With a couple of weeks of hot, dry weather, our wildflowers are definitely waning, but there are still a handful of places where you can go. These five hikes don’t just have wildflowers; they're exploding with them. Choose a hike and just try not to do a Maria von Trapp, spinning through fields of hairbells or sticky geraniums with snow-capped peaks in the distance.
This little-known ten-mile out-and back-trail on the western shore of Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park takes you to three breath-taking lakes (Arrowhead Pool, Ramshead Lake, and Lake of the Crags), but, at least at the end of July, it’ll be the flowers that still draw most of your attention. Make sure to watch your step in addition to the Indian paintbrush (Wyoming’s state flower, by the way) and columbine. Over the five- mile ascent, this trail climbs 3,000 vertical feet. Some sections are exposed. You’re never hiking using your hands in addition to feet, but there are several spots where losing your footing means a ten-foot tumble off a boulder. Falling into a patch of wildflowers won’t make the landing that much softer.
2. Mt. Meek
Ninety-nine percent of the hikers starting at the Darby Canyon trailhead head up the South Fork of Darby Canyon. Yes, the trail up the South Fork is the only officially maintained one, but there is a well-worn trail from the old parking lot up the North Fork. The third week of July, there were still wildflowers bottom to top on this trail. This 10- or 12-mile (depending whether you go to The Lookout or all the way up the peak’s 10,607-foot summit) hike is a great option if your pooch appreciates flowers as much as you do. Since it’s on the western slopes of the Tetons, it’s in the Targhee National Forest and Jedediah Smith Wilderness rather than Grand Teton National Park. Dogs aren’t allowed in the national park, but they are allowed in wilderness areas. This also means there is absolutely no entrance fee to do this hike, and that you can camp anywhere around here for free and without a permit. Could it get any better?
3. Six Lakes
This is definitely a local favorite. The drive to the trailhead alone is incredibly scenic. But the wildflowers alongside the road are gone. (Those peak in June.) So, as tempting as it was to sit on the rocky bank of fast-flowing Crystal Creek, a Wild and Scenic-designated river for its spectacular surrounding scenery and excellent fishing opportunities, take the 11-mile hike up to the Six Lakes. The first several miles of the hike follow Crystal Creek then enter a steep thickly-forested and densely–flowered area. The flowers are almost enough to distract from the fact you climb 2,000 vertical feet in about four miles. Almost. At the top of the climb, you emerge into what we’re calling Jagg Creek meadows. If you think the flowers in the bits of meadow you pass through coming up through the pine forest were amazing, the ones in the meadows will blow your mind. And they just keep going all the way to the lakes. See if you can spot the delicate, purple hairbells.
Let Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s tram do the work for you and carry you the 4,000-some feet up to the top of Rendezvous Mountain. (if you want to do the work yourself, the resort’s Summit Trail is 7.2 miles from the bottom tram dock to the summit.) From Rendezvous’ 10,450-foot summit, hop on the Cirque Trail. It starts out tricky requiring downclimbing a small section of rock on the northeast ridge of Rendezvous Bowl before alternating between stands of 1,000-year-old white bark pines with hillsides blanketed with flowers. Best of all? It ends at the Bridger Gondola, which has the best happy hour (4-6 p.m.) and margaritas in the valley. You can then ride the Bridger Gondola down for free.
5. Alaska Basin
All 40-some miles of the Teton Crest Trail are beautiful. When the five mile section through Alaska Basin is alive with flowers, it’s the most spectacular. You can hit Alaska Basin while doing the Crest Trail, on a super-long day hike loop (Death Canyon to Cascade Canyon), or as a single-night backpack (also Death Canyon to Cascade Canyon). Candy-apple red Indian paintbrush flowers in the foreground and Buck Mountain piercing the sky in the background? What’s prettier than that?