Hike of the Week: Stag Gulch hike boasts some of the valley’s best wildflowers | VailDaily.com

Hike of the Week: Stag Gulch hike boasts some of the valley’s best wildflowers

Nathan Boyer-Rechlin
Walking Mountains Science Center
A map of the Stag Gulch trail, which features an optional flat 1.5 mile loop after at 2.5 mile climb. The loop has panoramic views and tons of wildflowers.
Special to the Daily

Quick Facts:

Round Trip Length: 7 miles (w/Big Park Loop); 5.5 miles (without loop)

Elevation Gain: 1,450 ft

Nearest Town: Edwards, Colorado

Editor’s note: Nathan Boyer-Rechlin is the community outreach coordinator at Walking Mountains Science Center.

With less than a week until the summer solstice, Colorado’s High Country remains more reminiscent of January than late June. While our snowpack, currently over 1,000% above normal levels, is a welcome sight here in Eagle County, it leaves those of us wanting to hit the trail this solstice wondering how to avoid the snow! The good news is that some of the best gems are right in our backyard.

What to Expect

Stag Gulch, a quick 10 minute drive from Edwards, offers the views of our valley’s higher destinations all while keeping you below 10,000 feet. This summer, that means that alongside the extra oxygen, hikers will be treated to dry trails and lush aspen stands. To reach the trailhead, follow Squaw Creek Road to its end at the Squaw Creek trailhead (make sure to stay left when the paved road bears right to Cordillera).

From the parking area, follow the Squaw Creek trail up a few switchbacks for less than half a mile and take the right fork to Stag Gulch. Enjoy a steady climb through mixed spruce and fir lodgepole pine, and aspen forests, with occasional meadows offering increasingly impressive views of the Eagle River Valley and the Gore Range.

After about 2.5 miles, the Stagg Gulch trail ends, and you can either turn around and retrace your steps or add on a flat 1.5-mile loop through a meadow with panoramic views.

Remember Your Field Guide

The real secret of Stag Gulch is its expansive fields of wildflowers. The highlight of the climb to Big Park is easily the multiple meadows filled with mule-ears (Wyethia amplexicaulis), an iconic native sunflower. The upper meadows are home to almost every wildflower in your field guide. Favorites such as Colorado columbine, scarlett paintbrush, clematis, and heartleaf arnica are likely finds early this summer. It’s easily one of the best wildflower hikes in Eagle County, so be sure to remember your field guide!

More than just a ‘Pretty Mountain Flower’

For those of you struggling to separate your dandelions from your daffodils, join Walking Mountains Science Center on Tuesday, June 25, for a guided hike up Stagg Gulch and experience Colorado’s wildflowers in full bloom. The first hike of our featured hikes series, we will explore how Native American’s relied on these plant communities, learn the parasitic secrets of paintbrush and open our field guides to identify your favorite flowers.

For more information and to sign up, visit http://www.walkingmountains.org/hikes or email Walking Mountains at hike@walkingmountains.org.