Colorado is a wonderland for nature lovers, and its beautiful wildflowers are one of the state’s most treasured natural marvels. The breathtaking display of colors and scents found in Colorado’s rugged mountains is unmatched, and has been attracting visitors from around the world for decades. Whether you’re a seasoned wildflower enthusiast or someone who is just beginning to appreciate the beauty of Colorado’s alpine flowers, there are many incredible places to explore throughout the state.
Best Areas to Find Wildflowers in Colorado
Colorado’s wildflowers can be found throughout the state, but some areas are better than others for wildflower viewing. The following are some of the best areas to find wildflowers in Colorado:
Crested Butte is often called the wildflower capital of Colorado, and for good reason. This small town located in the Rocky Mountains is surrounded by a stunning array of wildflowers, including lupines, Indian paintbrush, and columbines. In fact, Crested Butte is home to the annual Crested Butte Wildflower Festival, which takes place during the peak bloom season in mid-July. The festival offers guided hikes, photography workshops, and educational seminars to help visitors learn more about the region’s wildflowers. It also is a great opportunity to see some stunning blooms and learn more about them from experts.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the best places to see wildflowers in Colorado. The park is home to more than 1,000 species of plants, including wildflowers like the Colorado columbine, alpine sunflower, and lupines. Wildflowers can be found throughout the park, but the best areas for viewing are around Bear Lake, Cub Lake, and the Tundra Communities Trail.
Guanella Pass is a scenic drive that takes you through the mountains between Georgetown and Grant. It can be easily accessed by car as the road is paved and well maintained. The pass is home to a variety of wildflowers, including bluebells, paintbrush, and larkspur. The best time to visit Guanella Pass for wildflowers is typically in late June and early July.
The San Juan Mountains
The San Juan Mountains are considered the best areas to find wildflowers in Colorado. This is because the this range receives more moisture and longer lasting snowpack than most of the Rocky Mountain areas. As a bonus, the landscape backing those flowers is the best in the state (in this author’s opinion). The San Juan Mountains have a wide variety of wildflowers ranging from daisies, columbines, and paintbrush to lupines, larkspurs, and sunflowers. The best time to visit is from late June to early August. While there are a number of locations that are easy to reach by car, the best locations are found on the alpine jeep trails that spider through these mountains. Locations like Yankee Boy Basin, Imogene Pass, Black Bear pass and The Alpine Loop should top your list.
When to Find Wildflowers in Colorado
The best time to find wildflowers in Colorado varies depending on the location and altitude. Generally speaking, wildflowers at higher elevations bloom later in the year than those at lower elevations. The following is a general guide to when to find wildflowers in Colorado based on altitude:
Below 8,000 Feet
Wildflowers at elevations below 8,000 feet typically bloom in late May and early June. Some of the most common wildflowers found at lower elevations include the blue flax, wild rose, and black-eyed Susan.
8,000 to 10,000 Feet
Wildflowers at elevations between 8,000 and 10,000 feet typically bloom in late June and early July. Some of the most common wildflowers found at these elevations include lupines, Indian paintbrush, and columbines.
Above 10,000 Feet
Wildflowers at elevations above 10,000 feet typically bloom from mid-July to early August. One of the most popular wildflowers found at these elevations include alpine forget-me-nots.
How to Find Wildflowers in Colorado
One of the most effective ways to seek out lesser-known areas with better blooms is by using backcountry jeep trails. These rugged paths will lead you deep into the heart of Colorado’s wildflower country, where you’ll discover hidden meadows bursting with color. As these locations are not within reach of the average tourist they tend to stay undisturbed and produce much richer displays of blooms than easy access destinations.
Using a Photography Guide
Hiring a Colorado photography guide can greatly enhance your wildflower experience. With their knowledge of the best locations and where the blooms are at their prime on any given week, a photography guide can help you make the most out of your time in the state. They can also provide professional instruction on photographing the flowers, including macro photography techniques required for much of the small alpine wildflowers. Finally, a guide can take you to backcountry locations via off-road vehicles to reach destinations you never could have on your own. Consider hiring a guide on your next vacation. It’s an easy way to add value and reduce stress while on your vacation.
Colorado’s alpine environments provide a unique habitat for a variety of wildflowers, some of which are found nowhere else in the world. Some of the unique species found in Colorado include the Rocky Mountain columbine, the state flower, as well as the Colorado blue columbine, the alpine forget-me-not, and the showy daisy. The lupine is also a common wildflower in Colorado, with several varieties found throughout the state.
It is important to remember that wildflowers are fragile and need to be treated with care. When viewing and photographing wildflowers, be sure to stay on designated trails and avoid stepping on the blooms. Picking wildflowers is also strictly prohibited and can result in fines. By being respectful of the natural environment, visitors can help preserve these beautiful blooms for future generations.