This guest blog post comes from Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES), a local non-profit environmental science education center with three sites in the Roaring Fork Valley. Learn more about ACES here.
Each season in Aspen brings a different sense of beauty, and right now we are experiencing wildflower season. To help guide you towards the best of the color, a few of ACES’ naturalist guides compiled a list of the top wildflower hikes to take in and around Aspen. Most of the hikes are at elevations b/w 8,000-10,000 ft. and vary in habitat from mixed-conifer forest to mountain meadows & aspen groves:
- American Lake Trail: The trail rises steeply and then follows a series of switchbacks for the first 1 1/2 miles. Then the trail levels off with gentle rises until you reach the lake at 3.2 miles.
- Castle Creek - River Run: The River Run Trail is a beautiful 1.5 mile (one way) hike within 30 minutes of downtown Aspen. The hike starts at the ghost town of Ashcroft. After passing through Ashcroft, the River Run trail begins, running along the river. Hire an ACES guide for the Green World Day Hike to enjoy this beautiful and easy hike with lunch at Pine Creek Cookhouse.
- Cathedral Lake Trail: The trail climbs steadily and then reaches a series of switchbacks followed by a marked fork. Take the left fork to Cathedral Lake for a total hike of 6.4 miles roundtrip. Cathedral Lake is very scenic. If hiking to Electric Pass, it is advisable to start early and descend by Noon.
- Hunter Creek Trail to Hunter Creek Cutoff: The trail begins just east of the apartments on Lone Pine Road or directly off of the Rio Grande Trail extension which was completed in 2013. This is a gradual uphill climb along the Hunter Creek towards Hunter Valley.
- Little Cloud Trail: Offering great views of downtown Aspen and a lovely jaunt through a pine forest and wildflower fields, the Little Cloud Trail is among Aspen's most accessible and shortest hikes. Little Cloud is situated at the base of Shadow Mountain, the rocky, sharp ridgeline that juts out from Aspen Mountain on the western side of town.
Additional hikes that will be peaking with wildflowers very soon and are a bit higher in elevation, primarily at around 10,000-12,000ft include:
- Lost Man Loop
- Midway Trail
- Grizzly Lake Trail
- Tabor Creek Trail
- West Maroon Creek Trail to West Maroon Pass
- Willow Lake Trail
In addition, ACES has provided a list of some beautiful flowers that can be seen around Aspen. They are categorized below by family.
- Borage Family (Boraginaceae)
- Mountain Blue Bells
- Alpine Forget-Me-Not
- Buttercup Family (Ranunculaceae)
- Blue Columbine
- Western Red Columbine
- Flax Family (Linaceae)
- Wild Blue Flax
- Geranium Family (Geraniaceae)
- Richardson's Geranium, White Geranium
- Sticky Geranium
- Lily Family (Liliaceaee)
- Mountain Death Camas, Wand Lily
- Corn Lily
- Orchid Family (Orchidaceae)
- Striped Coralroot Orchid
- Western Rattlesnake Plantain
- Phlox Family (Polemoniaceae)
- Showy Jacob's Ladder
- Sky Pilot
- Rose Family (Rosaceae)
- Showy Cinquefoil
- Prairie Smoke, Pink Plumes
- Wild Rose
- Snapdragon Family (Scrophulariaceae)
- Giant Lousewort
- Narrowleaf Paintbrush
- Northern Paintbrush
- Sunflower Family (Asteraceae)
- Heartleaf Arnica
- Aspen Sunflower
- Subalpine Aster
- Western Yarrow
- Violet Family (Violaceae)
- Canada Violet
- Hooked Violet
- Lanceleaf Violet
- Waterleaf Family (Hydrophyllaceae)
- Purple Fringe
Don’t forget to check out aspennature.org for more activities at ACES' three sites: Hallam Lake Nature Preserve, a 25-acre nature preserve in the heart of Aspen; ACES at Rock Bottom Ranch, our regenerative agriculture farm between Basalt and Carbondale; and the Catto Center at Toklat, up the Castle Creek Valley.
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