Crested Butte – Wildflower Capital of Colorado!

July 2023 – We’ve often heard that Crested Butte is the Wildflower Capital of Colorado, and this year we discovered that that statement is 100% true! The hillsides and valleys were absolutely covered with wildflowers during our visit in mid-July, and the views were breathtaking!

Crested Butte is the Wildflower Capital of Colorado!

Wildflower Capital of Colorado!

When we stopped at the Visitors Center in Crested Butte to find out which hiking trail had the best flowers, the kindly lady behind the counter just smiled. “The flowers are everywhere. All the hiking trails are great!”

Crested Butte Wildflowers on a hillside

Wildflowers everywhere!

She grabbed a map and began circling trails all over the vast area that surrounds Crested Butte as a crowd of eager tourists, including ourselves, listened intently.

For an easy and super rewarding stroll among the flowers, the best reports she was getting for wildflowers at that particular moment was out on Snodgrass Trail.

That was all we needed to hear — off we went!

Colorado's Best Wildflower Hikes

No sooner had we parked the truck at the trailhead than we were surrounded by blossoms smiling up at us. We couldn’t stop taking photos, and we’d only gone 10 steps from the truck!

Crested Butte Colorado wildflowers

From our first steps out of the truck, we were blown away by the beautiful flowers.

We ascended a short dirt two track road to a gate. Valleys filled with wildflowers stretched out on either side of us. From our feet all the way out to the horizon, the flowers were basking in the sun. What a place!

Fields of wildflowers in Crested Butte Colorado

Such an abundance of wildflowers — by far the best we’ve ever seen!

Wildflowers in Crested Butte Colorado

The flowers were breathtaking — and so were the mountain views!

Crested Butte Colorado- Wildflower Capital of Colorado

Color everywhere.

We were awestruck by the beauty. Forget hiking. We just stood and stared, turning around and around and taking in the incredible display of flowers.

Photographing Crested Butte Colorado wildflowers

“Can you believe this?!”

Hiking Snodgrass Trail at the peak of the wildflowers in Crested Butte Colorado

“It’s awesome — I’m blown away!”

Beautiful Crested Butte Colorado wildflowers

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While our pace was “take a step, take ten photos,” Buddy, our Trail Scout, wanted to hike a little faster!

Crested Butte Colorado wildflowers and puppy

“Are you coming??”

Suddenly, a mountain biker appeared on the trail in the distance. It looked as if he were floating through a bed of flowers. We stepped to one side to let him pass.

“I’ve never seen so many wildflowers on this trail in my entire life!” He said to us with a big grin as he rode past.

Wildflowers surround mountain biker on Snodgrass Trail in Crested Butte Colorado

More wildflowers on this trail than he’s ever seen…

Another mountain biker came from the opposite direction. What a cool place to ride a bike!

Mountain biker in wildflowers on Snodgrass Trail in Crested Butte Colorado

There were lots of mountain bikers rolling through the valleys of flowers.

We’d never been to Crested Butte during the wildflower season before, but this year was said to be a peak year. The heavy snowfall during the winter combined with the drenching spring rains had created the perfect environment for the flowers to bloom with exuberance, and bloom they did!

A few months prior, we’d seen a gorgeous display of wild poppies near Phoenix, Arizona, but that was just for a mile or two along a highway. This was completely different because it was a variety of flowers on hillsides near and far.

Wildflowers on Snodgrass Trail in Crested Butte Colorado

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Columbine is the Colorado State Flower

Dainty and delicate, the Columbine is Colorado’s state flower.

Crested Butte Colorado wildflowers

State flower or not, they were all wonderful!

Wildflower Guide Book

As the sun rose higher in the sky, more and more people joined us on the Snodgrass Trail. The trail is very narrow, so we were constantly stepping around each other, exchanging “oohs” and “aahs” over the wondrous beauty we were all experiencing together.

Buddy and the many other dogs on the trail were loving the outing too. Fresh air, good smells, new dogs to sniff, and a hiking trail — what more could anyone with four paws and a tail ever ask for?

Snodgrass Trail wildflowers and puppy in Crested Butte Colorado

Buddy was loving it, even if he had to wait for us.

