Where to Find the Best Wildflowers in the Vail Valley
Colorful Colorado’s beauty is the brightest in the summer. A lush, green landscape blankets the Rocky Mountains and pops with a kaleidoscope of color from numerous varieties of wildflowers. The Vail Valley is a stunning place to visit any time of year, but wildflower season is especially spectacular. Read on for where and how to find brilliant beauties.
What Types of Flowers Grow in the Rocky Mountains?
There are hundreds of wildflower varieties throughout Colorado, many of which vary based on time of year and elevation. Take a walk through the woods and you’re bound to come across pockets of purple, pink, red, white, and yellow shades. Here are some of the more common wildflowers you’re likely to find:
Colorado blue columbines are the official state flower of Colorado. Columbines are easily recognizable - this two-tone flower has five smaller white petals set inside five longer sky blue, star-shaped petals. The shape of the flower is unique and attracts hummingbirds, who can access the nectar tucked into the long, hollow stem of the flower.
Indian paintbrush is a striking red high alpine flower. Characterized by bright, spiky clusters that resemble a paintbrush dipped in a vibrant red hue, the flower can grow up to almost two feet tall. They are commonly found in forest clearings and grasslands throughout the mountains of Colorado. Some species of paintbrush are edible in small amounts and were consumed by Native American tribes.
Bright pink fireweeds get their name from their ability to grow so quickly after fire-raged areas. These flowers grow tall, up to 6 feet, with feathery appearances. Fireweeds are found in thick patches found along mountain streams and the edge of the forest.
Silky lupines look like tall, spiky colorful cones with purple, pea-shaped petals. These beautiful flowers are easy to spot - they are commonly found throughout the mountains and up to 11,000 feet in elevation.
Arrowleaf balsamroot are short, sunny yellow flowers with a yellow-orange center that grow in clumps. They are a variety of the sunflower family, with long and skinny leaves shaped like arrowheads, hence the name.
White marsh marigolds are found in marshy areas in high alpine environments. You will most likely come across these short white flowers along riverbanks and wetlands near high alpine lakes.
If you’re interested in learning more about identifying wildflowers, pick up a guidebook at The Bookworm, a local bookshop and cafe located in Edwards. (Hint: guests at The Inn at Riverwalk receive exclusive discounts at local stores, including 10% off your purchase at The Bookworm).
When is the Best Time to Find Wildflowers?
The best time to find wildflowers depends on elevation and weather conditions. Wildflowers are found in Colorado’s summer months, from May through August. In early summer, May and June, Eagle is the first place to see the bloom due to its lower elevations. Higher elevations, such as in Beaver Creek and Vail, see the best blooms in July and August.
Where to See Wildflowers in the Vail Valley:
Wildflowers can be found on most mountain trails throughout the summer. But some trails typically have a better showing than others.
Flowers fill the ski runs on Beaver Creek Mountain. The Village Loop is a mellow 3-mile loop trail that winds through the lower half of Beaver Creek Mountain. A 5.5-mile round trip trail climbs 1,600 feet to Beaver Lake, where hikers are rewarded with beautiful wildflowers and a pristine alpine lake. In Minturn, the Game Creek Trail follows a stream to the backside of Vail Mountain, where marshy meadows are filled with colorful varieties. From the top of Vail Mountain, hikers can enjoy sweeping views of the surrounding mountain ranges and fields studded with wildflowers. The Grand Escape, a 3-mile trail originating from the Eagle Bahn Gondola, climbs the ridge to a beautiful viewpoint overlooking Vail’s famous Back Bowls.
There are numerous hikes in East Vail, which have some of the best flowers you can find. For serious hikers prepared for a full day adventure, Pitkin Lake, a 10-mile round-trip journey, consistently has some of the most colorful high alpine fields. Hikers on the Gore Lake Trail can find colorful varieties at any point in the trail while climbing into the steep valley. It’s a long way to the lake (12-miles roundtrip), but the lush green landscape is worth the trek for a shorter out-and-back hike. For an easier high alpine experience, Shrine Pass, on the top of Vail Pass, tops out at close to 12,000 feet. Sweeping panoramic views combined with flower-studded fields make this a popular destination for wildflower enthusiasts.
Leave No Trace: How to Best Enjoy Wildflowers
When searching for wildflowers, please remember to leave no trace. Wildflowers play a critical role in supporting biodiversity for animals and insects. Picking them can harm the fragile alpine ecosystem. It’s best to enjoy their beauty and stay on designated trails. Additionally, remember to pack it in and pack it out - take all trash with you to preserve the natural outdoor environment.
Edwards is an ideal location to see wildflowers because it is central in the Vail Valley. Trails filled with vibrant wildflowers are easily accessed from the town. After your hike, take advantage of happy hour specials from 3:30-5:30pm daily at the Mountain Fish House & Oyster Bar. With fresh fish and oysters, refreshing cocktails, and craft beer selections, the Mountain Fish House serves the best seafood in the Rocky Mountains.