Mid- to late-July in the Elk Mountains—the Rocky Mountain range that stretches between Aspen and Crested Butte—is prime time for wildflowers. The Elks are widely considered to be one of Colorado’s lushest regions for flora, making it a must-visit destination for photographers, hikers, and anyone who can appreciate stunning scenery.
Whether you're up for a weekend backpacking trip or a quick afternoon stroll, Aspen provides awesome access to Colorado’s best wildflower landscapes. Here, our picks for the best summer wildflower hikes in Aspen, prime for taking in the spectacular canvas of color blanketing the meadows and mountainsides. Don't forget the camera.
Hunter Creek Valley
Aspen’s most convenient wildflower hike, Hunter Creek Valley , can be accessed three ways: via a lively jaunt up the 4x4 Smuggler Mountain Road , from the Hunter Creek trail, which starts from the Hunter Creek apartments or by driving to the upper access parking lot on Red Mountain Road. With epic mountain views of ski resorts and Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, mining-era cabins, and a wide, high-alpine valley, there really isn’t a bad view in Hunter Creek Valley—any time of year.
Mid-July is one of the best times to visit the valley’s meadows, creek marshes, and aspen groves. You’ll find a wide variety of classic Colorado wildflowers from lupine to Indian paintbrushes. Keep your eyes peeled for wild strawberries in the aspen groves.
If the excellent mountain views don’t tempt you to climb Sunnyside Trail’s entire 2,000-plus vertical feet, the wildflowers surely will. Columbines of varied hues are prominent in the upper reaches of Sunnyside, and colorful blooms dot the trail all the way up. It’s possible turn this trail into a full-day affair and hike the entire 10 miles into Hunter Creek Valley, bagging two exceptional wildflower hikes into one.
Aspen to Crested Butte
Mid- to late-July is when the wildflowers are in full bloom in the High Country, and nothing compares to the Aspen to Crested Butte hike for taking in the chromatic mountain landscape. Not for the uninitiated, the Aspen to Crested Butte hike is an 11-mile trek and requires overnight camping or lodging. Hikers have the option to hike back to Aspen or arrange for a friend to pick them up in Crested Butte. But the planning is well worth it to take in entire hillsides covered in saturated hues. Some of the most prominent wildflowers along this hike are the mariposa lily, blue flax, fairy slippers, columbine, lupine, and and alpine sunflowers.
Conundrum Creek Trail
You know a trail has to be a real eye-popper when the U.S. Forest Service—who have seen plenty of amazing sights in their day—describes its mountain views and fields of wildflowers as "superb.” Popular with backpackers looking to soak in hot springs, Conundrum Creek Trail is also a prime venue for wildflower viewing. The trail gradually ascends, taking trekkers along a gorgeous journey through flora, aspen groves, creeks, and meadows.
An out-and-back hike to the hot springs will put you at 17 miles roundtrip, but of course it’s possible to turn around whenever you please if you're not up for that much mileage.
Connecting Buttermilk ski area to Snowmass ski area, Government Trail can be hiked either way, but the most spectacular wildflower fields tend to be along the Buttermilk portion, where there’s a lot of sun. A purple sea of overgrown lupine one of the most memorable floral scenes on the 9.8-mile trail. For an experience you'll want to replicate every July, plan to hike this one in the late afternoon, when the fading sun illuminates the landscape as far as the eye can see.