A Guide to Colorado Wildflowers: Where and When to See Them

From the vast meadows of Rocky Mountain National Park to the alpine peaks of Crested Butte, wildflower season in Colorado is full of unreal colors from blue columbines, golden banners, and scarlet paintbrushes. 

Along with birdwatching and trout fishing, Colorado wildflowers are a major reason a lot of campers plan a summer camping trip in the Centennial State. To guarantee a campsite amid the colors of the season, find out when, where, and how to discover the best spots to see Colorado’s wildflowers.

When do wildflowers bloom in Colorado?

Changes in snowpack, temperature, elevation, and precipitation patterns all affect the exact timing of when wildflower season in Colorado is. However, it’s generally safe to assume that wildflowers start blooming in southern Colorado in May and progress northward, ending sometime in early August.  

  • Lower elevation regions (eastern plains and foothills): Blooms start around May with peak wildflower season at the end of June and into early July.
  • Middle elevation regions (mountain valleys): Blooms start at the end of May and early June with peak season anytime between mid-June and early August.
  • High elevation regions (alpine meadows): Blooms start in late June and only last until early August due to shorter frost-free periods and colder temperatures. 

With a changing climate and some unpredictable weather patterns, wildflower season does fluctuate. When wildflowers bloom in Colorado can vary from location to location and season to season. To help you decide when to plan a trip to see wildflower blooms, follow resources like @coloradoswildflowers on Instagram for the latest information each year.  

Photo by Ann Schonlau/NPS

Tips for wildflower viewing 

Just like a trip to experience the California superbloom in its full glory, it’s important to plan ahead if you want to get the most out of your Colorado wildflower adventure. Keep these tips in mind as you prepare for a camping trip filled with a kaleidoscope of floral beauty. 

1. Book your campsite early

Especially with the shorter bloom times at higher elevations, campsites near Colorado wildflower blooms can book up quickly. Camping in national parks, national forests, and other designated wildflower viewing areas, particularly montane meadows and foothills, will go fast during peak wildflower season.

2. Stay on the trail and leave no trace

Don’t doom the bloom! 

As tempting as it may be to prance through a meadow filled with gorgeous wildflowers for that perfect photo opp, it’s crucial to stick to designated trails. At Hipcamp, we value to #LeaveItBetter and adhere to the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace. If flowers are crushed or picked, they cannot re-seed for the next season.

3. Bring a field guide or wildflower identification app

Camping among the wildflowers is a terrific learning opportunity, especially with a little more insight into what you’re seeing from a helpful field guide or mobile app.

The Google Lens feature built into Android phones is key, but it requires an internet connection. Cell phone service can be spotty in some remote areas, so a printed book or a mobile app with offline capabilities may be a better option. Try Seek by iNaturalist—it has image recognition technology.

4. Prepare for weather and wildlife

Weather conditions can change quickly, especially if you’re exploring hiking trails across different elevations, so bring layers. Sturdy hiking shoes or boots are also a must—the more waterproof the better. Other essentials include drinking water, snacks, sunscreen, insect repellent, and a hat. 

It’s also important to be prepared for potential encounters in more remote locations with black bears, mountain lions, and moose, who can quickly turn aggressive if provoked or threatened. 

Photo by Hipcamp Photographer Caitlin Fullam

5. Visit during off-peak times

The most popular wildflower viewing areas can get very busy, especially on weekends during peak bloom. For a more serene escape into nature, try visiting during the middle of the week or earlier in the morning. 

6. Know where to find the latest info

Check with local authorities—like those listed below—for the latest information, including seasonal closures and current trail conditions. 

Colorado wildflower species to look out for 

Some of the more common types of wildflowers that you can spot on your Colorado camping trip include:

  • Colorado blue columbine: This is the state flower and is also known as the Rocky Mountain columbine. The spurred flowers feature blue or violet petals with white centers. Look for it in mountainous regions. 
  • Indian paintbrush: This flower looks like a cluster of small, tubular blooms. A striking red color is most common, which is why it’s also called prairie-fire, but some species may also be pink, purple, or white. 
  • Alpine forget-me-not: This one is native to Colorado and grows well even on mountainous terrain at high altitudes. The short blue flowers really pop out against their rocky habitat. 
Photo by Hipcamp Photographer Caitlin Fullam
  • Fireweed: This is the common name for Chamerion angustifolium. The tall pink and purple wildflower often lines roadsides in montane and subalpine regions. 
  • Mountain lupine: This is another genus of wildflowers with tall spikes of pink and purple as well as blue and white flowers. Commonly found in meadows and wooded areas, it’s known to attract hummingbirds too. 
  • Western blue flag iris: It grows up to 2 feet in height, boasting large purple and white blossoms with yellowish veins. It does well in moist soils in shady areas. 
  • Golden banner: This flower is a member of the pea family. Its vibrant yellow flowers are pea-like in shape and can be found in clusters on foothills and subalpine meadows.
  • Colorado bluebell: Also called the short-style bluebell, this one features downward-facing, bell-shaped flowers in hues of pale blue to deep purple. Look for it along stream banks by the San Juan Mountains. 

