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Hiking From Briceburg up the Burma Grade to the Gate

It was a little early for Merced River Canyon’s wildflower show but the right time to get in a good winter conditioning hike with some miles and a climb along the Merced River at Briceburg.

Where: Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Merced River Recreation Management Area
Distance: 10.6 miles roundtrip but you can go shorter or longer
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
Elevation Range: 1,139′ – 2,836′
Elevation Gain: 1,647′
Date: January 25, 2022
CALTOPO: Hiking From Briceburg up the Burma Grade to the Gate
Dog Hike? Maybe

To reach Briceburg, I drove up Hwy 140 north about 15 miles from Mariposa to the Briceburg Visitor Center at the Merced Wild & Scenic River. You can’t miss the beautiful old stone building that William M. Brice built in 1926 as Highway 140 into Yosemite was being built. Originally it was a general store for locals and tourist. Gasoline pumps were later added, and it also provided lodging and had a soda fountain over the years. The BLM acquired the property in the 1980’s and refurbished the building to its near-original condition to be used as a visitor center. The Visitor Center is currently closed and expected to reopen the first weekend of May. For more history about William Brice and the community that was named after him, check out my prior Briceburg Blog.

It was 30 degrees as I drove by the Visitor Center, parking in the parking lot along the Merced River where the restroom is located. I like to park in this area and walk across the suspension bridge, checking out the views of the river. They don’t recommend that trailers over 18 feet and large RV’s cross the suspension bridge.


I think that in many ways, this bridge is a work of art, spanning 160-foot, built by the US Forest Service in 1937 and constructed by 30 Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees.

I took a look up and down river from the bridge.







After the bridge, the Burma Grade starts to the right where there is a small parking area that is perfect if you are going to follow the Merced River Trail upriver on the historic Yosemite Valley Railroad bed. Or you can follow the Merced River Trail downriver, which is especially pretty in the spring when the wildflowers are blooming.

I headed up the dirt switchback road.

The Burma Road is also known as the Briceburg or Bull Creek Road and immediately starts to climb along a steep road that is basically one lane wide with switchbacks that takes you up the hill. It is also called the Burma Grade. As you climb, you have incredible views of the Merced River, Briceburg, the suspension bridge, and Hwy 140. Besides hikers, high clearance 4 wheelers, motorcycles and mountain bikers also use this road. The road can have washouts, slides and deep ruts, closing it some years but when it is open, I understand you can get to Greeley Hill or Buck Meadows from Briceburg.















I had gotten a little later start than I had intended and the sun had already risen over the hills as I looked down at Briceburg and Hwy 140.

I loved the different ways the hills sloped into each other with the morning sun reflecting different colors.

As the road kept on climbing I watched for tracks, seeing coyote, mountain lion, lizards and a couple of snake tracks.

I spotted an occasional paintbrush blooming and looked for poppies in the afternoon but didn’t spot any. A couple of my friends had hiked in this area and had come across a few blooming poppies but they were along the river.

I continued on up the road, glancing back at the views into the Merced River Canyon.

And views of the switchbacks I had come up.

After about 3.3 miles, the road left its western exposure and wound around to the east side of the hill with frosty leaves lining the road. I could look straight down Good Gulch, the location of the Goods Gulch mining claim and 3 other claims adjacent to it. I wasn’t sure exactly where on the hill the gold mine was but picked out stretches of the old road that once led in that area as my eye scanned the hill. This area was home to claims and mining interests that brothers John L. and Carl Vander Karr had in this area. I had written about this family and their mines in a prior blog

There is a wonderful book written by Carl Vander Karr called If These Hills Could Talk: The Story of a Mariposa Mining Family. This book is available in our local libraries to check out and it is so fantastic that memories and pictures of mining in this country have been captured by this incredible family.

I continued on up to the gate, my turn around spot at about 4.5 miles.

The 34,000 acre Telegraph Fire had burned through this entire area that I was walking through and today, almost 14 years later, the growth included a dense knobcone pine stand, a species that has adapted to fire. Its cones stay closed for many years until a fire opens them, then they can reseed themselves. On older trees, you can see the cones embedded in the trunk as the tree grows.

Many fires have run through this area and near it over the recent years so I thought you might like to look at a map with those fires. If you click on the map picture, it will get larger.

Fire History Map of the Area

I turned around at the gate and headed back the same way I had come in.

On my way down, I passed a couple of 4 wheelers coming up, a jeep and 2 hikers. I usually start a bit earlier and usually don’t see anyone. I would imagine the weekends would be busier. There are plenty of wildlife that live in this area, including rattlesnakes so I am careful around areas where they could be hiding. I just can’t give you intel on the road all the way down to Bagby but have included a link to a TrailLink write up on the trail.

