Expect clogged roads out of Merced this Labor Day weekend

Those planning to hit the road for the holiday weekend will find themselves with plenty of company.

AAA expects nearly 4 million Californians will travel more than 50 miles or more from their homes during the upcoming Labor Day holiday weekend, up 1.6 percent from last year.

“Californians are more optimistic about their financial situation, and consumer spending continues to outpace disposable income,” said AAA Northern California spokeswoman Cynthia Harris. “This indicates that Californians are willing to take on debt to finance their end-of-the-summer getaway.”

Most Golden State travelers – more than 3.1 million by AAA projections – will drive to their destinations. For those in the Merced area, they’ll be paying roughly $3.74 per gallon for regular gas. That’s a drop of 12 cents from a month ago, and down 1 cent from Labor Day weekend last year.

About 500,000 plan to travel by air, and about 300,000 will travel via other modes of transportation, including rail, bus and watercraft.

Nationally, AAA estimated that more than 34.7 million people will travel 50 miles or more during the three-day holiday weekend, a 1.3 percent increase compared with 2013.

Those staying in the area will find that though Labor Day is the traditional end of summer, the season doesn’t show any sign of letting go.

National Weather Service forecasters predict highs in the mid-90s throughout the weekend, with overnight temperatures dipping into the low 60s with some light winds.

Conditions are expected to be much the same at Yosemite National Park, where rangers and staff are gearing up for the last busy weekend of the summer.

Labor Day generally draws huge crowds to Yosemite, though in 2013 a massive wildfire that encroached on the park dissuaded many from visiting.

“Last year, with the Rim fire, we definitely saw an impact,” park spokeswoman Kari Cobb said Wednesday. But with clear skies and no rain in the forecast, the park is expecting its typical big turnout.

Though park campgrounds that accept reservations are always hard to come by, spots remain at the first-come, first-served campgrounds that include Camp 4 in Yosemite Valley and Bridalveil Creek near Wawona. Those seeking campgrounds, as well as day visitors, are advised to arrive at the park early, as spaces and parking lots fill up swiftly.

“We’re looking forward to having our last busy weekend of the summer,” Cobb said.