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Best Bets: Colorado Wildflower Hikes

By Lisa Blake

Bursting from Mother Nature’s canvas in vibrant swashes of color and blanketing heavenly fragrant alpine meadows, few things are as spectacular as Colorado’s late-summer wildflower show.

July and August in the high country typically signal peak blooms with buds and blossoms singing toward indigo skies. Hike these Colorado trails to place yourself among the wildflowers in all their blue, white, yellow, purple and orange glory.

Trail 403, Crested Butte

Or anywhere in Crested Butte—a.k.a. the wildflower capital of Colorado—really. Mid-June through September sunflowers, paintbrush, columbine, lupine, daisies, fireweed, lilies and other native flowers take over the landscape.

Ramble along CB’s beloved Trail 403 for a colorful 7.8-mile moderate out-and-back hike. The well-used and maintained trail connects Washington Gulch to Gothic and climbs to more than 11,300 feet, offering up views of the Elk Mountains and a staggering variety of wildflowers.

Set aside a little time to swing by Crested Butte Mountain for some singletrack biking, disc golfing or horseback riding along the resort’s painted slopes.

Trail 403, Crested Butte, Co

Bighorn Creek Trail, Vail

Head to Eagles Nest Wilderness in East Vail and hike up and out of the Vail Valley on this 7.6-mile wildflower-erupting trail. Meander through vivacious meadows and quiet aspen stands, soaking in views of the jagged Gore Range and stopping for a picnic at the old Bighorn Cabin approximately three miles in along the old mining route.

Enjoy photo opps with Vail Mountain and Mount of the Holy Cross and trek upward through pine forest and around switchbacks as you gain 2,000 feet in elevation before topping out at an old homestead in a high-alpine meadow.

Cathy Fromme Prairie, Fort Collins

This naturalist’s haven lies in south Fort Collins between Shields Street and Taft Hill Road and offers a 5-mile round-trip stroll across a rolling prairie. A paved handicap-accessible trail provides easy access to wildflower viewing, unfolding in waves of blue flax, evening primrose, wild rose, sulphur flower, western wallflower, Nuttall’s violet, milkweeds, beardtongues and more.

A bulletin board at the trailhead provides handy wildflower identification sheets to reference as you stroll. Parents: This is a great hike for young children. Make a game of it and see how many different colors or types of flowers they can spot.

Rabbit Ears Peak Trail, Steamboat Springs

This trail—named for the once prominent bunny-ear-shaped pinnacle rock that has since faded with age and erosion—reveals impressive wildflower blooms each July and August. Embark on the 6-mile round-trip hike for classic sun-drenched Colorado meadows and a quick stop for a picnic at the Dumont Lake campground.

The moderate out-and-back trail winds up brilliant hillsides, topping out at 10,651 feet. Be forewarned: The last segment of the trail challenges hikers with a rock scramble approaching the summit. Avoid climbing on the “ears” at the peak—they’re a little unstable.

Rabbit Ears Peak Trail