Utah’s Best Wildflower Walks and Hikes

Utah’s Best Wildflower Walks and Hikes

Local Lexi

By Local Lexi \ July 3 2018

As sad as the sight of snowless peaks can be in the scorching summer months, all that snowmelt seeping through the rocks and surging down the mountains results in a profusion of color and beauty. It’s now wildflower season in Utah. The optimal time to view wildflowers on Utah’s local trails usually depends on two factors: temperature and elevation. If temps are hot in June, (like what we’re seeing this year across the state) the snow melts faster and results in an earlier blooming season. The higher the elevation, the later the blooming season will be, thus places like the Uinta Mountain Range are a great place to catch wildflowers in late summer.

Generally, you can locate excellent wildflowers between early June and August, though some species of flowers across Utah will bloom into September.

Alta, Snowbird, Solitude and Brighton

If you’re wild about wildflowers, you’ll want to clear your weekend schedule in anticipation of the annual Wasatch Wildflower Festival. Spearheaded in 1996 by the town of Alta, enthusiasts take time in July to celebrate the bounty of wildflowers in the Wasatch. The action spans four days over two weekends at Utah’s Cottonwood Canyon ski resorts. Brighton and Solitude will run tours July 21st and 22nd, and Alta and Snowbird will host visitors July 28th and 29th. 

Visit the Cottonwood Canyons Foundation’s website for a full schedule of events and expect fun activities for kids, hikes for all ability levels, and live music. Classic zones such as Albion Basin, Catherine’s Area, Brighton Basin, and Silver Lake will be included in the tours. New this year, there will be both self-guided and naturalist-guided hikes to learn more about the history and flora in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons. Once you get your feet dusty at these events, you’ll be ready to head to the mountains on your own to seek and identify yet more flowers. Also new this year, Alta will be spinning the Sunnyside lift in Albion Basin on weekends and holidays for better access to the mountains and to reduce cars on the road. The following list includes a few of the most iconic wildflower walks and hikes across the state of Utah.

Tony Grove

Up around Utah’s sleepiest and most underrated ski resort, Beaver Mountain, lies the Tony Grove recreation area in Logan Canyon. Tony Grove harbors some of the best wildflowers in Northern Utah, thanks to the high elevation, just above 8,000 feet. Expect to see wild geraniums, paintbrushes, lupines, and daisies. These late bloomers are best viewed in late July through early August. In fact, the entire stretch of winding road encompassing Highway 89 up through Logan Canyon makes for a scenic drive to Tony Grove. Because Logan Canyon is so steep and narrow, it harbors cooler temperatures and therefore a higher abundance of wildflowers at lower elevations than other areas. There’s a 1.2-mile trail around Tony Grove Lake where the colors and lush meadows will impress you. 

For more mileage, there’s also the White Pine Lake Trail, which is just under 8 miles for a round trip. Don’t forget to bring a little cash for the $3.00 day-use fee. If you haven’t had your fill, continue up Logan Canyon past Beaver Mountain up to the pass above Bear Lake. The shimmering turquoise waters nicely complement the short nature hike you’ll find at the summit. 

Cedar Breaks National Monument

Sandstone hoodoos, fins, and arches define the unique landscape of Southern Utah’s Cedar Breaks National Monument. The topography is such that the park features optimum wildflower habitat: sizable bowl nearly 3 miles wide with an elevation around 10,000 feet. The height and topography of this landscape creates a perfect stage for showcasing a short but vibrant wildflower season. The monument hosts a wildflower festival for two weeks in early July to help visitors identify and appreciate the region’s impressive array of wildflower species. You can spy lupine, phlox, bluebells, columbines, blue flax, and more. The beauty of the red rocks offers a dramatic backdrop to the profusion of colors in this area. 

The Alpine Pond Nature Trail is an easy to moderate hike that loops through forest and meadows with stunning views of red rock. The Spectra Point Trail is a short but moderate hike to view hoodoos, meadows, and of course, wildflowers. Keep your eyes open for ancient bristlecone pines, some are older than 1,000 years! 

Snowbasin Resort Upper Mountain Trails

The peak wildflower season around Snowbasin's upper bowls and alpine cirques runs late July into early August. The Ridge Trail above the Needles Gondola top station is the best place to view all the colors. Visitors can opt to hike up to the Ridge Trail from the base area or enjoy a speedy ride in the Needles Gondola to access the trail. From the Needles Lodge the nature trail begins near the gondola station. The views of Huntsville and Pineview Reservoir to the east are breathtaking. You won’t walk for long before encountering the riotous colors of red skyrockets, yarrow, and paintbrush. If you reach the ridge, you’ll discover dramatic views of the Great Salt Lake to the west, it’s worth the walk! Small kiddos in your group? The Green Pond Trail is ideal for little ones. Check Snowbasin’s website for additional information and current weather conditions.

The Lake Blanche Trail

For a more difficult and strenuous hike, consider the Lake Blanche Trail accessed via Big Cottonwood Canyon. The climb is steep and long, but a good portion of the trail is shaded. The open cirque and alpine lakes at the terminus of this hike offer little shade, so it’s a good idea to get an early start and bring sun protection. This trail can also get crowded, especially on weekends, so an early start is a solid plan. 

The monolith of Sundial Peak provides a dramatic backdrop to the yellow sunflowers often carpeting the basin. The hike to Lake Blanche totals around 7 miles with a good amount of elevation gain, climbing above 9,000 feet. On calm days, the reflection of Sundial Peak in Lake Blanche’s waters is breathtaking. These basins and lakes were carved by glaciers long ago. Keep your eyes open for sections of smooth rocks marred by the skid marks of glaciers moving in slow motion thousands of years ago.

A few helpful tips and reminders for hitting the trail to take in the sights of Utah’s colorful bounty:

  • Bring along a wildflower identification guide! It’s very fun to flip through the pages and learn the names of the flowers you come across. A scavenger hunt or checklist can also be a fun activity to keep kids engaged and entertained on the trail.
  • Refrain from picking wildflowers on public land, it’s actually illegal! Picking flowers not only deprives pollinators but decreases future populations of wildflower generations. If each hiker picked even a few wildflowers, we’d soon have trails barren of their vivid colors and intricate forms. Snap a picture and leave the flowers for others to enjoy.
  • In spite of their verdant appearance, wildflowers are quite fragile and it’s best to stay on the trail to both prevent erosion and avoid trampling sensitive alpine flora.
  • The best wildflowers prefer high mountain and alpine habitats. As such, be sure to bring sturdy shoes, plenty of water, sun protection, and sunscreen.
  • A beautiful sunny day can often belie lurking afternoon thunderstorms, which can be violent. Even if it’s sweltering hot at lower elevations, be sure to pack a warm jacket and a rain layer for your day in the mountains. In a situation where you do need it, you’ll be grateful to have protection!