With spring in full effect, Boulder’s open space is in the midst of its annual awakening. Hillsides and valleys are changing from brown to green. Previously bare trees are sprouting new leaves and beautiful blossoms. And the trails are lined with delightful pops of color, thanks to the swaths of incredible wildflowers.
Boulder, where the eastern plains rise up to meet the Rockies, is home to an astonishing array of plant and animal life. Our mountains, valleys, and canyons create microhabitats that support this impressive biodiversity. Wildflowers, in particular, are plentiful and they’ve just begun popping up in our open space. Whether you’re a botanist, a photographer, or simply someone who appreciates pretty flowers, Boulder’s springtime trails do not disappoint.
Nearly any spring hike in Boulder provides the opportunity to observe wildflowers, but some of our trails are particularly well suited for them. Read on for 6 standout trails that will have you swooning over the abundance of these vibrant beauties. Whether you’re giddy over golden banner or pining for penstemon, these trails deliver.
Boulder’s most popular hill among hikers and trail runners, Mount Sanitas, is also one of the best spots to check out wildflowers. The key is to explore all the trails in this network as each one is unique. From the sun-drenched Sanitas Valley Trail to the shaded Lion’s Lair Trail, you’ll find a rainbow of colorful flora to enjoy. Lovely loops and out-and-back hikes are possible here, ranging from 2 to 4 miles.
Gregory Canyon Trail
The steep south-facing slopes of Gregory Canyon make it ideal for a variety of wildflowers. Bright yellow creeping mahonia (sometimes called Oregon holly grape) and adorably fuzzy pasque flowers are particularly abundant in spring. The 1.1-mile Gregory Canyon Trail is also perfect for wildlife watching. Black bears are frequently seen along the creek and migrating songbirds like the Western Tanager may be spotted high up in the trees.
Goshawk is a relatively new trail, built in January 2009, and it is Boulder’s best-kept secret as far as wildflowers go. (Well, until now.) This beautiful trail winds through forest and meadow while providing habitat for countless wildflowers throughout spring, summer, and fall. The 1.2-mile Goshawk Trail lies in the southernmost part of Boulder’s trail system near Eldorado and may be hiked in conjunction with Doudy Draw or Spring Brook Loop. It can also be linked to Eldorado Canyon State Park via the Fowler Trail.
Green Mountain West Ridge
A surprising number of locals still don’t know this trail exists, but Green Mountain West Ridge offers a beautiful and relatively gentle way to access the summit of Green Mountain. It’s also home to an array of plant and animal life, including some of Boulder County’s most beautiful wildflowers. The trail, which begins approximately 6 miles up Flagstaff Road, meanders up and down through a mixed pine forest while offering stellar views of Bear Peak and South Boulder Peak. Be sure to come back in August and you’ll be rewarded with fresh trailside raspberries.
Mesa is the backbone of the trail system, connecting three critical trailheads (Chautauqua, NCAR, and South Mesa) in 6.9 gorgeous miles. It lies just east of Boulder’s towering peaks, in a mix of sun, shade, and varied terrain. It can be hiked one-way or as out-and-back if you’ve got plenty of time. It can also be tackled in smaller sections as part of a loop with adjacent trails. Wildflower seekers will find flax, spring beauties, chiming bells, wild geranium, and more.
Walker Ranch Loop
The loop at Walker Ranch takes hikers through meadow, forest, and riparian areas while offering sweeping panoramas of the Boulder foothills and Eldorado Canyon. The diverse terrain allows for a diversity of wildflowers throughout the seasons. This is a lengthy loop at 7.5 miles but it’s worth the journey. Be mindful of bikes, especially on busy weekends, and be sure to enjoy a pit stop at the falls of South Boulder Creek.
Happy colorful spring trails, Boulderites!