while the guide gives directions and steers from the stern. Paddling together is essential to finding the right run, and teamwork begets success. A thrilling way to brave the rapids! Helmets required. (Four to seven paddlers)
Paddle Raft with Oar Assist—The most agile of any boat in the OARS fleet, your guide steers the raft with two hefty oars on a rear-mounted frame while the crew wields paddles up front to provide the necessary horsepower. Helmets required. (Four to six paddlers)
In Paddle Rafts and Paddle Rafts with Oar Assist:
- Parties of 1- 3 should expect to be in the same raft paired up with another travel unit, which won’t allow for 6-feet of physical distance.
- Parties of 4 can be guaranteed their own raft.
- Parties of 5 or more will most likely need to be split.
The meals we serve are hearty and delicious, comprised of fresh ingredients and a variety of foods. Depending on trail specific start times, we will enjoy a lodge based breakfast or a hiker-friendly breakfast and while on the river or on the trail, appropriate lunches will be provided. Dinners will be enjoyed in local restaurants.
We need to know as soon as possible about any dietary restrictions we should consider in planning your trip. If you have food allergies or restrictions, we will do our best to accommodate your needs. However, there may be a supplemental menu fee ranging from $5-25 per person per day, to cover any increase in our costs.
Beyond our standard menu, we can provide options for vegetarian, vegan and many allergy-restricted diets without applying a fee. However, we cannot always provide the same diversity or sophistication for restricted diets as we do for our regular menu. Similarly, certain allergen-free snack foods are difficult or impossible to source in our locations, so feel free to bring your own favorite snacks to supplement our provisions. Please let your Adventure Consultant know if you intend to do so.
We cannot guarantee that cross-contamination from allergens will not occur during meal prep, and reserve the right to refuse service to anyone as it relates to safety, including the potential for a medical emergency caused by a severe food allergy. Also, due to the constraints of food preparation for large groups in a wilderness setting, availability of ingredients or specialty items in remote locations, and limited packing space, we are unable to cater to dietary preferences (likes or dislikes).
Alcoholic beverages are not included in the cost of your Yosemite Hiker adventure, but are available for purchase at the lodges and restaurants.
OARS is committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for our guests and for our staff. We ask that smoking of any kind be done away and downwind from other trip participants.
We are obligated to adhere to the regulations established by the managing agency with jurisdiction over the area in which our trip operates. Use of marijuana on federal lands, whether it be medicinal or recreational, is illegal and therefore we ask that you refrain from bringing it with you on your OARS trip.
We carry sufficient drinking water with us to provide for your needs throughout the trip. Water jugs for refilling personal water bottles are accessible at lunchtime and before hikes. In some cases, we will re-supply water jugs with water filtered through a purification system we provide. (No iodine is used in the purification process.)
Our days in the Park are arranged around a diverse selection of hikes that range from easy, relatively flat strolls to rigorous all-day treks. Previous hiking experience is advised and this trip is not recommended for people who have a fear of heights or medical conditions that restrict them from carrying a daypack. Even though this trip is escorted by experienced guides, we recommend participants take time to get into good physical condition before the trip. It will heighten your enjoyment of all that Yosemite has to offer.
The Portable Toilet
On the river, we carry with us a small container called the “day tripper,” which can be easily accessed during the day should the need arise. It is a personal disposable product, which includes an odor-proof transport bag, chemical solidifier and odor eliminator, toilet paper and an over-sized hand wipe.
On popular stretches of wilderness rivers, a commonly heard refrain is “dilution is the solution to pollution.” We practice this approach by urinating in the river during our day on the Merced.
You will have access to non-flushing facilities at most trailheads within Yosemite. While your guide will quite often have “wag bags” (described above), it would be a good idea to come prepared with a handful of your own.
For Women Only
Even if you aren’t anticipating your menstrual period, come prepared for it. We recommend you bring some sandwich-size Ziploc™ bags. These bags can be used to store feminine products during the day while you are on the river or trail and can be disposed of when you reach your hotel. (For tampon users: o.b. ® tampons are ⅓ the size of regular tampons, tuck discreetly into pockets and have less paper wrapping.) Many women suggest bringing a small supply of baby wipes. We provide some feminine products on most trips for emergencies.