Campgrounds are located along the Merced River but I don’t have any information on whether they are open or if they have the Special Guidelines for Merced River Recreation Area Campgrounds During COVID-19 that they had last year:

In order to comply with the Mariposa County Interim Guidelines for Campgrounds, the following procedures are put in place:

        • Be prepared by bringing your own personal hygiene supplies, including soap, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer.
        • Only one household per camp site (Maximum 8 persons).
        • Only registered campers in developed campgrounds. McCabe Beach is for registered campers only during COVID-19 restrictions. (First come first served, on-site registration/payment only—no advanced registration).
        • No group campsites. Site #13 will only allow 8 persons.
        • Stay home if you are sick.

I recommend that you contact BLM for the most up to date information.

There are three developed BLM campgrounds along the Merced River between Briceburg and Bagby. The campgrounds are accessed by crossing the suspension bridge just past the Briceburg Visitor Center and heading down river along the unpaved Briceburg River Road (old Yosemite Valley Railroad Grade).

McCabe Flat – 2.3 miles downstream from Briceburg
Willow Placer – 3.6 miles downstream from Briceburg
Railroad Flat – 4.5 miles downstream from Briceburg
North Fork Primitive Camp – 2.5 miles downstream from Railroad Flat Campground
Cable Rock Day Use Site – 1.4 miles downstream from Briceburg
Briceburg Day Use/Put-in – Hwy 140 at Merced River, 12 miles east of Mariposa

Dog Hike?  Yes

I did not bring Sally or Fannie on this hike but Sally has hiked along the Merced River before. There was no dog water on my route on this day but there are some places where you can get your dog down to the river for a drink but be very careful because that river can run fast and cold. One slip into the river could be disastrous and deadly. Also when the weather warms up, the rattlesnakes are out and about. Dog rules in this area include the following:

  • Dogs must be on leash at all times.
  • No dogs allowed at McCabe Flat swimming beach.


What is a Doarama?  It is a video playback of the GPS track overlaid on a 3 dimensional interactive map. If you “grab” the map, you can tilt it or spin it and look at it from different viewing angles. With the rabbit and turtle buttons, you can also speed it up, slow it down or pause it.

Hiking From Briceburg up the Burma Grade to the Gate (1 Way) Doarama

Maps and Profile:

CALTOPO has some free options for mapping and here is a link to my hike this week:  CALTOPO: Hiking From Briceburg up the Burma Grade to the Gate

Briceburg up the Burma Grade to the Gate Topographic Map

Briceburg up the Burma Grade to the Gate Profile 1 Way

Merced River Recreation Area (BLM)

Hiking From Briceburg Downriver On The Merced River Trail With Wildflowers Profile


Johnston, Hank, Railroads of Yosemite Valley (Yosemite National Park, Yosemite Association, 1995)

The Yosemite Valley RR

The Yosemite Valley Railroad

Tracing the Yosemite Valley Railroad

San Francisco and San Joaquin Valley Railroad Wikipedia

1920 Yosemite NP Brochure

1924 Yosemite National Park Brochure

Yosemite: the Park and its Resources (1987) by Linda W. Greene

Bridge Reports Mariposa county

Briceburg Wikipedia

Ferguson Fire Trail Closures

Briceburg Visitor Center

The Briceburg Story

Mariposa Gazette California Digital Newspaper Collection

Mariposa Genealogy & Historical Research Home Page

Mariposa Museum & History Center Gallery


Yosemite Railroad Turntable and Caboose Restoration Yosemite Conservancy

El Portal Administrative Site Historic Resource Survey with Assessments and Recommendations Yosemite National Park

Caifornia State Route 140 and El Portal Road GRIBBLENATION

Merced River Recreation Management Area

Merced River Trail TrailLink

Prior Blogs in This Area:

Hiking From Briceburg Down The Merced River Trail With Wildflowers March 18, 2021

Hiking From Briceburg Up The Burma Grade: Exploring Old Roads and Goods Gulch Mine March 8, 2021

Hiking From Briceburg Up The Burma Grade: Old Mining Activity and Wildflowers March 2, 2021

Hiking From Briceburg Up The Burma Grade To A High Spot With Views February 22, 2021

Hiking From Briceburg Up the Historic Yosemite Valley Railroad Bed on the Merced River Trail December 15, 2020

Hiking up Briceburg’s Burma Road January 30, 2020

Hiking up the Burma Road with Wildflowery Views April 15, 2019

Discovering Wildflowers Along the Merced River Trail Near Briceburg April 3, 2019

Discovering Wildflowers Along The Moss Creek Trail April 3, 2019

Hiking Along the Merced Wild and Scenic River with Mom February 21, 2016

Merced River Canyon Hike – Part 1 March 5, 2013

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