Where to See the Best Summer Wildflowers Around Aspen and Snowmass, Colorado

Stephanie Kroll

Ralph Waldo Emerson quipped that “the Earth laughs in flowers.” During the joyful months of June, July, and August in the Roaring Fork Valley, the ground indeed sprouts with vibrant colors. Colorado boasts over 500 wildflower species, and the Aspen Snowmass area offers some of the best opportunities to witness this natural spectacle. Here are four of our favorite spots to immerse yourself in the beauty of Colorado's wildflowers.

1. Aspen Mountain

Start your adventure by hopping on the Silver Queen Gondola to explore miles of hiking trails atop Aspen Mountain. The summit is a breathtaking panorama of wildflowers and stunning views. For those seeking vehicle-accessed viewing, drive up Little Annie’s Road (a 4x4 vehicle is recommended). The west-facing fields, bathed in sunlight, are adorned with sunflowers and various lupine species. This spot is perfect for watching the sunset with a picnic basket.

2. Aspen to Crested Butte Hike

For the fit and adventurous, the hike from Aspen to Crested Butte is a must. This six-hour journey is famed for its unparalleled wildflower viewing. The trail is a riot of colors, with clumps of Western Yarrow, Colorado Blue Columbine, Northern Paintbrush, and Alpine Sunflowers guiding your path from one town to the next.

3. Snowmass Trails

With numerous trails and open spaces in the Snowmass area and the Elk Camp Gondola running all summer, choosing the best spot can be challenging. Some of the top trails include Summit and Sierra Club Trails, Rabbit Run, Vista Trail, and Snowmass Way. These trails are riddled with Lupine, Indian Paintbrush, Wild Geranium, Columbine, Heartleaf Arnica, and even wild strawberry blooms in wetter areas.

4. Cathedral Lake Trail

Starting under aspen groves with Bluebell Bellflowers and Heartleaf Arnica, the Cathedral Lake Trail soon opens up into alpine meadows filled with Alpine Forget-Me-Nots and Geraniums. This hike involves significant vertical gain, so it’s best to start early to avoid afternoon thunderstorms. The views are well worth the effort, with a stunning bouquet of wildflowers in different zones.

Additional Noteworthy Hikes

  • American Lake Trail: A steep initial climb followed by gentle rises leads to American Lake, a 3.2-mile hike.
  • Castle Creek - River Run: A beautiful 1.5-mile hike along the river, starting at the ghost town of Ashcroft.
  • Hunter Creek Trail to Hunter Creek Cutoff: A gradual uphill climb along Hunter Creek towards Hunter Valley.
  • Little Cloud Trail: Offering great views of downtown Aspen and a lovely walk through pine forests and wildflower fields.

High Elevation Hikes

For those looking to explore higher elevations (around 10,000-12,000 ft), the following trails are excellent choices:

  • Lost Man Loop
  • Midway Trail
  • Grizzly Lake Trail
  • Tabor Creek Trail
  • West Maroon Creek Trail to West Maroon Pass
  • Willow Lake Trail

Wildflower Families in Aspen

Here are some beautiful flowers you can spot around Aspen, categorized by family:

  • Borage Family: Mountain Blue Bells, Alpine Forget-Me-Not
  • Buttercup Family: Blue Columbine, Western Red Columbine, Monkshood
  • Flax Family: Wild Blue Flax
  • Geranium Family: Richardson's Geranium, White Geranium, Sticky Geranium
  • Lily Family: Mountain Death Camas, Wand Lily, Corn Lily
  • Orchid Family: Striped Coralroot Orchid, Western Rattlesnake Plantain
  • Phlox Family: Showy Jacob's Ladder, Skyrocket, Sky Pilot
  • Rose Family: Showy Cinquefoil, Chokecherry, Prairie Smoke, Wild Rose
  • Snapdragon Family: Elephantella, Giant Lousewort, Narrowleaf Paintbrush, Northern Paintbrush
  • Sunflower Family: Heartleaf Arnica, Aspen Sunflower, Subalpine Aster, Western Yarrow
  • Violet Family: Canada Violet, Hooked Violet, Lanceleaf Violet
  • Waterleaf Family: Purple Fringe

Responsible Wildflower Viewing

While photos are encouraged, please be a respectful hiker: stay on the trail and let the flowers be. It’s illegal to pick flowers on public land, and trampling off-trail can damage fragile ecosystems.

Happy wildflower seeking!

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