10 places to find wildflowers in Routt County

Wildflowers are blooming around Routt County, signaling the return of spring and summer. As the seasons change and more people venture outside, Explore Steamboat partnered with Yampatika to provide a list of where to view some of the best wildflowers in the area.

Purple lupine and red Indian Paintbrush wave in the wind above Dumont Lake on Rabbit Ears Pass.
Eleanor C. Hasenbeck

Rabbit Ears Pass

Location: Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests
Best time to view: early summer
While there’s not one specific trail to travel down, there are plenty of places to stop along U.S. Highway 40 over the pass to see large meadows of wildflowers; however, if you’re looking for some wilderness, Dumont Lake is a good area to view different flowers. Be on the look out for Colorado columbines, Indian paintbrushes, larkspur and many more.

Wildflowers await hikers in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area.
Scott Franz

Black Mountain Creek Trail

Location: Flat Tops Wilderness Area
Best time to view: late summer
Opposite of Sheriff Reservoir dam, this trail is a popular place June through August as wildflowers begin to overtake the area. Keep an eye out for fireweed, wild mule’s ears and wild daisies.

American bistort grows near Mosquito Lake in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area.
Mackenzie Hicks/staff

Mosquito Lake via Bear River Trail

Location: Flat Tops Wilderness Area
Best time to view: late summer
This 5-mile hike to Mosquito Lake will take you through multiple fields of numerous wildflowers. Indian paintbrushes, wood nymphs and other blooms cover multiple meadows as you make your way to the lake. Bonus: this hike is a good one for all levels.

Chiming bells, a flower similar to blue bells, blooms.
Getty Images/stock photo

Three Island Lake Trail

Location: Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area
Best time to view: late summer
Three Island Lake Trail can be a two-for-one adventure if you’re also interested in bird watching. This trail is good for seeing a wide range of wildflowers, from blue aster to penstemon to white stick geranium. Also keep an eye out for chiming bells and elephant head flowers as the sun continues to warm up the ground.

Wild roses are often seen along the Mica Basin Trail in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area.
Getty Images/stock photo

Mica Basin Trail

Location: Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area
Best time to view: late summer
While this trail is more difficult than other trails in the area, the effort will be worth it. Wildflowers grow in abundance along the trail, and viewers can be sure to find a wide variety, including paintbrush, wild geraniums, wild roses, sunflowers, yarrow, lupine, cat’s paw and many more.

Another common wildflower found in Routt County are mule’s ears sunflowers.
John Fielder

Mad Creek and Red Dirt trails

Location: Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area
Best time to view: late spring into early summer
Mad Creek and Red Dirt trails would be the easiest place to find wildflowers right now. Columbines and Indian paintbrushes burst to life along the way and fully at the meadows around Mad Barn, as do wild daises and sunflowers. However, this area is highly trafficked, so it’s best to find a lighter day to visit. That way more people can view the flowers for years to come.

Almost as if a careful gardener planted them, batches of arnicas line the Tepee Creek Trail near Lynx Pass in southeastern Routt County.
Joel Reichenberger

Lynx Pass area

Location: accessible via Routt County Road 16 from Stagecoach State Park
Best time to view: early spring into early summer
The wildflowers along this trail start blooming as early as May, but the blossoms tend to get fuller as spring grows into summer. What’s blooming is dependent upon when you visit, but you can be sure to find rose pussytoes, buckwheat, fireweed, scarlet cilia, bluebells, red elderberry, elephant head, yarrow and American vetch. 

Glacier lily, a wildflower often found in early spring especially in Routt County.
John Fielder

Soda Creek Trail

Location: Buffalo Pass
Best time to view: mid- to late summer
Now that Soda Creek Trail has been turned into a loop and more mountain bikers have moved onto other trails on the pass, this area makes for a great wildflower viewing spot. The blooms are best seen during late June and early August due to elevation, but viewers can expect to see the ever popular glacier lily, buttercups, Lady’s slipper, Jacob’s ladder and many more. 

Serviceberry blooms are pretty sights dotting Sarvis Creek Trail.
Getty Images/stock photo

Sarvis Creek Trail

Location: Sarvis Creek Wilderness Area
Best time to view: early spring into summer
This 12-mile trail that follows Sarvis Creek through, at times, dense forestland also provides a peaceful place to view wildflowers. Look for serviceberry bushes, wild roses and elephant heads.

Flowers are in full bloom at the Yampa River Botanic Park in Steamboat Springs.
John F. Russell

Yampa River Botanic Park

Location: Steamboat Springs
Best time to view: late spring through summer
If you’re not in the mood to go hiking, stop by the Yampa River Botanic Park to view a wide array of beautiful blossoms. The park is open and offering safe, socially-distanced walking tours for those interested. Find more information at And don’t forget to check in on the osprey.

To reach Mackenzie Hicks, call 970-871-4208, email or follow her on Twitter @mackenzieshawna.

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