Good foot care is a must. You should have footwear that is comfortable and well broken-in. Trim your toenails a little below the tip of your toe before you begin your hike. As you hike downhill your toes will be pushed into the end of your boots. Toenails that are too long will jam into the front of your boot which can cause severe bruising to the point that they may fall off. If you start getting hot spots put some moleskin or second skin on the spot before it blisters. Change socks, slow down, rest in the shade.
On the river, we provide one small, shared waterproof bag (approximate sealed size: 17” tall x 9” diameter) per raft to hold your camera and other items you might need during the day. While these bags are designed to be waterproof, you may wish to place your camera in a zip-lock plastic bag or waterproof casing for additional protection. We also strongly recommend you take out a rider on your homeowner’s policy to cover your camera—especially if it’s fine equipment. Make sure to bring additional memory cards, batteries and any other extras you may need.
There are several professional companies taking photos of each raft at some of the Merced’s larger rapids, which provide great action shots. These companies are not affiliated with OARS, you will need to contact them separately to purchase these pictures. ‘Picture This…Rapid Shooter’ is one such company; visit them at www.rapidshooter.net after your river trip. Their phone number is (209) 379-2267. (To see your photos online, you must email ‘Picture This…Rapid Shooter’ and request that the photos from your trip be posted to their website.)
Electronics & Technology
The use of electronic devices, especially music players and flying drones, on your trip may represent an intrusion into the wilderness experience of your fellow guests. We ask that you be mindful of the impacts to others and respect the wilderness nature of the trip. Please bring headphones if you intend to listen to music during the trip and leave your drone at home*.
Many of our guests bring their smartphone on the river portion of this trip, even though there is no cell service. Water damage to smartphones and other electronic devices is always a possibility, even when they are stowed in a dry bag. If you intend to take your phone with you on the river, consider investing in a small, waterproof container just for your phone.
*The use of drones is prohibited within Yosemite National Park.
While on the river and on the trail, we are not able to provide a power source for recharging devices. To keep cameras, phones, GPS and other devices working you may need spare batteries or portable power. Options include compact portable solar panels that can recharge devices directly, portable power banks that store power, or a combo unit that can be charged before the trip and recharged with a built-in solar panel. Once we are off the river, charging your devices can be done in your hotel room.
On the river and the trails, there is limited communication with the “outside world”. Cell phone service is not available. Our guides do carry messaging devices which are strictly used to communicate in case of emergencies. Periodically, the trip leader will check in with our office. If you have someone that needs to contact you about an emergency at home, they should call our office (800-346-6277). If possible, we will relay the message to you. Keep in mind, it could be several days or longer before the message actually reaches you. For your family at home, you should define what you consider an emergency and provide them with instructions to call our office in the event one occurs during your vacation.
There is intermittent cell phone service in Yosemite National Park. Most carriers have good coverage in the Valley, but cell phone service is very unreliable in the high country around Tuolumne Meadows.
Fire activity frequently impacts the air quality on our trips, and occasionally wildfires may be present in the immediate vicinity of where we’re traveling. Smoke impacts are more likely in the latter-half of the summer season, so those with asthma or other respiratory conditions may wish to steer clear of this time frame. In general, we will not cancel a trip on account of smoky conditions, except in cases of clear danger to life or property. Necessary changes to logistics and/or destination may occur with very short notice as fire conditions are constantly changing. We will do our best to keep you apprised of excessively smoky conditions that can be foreseen for your upcoming trip, but we also encourage you to stay informed about local fire activity: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/
Our standard cancellation terms & conditions apply should you choose to cancel due to environmental conditions resulting from a wildfire near to where our trip operates. Please review our Terms & Conditions section in this document, below. Furthermore, we recommend you consider investing in a comprehensive Travel Protection Plan that provides you the ability to “cancel for any reason” should you feel conditions from a nearby wildfire may result in you canceling your reservation.
Our guides do not carry firearms on our trips, and in most cases are prohibited from doing so by the managing agency. As a matter of preference, we ask all our guests to kindly leave your own firearms at home or in your vehicle.
Traveling at High Altitude
Your trip will visit areas ranging from 6000 – 8400 feet above sea level, therefore you may experience symptoms associated with altitude illness. We recommend the following measures to help prevent altitude illness: arrive ahead of your scheduled departure to allow for acclimatization; drink 3-4 quarts of water every day; make sure about 70% of your calories come from carbs; only use alcohol, tobacco or sleeping aid medications in moderation or not all. Please familiarize yourself with symptoms, treatment and more about altitude illness at the CDC.
