I don’t know about you, but I’m already giddy about the delightful little wildflowers that are popping up all along the trails near Denver, and the best part is that it’s only going to get better and better! Peak viewing times vary, and as a general rule, the high country explodes with bursts of brightly colored blooms primarily during June and July. However, you can enjoy the wondrous beauty of wildflowers from now until September depending on the species and elevation. Don’t miss out on any of the riotous floral beauty on these epic wildflower hikes near Denver that are completely out of this world!
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Indian Peaks Wilderness
Want a spectacular wildflower hike which also boasts pristine mountain lakes and stunning surrounding summits? This idyllic alpine wilderness just west of Nederland is sheer perfection! (There are many trails options, but one good route is the Devils Thumb Bypass, which begins at the Hessie Trailhead, continues on the Devils Thumb Bypass Trail, then pushes upward to the breathtaking Continental Divide at 6.5 miles and roughly 11,000'). Enjoy expansive wildflower meadows, Jasper and Devils Thumb Lakes, and intersections for optional trails to Lost Lake, King Lake, Woodland Lake, and Diamond Lake. Is there such a thing as too much beauty!?!?
2. Roxborough State Park
This unique state park known for its awe-inspiring red rock formations is also home to the Willow Creek Trail, renowned for its abundance of enchanting wildflowers. It's a short, gentle 1.4-mile loop that's ideal for a serene stroll among the flora and prime bird watching too. (Note: Pets, horses, and mountain bikes are not allowed at this park).
3. Rocky Mountain National Park
RMNP is one of the most visited parks in the U.S. and is home to a whole slew of wildflower-filled hikes bursting with color from spring through summer. The Cub Lake/Pool Loop has a peak elevation of 8,620', which makes it an excellent choice for seeing blooms early in the season, as well as the East Inlet Trail to Lone Pine Lake, located on the slightly quieter western side of the park. (Note: Dogs are also prohibited at RMNP).
4. Eagles Nest Wilderness
This splendid 133,688-acre wilderness area near Eagle and Summit Counties explodes with a frenzy of wildflowers during the summer months, including columbine, lupine, larkspur, monkshood, wild geranium, wild iris, and Indian paintbrush. Notable trails include the Bighorn Creek Trail, the Gore Range Trail, and Eaglesmere Lakes Trail, which has over 100 species of wildflowers on display!
5. Herman Gulch
The Herman Gulch Trail in the Arapaho National Forest is a section of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail that boasts an exceptional amount of natural beauty. Enjoy lush, green meadows painted with wildflowers that bloom all over the open, rolling tundra in this broad mountain valley and catch glimpses of the peaks along the Continental Divide before arriving at the emerald green, crystal clear Herman Lake at 11,987'. Herman's Gulch is truly a wildflower wonderland!
6. Rabbit Ear Pass & Peak
The wildflower display at Rabbit Ear Pass near Steamboat Springs is nothing short of outstanding. Enjoy the blooming bursts of color in the meadows along the trail, then scramble up the last quarter of a mile for spectacular vista views from the summit of Rabbit Ear Peak. (And for a little extra wildflower action, stop at nearby Dumont Lake before or after your hike and breathe in all the blooming beauty).
7. Chautauqua Park
What makes this popular, picturesque park near Boulder so great (besides the wildflowers, of course) is that there are TONS of trail options ranging from short, easy strolls to strenuous, all-day summit hikes. Charming Chautauqua has trails that are suitable for all skill levels, and lovely little wildflowers decorating the meadows and hillsides around them.
8. Butler Gulch
Butler Gulch in the Arapaho National Forest near Idaho Springs is undoubtedly one of the best places to experience jaw-dropping views of wildflowers in the Front Range, and with over 100 species of wildflowers along the trail, it's earned the acclaim of being a "century" hike. On this roughly 5-mile trail that peaks at almost 12,000', you'll enjoy fabulous flora, 360-degree mountain views, alpine lakes, and a year-round glacier.
9. Rawah Wilderness
The Rawah Wilderness area nestled in the Roosevelt National Forest near Fort Collins is truly a hidden gem. The glacier-carved granite peaks of the Medicine Bow Mountains serve as the centerpiece, with roughly 76 miles of trails and 26 pristine alpine lakes surrounding them. One particularly stunning hike is the Blue Lake Trail which begins at 9,495' at the mouth of the Poudre Canyon and climbs to Blue Lake at nearly 12,000'. To say it's utterly breathtaking is probably an understatement.
10. Pawnee National Grasslands
For a completely different and unique wildflower viewing experience, check out the Pawnee Buttes Trail in the Pawnee National Grasslands northeast of Denver and Fort Collins. At first glance, the shortgrass prairie appears to be dry and desolate, but a closer inspection reveals delightful little wildflowers such as prairie coneflower, prickly gilia, sand dock, prairie snowball, evening primrose, and prickly poppy. And due to its lower elevation, the wildflowers here bloom from April to September so you're guaranteed to see pops of color along the prairie no matter when you go!
11. West Maroon Pass from Aspen to Crested Butte
One of the most epic wildflower hikes in the state of Colorado (and perhaps the country) is the 11-mile trail over West Maroon Pass from Aspen to Crested Butte (or vice-versa). Expect a strenuous trek filled with insanely stunning scenery like you've NEVER seen! From eye-popping meadows blanketed with brightly colored wildflowers to jaw-dropping 14,000-foot peaks and impossibly clear alpine lakes. (Note: The trail ends in Gothic near Crested Butte, so you will need to camp, shuttle cars, or arrange a pick-up with Dolly's Mountain Shuttle).
Fun fact: Crested Butte is affectionately known as "Wildflower Capital of Colorado" and hosts a wonderful wildflower festival in July. Be sure to check out all of the other trail options the Butte has to offer.
I can hardly stand the anticipation of all the amazingly beautiful wildflower wonderment to come. What are your favorite epic wildflower hikes near Denver? Don’t hold out on us! Share your stunning spots in the comments.