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It’s easy to delight in Mother Nature’s flower garden in Breckenridge because we have some of the most accessible wildflowers in the state of Colorado. With plant habitats ranging from meadows to aspen forests to tundra, all within a few miles of downtown Breckenridge, a short hike or drive will take you to an amazing wildflower display. Here is a guide to Breckenridge’s variety of wildflowers and where to find them.
The mining era left the Blue River through Breckenridge little more than a ditch surrounded by giant piles of rocks. In the 1990’s the Town of Breckenridge restored the river and stream-sides with native plants taken from nearby construction sites. Today, you can enjoy a wide variety of wildflowers without leaving downtown Breckenridge. The Alpine Garden (located near The Dredge Restaurant) highlights plant species usually found at higher elevations; most are identified with markers. Along the Riverwalk, you’ll find giant Green Gentian, the bright pink Sticky Geranium, Alpine Sunflowers, fireweed, raspberries, cinquefoil and much more.
Breckenridge’s high altitude at 9600’ means we are closer to the high alpine zone than most any other resort area. And until you see it for yourself, it’s hard to believe that such a variety of beautifully colored and shaped flowers can grow in the harsh environment above timberline. Alpine wildflowers are usually small and low, growing close to the ground to make the most of solar gain below the harsh winds. In protected nooks in the rocks you can find heartier species, like Sky Pilot which reaches higher than many surrounding flowers. A stand out in the alpine zone is Old Man of the Mountain, a distinctive sunflower with a large head that always faces toward the rising sun. Plants at high altitude adapt to the dry, windy conditions in unique ways, such as Frosty Balls, a member of the thistle family. Yet most are diminutive, demanding that you bend way over or descend to your knees to get a close look, like Alpine Sandwort.
Help protect the fragile tundra environment by staying on established trails as much as possible, walking on durable surfaces like rocks and gravel, and stepping carefully. Hiking poles can help keep you light on your feet and ensure stability on steep hillsides. Mountain Outfitters in Breckenridge carries hiking poles.
The easiest access to the alpine zone is via Hoosier Pass. From the south end of Breckenridge, take Highway 9 south to the summit of Hoosier Pass. Park at the top near the Continental Divide sign and hike west along the old jeep roads to the land above the trees, the tundra.
In a short walk, you will find an impressive array of different wildflowers in various habitats from the Sawmill Museum to the Blue River Trail. Walk to the west and the first habitat zone is the arid and scrubby sage brush meadow and hillside on your right, with blue flax, scarlet gilia, buckwheat, and many other dryland flowers. In a few more steps, you’ll enter an aspen forest where Sego Lillies, columbine, bedstraw, golden banner and other flowers that love dappled shade will bloom. And in a few more steps after that, you’ll break out into the meadow to find lupine, sneeze weed, prairie smoke, iris, and other species that like the sun on their heads and moisture at their feet.
The slopes of the Breckenridge Ski Resort abound with summer blooms when the snow melts. Meadows created long ago when the ski runs were cut through the evergreen forests now abound with lupine, paintbrush, harebells, sunflowers and gentian. Guided hikes are available or you can explore on your own.
Hike In Town
Carter Park is best known for its sledding hill and dog play area, but wildflower lovers have a lot to love about Carter Park. The short but steep hike up the sledding hill rewards with views of town at the Ten Mile Range and a stunning variety of wildflowers like Columbine, Pink Anemone, Indian Paintbrush, Mouse-Eared Chickweed, Penstemon and more. Carter Park is located at the south end of High Street, east of Breckenridge Elementary School.