Scenic spots to swim, float, and soak in the sun at the West's amazing national parks
With El Capitan and Half Dome towering above, the Merced River beaches in Yosemite Valley sometimes get forgotten. Which is a mistake, especially in summer, when valley temps sizzle and the river water is blissfully cool. The two main beaches, Cathedral and Sentinel, are great for splashing or bobbing around in an inner tube.
Don’t miss: Taking on the Merced by raft. Rent a four- to six-person raft at Curry Village Recreation Center, and float 3 miles to Sentinel Beach; the $26 fee includes shuttle service back to your start.
Get there: In summer, take the El Capitan Shuttle to stop E4 and walk 1/4 mile to Cathedral Beach, or get off at E5, 1/2 mile from Sentinel Beach; $20 per vehicle; nps.gov/yose or 209/372-8319 (raft rental). — Peter Fish