Everyone was taking photos and there were quite a few photographers with tripods. When we set up our tripods, Buddy kept watch for anyone coming down the trail.

Photographer and puppy in Crested Butte Colorado wildflowers on Snodgrass Trail

“I’ll let you know if anyone is going to photo bomb your picture!”

It was such a beautiful day and place, Mark suggested we get a family shot, so we took a quick pic of the three of us in this spectacular setting.

Happy campers in the wildflowers on Snodgrass Trail in Crested Butte Colorado

For the family photo album.

There are many ways to enjoy the trails that go through these valleys of flowers, and hiking, mountain biking and photography are just a few. We spotted several groups of horseback riders out on trail rides too!

Horseback riders and wildflowers on Crested Butte Colorado Snodgrass Trail

What a place for a trail ride!

Crested Butte hosts a weeklong Wildflower Festival in the middle of July each summer, and groups of people were out with leaders and teachers who were describing the flowers’ habits, calling them by their botanical names, and explaining how this one spot in Colorado has a unique soil, enriched by Mancos shale, that wildflowers just love.

Hikers and wildflowers on Snodgrass Trail in Crested Butte Colorado

A hiking group from the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival passed in the distance.

The sun was rising high in the sky and it was getting quite hot, so we finally decided to turn around. It had taken us almost two hours to go less than a mile, so it could easily take us another two to get back to the truck!

Crested Butte Colorado wildflowers on a hillside

When we turned around, the flowers were beautifully backlit.

I’d worn a wide brimmed cowboy hat that morning to keep the sun off my face, and it was just at this moment when we turned around that I suddenly realized I’d lost my hat out in the flowers somewhere…a while ago.

I’d worn a special backpack (that I love, by the way) to carry my spare camera gear, water bottle and jacket, but I’d discovered that when I crouched down to shoot the flowers at their level, the back brim of the hat would hit the backpack, tip forward and cover my eyes. So, I’d taken my hat off each time I stopped to take photos, and somewhere out there in the vast valleys of flowers I’d left it on the ground.

Talk about looking for a needle in a haystack!

Wildflowers on Snodgrass Trail in Crested Butte Colorado

Hmmm…there’ a cowboy hat out there somewhere!

I hurried back to the last three or four places I’d been. I found the one tall flower that had caught my attention 20 minutes before, and I was convinced the hat was somewhere near there.

Goodmorning Sunshine! Wildflowers on Snodgrass Trail in Crested Butte Colorado-2

I loved this single tall flower and was quite cetain my hat lay somewhere nearby.

I searched and searched, but found nothing. I was so disappointed. What a glorious day this had been, but what a frustrating ending. I really liked that hat. It had a cool band around it made from braided horsehair, and I’d bought it from an interesting character at a swap meet just six months prior.

Oh well. After we both searched for an hour and retraced my steps a bunch of times, we gave up and went back to the truck.

Best Colorado Wildflower Hikes

That night we studied our photos to see if we could piece together where I might have been when I last put my hat on the ground.

We knew I hadn’t had it when we took our family shot, and I remembered that I’d been photographing clumps of purple lupine just before that.

Lavender Crested Butte Colorado wildflowers

Luscious lupine!

For some reason, Mark had taken a series of photos of me right around that time. So, on the computer, he blew up the area right around my feet in those photos — and there was my hat right next to me on the ground!

Honda EU2200i portable gas generator

We checked the times on our cameras and discovered mine was 2 minutes and 47 seconds ahead of his. Then we looked at the photos I had been taking when he took the photo of me. My pics at that time were of the clumps of lupine, as I’d suspected. Mark remembered that I’d been standing just off the trail, and in his photos of me there were three big yellow flowers nearby.

Photographing wildflowers on Snodgrass Trail in Crested Butte Colorado

These three yellow flowers were the clue — but could I possibly find them again?

All I had to do was walk along the trail until I found the spot where three big yellow flowers were growing together!

The next day we raced back to Crested Butte. We were camping over 30 miles away, but the miles flew by. When I dashed out onto the trail, I was instantly caught up in the beauty again! My camera couldn’t help itself, and it took lots of photos while I ran down the trail in hot pursuit of my hat.

Wildflowers in Crested Butte Colorado

The cheerful flowers took my breath away…again!

