Outdoors

Five Best Wildflower Hikes Within Fifty Miles of Denver

Wildflowers along the Herman Gulch hike.
Wildflowers along the Herman Gulch hike. Guthrie Alexander
We are fast approaching that time of year when Colorado’s landscape explodes with color, in a beautiful display of wildflowers for eager hikers and nature enthusiasts to enjoy. And you don't have to go far to enjoy them.

Here are five day hikes within fifty miles of the city, ranging from a flat, casual nature walk to a steep trek above treeline; they're listed in order from easiest to most challenging. But whatever your hiking style, be sure to be respectful, never pick the wildflowers, and always practice leave no trace principles.

Blue Grouse Trail
1.4 miles out and back
Central City

Head to the western side of Golden Gate Canyon State Park to enjoy this easy walking trail. With very little elevation gain, this hike offers a scenic view along its entirety as well as a beautiful aspen grove, and is also known for its wildlife viewing. This is a popular trail, so be sure to arrive early to secure a parking spot. Note that Golden Gate Canyon State Park has a $10-per-vehicle entry fee and requires dogs to be on a leash at all times.

Willow Creek Trail
1.4-mile loop
Littleton

For another easygoing day hike with plenty of flowers to view, head south to Roxborough State Park and the short but rewarding Willow Creek Trail. Gorgeous red rock formations are the highlight of this trail and the park at large, and you can easily turn this easy 1.4-mile trail into a longer, more challenging route by adding on the South Rim Trail, which meets up with Willow Creek at two points to expand the loop. Roxborough State Park does not allow pets, owing to its sensitive flora and fauna, so leave the doggo at home for this one!

Canyon Loop Trail
3.3-mile loop
Boulder

For a more moderate but still accessible hike, the Canyon Loop Trail in the Betasso Preserve offers stunning eastern views overlooking Boulder and makes for a lovely day or evening hike. The trail takes you through sprawling meadows where you can view an array of wildflowers, as well as through forested sections of ponderosa pine. With its gradual, undulating terrain, it is very popular among mountain bikers, so be sure to stay aware of your surroundings while hiking. Dogs are allowed but must stay on a leash.

Butler Gulch Trail
5.5 miles out and back
Empire

If you’re looking for a bit more elevation gain, head into the Arapaho National Forest to explore the Butler Gulch Trail. This lollipop-shaped trail leads you up through a forest and along a mountain stream until you get above treeline for a small loop portion. Here you will find a plethora of wildflowers backed by stunning panoramic views of the Rockies. Because of its higher elevation, you may encounter snow on Butler Gulch into the summer months, so come prepared with spikes or snowshoes. Dogs may be allowed off-leash in some areas.

Herman Gulch Trail
7.2 miles out and back
Silver Plume

Also in the Arapaho National Forest is Herman Gulch Trail, the most challenging but perhaps the most rewarding on this list. The hike starts off steep, but soon opens up into a beautiful landscape with sprawling valley views and a huge variety of colorful wildflowers. July and August will be the best times to view the flowers, and you’ll also be less likely to encounter deep snow. The steep and strenuous end of the trail leads you to Herman Lake, with striking views of Pettingell Peak above. Dogs may also be allowed off-leash in some areas on this gratifying hike.
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