Hite Cove Trail

Lupine on the Hite Cove Trail

TripSavvy / Betsy Malloy Photography

With the hillside covered in up to 60 varieties of wildflowers, some people say the Hite Cove Trail is the best wildflower hike in all of California.

Depending on your inclination, your rate of picture-taking per mile may exceed your pace in miles per hour. At peak bloom in a good year, it would be easy to capture more than enough "keeper" images along the first mile of the trail to post on your social media for a year.

The place got its name from John Hite. In the 1860s, he discovered gold near a wide place (a cove) in a narrow canyon of the Merced River's South Fork. His gold is long-gone, and today's gold-seekers come seeking riches in a different form: the color of California poppies and other spring wildflowers that grow along the Hite Cove Trail hiking path overlooking the river.

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Hiking the Hite Cove Trail

Pretty Face on the Hite Cove Trail
©Betsy Malloy Photography

This flower is called Pretty Face (Triteleia ixioides). Native Americans gathered the bulbs of this plant in large quantities, harvesting it with digging sticks. They ate them raw, fried, boiled or roasted.

Hiking the Hite Cove Trail

The Hite Cove Trail is a 4.5-mile hike in each direction if you go all the way to the end, an out-and-back trail. The path is well maintained, hugging the hillside. It's wide enough to walk on comfortably, but with the downhill drop-off ending in the Merced River, it's not a place for the inattentive.

It's an in and out hike. If you go all the way to the end of the trail, you'll walk 9 miles round trip, but you can see most of the flowers along the first two miles.

The trailhead is at 1,900 feet, and the elevation gain is only 100 feet. The best time to go is March through mid-May, although that can vary depending on the weather.

Hite Cove Trail is doable for anyone in moderately good physical condition, with a couple of somewhat steep sections and a few small stream crossings in wet weather. You may find hiking poles helpful on the steep sections. Photographers may want to take a hiking pole that doubles as a monopod.

You can get details about the hike at the Yosemite Hikes website.

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Hite Cove Trail Tips

Chinese Houses
©Betsy Malloy Photography

These beauties are called Chinese Houses (Collinsia heterophylla). If you look at them long enough, the flowers start to look like little houses or a fairytale pagoda.

Hite Cove Trail Tips

  • Much of the Hite Cove Trail is in the open. You'll need a hat - and plenty of water.
  • Take some food along, so you can take your time and enjoy the views without getting "hangry."
  • Poison oak grows along the trail. If you don't know about it, remember these little rhymes: "Leaves of three, let it be!” or “Hairy vine, no friend of mine!”  And here's a photo and some information.
  • Take precautions to prevent tick bites which can carry Lyme disease.
  • The first section of the trail is on private property, so please be respectful and help keep the Hite Cove Trail open for everyone.
  • Because the path goes straight in and out, you can manage without a map.
  • Bicycles and horses are not allowed on the Hite Cove Trail, but dogs on a leash are.
  • Artifacts and pieces of old mining equipment can be found along the Hite Cove Trail, but it is illegal to remove or disturb them.

If you're heading to the mountains especially to view and enjoy the wildflowers along the Hite Cove Trail, you can stay right at the trailhead. Yosemite Resort Homes are located on the banks of the Merced River, just a few steps from the beginning of the Hite Cove Trail. To view available properties visit the Yosemite Resort Homes website.

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What Does the Hite Cove Trail Look Like?

Hite Cove Trail
©Betsy Malloy Photography

You've seen all these lovely flowers, but what does the trail look like? It's a pretty ordinary trail, actually. If you go all the way to the end, you can see a few remains of the old gold mine.

The path is a little narrow in places, enough to prompt some people to hang onto their honeys for dear life, but doable for most people.

Getting to Hike Cove Trail

Hite Cove Trail starts at California Highway 140 east of Mariposa, near where the highway crosses the Merced River at Savage's Trading Post.

Park on the side of the road nearest to the river. The well-marked trail starts on the other side of the road and goes uphill from the highway.

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