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    Wild Bergamot

    Boulder’s Best Wildflower Hikes

    And Wildflower Identification Guide

    As snow melts from higher elevations and the days get warmer, Boulder’s delicate wildflowers lift their faces to the spring sunshine. Then all through summer and even into early fall, wildflowers continue to bloom in seasonal waves across Boulder’s hillsides, valleys and forest floors.

    In an average year in Boulder, the very first flowers start to appear in late March, swell to a tidal wave in April and May, and last through the end of October.

    You can admire a sprinkling of flowers on most of Boulder hiking trails. To help you find the best ones, we have put together a list of the top wildflower hikes in Boulder, plus a Boulder wildflower identification guide for common flowers you may see along the way.

    Woman hiking with a mask in Boulder

    COVID-19 Alerts: Face coverings are required in Boulder County, including on open space trails and parks. Cover your nose and mouth when you can’t maintain 6 feet of distance from others; wear it around your neck or wrist when no one else is around. Please maintain more than 6 feet of physical distancing whenever possible. If you need to step off the trail to let someone pass, please try to step on a rock or a patch of dirt with no vegetation. Visit OSMPTrails.org to see current trail alerts and info.

    Important Hiking Reminders

    Protect wildflowers for all to enjoy by staying on the trail. Spring conditions mean trudging right through the mud — yes, go ahead and get muddy — rather than eroding the trail by going around. Remember, “wildflowers grow by the inch and die by the foot,” so please travel with care. Flowers are a precious food source for pollinators, and picking flowers is prohibited on open space. Remember your Mountain Manners, and check in advance for trail closures.

    Mesa Trail

    The Mesa Trail runs along the base of Boulder’s foothills and mountains (with views all along the way) and connects several of Boulder’s major trail systems. That means there are several spots to pick up the trail, and lots of options for getting sidetracked if you spot a trail of blooms. We suggest you start at the South Mesa Trailhead, where a dusting of wildflowers are available right from the start. You’ll have a chance to see Western spring beauty (early spring), wild iris (spring), mariposa lily, perennial sweetpea and wild geranium (summer), and crested prickly poppy (spring and summer) and many more.
    Difficulty: Moderate
    Distance: 6.7 miles one way
    Dogs allowed: Yes, leashed or under voice or sight control (see regulations)
    Trail Map
    Where to Park (Fee for non-residents)

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

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    North and South Fork Shanahan Ridge Trails

    From the access point at Lehigh and Lafayette streets, take the North Fork Shanahan Ridge Trail. Once you’ve done a bit of climbing, you’ll find yourself under the cover of towering ponderosa pines and will start to see lots of bright purple-blue penstemon (summer), as well as harebells (summer and late summer) and golden banner (spring and summer). This delightfully shady hike connects with the Mesa Trail. From here, you can take it south to the South Fork Shanahan Ridge which eventually ends with more open, prairie-like terrain, with Oregon grape (spring), pasque flower (spring) and more.
    Difficulty: Moderate
    Distance: 3.4 miles round trip
    Dogs allowed: Yes, leashed or under voice or sight control (see regulations)
    Trail Map
    Where to Park (No fee)

    Wildflowers along Shanahan Ridge Trail


    Goshawk Ridge Trail

    Goshawk Ridge is a little-known gem that is extraordinary for its constant variety of blooms through the seasons. It will take some mileage to get to this trail (start at Dowdy Draw and then Spring Brook Loop North or South to get there), but it’s well worth it, and the entire journey is delightful. We recommend hiking this once every two weeks starting in mid-April all the way through early July to watch the constantly changing mix of flowers. Much of the hike is in a pristine Habitat Conservation Area, and there are a couple of meadows bursting with bee balm (wild bergamot) that bloom in late June and early July. You’ll also have a chance to spot the rare, upside-down vase-shaped sugar bowls (summer), pasque flowers (spring) and wild irises (spring). 
    Difficulty: Moderate
    Distance: 4.4 miles one way (this includes Dowdy Draw and Spring Brook North)
    Dogs allowed: No
    Trail Map
    Where to Park (Fee for non-residents)

