Where the wildflowers are | VailDaily.com

Where the wildflowers are

Tom Winter

The rain has done its work. And, the flowers are here. Colorado has some of the best wildflowers in the world. And Eagle county, with an abundance of high altitude trails, roads and dirt tracks, has some of the best wildflower viewing in the state. The recent convergence of wet weather and sunshine has made this year a strong one for flowers. They’ve reaped the benefits of the moisture and solar radiation to create one of Colorado’s greatest spectacles.Vail Pass

Start your viewing at the top of Vail Pass. With the Shrine Mountain Pass road as well as several trails that wind through a sub-alpine environment, Vail Pass offers easy access to some of the best that Colorado has to offer. It’s an easy introduction to the joys of both hiking and wildflower viewing for friends and family who might not be up to longer, more strenuous hikes. There are plenty of meadows, dappled in sun and flush with wildlife such as deer, which make for a nice ramble.Also, you’re never too far from the car in case a late afternoon thunderstorm strikes.For a longer, more energetic hike or ride, complete with visual wonders, try Meadow Mountain outside of Minturn. Lower, and blessed with plenty of sun, Meadow mountain has several trails. In late summer, you’ll see more flowers at the top of this small mountain – really a ridge – than on the lower flanks. There will be even more flowers on the north-facing slopes. These are best reached via mountain bike. While the singletrack that plunges down to Eagle-Vail is fast, sinuous and gets the adrenaline flowing, there are a few sections where riders burst out of the Aspen groves into meadows. These are good places to stop, wait for your buddies and contemplate the profusion of color that graces the hill.

The Back Bowls The very words spark summer daydreams of deep powder and fresh tracks, but the far-east reaches of the Back Bowls also have some of the best wildflower viewing in the state. The meadows above China Wall are particularly nice at this time of year, as is the top of Abraham, just outside of the ski-area boundary. These can be reached by riding the gondola and hiking east – a full-day effort – or via a 4-wheel-drive road that exits the ski-area boundary near Chair 10. The road also provides access for mountain bikers, who can sweat it out to the top of Abraham, savor the views, and then plunge into China Bowl via singletrack.The Betty Ford Alpine Gardens

The Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in Ford Park are not remote. They’re not even hard to find and you don’t need a 4-wheel-drive truck or a mountain bike to get there. But, these gardens are justly famous for their beauty. If you don’t have the time or energy to go anywhere else, a quiet stroll through these gardens will re-invigorate the spirit, calm the mind and soothe the soul. The Betty Ford Garden is the nation’s highest public botanical garden, and has over 500 different varieties of wildflowers and alpine plants. It’s proof that the best wildflowers are usually right under your nose, be it in your backyard or just a few minutes off Bridge street. And proof as well that in Vail, you don’t have to go very far to find natural beauty.Just The FactsVail Pass: A 15-minute drive east on I-70 from Vail Village, the top of the pass offers easy, no-hassle wildflower viewing and short, non-strenuous hikes.

Meadow Mountain: With trailheads adjacent to the Minturn exit off 1-70, you can take a short hike, or opt for longer hikes and mountain bike rides. The best flowers are on the north-facing slopes and are best reached via mountain bike.China Bowl: Access via a long hike or mountain bike or 4-wheel drive to the top of Abraham. In exchange for great flowers and wonderful views, you must plan for a full day.The Betty Ford Alpine Gardens: Just east of Bridge Street, these are the highest public botanical gardens in the country, with over 500 different varieties of wildflowers and alpine plants. The gardens are perfect for those tight on time or families with small children.

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