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There’s a reason Colorado has been dubbed one of the best places in the U.S. to see wildflowers. A combination of late snow-melt, 300+ days of sunshine and high-alpine terrain make Colorado the perfect place for wildflowers to grow. The most commonly found wildflowers in Breckenridge usually start blooming in May and June as the snow starts to melt, and typically stick around through June and early August.
From thickets of purple Columbines, the Colorado state flower, to the magentas, yellows, and lavenders of meadow flowers, your eyes will be dazzled by Breckenridge’s bounty of wild blooms. Here is our guide to Breckenridge’s most common wildflowers and a few tips on how to find them.
Spring sunshine gives rise to many of the yellow flowers, and they are usually the first bloomers of the season. In Breckenridge, we even celebrate the hearty early Dandelions flowering as the snow recedes, not just because they mean that summer is on the way, but because Dandelions are an important early food source for bees and other pollinators. Other common spring yellow flowers include Arnica and Oregon grape. As summer progresses, the cheerful Sneezeweed blends with the purple Lupine, a wide variety of sunflowers appear and the DYCs begin their bloom cycle. DYC or “Darn Yellow Composites” encompass many of the yellow wildflowers in our area, from Goldenrods to Groundsels and Senecios that are difficult to tell apart unless you have a botany degree.
Blue and Purple Flowers
Scientists say that blue is rare in nature, but in Breckenridge it’s a very common color. We have Lupine, Blue Flax, Larkspur, Harebells, Iris, and the tri-colored Columbine, the Colorado state flower. When you include the purply-blue flowers like Penstemon, Monkshood and Chiming Bells, the variety is astounding.
Red, Orange and Pink Flowers
True red is uncommon in wildflowers and Breckenridge boasts two varieties: the Scarlett Gilia and Indian Paintbrush. Other red, pink, magenta and orange flowers commonly found in our area include Wild Roses, Pink Elephant Heads, Sticky Geranium, Fairy Slipper Orchids, Prairie Smoke and the Rosy Paintbrush. Fireweed, an unfortunate name for a beautiful magenta native wildflower, is also called “Summer’s Half Gone” by Breckenridge old-timers. The blooms typically start in late July or August, when summer is half over. According to legend, the first snows come six weeks after the Fireweed has bloomed to the end of its stalk.
While not a wildflower, Oriental Poppies are a legacy plant from the mining era. Brought to Breckenridge by the earliest settlers for their medicinal value, they can still be found in naturalized clumps around some of Breckenridge’s historic homes.
White flowers compete with the yellows for the winner of earliest spring blooms, like Alpine Pennycress which blooms before the snow melts. Other white flowers common in Breckenridge include white Paintbrush, Bedstraw, Cow Parsnip, Pasqueflower and Yarrow. Like filler in a bride’s bouquet, Yarrow adds texture and a neutral backdrop for the brighter flowers in the meadow. Its super powers include anti-fungal and anti-bacterial qualities.
Easy Places to Find Wildflowers in Breckenridge
Valley Brook Cemetery: Much of the ground in the cemetery has been undisturbed for over 100 years making it an ideal place for native wildflowers to thrive. Penstemon, Cinquefoil, Pasqueflowers and many others bloom among the historic headstones. The cemetery is open to the public during daylight hours.
Carter Park: Hike up the sledding hill or along the trails to see Indian Paintbrush, Penstemon, Columbine, and spectacular views of the Peak 8 and the rest of the Ten-mile Range.
Boreas Pass Road: It’s a dirt road, but easily passable by most vehicles. As you approach the alpine zone, you’ll find huge meadows of brilliant yellow Alpine Sunflowers. Stop at the top to explore the area above timberline for later summer bloomers.
Sawmill Museum to Blue River Trail: Park at the Sawmill Museum on Boreas Pass Road and hike a short distance along the Blue River Trail to the west to find Sneezeweed, Lupine, Prairie Smoke, Iris, and more.
Riverwalk Center: In downtown Breckenridge along the Blue River, you can find a spectacular array of wildflowers rescued from various construction sites and transplanted to the Riverwalk Plaza when reclaimed in the 1990’s.