You don’t have to be a botanist to appreciate the marvelous beauty of Mariposa wildflowers.
The first ones make their appearance along roads and trails in late February and then increase in abundance up until April or May. It is not unusual to see 50 to 60 different species of flowers.
FlowersMost of Mariposa County is dry and provides excellent habitat for typical oak-grassland wild flowers such as poppies, brodiaeas, and goldfields. Also there are areas seeps and streams that provide conditions for a strikingly different flora. Here are found the common monkey flowers, shooting stars, fiesta flowers, waterfall buttercups, and many other plants that are uncommon because they will not stray far from moisture. Although these areas are small in size, they are large in diversity and provide endless fascination. However, be aware of the ever-present poison oak. The dry shaded ground under the oaks and shrubs provides another specialized habitat to which certain plants are adapted. Fairy lantern, baby blue eyes, and Indian pinks may be found. And finally, the river bars have their own characteristic flora that is quite different form most of the trail areas. Many of these plants, such as buttonbush, California fuchsia, and Sierra sweet bay, bloom late in the season after the river level has dropped.
You will see wildflowers along just about any road or trail during wildflower season. The following trips suggest some of the more popular routes.
Trip #1 “HITE COVE”
Highway 140 at South Fork Merced River (Savage’s Trading Post). Season: February – May
This is one of the most spectacular early spring flower displays in the Sierra Nevada range. Over 60 varieties of wildflowers surround you in this round-trip hike along the South Fork of the Merced River. Please don’t pick the wildflowers- they are next year’s display. Poison oak is very common in the river canyon; “leaves of three, let it be”.
The Hite Cove portion of the South Fork of the Merced River trail is 4.5 miles long and runs from Highway 140 to Hite Cove. The first ¾ mile of the trail is on private property. Please respect this land by staying on the trail. This is a very heavily used foot trail for viewing wildflowers during the spring. Bicycles and horses are not allowed on the trail. Dogs on a leash are permitted. As you meander along the South Fork on this moderate hike, you will discover the remains of the old Hite’s Mine that produced over $3 million in gold and a gold mining town that once stood on the banks of the river. Please remember that historic and prehistoric artifacts are not to be disturbed or removed as they are protected by law.
Parking is available across Highway 140 on the shoulder just east of Savages, next to the portable restrooms.
Trip #2 “Hornitos Tour”
Highway 49N and Old Toll Road, Mount Bullion. Season: March – April
This loop runs form Highway 49N and Old Toll Road to Hornitos then back to Highway 49N at Bear Valley. The road travels through the foothills, along a creek bed and finishes with grassy hills to Hornitos. It is well maintained. The viewer has the opportunity to see Redbud and several other varieties of flowering shrubs in the foothills.
Trip #3 “Mariposa to Coulterville”
Highway 49N (27 miles). Season: March – April
The first 11 miles of this trip goes through Bear Valley, where the viewer can see some flowers in the plateau flat lands. The road then drops down a canyon where many kinds of flowering shrubs, including Redbud, are on display. The final 7 miles of the trip to Historic Coulterville is over grassy hills covered with California Poppies and other flowers.
WildflowerTrip #4 “Ben Hur Road”
From Raymond to Highway 49 at the Mariposa County Fairgrounds. Season: March – May
Leave from Madera, Ca and drive to Raymond, CA then leave Raymond to Road 613 and in 4-5 miles turn onto Ben Hur Road. This trip can take 3-4 hours. Make sure you have plenty of gasoline, water and food. The trip goes through canyons, along streams and peaks out at Moore Hill before descending on a gently winding road. The views of the valley are spectacular and you seem to go back in time. Be respectful of the private lands, cattle etc. Several places make for good picnic spots, but remember to pack out your trash. The trip can be long. Make sure you have a map because there are several places where you have a chance to turn. You will eventually reach Hwy 49.
Trip #5 “Merced River Canyon”
Highway 140 Briceburg to El Portal. Season: March – May
This is a beautiful trip when the Redbud is in bloom. Many of the green slopes that border the river display carpets of poppies and goldfields.