Landscape of Merced River Valley is world famous due to Yosemite Valley – beautiful, impressive glacial valley, the oldest protected area in United States, formally protected since 1866.

One of the most popular routes leading into the park is Highway 140 along the Merced River. When approaching the Yosemite the valley gradually becomes deeper and deeper. In springtime the beautiful landscape is supplemented by unusual sight – high hillsides on both banks of the river become colored bright orange by millions of poppies. Merced Valley poppy meadows and Hite Cove wildflower meadows belong to most beautiful wildflower displays in this part of California.

Which poppy is it?

Poppies in Merced River valley, California
Poppies in Merced River valley / , Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

There is some controversy regarding the species of poppies seen in Merced River Vallery and Hite Cove. While some state that this beautiful orange flower is California poppy (Eschscholzia californica Cham.), others consider that most of these plants are tufted poppies (Eschscholzia caespitosa Benth.). Both plants are very similar and California poppy forms numerous diverse forms, thus for a non-specialist, it is not that easy to differentiate them.

Rare salamander

The poppy meadows of hillsides of Merced valley can be observed from the car. Although this is a beautiful experience, one can’t say that this means being close to nature. Walking on these slopes is not advised – in many cases these steep hillsides are not safe. Under the stones there might be hiding unique amphibian – limestone salamander (Hydromantes brunus Gorman, 1954). This small creature lives only in this part of Merced River Valley and nowhere else in the world, it is hiding deep in the talus. An inattentive step might create landslide and kill fragile salamanders. Thus better enjoy the beautiful scenery from the road.

Hite Cove Trail

Hite Cove is named after John Hite who was searching for gold in this area in the 1860s.

Meadows along the Hite Cove Trail, California
Meadows along the Hite Cove Trail / , Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

One can get much closer to the nature when taking a walk on the Hite Cove Trail which goes along a small tributary of Merced River. Here nature trail leads through some of the most beautiful wildflower meadows. Take a walk here in March – April, and if weather is good, you would be overwhelmed by the beauty of this place.

Poppies are abundant along the trail, but there are numerous other interesting flowers as well: baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii Hook. & Arn.), Sierra blazing stars (Mentzelia crocea Kellogg), blue dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum (Benth.) Alph.Wood), yellow pincushions (Chaenactis glabriuscula DC.) and many others – more than 60 species of wildflowers in total.

Poppy meadows of Merced Valley and Hite’s Cove are included in the following list:

Top 10 locations of California poppy meadows and fields
Top 10 locations of California poppy meadows and fields


  1. Hite Cove: Flower Power, Yosemite Hikes, accessed on February 27, 2010
Poppy meadows of Merced Valley and Hite Cove on the map
Travelers' Map is loading...
If you see this after your page is loaded completely, leafletJS files are missing.
Location, GPS coordinates:37.65961 N 119.91535 W
Rating:1.5 out of 10 stars
Where is located?North America, United States, California, Mariposa County, Merced Valley some 15 – 20 km west from El Portal
Dominating species:Tufted poppy (Eschscholzia caespitosa Benth.)? or California poppy (Eschscholzia californica Cham.)

Video of poppy meadows at Rancheria, near Merced Valley

Ben Lehman, April 2013

Landmarks of California

Golden Gate Bridge, California
Golden Gate Bridge / David Ohmer, / CC BY 2.0

Although California is one of states in the United States of America, Americans often compare it to a separate country, e.g. “if California would be a country, it would have the eighth largest economy in the world”. We can go on with this comparison – California has more landmarks and attractions than many large countries of the world.


This is not alien planet. Group of Dragon's Blood Trees in Socotra
This is not alien planet. Group of Dragon’s Blood Trees in Socotra. (possibly taken outside Rokeb di Firmihin) / Rod Waddington, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Biotope is rather small area with uniform environmental conditions and specific community of life. Wondermondo describes biotopes and ecosystems which have striking looks, look very beautiful or have other unusual characteristics.

Recommended books

Treasures of the South Fork – Trails and History Along the South Fork of the Merced River At Yosemite’s Front Door

By Yosemite’s front door are the many treasures of the South Fork of the Merced River; the gold, the flowers, the wildlife and the lore. This book takes you into the rugged wildness, floral panoramas and the exciting past of the beautiful and unique South Fork country – a pristine country now threatened by “hydro-mania.”

Born In Yosemite: 75 Years of Personal Observation

Born in Yosemite by Peter Hoss, relates his story from the perspective of someone whose parents—when he was born—were already intimately involved in the life of Yosemite. Peter takes the reader on a 75–year journey through the historical events and personal adventures that have shaped his Yosemite experience.

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