More than 100 varieties of wildflowers can be found across the Yampa Valley. From the bright yellow mule’s ear to the state’s iconic columbines, you’ll find a wide variety of shapes, sizes, colors and smells as you explore the trails, fields and mountains surrounding Steamboat Springs. Some of the most prolific wildflowers in the area include lupine, pink geranium, wild sweet pea, Indian paintbrush and larkspur.
Those eager to see the first blooms of the season are likely to find yellow glacier lilies and other delicate spring flowers dotting the fields in the Yampa Valley shortly after the snow melts. As we head into summer in mid-June, the lowest elevation sites are the best places to hunt for wildflowers.
WHERE TO GO…
Try Spring Creek trail off Amethyst Road in downtown Steamboat or Emerald Mountain across the Yampa River from town. If it has been a warm spring, Mad Creek trail up Routt County Road 129 west of Steamboat is also a good wildflower viewing spot in mid-June.
Wildflowers in the Yampa Valley typically peak in early to mid-July. Head higher in elevation from the valley floor to see the best colors at this time of year.
WHERE TO GO…
The easily accessible Dumont Lake, just off U.S. Highway 40 on Rabbit Ears Pass, has beautiful fields of wildflowers surrounding the water. Find the nearby Rabbit Ears Pass trailhead and enjoy the 6-mile roundtrip hike to the iconic rock formations that tower over the pass. The trail takes hikers through lush meadows filled with colorful wildflowers. Rabbit Ears Pass can be a great spot to see columbines, Colorado’s state wildflower.
Closer to town, head to Steamboat Ski Area for free guided hikes every Tuesday and Thursday from late-July to late August. Tours leave the Information Center in Gondola Square at 10:30am (a ticket is required to ride the gondola.) A Yampatika naturalist will join the hike to share information about area wildlife and plant species, including a wide variety of wildflowers.
Later in the season, head even higher in elevation to spot the brightest colors.
WHERE TO GO…
North of Steamboat in Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area, you’ll find stunning wildflower fields near Coulton Creek. Or head south of Steamboat to the Flat Tops Wilderness Area, where columbines and lupine are on full display.
NEED HELP IDENTIFYING THE COLORFUL FLOWERS ALONG THE TRAIL?
Stop by Steamboat’s environmental stewardship program – Yampatika’s nature store to pick up a wildflower guide.