Summer is here, which means wildflower season is finally coming into full bloom. And there’s no better place to see wildflowers than in their natural habitat — the wild. A two-hour drive from Colorado Springs and around three hours from Denver, Colorado, you’ll find yourself in Chaffee County, home to the quaint and vibrant community of Salida. With more hiking trails, peaks, valleys, and lakes then one could count, Chaffee County is an excellent spot to journey to if you’re in the mood to see some spectacular Colorado wildflowers.
We’ve compiled a list of some of the most popular hiking destinations that include the varieties of blooms you can expect to see along the way.
The absolute best time of year to see Colorado’s wildflowers is in the summer. In the eastern plains of the state, you can see wildflowers blooming in May and June. However, because of the high altitude in the Rocky Mountains of western Colorado, the snow often doesn’t fully melt until June. Therefore, the wildflowers are coming into their full bloom by July and continue to flower into August. This time of year is perfect for those who are visiting Chaffee County to get out on the trails and see what they can find.
What do I need to know?
There’s an app for that.
If you want to keep track of all the wildflowers you have spotted download the Colorado Rocky Mountain Wildflowers App to identify different flowers you may encounter on one of these hikes. With a database of over 520 varieties, this is sure to be the perfect hiking companion.
Don’t pick the flowers!
As tempting as it may be to pick the blooms, It is illegal to pick wildflowers in Colorado state parks. This protects the ecosystem and keeps the rare flowers, growing for everyone to enjoy.
Some are poisonous.
There are flowers found in Colorado that can harm you. Among them are the larkspur, the death camas, and the western water hemlock. Be sure to pick up a guide from the park ranger and never eat any of the flowers.
What kind of wildflowers can I expect to see as I hike?
There are hundreds of wildflowers that grow in Colorado, but here are some of the most common variants that you can expect to see as you stroll through the breathtaking wilderness.
Colorado Blue Columbine
The Colorado Blue Columbine is the official state flower, but it is incredibly rare to find. It’s a beautiful blue and white star-shaped bloom that represents the purple mountains and white snow in the Rocky Mountains.
Rocky Mountain Bee Plant
With a tall stem and furry pink blossoms, this wildflower attracts a lot of bees, as its name implies.
Fireweed is aptly named for its ability to grow so quickly and particularly in areas that were previously ravaged by wildfires. It grows so prevalently that it can almost look like a blanket coating the sides of mountains and valleys.
These gorgeous plants boast dozens of deep purple blooms on a single stalk. They grow best at 8,200 to 13,400 feet.
The Indian Paintbrush is a tall flower that has cup-like blossoms that come in a variety of colors, but in Colorado, most often turn up in shades of red and burnt orange.
This sunflower-lookalike is more colorful than its doppelganger, ranging in color from red to orange to yellow, almost like a sunflower on fire.
Where should I hike if I want to see wildflowers?
In addition to the trails that are particularly good for wildflower enthusiasts, you’ll want to check out our previous guide to hiking in the Chaffee County area. It includes descriptions of each trail, the difficulty level, directions to the trail from Creekside Chalets, and more. Any of the trails would make an excellent starting point for an amateur or expert wildflower sight-seer.
Lost Trail & Race Track Trail
Lost Trail is a 3 mile out-and-back moderately difficult hike that offers scenic views of Salida as well as of some of Colorado’s most beautiful wildflowers. Race Track Trail can be accessed from the same trailhead and is a 2.8-mile trail. It is a slightly easier hike than Lost Trail, so if you’re traveling with anyone elderly or very young children, this might be an excellent option for you.
Directions: From the intersection of Highway 291 and Highway 50 in Salida, drive east on Highway 50 for 1 mile. Turn right onto Burmac Road (the first right after “Big O Tires”). Continue on Burmac road for one-tenth of a mile. Then turn left to the trailhead and parking lot.
Greens Creek Trail
Greens Creek Trail is one of the most beautiful hikes that you can experience in the height of the wildflower bloom. It’s a moderate, 13.6-mile hike that follows the creek and boasts impressive views of native Colorado wildflowers.
Directions: Drive east on Highway 50 and take an almost immediate right onto County Road 241. Take a left onto County Road 220, where you’ll continue driving until you read County Road 221. Take a right. The trailhead and parking area are located about 2 miles down the road.
Kroenke Lake Trail
About a half-hour from Salida, located in Buena Vista, you will find breathtaking views and abundant displays of wildflowers on this trail. The first portion of the hike is very easy and is adjacent to a beautiful stream. The second half of the trail gains some significant elevation, so you’ll want to be prepared for that.
Directions: Once in Buena Vista, head west on Main Street towards the mountains. When you reach North Creek Road, turn right and follow it to the trailhead.
Fooses Creek Trail
Fooses Creek Trail is a slightly longer hike at 17 miles. It is a moderately difficult hike and features some of the best views of Colorado’s wildflowers. Dogs and horses are also able to use this trail.
Directions: From Highway 50, take County Road 225 for 2.5 miles. The trailhead is located directly in front of you. There is accessible parking at this point as well.
These day hikes are easily accessible during your stay at Creekside Chalets. You may need more than one day to explore the region and its variety of the many wildflowers. Contact us today. We’re happy to answer any questions you might have.