My Favorite Wildflower Hikes near Winter Park, Colorado

Grand County

Summer in Colorado is wildflower time in the high country. And while the southern areas of the state receive most of the attention – and rightly so – there are still some beautiful areas found closer to my home in the north. I’ve been hiking trails around Winter Park in Grand County for 30+ years, and the wildflowers each summer can be pretty amazing. From my experiences, here are some of the best areas to explore in no particular order.

Rollins Pass

Yes, the 14-mile 4WD road that branches off from Hwy 40 near the ski base is a grind starting about five to seven miles in. After that, hang on! But at the end of the road where a dirt parking lot awaits, the continental divide trail (CDT) heads north. Only about a half-mile along the CDT from the parking lot, the blue waters of King Lake come into view far below the trail. Icebergs float around in the shadowy areas well into late summer, but in late June and early July, golden wildflowers known as “Old Man of the Mountain” add a splash of color to the slopes along this path. This image was taken on July 3 several years ago at sunrise:

King Lake Sunflower Sunrise Panorama 703-1

Old Man of the Mountain (not me) grace the slopes around King Lake atop Rollins Pass near the resort town of Winter Park. The trek up here is a 15 mile drive down a bumpy 4WD dirt road, then a short hike along the Continental Divide Trail. These sunflowers bloom in late June and early July and add a splash of color to an amazing landscape high atop the Rocky Mountains.

This panorama is available in larger and custom sizes.

The CDT continues uphill, but another trail heads down to the lake. Follow the lower trail further past the lake to an unseen stream and marsh marigolds abound.
Yes, it is an early wake-up call if you want to shoot at first light, but this is a fantastic view any time of day. Just make sure your car and tires and your lungs can handle it (you'll be on rocky roads about 10,000' in elevation). I once experienced a flat in my wife’s Subaru at around the 13-mile mark and it wasn’t a fun experience.

First and Second Creek

From pull-outs along Highway 40 between Berthoud Pass and Winter Park, well-worn trails head west and following these two streams up the mountains to lofty views high above treeline. The trails are steep, but easy to walk and clearly defined. Along these trails, I’ve seen pink Parry’s Primrose, marsh marigolds, purple asters, and more.

Parry's Primrose near Berthoud Pass 718-1

One of my favorite places to enjoy an easy hike is alongside some of the creeks that flow down from Berthoud Pass and the Continental Divide. Not too far from Winter Park, Colorado, Second Creek provides beautiful small scenes of wildflowers and cold running water. I prefer to exit the main trail and instead walk beside the stream. Here, I rarely, if ever, see another person, and the summer wildflowers that feed off the moisture are colorful and often stunning. This image shows the pink flower known as Parry’s Primrose with the the water from melting snows flowing down just behind it.

And the views across the valley are beautiful at sunrise, sunset, or any time of day. The parking areas do fill up on weekends pretty early, as well.

Current Creek

Further up Highway 40 heading to the top of Berthoud Pass, a little-used pullout provides access to one of my favorite areas – the trail that runs alongside Current Creek. Wildflowers line this creek in July and August, and pine trees provide shade for afternoon hikes. I prefer to make this hike well before sunrise, however, to reach a meadow higher up. About a mile into the steep trail, the path reaches a drainage ditch. Head left until the path crosses the water and again turns up a small trail that follows Current Creek as the waters cascade down on your left. Another ten minutes walking and the path heads into a boulder field. Turn left and follow the open grassy area into the meadow. Warning – this will be a swampy area and your feet will get soaked. If you backtrack from the boulder field, there are ways to cross the creek without getting completely soaked, but that’s up to you! The goal is to cross the stream to regain the trail. When you’ve crossed, you’ll likely see where Current Creek splashes down between huge boulders. Later in July and early August, these rocks are mostly hidden by the greenery and wildflowers.

The sun peeks over the mountains on a cold summer morning while golden wildflowers awaken near Berthoud Pass.

Arrowleaf-groundsel and bluebells make a nice foreground on this cold morning high up along Current Creek near Berthoud Pass. I love wildflower season, and I feel like I know these wildflower locations better than any other place in Colorado.

Here, bluebell, larkspur, asters, groundsel, and many other varieties of wildflowers conceal the creek in an explosion of color as the flowing and cold water washes down from high above.
Even further up the trail is a small alpine lake that is also worth exploring. This trail is a good workout with rewarding views all the way to this lake.

Frozen Pond in Morning Light 703-1

Morning light shines its warming glow atop a ridge near Vasquez Peak on Berthoud Pass. At about 12,000’ in elevation, the reflection of the ridge is muted in the small melt pond that is frozen from the night’s freezing temperatures.

Berthoud Pass
About a fifteen-minute drive from our little place in Winter Park, high up where Highway 40 crosses the CDT atop Berthoud Pass, a few streams pour down from the melting summer snows. In the summer, the valleys carved out by this water fill with beautiful wildflowers.

Blue and Yellow wildflowers bloom in a meadow high up on Berthoud Pass just before sunrise.

This panorama comes from a gorgeous summer meadow close to 12,000'. Bluebell and groundsel painted the foreground a short time before sunrise, and all was quiet and cold.

Summer wildflowers grow in the middle of Hoop Creek high up on Berthoud Pass.

Parry's Primrose, the violet-pink wildflowers in the middle of this small stream, added a splash of color to this lush mountain valley on a cold July morning high up on Berthoud Pass. The water was cold and my feet were soaked trying to obtain this perspective. Still, I enjoyed my time hiking up in the dark to enjoy these amazing sunrise views.

No official trails lead up to these streams, but googlemaps can be helpful. Here are a few images from my “secret” places, the hidden gems I return to each summer. I won’t divulge the exact location, but these can be found with a little research. And I’ve never seen another person up there except for my own daughters who love to explore.

All images seen here were taken with a Canon DSLR along with a variety of lenses including a super-wide angle 11-24L, a 16-35L, and a 24-105L.

Happy wildflower hunting!

~ Rob
Images from Colorado

High up on Berthoud Pass, colorful wildflowers show off their summer hues of purple and yellow.
Berthoud Pass Summer Sunrise 724-1

Purple bluebell blooms and golden groundsel add a splash of color to this lush meadow high up on Berthoud Pass. The pre-dawn hike up in the dark proved worth it as sunrise did not disappoint. Wildflowers were abundant, and as usual, I never saw another person in this pristine location.