Weather & Water Conditions
You should check the weather one week prior to your trip for an up-to-date weather forecast. We recommend the website www.wunderground.com for weather in El Portal and Yosemite Valley, CA.
Average Air and Water Temperatures (for the El Portal area)
|Air (Day) °F||Air (Night) °F||Water °F||Notes|
|April||63-67||33-37||42-44||Extremely variable weather; lots of wildflowers|
|May||71-75||40-44||42-46||Possibility for late spring storms, high-water possible|
|June||80-84||46-50||46-52||Warm days; chance of showers; potential high-water|
|July||88-92||52-56||54-60||Hot, sunny days; low-water, ideal for swimming|
Hiking & River Runners Responsibility Code
- Read the pre-trip literature and arrive at the meeting place on time.
- Understand the risks: your safety is ultimately your responsibility.
- Wear the OARS-issued and properly–fitted Personal Flotation Device (PFD) at all times when in the boats or swimming. Wear a helmet when required.
- Wear clothing and personal protective equipment suitable for the current conditions.
- Listen to and follow the guides’ instructions.
- Abide by the managing agency’s rules.
- No drugs or alcohol prior to, or during, your trip; alcohol is allowed in moderation in the evening on overnight trips.
- Minimize your impact on the environment.
- Treat your fellow guests and guides with respect and courtesy; harassment of any kind will not be tolerated.
- Your children are your responsibility!
Essential Eligibility Criteria for Hiking Trips
The following are the physical and mental eligibility criteria for all participants on any OARS hiking trip.
- Ability to walk ten or more miles in a backcountry environment.
- Ability to independently navigate rough terrain, including safely maneuvering around and across boulders, rocks, and slippery and uneven surfaces, under low branches, and around vegetation. This includes the ability to maintain your balance near precipitous ledges or cliffs.
- Ability to walk and maintain your balance on backcountry hiking trails, including trails with rocks, roots and low branches. The trails are dusty, steep, and present numerous reinforced log steps, loose rocks, and mule excrement. They range in width from 3 to 5 feet with exposed overlooks.
- Ability to carry your own daypack with a minimum of 4 liters of water, rain gear, insulating layers, sunscreen and food (approx. 10 lbs).
- Ability to follow both verbal and non-verbal instructions given by guides in all situations, including during stressful or dangerous situations, and to effectively communicate with guides and other guests.
- Ability to manage all personal care independently, or with the assistance of a friend or family member.
- If taking prescription medications, have the ability to maintain proper dosage by medicating independently, or with the assistance of a friend or family member.
- Ability to remain adequately fed, hydrated, and properly dressed so as to avoid environmental injuries such as hypothermia, heat related illness, sunburn and frostbite.
The above criteria, if not met, will disqualify a person from participating in a hiking trip with OARS. The criteria exist for your own safety and that of all trip participants. None of the criteria are meant to discriminate on the basis of any physical or mental disability, and are applied uniformly to all potential trip participants, irrespective of the presence or absence of any disability. OARS is committed to making reasonable modifications to any trip for any persons with a disability, so long as they do not fundamentally alter the nature of the trip.
Further Information About Our Expectations of Trip Participants
The following paragraphs are meant to further inform all potential participants of the expectations for all participants in order to promote a safe, enjoyable experience for everyone on a trip. There may be requirements, whether physical or mental, that are not specifically applied “essential eligibility criteria”, but that help our guests understand the reality of being on a wilderness river trip.
Our primary goal is to minimize the risks associated with adventure trips in a wilderness environment. The trip involves physical exertion and exposure to the elements, including excessive heat and the potential for cold, sun, wind, rain and snow. We have experience accommodating people with a wide range of physical disabilities and/or health conditions. However, individuals who are overweight, lack conditioning, or have other physical limitations or ailments that interfere with the realistic encounters in the wilderness can endanger themselves, other guests, and the guides. Please consult your doctor if you have medical or health conditions that could impact your ability to participate in this outdoor adventure.
