70 miles (112 km) to Yosemite entrance; 78 miles (125 km) to Yosemite Valley; via Route 140
population 76,000; elevation 150 feet (45 meters)
Merced is an agricultural city in California's Central Valley. Though it feels worlds apart from Yosemite, it's only 70 miles away via highway 140.
Merced is home to what may be the largest freestanding grave in California, thanks to the peculiar posthumous wishes of George Hicks Fancher (1828-1900). Watch for the 70-foot
(20-meter) obelisk beside the road shortly after you leave town on your way to Yosemite.
It's hard to really capture the Yosemite experience when you're spending your nights in the Central Valley, and 70 miles is a long drive to make twice a day.