Looking for wildflowers in Colorado? Check out these 5 spots for some amazing views and fabulous camera shots.
People head out to the great outdoors for many reasons in Colorado, and for some, that reason is to find and photograph the many gorgeous wildflowers that bloom high and low across the state. Everyone has their own special favorite place to snap some candid pictures of the flora that sprinkles across the Centennial State from spring into the fall months.
We've compiled a list of some of the best areas in Colorado to photograph wildflowers. Check 'em out!
Courtesy of Love Colorado (Facebook)
By most accounts, Crested Butted Colorado is one of the top spots in the state to get those perfect flower pictures. An annual wildflower festival is held there every year, and there are plenty of trails of all hiking levels to pick from. Dubbed the Wildflower Capital of Colorado, this is one of the top-rated places to go to see alpine flowers. It hits its peak at the beginning of July, and different flower species will peak in different places all summer long. The nine-mile long Rustlers Gulch trail is known to glow yellow with thousands of vibrant sunflowers, and the four-mile roundtrip Columbine trail will inspire a sense of love for the state as one gazes upon wild fields of the state flower.
Alpine forget-me-not (Eritrichium nanum), Courtesy of Wildflowers of Colorado (Facebook)
The San Luis Valley has plenty of reasons to pique one’s interest and makes a great day or overnight camping trip. Check out the Great Sand Dunes National Park, make your way into the mountains on a waterfall hike, or go a quest for the perfect wild bloom. With two wildlife refuges in the San Luis Valley to visit, as well as the Rio Grande National Forest to explore, the possibility of finding exquisite blooms is high. Check out Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge and well as the Monte Vista National Wildlife refuge for both wildlife and wildflower viewing opportunities.
Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnate), Courtesy of Wildflowers of Colorado (Facebook)
If you are in the Front Range, Mount Audubon is a good place to see a wide array of Colorado wildflowers. Easily accessible and quite popular, this trail can be taken above the timberline for those wanting a more strenuous hike. This spot is usually crowded so the earlier you can get there, the better, to both avoid crowds and have the best light for your pictures. Expect lots of colorful displays close to the trailhead.
Courtesy of Wildflowers of Colorado (Facebook)
American Basin is up in the Gunnison National Forest and known for the spectacular displays of wildflowers from mid-July through early August. A perfect spot to view alpine wildflowers, American Basin is often referred to as a must-see during Colorado’s wildflower season. This hike is at a higher elevation, so you will need a sturdy vehicle preferably with AWD to get there, as well as be ready to go on a bit of a steep walk; this one is totally worth the effort to get there.
Courtesy of Wildflowers of Colorado (Facebook)
It may seem against nature to head away from the mountains here in Colorado, however, if wildflowers are your goal then head to the plains. The Pawnee National Grassland near Greeley is home to the Pawnee Buttes, a perfect place to observe Colorado’s natural prairie landscape. Picket Wire Canyon outside of La Junta is another lower elevation location for some amazing wildflower viewing. Picket Wire Canyon is an 11.3-mile round trip hike, but it's a bit easier than some as there's no elevation gain, making the distance less intimidating.
Photo-taking tips for getting that perfect wildflower shot:
- Earlier in the day before 11 a.m. or afternoon and evenings after about 3 p.m. will provide the best light. It's okay to have some shadows for a nice contrast.
- Backlighting flowers makes for amazing pictures.
- An overcast day offers soft light, which will complement the flowers, make their colors stand out, and help with getting a good exposure.
- Background matters, water or a nice mountain peak offer a perfect backdrop to wildflower pictures.
- Sometimes, the perfect shot is not one you must go out of the way for; roadside flowers on a fence or a landscape with a wavy meadow of flowers in the forefront just jumps right out unexpectedly.
- Get a close-up, change perspective, get the shot from underneath or from the side, and get creative with it.
- Most importantly, try to keep a steady hand, as to avoid blurry pictures.
Not all wildflowers are pet-friendly so be careful if you take your pup out with you or if you happen to bring some flowers home. Remember, in most places, you should not pick the flowers—it's illegal in Colorado’s state parks, and some flowers, like the Columbine, are not allowed to be uprooted from public lands. So, to be on the safe side, do not pick the flowers.
As always, make sure to have water and snacks, as well as sunscreen anytime you head out for a wildflower hike in Colorado.
Where is your top spot in the Centennial State to find wildflowers? Give us the scoop in the comments.