Best time to travel to Colorado

Colorado Blue Columbine

The state flower of Colorado is the queen of the Rocky Mountains

Best time: June–August | best July

Colorado Blue Columbine
Colorado Blue Columbine
Colorado Blue Columbine
Colorado Blue Columbine
A Colorado columbine on American Basin Trail to Handies Peak

Colorado blue columbine (aquilegia coerulea) is one of the most beautiful wildflowers of the Rockie Mountains. Its lavender and white petals add colorful accents to the rugged landscapes of Colorado. This plant is quite rare, but at some places, you can spot hundreds of them. Columbines are often planted in the gardens where they bloom in April or May, however, the true beauty of this flower can be revealed only at Alpine meadows, aspen groves, and open forests of the Rockies. Columbines grow at elevations of 6,900 to 12,100 ft (2,100-3,700 m) and bloom from June through August, depending on elevation. The peak season is usually mid-July. You can see it grow quite tall: up to 24 inches (60 cm). The flowers are not just purple or blue. You can come across yellow, white, and pink columbines.

Montane and subalpine forests of Rocky Mountains National Park and Yampa Valley is where you can look for delicate columbine flowers. Flat Tops Wilderness Area near Steamboat Springs is famous for its wildflowers. Take a hike to Trappers Lake, and you will surely come across plenty of beautiful blooms.

Rocky Mountain columbine is quite abundant in the Gunnison area. Head to Crested Butte, which is famous for its wildflower hikes and the annual festival. You will be rewarded with plenty of columbine blooms on The Columbine Trail, which is just 4 mi (6 km) long. You can also find flowers on the Meander or Prospector trail or at the Crested Butte ski area.

San Juan Mountains and Durango is another great area with plenty of serene Alpine meadows and lakes. Ice Lakes is a must-see during the wildflower season. You will pass beautiful fields and meadows with especially vibrant blooms of the state flower. Also, Columbine Lake got its name for a reason. A turquoise lake surrounded by columbine blooms and 13,000-ft peaks is a quintessential Rocky Mountains landscape!

Practical info

When is the best time to see Colorado blue columbines?

The Colorado blue columbine blooms best between the months of June and August, with mid-July being the peak blooming season. This species grows between elevations of 6,900 to 12,100 ft (2,100-3,700 m), and those growing in higher elevations bloom later. Blooming schedules may vary depending on the specific location and the blooming time may also change depending on a range of factors such as temperature and soil acidity. Show more

Where can I find the Colorado state flower in the Rockies?

Colorado blue columbines are found in several locations in the Rockies that are elevated between 6,900 to 12,100 ft (2,100-3,700 m). Notable spots where one can find them include Rocky Mountain National Park, Crested Butte, Ice Lakes, Columbine Lake, Yampa Valley, and Flat Tops Wilderness Area, in addition to many scenic alpine meadows and lakes in the San Juan Mountains and Durango. Show more

What are the common colors of columbines?

Columbines come in different colors, including yellow, white, pink, and purple, including the Colorado blue columbine that has white and purple petals. The species' flowers often have more than one color and can sometimes appear streaked or mottled. The flower's color and pattern vary depending on multiple factors such as the species or the soil acidity and temperature of the area where they grow. Show more

What areas in Colorado offer the best wildflower hikes?

Several areas in Colorado offer exceptional wildflower hikes, including San Juan Mountains and Durango, Flat Tops Wilderness Area, Yampa Valley, Crested Butte, and Rocky Mountain National Park. From trails to meadows and forests, visitors can revel in the bright colors of different species while experiencing breathtaking scenic views. Depending on the hike's specific location and elevation, peak blooming times and the types of wildflower species present can vary. Show more

When is the annual wildflower festival in Crested Butte?

The Crested Butte Wildflower Festival occurs annually in July, usually in the third week but with variations in specific dates every year. The week-long celebration features experts led hikes, an array of garden tours, and other activities. Activities such as art and photography classes provide an opportunity for visitors to learn about the various wildflowers present and Colorado's natural landscapes while enjoying the scenic view of Crested Butte. Show more

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Last updated: by Olga Valchyshen