When it comes to wildflowers and surrounding scenery, Colorado is truly paradise on earth. There are so many destinations within the state where wildflowers seem to blanket the entire landscape in a spectacular colorful fashion. You just need to know where to look. These are some of the best places and times to see wildflowers when you’re visiting Colorado.
I’ve lived in Colorado for two decades. While I can’t say that I’ve ever sought out Colorado wildflowers, I certainly am lucky enough to come across them often. Not only do I stop to smell the flowers but often to take pictures of them too.
This May saw quite a bit of rain so the wildflowers are starting to pop in some areas of the state. We even found some while rock climbing and rafting in the Royal Gorge last weekend.
Late-June through July
For those of you that have already visited Crested Butte during early summer, it probably wouldn’t surprise you that it’s known as the “wildflower capital of Colorado.” Ever since 1896, the town has held an annual wildflower festival during the peak part of the season.
There are hundreds of wildflower hiking trails in the area, most of them with names that speak for themselves, including Lupine Trail, Daisy Pass, or Columbine Trail.
If you’re interested in seeing lots and lots of sunflowers, make sure you take the Rustler’s Gulch Trail. Or if you’re simply looking for a quieter and more remote location, Almont Triangle also is a great spot to visit.
April through July
In certain parts of Northern Colorado, it’s possible for you to witness spring blooms by early as April. Prairie violets, primrose, and nodding onions can be found in Pawnee National Grassland, especially if you take the scenic Pawnee Buttes Trail. Prickly pear and prairie sunflowers will be in full bloom by the end of May to early June there as well.
If you happen to be in the Fort Collins area sometime in May, Cathy Fromme Prairie is a great location. You can find beautiful colors of blooms amongst neat rock formations at Lory State Park.
Insider Tip: Colorado’s many state parks are great places to spot wildflowers!
The Rocky Mountains National Park and Yampa Valley
July through August
You’ll see some of the most spectacular color arrangements in all of Colorado when visiting Alpine Meadows. If you hope to catch some of the best variety of blooms, be sure to take the Rabbit Ears Peak Trail. It’s a 6-mile trail up to the summit, but keep in mind that it can be a bit rather steep for some at the end of the ascent.
And of course, the Rocky Mountain National Park is another great place for wildflower viewing. In Estes Park, there’s The Pool Loop and Cub Lake that has around 80 different varieties of wildflowers during the month of July.
San Juan National Forest is an excellent wildflower destination that has plenty of hiking trails where you’re sure to come across bluebells, columbine, Indian paintbrush, Jacob’s ladder, amongst many others. Some of the best viewing spots in the National Forest will be found at Columbine Lake, Ice Lakes, and Emerald Lake. The three Alta Lakes and the Great Sand Dunes National Park are other great places nearby to stop and take in the scenery.
One of my favorite places to see colorful Colorado wildflowers is the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in Vail, Colorado. This is the world’s highest botanical garden at 8,200 feet above sea level. While the beautiful flowers don’t technically grow wild the garden is home to more than 3,000 species of high-altitude plants. Quite a few of which are native to the Rocky Mountains.
The gardens are located adjacent to the Gerald R Ford Amphitheater. Plan your visit on an evening that one of America’s greatest orchestras perform and you can delight your sense of sound, smell and sight. It really is one of my favorite ways to relax, sitting on a bench in the gardens listening to orchestra music waft through the air.
There’s also a really fun children’s park across the field from the gardens. And, the river is just across the bike path. Often the Town of Vail has art installations along the path. Truly Vail summer is glorious.
It really doesn’t matter what part of Colorado you plan on visiting, there’s sure to be several spots nearby where you can gaze at fields filled with magnificent colors. If you’ve visited Colorado in the past during wildflower season, where did you visit, and how was the experience?