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SNELLING: Hidden gem of Merced County
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The Sportsmans Retreat in Snelling is the perfect getaway stay for those looking to exercise their inner outdoorsman.


209 staff reporter


When most hear of the town of Snelling, a simple, “Where?” is often asked. Those looking for a quaint, small town experience need to travel no further than the small town. With its miniscule population of 291 people, Snelling is certainly a “wide spot in the road.”

Snelling is located on the north bank of the Merced River, about 15 miles north of Merced. The town, named in 1851 for Charles Snelling, was the governmental seat for Merced County from 1857 until 1872. Charles Snelling owned and operated both a hotel and ranch in the small town, and at one point gold dredging in the area produced about $17 million.

Snelling is so tiny that you may miss it when driving down Highway 59, but there is no lack of activity in the community. There is plenty to do for those looking to spend a day away from the hustle and bustle of larger towns in the 209.

First, take a trip to Henderson Park. Located along the picturesque Merced River, the park offers swimming access, a large playground and picnic shelters available to rent. The Snelling Community Recreation Building, also located at the park, is the perfect place to host a barbecue or birthday party. After some fun at the park, head to Town Frosty’s to cool off with a delicious soft-serve ice cream, or satisfy your hunger with one of their tasty burgers and fries.

If a day trip to Snelling isn’t what you had in mind, spend a few nights in the town and kick your feet up at The Sportsman’s Retreat. One of the few original houses built in Snelling, it is said to be located in the middle of a sportsman’s paradise. With just a short drive in any direction, you’ll find numerous lakes, rivers, streams and ponds offering water activities from fishing to rafting. Lake McSwain is just up the road from Snelling, making the town an ideal resting place for the avid fisherman. The Sportsman’s Retreat is a three bedroom, one bathroom home that has been completely remodeled, making it the perfect vacation rental. For more information, including a tour and prices, visit

Sightseeing is a popular activity in Snelling as well. Many of the buildings that line the town’s main road are still standing from when the town was founded nearly 200 years ago. The Snelling Courthouse was the first courthouse built in Merced County and is a certified historical landmark. Other fascinating and beautiful buildings in Snelling include the First Baptist Church and the Snelling Community Recreation Hall, which is one of the oldest public buildings in the town. The G.B. Neighbors Home is another must-see, historic homestead and is a historical site as well.


So, the next time you find yourself driving through Snelling and think that there isn’t much to see, think again. Often, wide spots in the road can provide a pleasant surprise.