At Play in Colorado’s Wildflower Capital

Although the nights are currently growing cooler toward fall, I’ve been reminiscing about Crested Butte, one of my favorite Colorado mountain towns, which I’ve visited in both winter and summer, but, sadly never in fall.

Yellow mule's ear flowers brighten the Lower Loop trail in Crested Butte, Colorado.

Yellow mule’s ear flowers brighten the Lower Loop trail in Crested Butte, Colorado.

I love Crested Butte because of its glorious peaks, mountain meadows and funky historic town that attracts interesting residents and visitors.

Easily the most exhilarating thing to do in summer in Crested Butte is to view the wildflowers, which grow in showy abundance in July. The Crested Butte Wildflower Festival is a must-do experience, so I recommend penciling it into your calendar for next year. (It will be held July 12 through 18, 2010.)

Among the events you can sign up for during the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival:

  • Guided hikes: easy to technical
  • Bike rides and yoga classes in alpine meadows
  • 4×4 tours into the backcountry
  • Garden tours of historic Crested Butte
  • Photography classes
  • Art and cooking classes with wildflowers
  • Medicinal classes using botanical ingredients
  • Gardening with wildflowers
  • Birding and butterflies
Clumps of columbine, Colorado's state flower, are everywhere in the meadows near Crested Butte.

Clumps of columbine, Colorado’s state flower, are everywhere in the meadows near Crested Butte.

Last year, my husband and I joined a guided wildflower ID walk around the Lower Loop and Peanut Lake, and it really helped us get to know the flowers. Soon we were on a first-name basis with scarlet gilia, mariposa lilies, mule’s ears, shooting stars, prairie smoke, and the columbine (Colorado’s state flower).

After that, we were prepared for other wildflower hikes we did on our own, including the Oh-Be-Joyful trail and a portion of the Copper Creek trail.

We camped one night at nearby Lake Irwin, which has vast fields of wildflowers against a backdrop of the jagged Anthracite Mountains.

No matter where we went, we found more and more flowers—each more vibrantly colorful than the last. The entire experience was actually quite exhausting because from sunrise to sunset we pushed on to in our quest for petals. I took untold numbers of photos and did a few pen-and-watercolor drawings.

For more info on Crested Butte, my favorite Colorado mountain town, visit Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism.

Laurel Kallenbach, writer and editor

P.S. Weigh in on your favorite Colorado mountain town during the summer. Just scroll down to the end and leave a comment below.