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A Guide to Colorado Wildflowers

Summer is finally here, and that means Colorado is exploding into color. Trees and lawns are green, vegetable and flower gardens are blooming with life, and all around the state, wildflowers are beginning to peek their heads up from the ground. It’s a transformation that takes place at different times of the summer depending on factors like elevation and location, but if gorgeous blooms are what you’re looking for, we’re here to help you find them. Please check out our wildflower hike recommendations.

 

Colorado Wildflowers: A Brief Field Guide

First thing’s first: when you’re checking out wildflowers in Colorado, you’ll need to know what to look for. There are literally hundreds of wildflowers that grow in Colorado, but here’s a list of some of the most common:

Colorado Blue Columbine

Colorado Blue Columbine

The Rocky Mountain Columbine is a gorgeous blue and white star-shaped flower you’ll find all over the state, which is appropriate since it’s our official state flower.

Indian Paintbrush

Indian Paintbrush

This tall flower with its cup-like bracts comes in a variety of colors, but you’ll most likely spot the red and orange varieties in Colorado.

Bluebell

Bluebell

Delicate bluebells look exactly like what the name implies.

Fireweed

Fireweed

Fireweed gets its name from its ability to grow so quickly and prevalently in areas ravaged by wildfires, and since it can survive to a subalpine level of elevation, it blankets the ground on a lot of Colorado hikes.

Rocky Mountain Bee Plant

Rocky Mountain Bee Plant

This furry pink plant grows on a tall stem, and as the name implies, it attracts a lot of pollinators. Some of its other common names are less complimentary, like “skunk weed” or “stinking clover.”

Subalpine Larkspur

Subalpine Larkspur

These grow best at 8,200 to 13,400 feet, and a fully mature plant can have dozens of gorgeous deep purple blooms on a single stalk.

Sand-dune Wallflower

Sand-dune Wallflower

Also known as “prairie rocket,” the sand-dune wallflower ranges in color from a light yellow to a deep orange, and prefers to grow in the dryer, hotter parts of the state.

Blanketflower

Blanketflower

This gorgeous bloom comes in shades of red, orange, and yellow, like a fiery tie-dyed sunflower.

Scarlet Gilia

Scarlet Gilia

Scarlet Gilia was first discovered by famous explorers Lewis and Clark in the mountains of Idaho during their expedition across the US. Each of its red, pink, or white flowers looks like a long tube with five petals at the end.

Prairie Flax

Prairie Flax

These beautiful little flowers are also called “wild blue flax,” with five rounded pale blue petals, sometimes veined in a darker blue.

Silky Lupine

Silky Lupine

They are hardy up to 11,000 feet elevation, so you can find them in plenty of areas in Colorado.

Elephant Head Lousewort

Elephant Head Lousewort

This is going to sound weird, but these little pink flowers, when viewed from the right angle, look just like the head of an elephant, trunk and ears and all!

Pink Mountain Heather

Pink Mountain Heather

Pink Mountain Heather carries small pink blooms on a low, shrubby, bush-like plant. It grows at higher elevations in subalpine forests and meadows.

Remember, this is just a sample of the many wildflowers you can find in Colorado, so use this list to get you started, but keep an eye out for more, because you’re sure to find them.

When to Find Wildflowers

You can find wildflowers pretty much anywhere in Colorado, from the flat prairielands near Kansas to the subalpine meadows up in the mountains. The higher your elevation, the longer it might take to see wildflowers, but generally the best time of year for spotting them on the plains is during late spring or early summer, and the best time to see them in the mountains is during the months of July or August.

Where to Find Wildflowers in Colorado

Whether you’re hiking, biking, horseback riding, off-roading, or taking a scenic drive, you’re sure to spot some colorful flowers this summer, but if you’re specifically on the lookout for wildflowers, check out these areas for some truly spectacular natural gardens.


Written by Emily Krempholtz

 

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