It is very important that each trip participant take an active role in their own safety. You will likely encounter wilderness conditions that you are unfamiliar with, and those conditions may change rapidly. It is critical to pay attention at all times, to be aware of your surroundings, and to avoid taking unnecessary risks. Even a non-life threatening injury in a wilderness setting can become a major emergency for you, and can endanger the entire group. Swimming alone or hiking alone is discouraged. Excessive alcohol consumption or illicit drug use is not tolerated. Using common sense, and following both the explicit instruction and the lead of your guides can go a long way towards keeping yourself and the group safe. Some obvious things to avoid on the trail (by way of example) are: walking around without shoes, approaching wild animals, not paying attention to what is above or around you that could harm you, not paying attention to hazards such as poison oak and rattlesnakes, and walking near precipitous ledges.
Backcountry hiking trips are inherently risky. While the risk of a trip is part of what makes it an exciting adventure, you must be entirely respectful of the risk that such a trip poses. It is important that you are confident in your hiking ability.
Due to the physical nature of this trip, we highly recommend that you engage in regular exercise for at least three months prior to departure to ensure preparedness. For this trip you should be exercising 3-5 times a week. The best way to get ready for a hike in Yosemite is to combine cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise, strength training and hiking. Walking or slow jogging is not enough. More strenuous activity such as lengthy hikes on inclines, running or cycling is required. Running and exercising on elliptical machines and stair steppers are also great ways to increase your endurance and strengthen your legs at the same time. While hiking, it is helpful to carry a weighted daypack and wear the same footwear that you will be using for your Yosemite hikes. Check with your doctor prior to beginning any exercise program to be sure you are medically safe to participate. Starting an exercise program that is more strenuous than you are ready for may result in injury or risk exacerbating existing health conditions. Getting in shape will certainly add to your enjoyment of the trip.
Packing for Your Trip
Click on this link for helpful information about packing for your trip: https://www.oars.com/video/wear-bring-one-day-rafting-trip-oars/
The information below is subject to when your trip takes place. The need for warm weather or cold weather items should be based on a reliable weather forecast leading up to your trip.
All guests must supply their own hand sanitizer and reusable/washable face coverings (minimum of two) consisting of two or more layers. A clean face covering should be used each day of your trip; masks may be reused if they are washed. For more information, visit the CDC.
While on the river— Start with a swimsuit and/or swim trunks and synthetic or merino wool shirt as a base layer. Depending on the weather, temperature and how wet you’re getting in the rapids, additional layers for sun protection or insulation can be added or subtracted.
On the trail—Begin with sunscreen, shorts or long pants (convertible pants are great), and a long-sleeved shirt. Depending on the time of year and weather, additional layers of long underwear, socks, rain pants and rain jacket can also be worn. It can be quite cool in the morning, and as the day warms up layers can be taken off and stored in your day pack.
While on the river— The best choice is an amphibious shoe that drains water, protects your toes and won’t come off in swirling current. A retired pair of athletic shoes can work well, too. Sport sandals with a heel strap are a good option. Find professional-grade options made by Chaco®, the official footwear sponsor of OARS guides.
On the trail—For daily wear on the trail, you will want a sturdy pair of hiking shoes or boots with good support and soles. Wearing good socks, as well as broken-in shoes with sturdy ankle-support, will help to prevent blisters and rolled ankles.
Please note: If you buy new shoes or sandals for the trip, make sure you break them in first!
While on the river—Ball caps are useful since they fit under helmets, which are required attire when paddling our whitewater rivers.
On the trail—Wide brimmed hats are a good choice for sun protection. A lightweight beanie may be useful for early mornings and late afternoons
To Avoid Being Cold
Synthetic or merino wool long underwear is a must-have on river trips. It can be worn under shorts, rain gear, T-shirts, etc., then stripped off when the chill of the morning has worn off. It keeps you warm even if it’s wet (which can happen easily), dries quickly, and it’s compact enough to be stuffed into your small waterproof bag or daypack after you take it off. It can be layered under your waterproof rain jacket and pants. In cooler weather, a rain jacket and pants can work better than a wetsuit. This is because the jacket and pants can be put on when it’s cold or when you’re going through whitewater then easily taken off when the sun comes out and it’s hot. On early-season and high-water trips, wetsuits will be provided for paddlers.Be aware that cotton items, once wet, do not insulate; only synthetic and wool materials will keep you warm during cool, wet weather.
