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Crested Butte is the Wildflower Capital of Colorado

Crested Butte is so renowned for its abundance of wildflowers that it’s often referred to as “Colorado’s Wildflower Capital.” Columbine, Lupine, Sunflowers, Indian Paintbrush, Larspur and some 50 other types of flowers call this spectacular area of the Rocky Mountains home.

401 trail, Crested Butte
Credit: 401 trail, Crested Butte by trailsource.com via Flickr

This mountain town is truly one of the most breathtaking places on the planet, but when the blooms arrive around late June, it becomes even more striking with Mother Nature’s most vibrant hues creating a kaleidoscope of color across the landscape.

The consistent afternoon rains that fall over the Elk Mountains during the summer is what we can thank for this eye-popping blanket across the mountainsides. Set against the backdrop of 14,000-plus-foot-peaks and glistening alpine lakes, it’s all so stunning it’s hard to believe it’s real.

There are a number of ways to experience all of the colors.

Attend the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival Wildflowers
Credit: Wildflowers by Bigstock.com

Attend the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival

You can attend the annual Crested Butte Wildflower Festival, held for 10 days during the first half of July featuring photo workshops, garden tours, cooking classes, backcountry jeep tours,trail walks, overnight outings, and more. There are more than 300 events in total, and it was all started through the efforts of a few insightful locals a little over three decades ago.

Hit the Trails Maroon Bells
Credit: Maroon Bells by bigstock.com

Hit the Trails

Even if you can’t be in Crested Butte for the festival, getting out on the trails is a great way to enjoy the flowers, while literally stopping to smell the roses. There are countless options, and even the ridges above the treeline are bursting with a unique variety of wildflowers in the summer, but the most epic trek of all is the 11 mile stretch from Crested Butte to Aspen, crossing over West Maroon Pass. It is challenging, with 3,265 feet in elevation gain, but it can be made a bit easier by getting some assistance from a local shuttle service, like Dolly’s Mountain Shuttle, for the return trip.

While the wildflowers are the star of the show, sitting against the backdrop of those dramatic peaks and legendary alpine lakes, including Maroon Lake and the spectacular 14,163-foot-high Maroon Bells, you definitely don’t want to forget your camera.

In addition to hiking, you can explore the area on two wheels. Hit the 401 trail on a mountain bike, enjoy the thrills, and some of the most impressive scenery and flowers.

Learn More About Colorado's Wildflowers Paradise Basin and Mt. Baldy near Crested Butt
Credit: Paradise Basin and Mt. Baldy near Crested Butt by Bigstock.com

Learn More About Colorado's Wildflowers

Just a little over 8 miles from Crested Butte near the former mining town of Gothic, the world-renowned Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory staffs scientists that study wildflowers and their pollinators. Unlike most research facilities, visitors can actually come in and interact with the experts to learn more about wildflowers and see the work that’s being done. The facility also offers the chance to take a guided hike with a scientist through the winding footpaths of the Gothic town site to research meadows, forests, and streams.

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