An End of Summer Guide to August’s Colorado’s Wildflower Season
Popular Colorado Wildflowers in Season:
Columbines (State Flower)
With the proliferation of shale soil, moisture and sun, the wildflower season in Colorado is in full swing. Sweeping landscapes of color are waiting to be explored and photographed. As a transplant from the Northeast, I'm fascinated by the beauty of wildflowers here in the Rocky Mountain Region. So, my husband and I have been exploring Colorado beyond Denver to familiarize ourselves with this glorious state. Here's what we found.
Consider Crested Butte’s Dark Canyon Trail, a 13.8-mile one way hike through the Raggeds Wilderness north of Kebler Pass. You’ll pass sunflower-lined trails at the 4.3-mile (round trip) Brush Creek Trail; Deer Creek Trail’s floral display of color seen during a 6.9-mile (round trip) out-and-back hike.
While in that area, check out Summit County and hike the Shrine Mountain Trail, a 4.2 mile round trip trek that will take you past beautiful flowers as you hike gradually up from Vail Pass to the peak. On the way you’ll pass pine forests and meadows dotted with colorful hues.
Dillon’s Herman Gulch Trail, a 6.6-mile (round trip) route towards Herman Lake winds past blossoming fields.
Enjoy the state flower columbines along Lower Cataract Loop Trail near Silverthorne, a mostly flat two-mile loop.
To avoid the crowds, head to the Eastern Plains. 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. This peaceful trail, a four-miles (round trip), is layered with the yellow hues of bladderpod and milk vetch. Beware of the rattlesnakes in the grass and the quick change of weather during the spring and summer months. The idea of a snake, hail and possible tornado will take the thrill out of your wildflower wanderlust quickly!
The blooms found at the hills surrounding Grand Junction and Fruita typically peak in July. Late bloomers can still be found amongst the sandstone cliffs of the Western Slope. Arrange for a shuttle car before tackling Monument Canyon Trail with it’s 6 mile stretch to find floral pops of color. The meadows and hiking trails off of Highway 65 are nice too.
Flat Tops Wilderness
The Flat Tops Wilderness are too vast to select just one spot for flower peeping. Some suggestions include Trappers Lake, (a about 5.3 miles loop) that takes hikers by patches of fireweed, rosy paintbrush, and goldeneye.
Colorful fireweed can be found on the path up to Little Trappers Lake. Fireweed proliferated there after the Big Fish fire 16 years ago.
The East Fork Trail is another option lined with blue columbines and sunflowers.
Don't forget the southwestern part of the state. We drove from Montrose, Telluride and Ouray and took the dreaded Million Dollar Highway from Silverton to Durango. While the scenery is amazing, that is the last time we will ever drive that white knuckled road again. We found another way back up to Telluride on Rt. 145 through Dolores County. That road lead us to amazing vistas of red rock, Aspen trees and wildflowers right after passing Lizard Head Pass. While not a wildflower, the Colorado Aspens are a big deal during the fall with their golden leaves. Many locals and visitors travel to the high country to leaf peep during late September into October. The mountains are colder so the leaves turn color faster than the low country.
Telluride wildflowers and Aspens
Next Wednesday, August 29th, the Denver Botanic Gardens will offer free admission at both the Denver and the Littleton Chatfield Farm locations.
Denver Botanical Gardens Chatfield Farms
View more than 40 species of wildflowers, such as black-eyed Susan and golden columbine, in the Carol Gossard Native Plant Garden.
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.
As the summer winds down, take advantage of the outdoors with these trailblazing tips and camera in hand. The cooler days of sweater weather, football and chili are right around the corner waiting to take us into the long haul of winter days spent indoors. So, grab that camera and go outside!