Photograph the Merced National Wildlife Refuge

Auto Tour Loop Route - Search Nearby - Added by Anca Apostoaei

Merced is a hidden treasure with hundreds of birds to watch. It's serene and beautiful with wonderful sunsets.

Merced National Wildlife Refuge is one of the best places to go and take photos of birds as the refuge plays host to the largest wintering populations of Lesser Sandhill Cranes and Snow/ Ross geese along the Pacific Flyway. Each autumn more than 20,000 cranes and 60,000 arctic-nesting geese terminate their annual migrations from Alaska and Canada to make the Refuge home for six months. No matter what season you want to go you won't be disappointed. 

When you've reached the turnoff you'll see either on your right or your left (depending which way you've come from) a sign letting you know that's the way to enter Merced National Wildlife Refuge. Follow the road and you'll reach the main parking lot. Once you reached the main parking lot, on your right will be the auto tour route. It's a 5 mile loop, where you drive, stop and take pictures, and if you want, go on the path trails. The best way to take pictures is from your car seat, as every time you'll open the door the birds will fly away. On the Preserve you'll also encounter Coots, Grebes, Egrets, Great Blue Herons and even Great Horned Owl and maybe some Bald Eagles. 

The area has some stunning sunsets which are best seen at the second parking lot along the auto tour route. You'll see a wooden deck on your left which is ideal for capturing the sunset colors against the mirror lake.


Chillin, Photography

Easy Parking
Family Friendly

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Community Photos

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!


Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

Loved it!

Fun little trip for some great wildlife. The “auto tour” is great to stop and take pictures along the way as well as stop at some spots to get out and take a look around. Tons of wildlife, especially waterfowl, to admire. Definitely would come back!


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