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

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    Ranger Trail

    With tall pines above and rust-red earth beneath your feet, this fragrant trail is easy to get to but feels like you’ve escape deep into the woods. After only five minutes or so of hiking, you’ll come upon a clearing just before you reach the historic Green Mountain Lodge. Here dozens of butterflies drink the nectar of wild bergamot (summer) among a pair of picnic tables for resting. Continue on and you’ll head back into the cool forest, where Canada violet (spring, summer), Colorado columbine (summer), larkspur (summer and late summer), wood rose (summer) and more blossom. This trail gets quite steep after about a half mile, with dramatic views rising behind you. Eventually, you can intersect with Green Mountain West Ridge Trail, which leads you to summit Green Mountain — no small feat, to be sure.
    Difficulty: Difficult (but the first quarter mile is very easy and filled with flowers)
    Distance: 1.2 miles one way
    Dogs allowed: Yes, leashed or under voice or sight control (see regulations)
    Trail Map
    Where to Park (Fee for non-residents)

    Trees growing along Ranger Trail


    Gregory Canyon

    Begin in the shady canyon beside Gregory Canyon Creek before hitting a steeper, rockier climb with several switchbacks and crossing a ridge with beautiful panoramas (yes, this trail is relatively short, but has 900 feet in elevation gain). The varied landscape is habitat for a huge range of flowers including Oregon grape (spring), pasque flowers (spring), tiny blue-eyed Mary (spring, summer), evening primrose (summer and late summer), lance-leaved chiming bells (spring) and many more. You’ll end at Realization Point at the summit of Flagstaff Mountain. From here, you can connect with another network of trails (including Ranger Trail, above) if you’re not ready to head back down.
    Difficulty: Moderate
    Distance: 1.1 miles one way
    Dogs allowed: Yes, leashed or under voice or sight control (see regulations)
    Trail Map
    Where to Park (Fee for non-residents)

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

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    Boulder Wildflower Identification

    Rather than appearing in dense fields of blooms, Boulder’s wildflowers are often scattered here and there across the landscape. This makes finding them and identifying them part of the fun. Here are a few photos to help.

    Arnica

    Arnica flower

    Blanketflower

    Blanketflower

    Blazing Star

    Blazing star flower

    Blue Flax

    Blue Flax Flower

    Canada Violet

    Candian Violet Flower

    Colorado Columbine

    Colorado Columbine Flower

    Common Bugloss

    Common Bugloss

    Crested Prickly Poppy

    Crested Prickly Poppy

    Evening Primrose

    Evening Primrose

    Field Mouse-ear

    Field Mouse-Ear Flower

    Golden Banner

    Golden Banner Flower

    Harebell

    Harebell Flower

    Lance-Leaved Chiming Bells

    Lance-Leaved Chiming Bells Flower

    Larkspur

    Larkspur Flower

    Leafy Cinquefoil

    Leafy Cinquefoil Flower

    Lupine

    Lupine Flower

    Mariposa Lily

    Mariposa Lily

    Milkweed

    Milkweed Flower

    Paintbrush

    Paintbrush Flower

    Pasque Flower

    Pasque Flower

    Penstemon

    Penstemon Flower

    Prickly Pear

    Prickly Pear Flower

    Sand Lily

    Sand Lily Flower

    Spring beauty

    Spring Beauty Flower

    Stonecrop

    Stonecrop Flower

    Sugar Bowls

    Sugarbowl Clemitis Flower

    Sweet Pea

    Sweet Pea Flower

    Western Wallflower

    Western Wallflower

    Wild Bergamot

    Wild Bergamot Flower

    Wild Geranium

    Wild Geranium Flower

    Wild Iris

    Wild Iris Flower

    Wood Rose

    Wood Rose

    Yarrow

    Yarrow Flower

     

    Boulder Wildflower Brochures & Resources

    Wildflower Identification Apps & Sites
    • Google Lens – This is both a standalone app and a free function of the Google Photos app. Take any photo, open it in the Google Photos gallery, then click on the Google Lens icon and it will launch a search that matches your photo to similar photos online.
    • Picture This – We’ve had good luck with accuracy and ease of use on this app.
    • Colorado Wildflowers Guide – The app is for iOS only. You can find flowers by photo recognition or search by flower color, time of bloom and location.
    • Eastern Colorado Wildflowers – The search functionality is great for finding what you're looking for.
    • Wildflowers of Colorado – Sort by color and enjoy the lovely photography.
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