Something warm for your top & bottom: You need to be prepared for inclement weather. Bring a good fleece or wool top and bottom, along with a warm hat and gloves. You’ll want to double up on your base layers so that you’ll have a set to wear in the boat and a set of warm, dry clothes for hiking.
Raingear protects you from rain, wind, and the splash of the rapids. It is one of the essential items that all passengers should have no matter what time of year you are traveling. Look for jacket and pants that are 100% waterproof, not just water resistant. A hooded jacket is recommended. Good secure closures around your head, neck, wrists and ankles. Do not bring a rain poncho, as it cannot be worn under your PFD.
Protecting yourself from the sun should be taken very seriously. A hat, sunscreen, lip balm and sunglasses are a must. Rheos, the official sunglasses sponsor of OARS guides, offers polarized floatable nautical eyewear with 100% UV protection at www.rheosgear.com. Use promo code OARS15 to save 15% on any purchase from The Nautical Eyewear Collection.
In many cases, a long-sleeve shirt is the best method for preventing sunburn on your upper body. Light-weight long pants may also be appropriate to protect your legs.
Bugs & Mosquitoes
Bugs and mosquitoes vary depending on location and time of year. It’s a good idea to come prepared with insect repellent. Long sleeved shirts and pants may be desirable at times.
Suggested Packing List
Equipment and Personal Items:
☐ Day pack/Hydration pack: large enough to carry water, lunch, camera, a warm layer and rain gear for our hiking in Yosemite (750-2000 cubic inches)
☐ Two 1-liter water bottles: durable and reusable
☐ Headlamp or flashlight (consider bringing extra batteries)
☐ Sunglasses (preferably polarized such as Rheos floatable eyewear www.rheosgear.com) with securing strap (consider bringing a spare)
☐ Small, quick-drying towel
☐ Hand sanitizer
☐ Personal Toiletries
☐ Sunscreen and lip protection: waterproof & SPF 30 or higher (aerosol sprays not recommended)
☐ Moisturizing lotion or cream
☐ Insect repellent
☐ Personal first aid kit (Band-aids, antibiotic ointment, ibuprofen, moleskin, eye drops, etc.)
☐ Spare pair of glasses and/or contacts
☐ Cash for gratuities as well as goodies at various shops in Yosemite
☐ River shoes or sandals with a heel strap (such as those made by Chaco®) “Aqua socks” strongly discouraged
☐ Hiking boots or shoes with good tread and comfortably worn-in to prevent blisters
☐ Hiking socks: mid-weight
☐ Reusable/washable face coverings (minimum of two) consisting of two or more layers
☐ Long-sleeved shirts: lightweight and light color for sun protection (old dress shirts work well)
☐ Long pants: lightweight and light color for sun protection
☐ Shade hat or visor with securing strap – flexible enough to wear underneath your helmet
☐ Rain jacket & pants: waterproof (not water resistant). A hooded jacket with secure closures is recommended.
☐ Swimwear; a two-piece is recommended for women for changing and using the restroom. Tankinis and board shorts are a great option.
☐ Shorts: 1-2 pair
☐ Synthetic or merino wool long underwear: 1 set top & bottom (light-, mid- or expedition-weight depending on the time of year, weather, location)
☐ Jacket: fleece or down/synthetic fill puffy (depending on the time of year, weather, location)
☐ Leisure-wear for evenings at lodge. Seasonally appropriate
Additional Essentials for early season trips (May):
☐ Wetsuit booties and/or neoprene, wool or synthetic socks (for wearing inside your river shoes)
☐ Additional fleece top & bottom
☐ Warm hat and gloves: synthetic or wool
☐ Extra set of synthetic or merino wool long underwear, top and bottom
☐ Neoprene paddling gloves
☐ Camera and accessories
☐ Sarong: useful for sun protection, evaporative cooling, changing clothes, etc.
☐ Bathing wipes: pre-moistened disposable towels
☐ Small bags: stuff sacs, zip locks or similar for organizing items
☐ Large empty bag: laundry bag, pillow case or similar for putting clothes into after your trip
☐ Ear plugs
☐ Splash jacket and pants
☐ Sketchbook, notebook and pen, paperback book
☐ Female Urinary Device (for women only)
Find all the gear you need for your trip online in the OARStore + 15% of your purchase helps provide under-resourced youth with outdoor adventure experiences.
