It's Colorado Wildflower Season

There are so many ways to enjoy the wildflowers in Colorado...even in the middle of the City and along the Front Range.

Looking to stay close?

At Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms (pictured) in Littleton, view more than 40 species of wildflowers, such as black-eyed Susan and golden columbine, in the Carol Gossard Native Plant Garden.
Bonus: The venue hosts Wednesday Hikes with the Gardens—weekly excursions in the foothills (sometimes, but not always, wildflower-focused) that are led by on-staff horticulturists.

At Kendrick Lake Park in Lakewood, view native and nonnative species—including sunset hyssop and Mexican hat—in the vibrant xeriscape demonstration gardens.

At Roxborough State Park (just 25 miles south of Denver), view Indian paintbrush and prairie coneflower in a 3,300-acre “transition zone,” an ecological area where flowers that typically grow far from one another are able to sprout much closer together, creating a colorful tapestry.

At Red Rock Canyon Open Space outside of Colorado Springs, view mariposa lilies, milk vetch, and golden banners from the mostly easy trails weaving through the 1,474-acre park.

At the Aurora Xeriscape Demonstration Garden, view more than 300 water-wise plants, such as Vera Jameson stonecrop and baby blue rabbitbrush.
Bonus: Free xeriscaping classes are offered at the garden every summer.

Prefer biking?

Flowing Park Loop

Near: Grand Junction
Distance: 15.2 miles
Difficulty: Intermediate
What You’ll See: As you cycle along the rim and through the middle of the largest flattop mountain in the world—Grand Mesa—keep an eye out for wildflowers with some curious names: showy fleabane daisy, penstemon (also called beardtongue), common harebell, and sulphur flower.

Trail #401 Loop

Near: Crested Butte
Distance: About 14 miles
Difficulty: Intermediate
What You’ll See: This is among the world’s top-rated mountain bike trails, but we love it less for the ride itself and more for the corn lilies, aspen sunflowers, and purple tansy asters spotted here in late summer. The blooms along this path stretch high enough to reach your handlebars as you flow over smooth singletrack in the shadow of the Elk Mountains.

Ditch to Connector to West Government to Valhalla Trails

Near: Snowmass
Distance: About eight miles (round trip)
Difficulty: Expert
What You’ll See: Combining this group of trails makes for a short, grueling ride (expect to hike your bike in some spots), but you can use the narrowleaf paintbrush and elephant flowers as an excuse to stop and take photos—and catch your breath.

Or is Hiking more your style?

Crested Butte

Hikers don’t just encounter mule’s ear, lupine, and larkspur in Colorado’s Wildflower Capital—they wade through them. The proliferation of shale soil, a high number of pollinators, and decent moisture combine to produce flowers that can grow head-high. Michelle Bivens, executive director of the annual Crested Butte Wildflower Festival, recommends Dark Canyon Trail, a moderate 13.8-mile (one way) route through the Raggeds Wilderness north of Kebler Pass; the sunflower-lined, 4.3-mile (round trip) Brush Creek Trail; and Deer Creek Trail’s diverse array of flowers, which can be seen during a 6.9-mile (round trip) out-and-back hike.

Summit County

When the snow clears from the I-70 corridor, it reveals acres of Crayola-colored meadows. Shrine Mountain Trail (4.2 miles, round trip) takes flower chasers gradually up from Vail Pass, past pine forests and meadows abundant with wildflowers, to its namesake peak. Another worthy option is Dillon’s Herman Gulch Trail, which follows part of the Continental Divide Trail; the 6.6-mile (round trip) route gains about 1,600 feet as it winds past blossoming fields on its way to Herman Lake. Flatlanders—or those wanting to give their calves a break—will enjoy the columbines and easy ambling along Lower Cataract Loop Trail near Silverthorne, a mostly flat two-mile loop.

Eastern Plains

It’s become a Colorado axiom: To avoid the crowds, head east. That adage holds true for wildflower seekers. There, the colorful displays sit in startling contrast to peculiar rock formations. The popular Pawnee Buttes Trail leads hikers to the two 300-foot-tall buttes, which rise out of the verdure of Pawnee National Grassland, northeast of Greeley. The tranquil four-mile (round trip) trail is peppered with yellow-hued mountain bladderpod and various species of milk vetch. Picket Wire Canyon, outside of La Junta, provides a lengthy day of western wallflower and purple prairie vervain viewing—it’s an 11.3-mile round-trip hike—but the limited elevation gain balances out the distance.

Western Slope

The hills surrounding Grand Junction and Fruita are awash in Mother Nature’s color palette. Though the blooms typically peak in July, there are still sights to see among the region’s rugged sandstone cliffs later in the summer. You’ll need to shuttle a car ahead of time (to either the Lower Monument or Coke Ovens trailheads) so you’re able to get home after the roughly six-mile Monument Canyon Trail through-hike, which switchbacks past pink northern sweet vetch, mountain mahogany, and a whole lot of semidesert shrubs. Although we prefer to bike atop the 10,500-foot-tall Grand Mesa, the meadows and hiking trails off Highway 65 are just as enjoyable on foot.

Flat Tops Wilderness

At 230,830 acres, the Flat Tops Wilderness can seem too vast to select just one destination for finding flowers. But there’s something special about Trappers Lake, which has a shoreline loop—about 5.3 miles—that takes hikers by patches of fireweed, rosy paintbrush, and goldeneye. Flower lovers should also take the mile-long spur path up to Little Trappers Lake, where colorful fireweed has proliferated after the Big Fish fire 16 years ago. At 15.7 miles, the East Fork Trail is a solid backpacking option lined with blue columbines and sunflowers.

At the Aurora Xeriscape Demonstration Garden, view more than 300 water-wise plants, such as Vera Jameson stonecrop and baby blue rabbitbrush.
Bonus: Free xeriscaping classes are offered at the garden every summer.

Big thanks to our partners at 5280 Magazine for compiling this information. To see more ways to view wildflowers, and to access their awesome Wildflower Guide, visit the 5280 website.

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