Other notable Colorado wildflowers include tall and desert larkspurs, Rocky Mountain penstemon (beard tongues), blue flax, elephant head, scarlet gilia, and native orchids like fairy slipper and western coralroot. 

Where to see wildflowers in Colorado: Best destinations for camping nearby 

You can find sublime pockets of nature with colorful blooms all across the state, which is why there’s no shortage of great options—like the ones listed below—when deciding where to set up camp to see Colorado wildflowers on your spring or summer trip. 

Photo by Hipcamp Host Oasis RV Park at Oasis RV Resort & Cottages

Crested Butte

Flowers to see: Colorado columbine, alpine sunflower, calypso orchid, fireweed, Indian paintbrush

What to know: Regarded as the “Wildflower Capital of Colorado,” Crested Butte features lush meadows filled with colorful blooms that start popping up in late spring. Popular Crested Butte wildflower viewing areas include Brush Creek Trail and Snodgrass Trail.

Plan a visit during the annual Crested Butte Wildflower Festival, which spans 10 days every July. There are workshops, guided hikes, and photography classes. 

Where to camp:

Rocky Mountain National Park 

Flowers to see: Golden banner, alpine forget-me-not, Indian paintbrush, mountain lupine, Rocky Mountain bee plant

What to know: With diverse terrain along the Continental Divide, Rocky Mountain National Park dazzles campers with a rainbow of Rocky Mountain wildflowers. Explore its many meadows, hills, and lakes to discover over 1,000 species of Colorado wildflowers that grow here. Great viewing areas include Nymph Lake, Cub Lake, and the Tundra Nature Trail. 

Where to camp:

Photo by Hipcamp Photographer Wendee Wingfield at Ramble at Great Sand Dunes NP

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Flowers to see: Columbian monkshood, prairie bluebell, umber pussytoe, Western red columbine, subalpine larkspur

What to know: Lush alpine meadows aren’t the only places to find breathtaking wildflower displays. Great Sand Dunes National Park in southeast Colorado comes alive with blooming wildflowers, particularly along the shores of Medano Creek. Take note of the changing conditions and wildflower varieties as you explore the park’s range of elevations. 

Where to camp:

San Juan National Forest

Flowers to see: Colorado blue columbine, mule’s ears, monk’s hood, scarlet gilia, harebell

What to know: Minutes south of Ouray and Telluride, San Juan National Forest spans nearly 2 million acres near the Four Corners by Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. Here, alpine meadows, desert mesas, and ponderosa pine forests offer radiant displays of San Juan National Forest’s wildflowers. Popular hiking trails for wildflower viewing include the Ice Lakes Trail, Horse Creek Trail, and Hope Lake Trail. 

Where to camp:

Photo by Hipcamp Photographer Alyssa Saucedo at Basalt Mountain Oasis

Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness

Flowers to see: Alpine sunflower, narrowleaf paintbrush, mariposa lily, elephant’s head, Whipple’s penstemon

What to know: The Maroon Bells and Snowmass Wilderness region just outside of Aspen features stunning twin mountain peaks that form a valley filled with colorful wildflowers every spring. Check out Crater Lake, the Maroon Bells Scenic Loop Trail, and the Snowmass Nature Trail for terrific wildflower viewing.  

Where to camp:

More wildflower inspo

Michael Kwan is a freelance writer and content creator. Over his nearly two decades of experience, he has covered everything from consumer technology to travel and parenthood. A founding member of Five Dads Go Wild (#5DadsGoWild), Michael has written for POPSUGAR, Angi, Invest Surrey, Tourism Richmond, LoveToKnow Media, and British Columbia Mom. He has been featured by CBC News, Huffington Post, and The Good Men Project. Fueled by caffeine and wifi, Michael lives in Metro Vancouver with his wife and two children.

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