Best Vail Valley Wildflower Hikes
Come July and the end of Mud Season, locals and visitors alike flock to the trails that crisscross the Gore and Sawatch ranges that define Vail Valley. Through mid-September, the whole valley becomes alight with blooms and blossoms. We've put our heads together as flower-lovers here at Vintage Magnolia and collected some of our favorites to share with you below.
As always, adhere to good hiking practices when heading out on the trail; don't go alone, wear and bring appropriate gear (raingear, water, maps, snacks, hat, sunscreen, etc.), and keep an eye on the forecast.
1. Shrine Pass
We love the Shrine Pass hike because it is on the shorter end, the whole hike offers unbelievable views outward, as it is a hike located high off Vail Pass, and it hits that hard-to-find balance of getting a solid Colorado experience without being too far from your car or area towns.
The hike winds through meadows and a marshy area, then gains a bit of elevation through a bit of loose old-growth forest, and goes above treeline to a wonderful picnic area with panoramas of Mt. of the Holy Cross, the Gore Range, and Summit and Eagle counties.
Depending on the season, you'll see lots of blue Columbine, red Columbine, paintbrush, gentian, arnica and mules ears, wild rose, harebell, wild buckwheat, Oregon grape, and yellow stonecrop.
Remember to pack your raincoat, water, and snacks, as the weather at high elevation can change rapidly. Locals' tip: this is a busy weekend hike. To beat the crowds, try it as a sunrise or sunset experience!
2. Deluge Lake
Deluge Lake is a long trek. Give yourself most of a full day to get to the lake and return to the trailhead. The hike has steep sections and can be rocky, but also has meandering sections through old-growth forest and quiet meadows. The hike ventures quite deep into the Gore Range Wilderness; be sure to be prepared (bring lots of water and snacks), as it is also much less-traveled than the nearby Gore Creek Trail, with which it shares a trailhead.
We love this hike for its amazing and never-ending vistas, varied terrain, and the amazing lake, which is nestled at the base of the craggy peaks of the Gore.
Expect to see lots of wild geranium, Colorado loco, harebell, monkshood, marsh marigold, cow parsnip, paintbrush, cinquefoil, lupine, and more, depending on the season.
3. Beaver Lake
This well-traveled trail has the ironic appeal of allowing hikers the sense of discovery upon reaching Beaver Lake. It's a picturesque setting and feels very remote, though parts of the hike travel road-like double-track trail. Expect a moderate hike with both flat and steeper sections, and keep an eye out for thimbleberries. This is a foundational hike in the Vail Valley, and a repeat for many visitors.
You can expect to enjoy lupines, larkspur, Columbine, cinquefoil, aspen sunflower, lots of wild rose, geranium, and mariposa lily on this hike, which follows Beaver Creek from the village to the lake. If you're feeling ambitious, continue to the Turqoise Lakes, several miles past Beaver Lake.
<--------- I love this pamphlet I picked up locally. It's "Wildflowers of the Southern Rocky Mountains," by Janis Lindsey Huggins, and I take it along on many hikes for a quick reference to the local flora. It's waterproof and has common and rare native species, along with plant features, bloom season, and color groups, all for $7.95.