Poppy meadows of Merced Valley and Hite Cove

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

WorldBlue  In short

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

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GPS coordinates
37.65961 N 119.91535 W
Location, address
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.)

Map of the site

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WorldYellow In detail

One of the most popular routes leading into the park is Highway 140 along the Merced River. When approaching Yosemite the valley gradually becomes deeper and deeper. In springtime the beautiful landscape is supplemented by unusual sights – 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 the 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 the 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 landslides and kill fragile salamanders. Thus better enjoy the beautiful scenery from the road.

Hite Cove Trail

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

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

One can get much closer to 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 the 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.


  1. Hite Cove: Flower Power, Yosemite Hikes, accessed on February 27, 2010
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

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Top 10 locations of California poppy meadows and fields

California poppy meadows belong to the most impressive wildflower displays in the world. Their unusually clear and brilliant color seems to come from another, better reality. This flower has created a passion that is rare elsewhere in the world. Many Californians are obsessed with “wildflower hunting” – search of beautiful meadows, photographing, and just pure enjoyment of beauty.

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WorldYellow 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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