In the 1860s, John Hite discovered gold near a wide place (cove) in the narrow canyon of the Merced River's South Fork. His gold is long-gone, and today's gold-seekers come seeking gold in a different form: the color of California poppies and other spring wildflowers that line the 4.5-mile Hite Cove Trail hiking path overlooking the river.
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, you'll log pictures per mile or miles per hour on the Hite Cove Trail. You'll find plenty of flowers within the first mile of the trail, generally blooming from March through May. I logged more than 50 "keeper" images in just two hours along that mile. See a selection of them in the Hite Cove Trail photo gallery.
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.
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 find a hiking pole that doubles as a monopod especially useful.
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 trail head. We recommend the Yosemite Resort Homes, which are located on the banks of the Merced River, just a few steps from the beginning of the Hite Cove Trail. Read our review.
Hite Cove Trail Tips
- Much of the Hite Cove Trail is in the open, so you'll need a hat - and plenty of water.
- Take some food along so you can take your time and enjoy the views.
- Avoid poison oak growing along the trail. If you don't know about it, here's a photo and some information. Also, ticks can carry Lyme disease, so take precautions to prevent tick bites.
- 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.
- Many artifacts and pieces of old mining equipment can be found along the Hite Cove Trail, but it is illegal to remove or disturb them.