The elevation and the northern latitude of Cody and East Yellowstone make for a fleeting wildflower season. Starting in early May before the snow has given up its icy grasp on the peaks, wildflowers begin their bloom. By August, the show is winding down, so now’s the time to get out and smell the wildflowers. Remember to bring your spray—both bug and bear—and watch for approaching thunderstorms in the afternoon.
Here are five hikes that let you savor summer wildflower season in Cody. See you on the bloomin' trail!
Storm Point and Pelican Creek, Yellowstone National Park
Great For: Families and Beginning Hikers
These two family-friendly nature trails are stuffed with wildflowers. You'll access the Storm Point Trail from the parking lot at Indian Pond, a 2.3-mile easy and flat loop trail perfect for the whole family. The diversity of habitats along the trail makes for good wildflower opportunities. Be careful to look up periodically from the show at your feet to see if there are any bison in your path. Elk and bears also appreciate the variety of plants.
The Pelican Creek Nature Trails begins just west and south of the Pelican Creek Bridge. This fun trail is an easy one-mile loop through the forest and out to the lake. Bring the binoculars, as this is also a good spot for birding and watching deer, elk, and coyotes.
Pelican Valley Trail
Good For: Experienced Hikers and Wildlife Viewing
From the East Entrance Road the first several miles of the Pelican Valley trail are a wildflower paradise. This trail rolls through marshy spots, into forests of tall pines and around burns that are stark with gnarly silver ghost trees. Each different habitat sports its own mixed bag of wildflowers, so you’re sure to get an eyeful. Balsam root, pentstamons, paintbrush, elephant head, and shooting star are some of the blooms that paint the landscape.
This is also a great trail for wildlife viewing. Wolves hang around this area, and your chances of seeing a grizzly or two are pretty good. Due to the high bear activity, this trail is closed until July 4 each year and is closed from 7 pm until 9 am nightly.
Good For: An Ambitious Workout
Located in the Shoshone National Forest and on BLM land, Bald Ridge is a Cody landmark, simply because there aren't very many trees on it. You can access the area from the Hogan/Luce Lake Trailhead, 18 miles north of town. The trail climbs from the sagebrush steppe through an old burn to an elevation of 8400 feet with a dazzling array of wildflowers at your feet. You’ll work for those wildflower views—this trail climbs over 4000 in elevation and is five miles one-way.
Make sure to stay on the trail, as this is a biologically sensitive area with several unique species of plants. When you remember to look up, take in the stunning views of the high Absaroka Mountains to the west and the Beartooth Plateau to the north.
Pat O’Hara Mountain Trail
Good For: Spectacular Wildflowers and Views
Located in the Shoshone National Forest, this trail is difficult mostly due to the elevation gain and the shale scramble to the top of the peak, at nearly 10,000 feet, but the views and the wildflowers are worth every breath. The higher you go, the more mountaintops you’ll see, plus you can peer down into the narrow defile that is the Clark Fork Canyon. The wildflowers change weekly, but some of the species along the trail are lupine, chickweed, larkspur, forget-me-not, and fleabane. But you won’t have to know the names of the flowers to appreciate their beauty.
In fact, you won’t even need to break a sweat to see the flower show: The first meadow close to the parking lot is generally ablaze with so much wildflower eye candy you might not even make the summit.