Columbines in Crested Butte Colorado on the Snodgrass Trail

We were supposed to be looking for yellow flowers, but ended up totally distracted by gorgeous Columbines!

The valleys were filled with happy yellow flowers. How could I ever find those three?

Wildflowers at Crested Butte Colorado on the Snodgrass Trail

Just three yellow flowers…

I came to the area where I’d been photographing the lupine and began to look for those three yellow flowers where I’d been standing… I walked slowly and passed lots of yellow flowers, but no groups of three.

Then, suddenly, I saw them, the only group of 3 yellow flowers on the entire trail! I peered into the vast garden of flowers behind them…and there was my hat! Right where I’d left it! I put it on my head and couldn’t help but laugh out loud. What are the chances?

Happy camper in the wildflowers in Crested Butte Colorado

Someone was watching out for me…needle in the haystack found!!

Snodgrass Trail is just one of dozens of great trails in the area, and the wildflowers on each trail peak at a different time between mid-July and August. In fact, a local hiker on the trail told us he thought Snodgrass was still a week from peaking when we were there! The red Indian Paintbrush hadn’t bloomed yet and the dark purple Larkspur were just beginning to bud.

We’d heard fabulous reports about the wildflowers on Brush Creek Trail, but by the time we got out there many of the flowers had faded. So, it’s hit-or-miss, not only with the overall abundance of flowers for a given season but also which hillsides have the most dazzling displays at any particular time.

Wildflowers on Brush Creek Trail in Crested Butte Colorado

Wildflowers on Brush Creek Trail

Ironically, the best wildflowers in the Brush Creek area were on the roadside in the last hundred yards before the Brush Creek Trailhead!

Wildflowers on Brush Creek Road in Crested Butte Colorado

Wildflowers on the roadside as we approached Brush Creek Trailhead.

Notes for taking an RV trip to Crested Butte

The wildflowers in Crested Butte are worth going way out of your way to see. However, it’s not super easy with an RV.

Tourists staying in the big hotels in and around Crested Butte are able to roll out of bed and hit the hiking trails at dawn while we’d already been driving for over half an hour when we joined them.

There’s only one RV park in Crested Butte, and the rate we saw was over $100/night, including taxes, and the reviews weren’t great.

However, there are both USFS campgrounds for smaller rigs and designated boondocking sites for bigger rigs if you are willing to drive many miles down dusty dirt roads. If that doesn’t sound appealing, you may be happiest staying in Gunnison which is 27 miles south of Crested Butte.

We drove that route three times to see the wildflowers, and as I mentioned, the miles flew by. It’s a beautiful drive!

Wildflowers + mountain on Snodgrass trail in Crested Butte Colorado

Good morning, Sunshine!

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More info about Crested Butte and its spectacular wildflowers:

Mountains and wildflowers on Snodgrass Trail in Crested Butte Colorado

Crested Butte’s wildflowers are worth making an extra effort to see!

Other places we’ve seen great wildflowers:

Wildflowers in Crested Butte Colorado

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19 thoughts on “Crested Butte – Wildflower Capital of Colorado!

  1. What an amazing explosion of gorgeous colors! Wow! No wonder the two of you were making such slow progress along the trail. I was hoping for a happy ending to your hat story – thank you for not disappointing me. With your skills, you and Mark could probably get consulting gigs with law enforcement analyzing crime scene photos to determine the direction of an investigation. You could consider training Buddy to guard your hat instead of guarding against photo bombers. Or fit it with a chip so you can track it down the next time you drop it somewhere. 😉

    • I love those ideas, Mary, too funny!!! The colors were amazing, and I have a hunch they’re still amazing out there and constantly changing too. We were both so surprised that with a photo sleuthing we could piece together our movements…Buddy probably knew all along where the hat was but was enjoying watching us hunt for it!

  2. Wow, great pics to start a Sunday morning! Such a beautiful contrast, all those beautiful blooming flowers with a little snow still showing on the mountains in the background! Nice.

    • It was stunning, Pete. Everyone around us was as gob-smacked as we were, eyes wide and smiles wider. I have no idea what a “normal” wildflower season looks like there, but what we saw was truly out of this world!! Happy Sunday!!