Local Outdoor Equipment Stores
Foster Ace Hardware – 5188 Highway 49 North, Mariposa, California 95338 (209) 966-2692
Packing Your Gear
We provide one small, shared waterproof bag per raft for day use where you can keep items such as raingear, camera, sunscreen, lip balm, etc. (approximate sealed size: 17” tall x 9” diameter; 1081 cu in; 17.7 L). All bags are cylindrical in shape and pack from the top.
If you have extra luggage, it should be locked in your car or stored at your hotel.
We recommend that you leave your valuables at home. We recommend leaving personal items in your car while you are rafting, including wallets, purses and cell phones. We will retrieve these items before we head to our hotel.
Tipping is optional, but appreciated by our staff. If you are wondering how much to tip, you may consider that we operate in a service industry with a host of behind-the-scenes contributors in addition to the guides on your trip. In general, we suggest a gratuity based on 10 – 15% of the trip cost. It is customary on OARS trips for gratuities to be given to the Trip Leader in the form of cash or personal check, who will then distribute appropriately amongst all the guides and support staff.
In reviewing your statement, you will note a $1/person/day donation to Friends of the River, a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to protecting California’s rivers, streams and watersheds. One-hundred percent of these funds go directly to Friends of the River, and your contribution is tax-deductible. See www.friendsoftheriver.org for more information. This donation is voluntary and may be removed from your invoice if you choose not to participate. Please notify our office to delete the donation from your balance.
If you enjoyed your trip, consider donating to The Pam & George Wendt Foundation. This organization is a not-for-profit 501 (c) 3 organization with the express goal of providing opportunities for young people to experience the magic of the outdoors. Visit https://www.oars.com/oars-foundation/to learn more about how a tax-deductible donation can change young lives for the better.
Gear up in the OARStore where 15% of all purchases help fund outdoor adventures for under-resourced youth
Shop for the latest in top-quality clothing, footwear & outdoor gear
Explore gear made and tested for water-lovers
Recommended Reading List
OARS practices a Leave No Trace conservation ethic
Additional information about Yosemite
Terms & Conditions
Reservations and Deposits
An $800/person deposit is required at the time of booking. Deposits may be made by check, money order or Visa/Mastercard (American Express and Discover incur a 3% processing fee). Prices are in US Dollars and all payments must be made in US Dollars. Payment of the deposit establishes your acceptance of our complete Terms and Conditions. Individual departures and trip capacity are strictly limited by the managing agency.
Cancelling your trip after your deposit has processed will incur cancellation fees because OARS has absorbed costs on your behalf and will turn others away who would like to book the spaces we’re holding for you. Final payment is due 90 days prior to departure. Accounts on which final payment has not been received 80 days prior to the departure date will be cancelled without exception..
Cancellations and Refunds
Your deposit is fully refundable, less a 3% processing fee, for 7 days after you book when you submit a deposit 7 days or more prior to the final payment due date.
If you must cancel your reservation after the rescission period described above, your cancellation fee will be determined according to the schedule below. We regret we cannot make exceptions to the cancellation policy for any reason, including foul weather, poor air quality, wildfire activity, acts of terrorism, civil unrest or personal emergencies. There is no refund for arriving late or leaving a trip early. For these reasons, we strongly urge you to consider purchasing a travel protection plan (see Travel Protection below).
Date of Cancellation Cancellation Fee
180 or more days prior to your trip $100/person
179 – 120 days prior to your trip $200/person
119 – 90 days prior to your trip $400/person
89 days or less prior to your trip Full Fare
Please note that different deposit/cancellation policies may apply for charter groups. Refer to the group organizer’s confirmation e-mail for details.
OARS reserves the right to cancel any trip due to insufficient registration or other factors that make the trip impractical to operate. In such instances, we will inform you at least 45 days prior to departure. Do not make nonrefundable travel arrangements unless you have spoken to your Adventure Consultant regarding the status of your trip. If a trip must be cancelled or postponed due to force majeure (factors outside the control of OARS), OARS will provide full credit for payments made toward future travel, or a refund less a 5% service fee plus any nonrefundable payments made on your behalf to 3rd -party suppliers. OARS will make good faith efforts to recover deposits made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers; however, we can’t guarantee recovery of any or all of the advance payments made. OARS is not responsible for expenses incurred by participants in preparation for a cancelled trip.
