Colorado is known for its spectacular nature, and one of the most iconic elements of that nature is wildflowers. Spring and summer in Colorado bring a beautiful and diverse variety of native flowers, largely driven by the state’s differences in elevation and climate.
The best way to experience this natural phenomenon is on a hike, where you can feast your eyes on the gorgeous array of flowers while enjoying fresh air and exercise. You might even spot the rare Colorado state flower, the white and lavender Columbine that is native to the Rocky Mountains, known commonly as the Colorado Blue Columbine.
When and where you’ll see certain flowers depends a lot on elevation, as this affects climate and determines what kinds of flowers will grow and when they’ll bloom. Generally, wildflowers in high-elevation areas are best seen in late summer when the snow has melted, while lower-elevation flowers are at their best in late spring and early summer.
Because of this range of varied climates, Colorado boasts three blooming seasons, which means there are new colors and varieties to be seen all summer long. Let’s take a look at the best places to see wildflowers on a hike near Grand Junction and beyond.
1. Willow Creek Trail
The Willow Creek Trail is a 1.5-mile hike located in the Rio Grande National Forest near the town of Littleton, Colorado. Entrance fees are $10 for a vehicle or $4 per person otherwise.
The hike itself is relatively easy and can be tackled by the vast majority of visitors, although it can get muddy and slippery at certain areas and times of the year, so it may be wise to bring appropriate footwear and gear.
For wildflower viewing, late spring and early summer are the best seasons to visit, and hikers will be rewarded with a stunningly wide variety of flowers including Canada violet, larkspur, tall scarlet paintbrush, white gilia, spring beauties, and many more.
2. Herman Gulch Trail
Herman Gulch Trail is a 6-mile hike located near Silver Plume, Colorado that features rugged mountain scenery and a serene lake. It can be slightly tough towards the end but is mostly manageable for hikers of all ability levels.
The best time to visit is during the summer months when you’ll find the hillsides and open meadows adorned with many different types of wildflowers.
3. Gold Hill Trail
The Gold Hill Trail can be found near Frisco, Colorado, and offers a 3-mile hike during which you can see a wide variety of wildflowers in all colors and sizes. To enjoy the floral display to its full effect, it’s best to do the hike in spring or early summer.
In the fall, you can also see beautiful displays of the changing leaves here, and in winter the trail becomes a beautiful snowy trek.
Rabbit Valley Trail System
Just outside of Grand Junction you’ll find Rabbit Valley, an area owned by the Bureau of Land Management and located in the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area. It’s the perfect spot for a day trip from Grand Junction or an overnight camping excursion, and for wildflower seekers this place is paradise.
Here you can see an incredible range of wildflowers such as the beautiful white mariposa lily, tough yellow sprigs of double bladderpod, the striking orange blooms of globemallow, twinkling clumps of Jones’ blue star, and the sprightly purple explosions of glandular phacelia.
There are three main trails to choose from in the area where you can see these flowers, and each is a little different:
4. Trail Through Time
The Trail Through Time is an easy 1.5-mile interpretive loop that is perfect for families. It takes its name from the rich archeological history that can be experienced on the route — here hikers regularly stumble across 140-million-year-old dinosaur fossils and other ancient relics.
This trail offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape, and while it’s an easy hike, it doesn’t offer much shade, so it’s a good idea to bring some protection from the sun like sunscreen and a hat.
5. McDonald Creek Trail
This 4.8-mile hike in the McDonald Creek Cultural Area winds through beautiful views of canyons and red sandstone cliffs, with some breathtaking vantage points over the Colorado River. It’s a mostly easy journey with a handful of moderately challenging spots.
Like the Trail Through Time, hikers here can also experience glimpses of a time long gone, with petroglyphs and painted wall art providing a rare and fascinating insight into how people lived in the ancient past.
6. Rabbits Ear Trail
The Rabbits Ear Trail offers a 6-mile loop hike around the flower-drenched landscape of Rabbit Valley. It’s the longest hike in the area and is considered moderately difficult due to its length and certain areas of steep incline.
Hikers can enjoy excellent views of the surrounding mountains, an abundance of stunning wildflowers, and even some bird watching. It can get hot here without much shade, so be sure to prepare accordingly and bring plenty of water.
Experience Colorado’s Wildflowers on a Hike
Wildflowers are one of the true delights of Colorado’s spring and summer seasons, and one of the most compelling reasons to hike through this region. Perhaps the best part of all is that it’s convenient to access these flowers and enjoy the variety from a number of hikes of different difficulty levels from the Grand Junction area.
Looking for other opportunities to experience native flower blossoms up close on a hike? Discover more wildflower hikes in the Grand Junction area.