  3. Ooooohhhh, aaaahhhhhh! Makes me want to add another item to my bucket list. Excellent walk along. Thank you!
    The story was as great as the pictures! Good detective work; using the clues you had! Way to save the hat!
    Gracie and Sweetie send hugs for Buddy!

    • It was on our bucket list for 10 years, Jeff, so take heart, you’ll get there and be as blown away by it in person as we were!! Gracie and Sweetie will love it too. There were lots of dogs, and every single one was as happy as could be! A word to the wise, though: if you wear a hat out there, keep it on your head!!!

  4. Gorgeous. We are in AZ and loved the super bloom this year. Now we have a new place to add to our list. Where did you stay in Gunnison? We also want to do the Black Canyon as well.

    • We stayed at an RV park, if you can believe it, because it was so hot we needed to run the a/c a lot! Palisades Senior RV Park. Nice and quiet and fairly reasonable for that area if you stay a week. Most people we met were staying for 3-4 months. Have fun when you get there!

  5. Hi guys! Wow, wow, wow….no wonder you made slow progress! How lovely to arrive somewhere when it’s just starting to POP! As usual, thanks for sharing your gorgeous pics (and story!) of your day…. As always, very interesting and great sleuthing to find the hat. Maybe a small bag of treats inside to help buddy locate it? The air tag might be the best idea yet though! So happy for you both to be out and exploring… we are staying quite local these days, but we have beautiful islands and islets to explore and have a lovely time around home. Hugs to you both!

      • Hi Rose & Dave – How fabulous to hear from you all these years later!! Thank you very much for following our adventures. We have such great memories of you two aboard Groovy!! We had to look up Grabriola, BC. What a great looking spot among all those islands! Way back when (before Groovy), we loved Kitty Coleman Provincial Park up the coast a bit from you and stayed there in our trailer for about a week! I hope we meet up again someday. In the meantime, Buddy just loves your idea of keeping treats in my hat!!

    • Yes, indeed! Many thanks go and have gone to the Divine for guiding us back to my hat. I realized while giving thanks the moment I found it that I lost and then found the hat so I’d have a fun story to tell about our time in the flowers. You can only say, “The flowers were gorgeous!” so many times, but with a story to accompany the photos, the scene comes alive!

  6. That looks like some great single-track there. How long was the trail? I have always loved me some good packed down singletrack that I would get when going mountain biking in the summer. If you ever are in the area near Bishop (mentioned a month or so ago) you might want to try Mammoth Mountain. They used to have the NORBA mountain bike races every summer. It was like a week long event. They had some awesome downhill trails that would go from the resort down to Mammoth Lakes city. But those trails looked awesome. I would be afraid to get stung by a bee though if I crashed 🙂

    • It’s gorgeous single track, Gary!! Snodgrass trail is an out-and-back trail that’s 3.7 miles long one way. I just added a link for it in the reference section on this page so you can get more info about it. The bugs were significant, of course. They were busy pollinating everything! Just take some bug spray with you and don’t fall off your bike!! We rode our road bikes in the Mammoth area long ago and loved it. Haven’t tried mountain biking there, though. Thanks for the tip (again!)!!

  7. Beautiful pictures, so fun to look at them and remember our trip to Crested Butte many years ago when it was a tiny town. Our daughter goes there to ride and says it is crazy crowded. Glad we saw it when it was a small town.

    • You are lucky you saw it as a small town, Liz. Your daughter is right — it is insane now! There several are high rise hotels all packed together near the ski resort, and the traffic in the tiny town is nuts. BUT the flowers are magnificent, and for those who haven’t seen the flowers before, it is totally worthwhile to make the trip and deal with the crowds. If you hit the trails early, they’re not crowded at all and the bugs aren’t out yet either!!

  8. Such gorgeous photography – marveled at every shot. Loved the shot of you, Emily – have not “seen” you in quite a while. Lookin’ good – and more important – HAPPY. A great “solo” shot of Mark as well – and the pup is always totally “engaged”…

    Love, Mom

    • Thank you! It’s hard to take a bad photo in Crested Butte, that’s for sure! We loved every minute of being in the flowers, and it sounds funny but we get a kick out of featuring each other and Buddy in our scenery shots. We’re definitely happy out here and loving life!

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