The first spring poppies danced in the wind for me as I hiked up Briceburg’s Burma Grade and beyond for 15 miles with a 2,340 gain, leading me to a view of El Capitan and Half Dome.
Where: Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Merced River Recreation Management Area
Distance: About 15 miles roundtrip but you can go shorter or longer
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
Elevation Range: 1,138′ – 3,100′
Elevation Gain: 2,340′
Date: February 7, 2022
CALTOPO: Hiking From Briceburg up the Burma Grade to a View Spot
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.
I parked in the parking lot along the Merced River where the restroom is located, then walked 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 passed the small parking area that is perfect if you are going to follow the Merced River Trail upriver on the historic Yosemite Valley Railroad bed, walking uphill on the dirt road called the Burma Grade. As I gained elevation, I saw some beautiful views of the Merced River.
The road kept going up, switchbacking many times with rutty areas in spots.
And those views just kept on coming.
What a surprise to see the first shooting stars blooming!
And a couple of weeks ago there were less than a handful of paintbrush blooming along this road but now there were plenty!
I could look down at Briceburg and the squiggles of Hwy 140.
There were plenty of tracks on the dirt road that included bugs, lizards, squirrels, racoon, coyote, deer and I even made out one set of bobcat or mountain lion prints. I didn’t see any snake prints on the road but a couple weeks before, I had seen a couple.
I walked by the sites of old mining claims such as the Good Gulch Mines, one of the claims and mining interests that brothers John L. and Carl Vander Karr had in this area and you can read more about them in a prior blog.
I continued past the gate where there is an option to head to the right. I continued straight, following Bull Creek which was dry.
The 2008 Telegraph Fire was started for someone target shooting and burned through this area in 2008. By the time it was contained on August 6, it had burned 30 homes, over 100 other structures, over 34,000 acres, cost over $37 million to fight and resulted in millions of dollars of property damage. The brushy vegetation that had come in after that had almost obscured the locations of some old mines. Almost, but not if you look closely at the land for signs of tailings and old roads.
The Leach Gold Mine was discovered in 1900. The last years of production were from 1900-1905, operated by M. Van De Carr, and also mined Copper. I walked along the junction to the old road that led to the Jack Martin Claim, 3 generations having worked that claim from 1930’s to the mid 80’s. Russ Marks had shared with me that the cabin was still standing until the Telegraph fire. You can read a little more about these mines in a prior blog of mine.
A sign along the road told me that this was a Federal Mining Claim named the Snowflake Mine and when I got home, I tried to search for more information but couldn’t find anything specific.
The road also led me by a pickup that had gotten into a bit of trouble and the “Love Shack” was still there.
Several small covey of quail came up along the road as I walked by. I continued on the road across the cattle guard, and along fenced private property, then then I turned right on the dirt road that I think is Nf-3s01 .
A jack rabbit led the way. Can you spot it?
I continued up the road, checking out some spots where I could see El Capitan and Half Dome. I lucked out with a clear day and I couldn’t believe how far I could see!
This road used to go through but the section that goes through private property now has a fence across it. The gate across the road clearly reads “Private Property No Trespassing.” So this was my turn around spot and I headed back the same way I had come up.
The afternoon had warmed up and I was very glad that I had worn shorts. On my way down the Burma Grade switchbacks, I was treated to my first poppies of the year. Blue dick, popcorn and mustard were also starting to bloom.
And I was thankful for the breeze that I had on the walk down those dusty switchbacks. The poppies were dancing.
On my way down, I passed a pickup coming down and 2 motorcyclers just above the bridge. 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.
- 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.
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 a View Spot
Prior Blogs in This Area: