6 of the Best Wildflower Viewing Hikes in Summit County
Posted by: admin March 12th, 2015
Can you believe the calendar already says March? Wow, it seems as though the winter has flown by, leaving us with mountainous snow banks, muddy pools of melting snow and believe it or not, signs of life sprouting up everywhere.
When the snow finally starts to melt in Summit County, it’s time to get out and explore what’s been hiding underneath. There are few things more beautiful and inspiring in the Colorado high country than meadows of snow covered tundra blooming into fields of wildflowers as far as the eye can see. Most of the state will experience this magical transformation in April and May, but up here in the mountains (depending on snowpack) this spectacular typically won’t be in full bloom until June or July. But, it is never to early to start mapping out your trip to view some of the most awe-inspiring displays of wildflowers you might ever see.
Breckenridge, just a 10-minute drive from our Frisco bed and breakfast, offers some of the more spectacular wildflower hikes in the county. I say “hikes” because wildflower viewing and photography are simply not drive-by experiences; you must be on foot to truly enjoy the serenity of it all. So, here are a few of our choice hiking spots within proximity to the Frisco Lodge.
This five-mile single-track trail through the woods just south of Breckenridge will take you to Continental Falls and the upper lakes, which will afford views of over a hundred varieties of Colorado wildflowers. There are numerous branching trails that mostly circle back to the main trail where you will see the majority of the wildflower blooms.
How to get there: Head south from Frisco on US 9 for about 11.5 miles through the Town of Breckenridge to Spruce Creek Road. Turn west and go through the community, staying on the main road 1.2 miles to the trailhead.
Further south on US 9 before you hit the town of Alma; Hoosier Pass straddles the Continental Divide at approximately 11,500 feet in elevation. You can park at the Divide and check out the wildflower-adorned terrain that includes a number of uncommon species of wildflowers that you might not see elsewhere. Hikers typically can find approximately 75 species of flora on the mile-and-a-half trail, with the peak season affording views of narcissus anemone and early alpines.
How to get there: Head south from Frisco on US 9 for approximately 18.6 miles until you hit the top of Hoosier Pass and park at the Continental Divide sign on the right.
A designated wildlife preserve in the middle of Breckenridge Ski Resort, Cucumber Gulch is an easy hike that provides great views of the Tenmile Range and glimpses of the wetland that is prime habitat for the endangered boreal toad. Besides the numerous amounts of wildlife that can bee seen, wildflowers are abundant throughout the area. Plan to hike in the early morning or evening for the best chance to see the wildlife.
How to get there: From our Frisco bed & breakfast, head east on Main Street and turn right onto US 9 south. Stay on US 9 south for approximately 9 miles until you hit the roundabout in Breckenridge. Stay right at the roundabout and you will be on Park Avenue. Turn right onto Ski Hill Road and travel 0.6 miles to a right turn on Shock Hill Drive. Then turn left onto Penn Lode Drive.
Breckenridge Ski Resort
Once the snow has melted on the slopes, Breckenridge Ski Resort becomes a spring/summer paradise. You can ride a chairlift or hike one of Breckenridge’s summer tails and soak in the delicate flowers that adorn the mountainside. If you are the academic type, Breckenridge offers guided tours that will go through alpine wildflower identification and lore.
How to get there: From our Frisco hotel, head east on Main Street and take a right on US 9. Follow US 9 south for approximately 9 miles until you hit the Town of Breckenridge.
McCullough Gulch / Quandary Falls
With the 14,265-foot Quandary Peak to the south and the 13, 998-foot Pacific Peak to the west, mountains certainly play an integral role in this 2.8-mile moderate hike. While a beautiful cascade rewards you at the end of the hike, it’s along the trail where wildflowers bloom in all their glory. As the grade increases, so do the wildflowers as you make your way to Quandary Falls. Because of the extreme elevation of this hike, each of the trails will bloom at different times and with different wildflowers.
How to get there: From the Frisco Lodge, head east on Main Street and turn right on US 9 south towards Breckenridge. Travel through Breckenridge and continue approximately 7.4 miles past the last Breckenridge traffic light (Boreas Pass Road) through Blue River. Turn right onto Blue Lakes Road (FDR 850), another right at McCullough Gulch Road (FDR 851), and stay left at the fork in the road at the 1.7-mile mark. Follow McCullough Gulch Road to the gate and parking area.
For those looking for a quick jaunt to preview a nice assortment of over 50 different varieties of wildflowers, Gold Hill Trail is easily accessible from our bed & breakfast in Frisco. While catching glimpses of the Blue River valley, the trail rises gently to a meadow where calypso orchids and phlox can often be seen.
How to get there: From our Frisco lodging, head east on Main Street and turn right on US 9 south. After approximately 6 miles, turn right on FSR 950. Immediately on your right will be the trailhead parking area for the Gold Hill Trail.