If you need to move your reservation to a different trip during the same season, or to a credit account for the following year, there is a $50/person fee up until 120 days prior to departure for a one-time transfer of your payment. Transfer requests made 119 days or less prior to departure will be treated like a cancellation according to the schedule above.
Under most circumstances, if you are of an adventurous spirit and in reasonably good health, you should have no problem enjoying an OARS trip. People with medical conditions, including pregnancy, should have a physician’s approval before taking an adventure travel trip.
Within 5 days prior to your trip departure date, you must complete a Health and Hygiene Pledge for your travel unit and answer questions regarding whether you have had any recent symptoms of respiratory illness associated with COVID-19 or other communicable disease. You will be screened at the beginning of the trip and on subsequent days throughout the trip for fever, breathing problems and other symptoms. If you exhibit symptoms, you may be quarantined from the group or required to evacuate at your own expense.
Because there are costs that you will incur if you cancel the spaces on this trip that we’re now holding for you, or in the event you need to be evacuated during the trip due to an unforeseen illness or injury, we strongly encourage our guests to purchase an optional travel protection plan. A travel protection plan may help reimburse the cost of your pre-paid, non-refundable payments in the event you are prevented from taking your trip for a covered reason. Trip participants must understand that in the event of an illness or injury on a wilderness trip, evacuation can be prolonged, difficult and expensive. For complete details and to purchase the plan we highly recommend, visit: https://www.oars.com/tpp
Please note: To be eligible for coverage for pre-existing medical conditions, you must purchase the plan within 21 days of your initial trip payment and you must be medically fit to travel at the time you pay for the plan.
Liability Release / Assumption of Risk
Everyone is required to sign a standard liability release / assumption of risk form before the trip, confirming awareness that there are inherent risks associated with the trip. Due to the nature of the activities, a condition of your participation is that you will sign this form and return it to our office before the trip begins. Anyone who refuses to sign the form will not be allowed to participate, and consistent with OARS cancellation policy, there will be no refund of the trip fees at that time.
Responsibility – An Important Notice
O.A.R.S. West, Inc. and cooperating agencies act only in the capacity of agent for the participants in all matters relating to transportation and/or all other related travel services, and assume no responsibility however caused for injury, loss or damage to person or property in connection with any service, including but not limited to that resulting directly or indirectly from acts of God, detention, annoyance, delays and expenses arising from quarantine, pandemics, strikes, theft, pilferage, force majeure, failure of any means of conveyance to arrive or depart as scheduled, civil disturbances, government restrictions or regulations, and discrepancies or change in transit over which it has no control. Reasonable changes in itinerary may be made where deemed advisable for the comfort and wellbeing of the participants, including cancellation due to water fluctuation, insufficient bookings (this trip requires a minimum of 4 guests – 6 for gourmet, craft beer and wine trips), and other factors. There is risk in whitewater rafting, particularly during high-water conditions. Rafts, dories and kayaks do capsize. You could be swept overboard. Your guide will make every attempt to assist, but you must be strong and agile enough to “self-help” and “float-it-out” without further endangering yourself or others. We reserve the right not to accept passengers weighing more than 260 pounds or with a waist/chest size exceeding 56 inches. We may decide, at any time, to exclude any person or group for any reason we feel is related to the safety of our trips. We are experienced at accommodating people with various disabilities. Please give us an opportunity to make you feel welcome. We need to discuss any special requirements ahead of time.
OARS trips occur in areas where unpredictable environmental conditions are to be expected. To moderate dangerous situations for our guests and guides, all travelers must obey the rules and regulations as determined by the managing agencies and the Trip Leader and demonstrate reasonable consideration for other guests and OARS employees. We reserve the right to remove any guest from a trip if, in our opinion, that guest’s actions or behaviors pose a threat to the safety of her/himself or others, or if those actions or behaviors compromise the enjoyment of the trip for others. Should a guest be asked to leave a trip, there will be no refund for the unused portion, nor will OARS be responsible for additional expenses incurred by the guest for accommodations, return transport, change fees, etc. Prices subject to change without notice. Upon advancement of deposit, the depositor agrees to be bound by the above recited terms and conditions. OARS is an equal opportunity provider.