Well, I felt like I blinked and July was gone. It doesn’t help that we had so much rain in May and June, making it feel like a shortened summer already. However, that rain made for spectacular wildflowers this year. And while I missed writing about them during the peak of their bloom season, I did not miss getting out on the trails and photographing them.
If you caught Part 1 of my Northern Colorado Wildflower Viewing post, you’ll see that the wildflower bloom season is essentially broken up into three distinct phases: early season, peak season, and end of season.
Early season starts at the end of April through June with small flowers in the lower elevations, primarily around our Fort Collins Natural Areas. These flowers have a variety of color, but I’ve noticed mostly white, pale blues, and light purples, or the typical pastels we associate with spring.
June and more specifically July is our peak season where the high country is blanketed in gorgeous color. Higher elevations have the quintessential wildflower viewing opportunities that we frequently see on Colorado postcards. I don’t think I’ve seen more color in the subalpine than I have this year. Simply stunning! This part of the bloom season provides the most variety in flowers and the boldest of color. This is when you’ll see deep blues, purples, oranges, and reds. It’s a rainbow of flowers just about everywhere. Sadly, it’s a short peak and has passed in the few weeks I was up gather photos, so you’ll have to keep this in mind for next year.
Next up for August and September is end of season flowers. They’re starting now, replacing peak season flowers. You’ll see sturdy and weather hearty blooms with mostly yellow hues. It seems as though the flowers yellow right before the aspen trees follow suit.
Even though peak season has gone by, here are some of my favorite high country trails that had some of the best wildflower viewing around Fort Collins. Keep these in mind for next year!
This is a wildly popular trail and the flowers are blooming all over at the start of peak season. Be prepared to get wet by the 12 stream crossings. Peak bloom season here correlates with runoff, so the streams can get knee-deep.
While not exactly a designated trail, there are dispersed campsites around this area, and there are numerous game trails to explore. The wild iris were abundant in this area, more so than any other part of our wilderness. Plus, it’s a great place to go camping.
This is on the Wild Basin side of the park, a side that fewer people frequent, so the trails are less crowded. However, they are no less breathtaking. This is the Calypso Cascade area where I spotted the rare Calypso Orchid, and nearly had a flower freakout when I did.
Lory State Park as a whole is essentially wildflower paradise, and it’s no wonder that it is a butterfly monitoring area with over 100 different species of butterflies in the park. It’s full of pollinators. In my many hikes around the area, I found that the Shoreline trail was the best for flowers – the variety was plentiful compared to other trails in the area.
All of Long Draw road was lined with Paintbrush and Colorado Columbine during peak bloom season. It was so incredibly beautiful that it was a little overwhelming. Trap Park trail is also a popular moose area, so just be aware of your surroundings!
I’m actually headed up here this weekend. But Chloe wrote about it on Fresh Air Fort Collins in 2012. The photos people have shared from their hikes over the last few weeks has inspired me to add this to my backpacking list for peak flower season next year.