Look for these stunning wildflowers on your next adventure in and around the San Juan Mountains

Summer in the San Juan Mountains offers epic mountain views, fresh mountain air and meadows filled with wildflowers. With so many vibrant colors and varieties, it’s overwhelming trying to identify one flower from the next. Here are five common wildflowers to keep an eye out for on your next outing.

columbine wildflower profile
The Colorado Blue Columbine is a local favorite.Tiona Eversole
Colorado Blue Columbine

Aquilegia coerulea

This classic wildflower is an iconic part of wildflower season. The Colorado Blue Columbine grows in the alpine foothills and is easy to identify by its yellow stamens, white petals and blue sepals. These flowers commonly bloom for about 4-6 weeks in early to mid-summer.

Fun Fact: The Colorado Blue Columbine is Colorado’s state flower.

-of-the-mountain wildflower
Commonly known as the Old-Man-of-the-Mountain, this wildflower contrasts beautifully against the rocky alpine landscape it grows best in.Tiona Eversole
Alpine Sunflower

Hymenoxys grandiflora

Larger than most wildflowers, the Alpine Sunflower is better known by its other name: Old-Man-of-the-Mountain. Growing among rocky slopes in the high alpine tundra, this flower is easily identified by its long, thin petals and dome-shaped center. 

Fun Fact: The Old-Man-of-the-Mountain typically faces east, which might come in handy if you find yourself uncertain of your direction on a cloudy day when the sun’s not visible.

elephant head wildflower
Can you make out the tiny elephant heads?Tiona Eversole
Elephanthead Lousewort

Pedicularis groenlandica

A close-up of this unique wildflower will immediately reveal why it is so aptly named Elephanthead. Tiny clusters of pink purple flowers individually resemble tiny elephant heads, trunk and all. These fun flowers grow in subalpine regions near wetlands and alongside mountain streams.

Fun Fact: This plant was once believed to have medicinal properties that cured cattle and people of lice.

split leaf indian paintbrush wildflower landscape
Paintbrush comes in many colors — from deep pink and scarlet to yellow and creamy white.Tiona Eversole
Splitleaf Paintbrush

Castilleja rhexifolia

Paintbrush is prominent throughout many different mountain zones and for much of the summer season. When other wildflowers slowly begin to fade, rest assured that you will still come across the paintbrush in one of its wide array of colors — pink, orange, scarlet, yellow, light green or purple.

Fun Fact: The colorful parts of the paintbrush are actually its leaves. The tiny greenish-yellow flowers are discreet and barely protrude among the vibrant leaves.

tall chiming fringed bluebells wildflowers
The prominence of bluebells in the mountains provides a beautiful blue contrast against the green of alpine meadows.Tiona Eversole
Tall Fringed Bluebell

Mertensia ciliata

These lovely wildflowers hang from thick green stems and resemble tiny bells. Bluebells grow in huge patches, thanks to their root crowns and rhizomes spreading over time. This creates an abundance of tiny blue flowers dotting the hillside, especially in areas where water is prevalent. Catch these wildflowers for a good part of the summer, as they tend to stick around later than others.

Fun Fact: The Cheyenne tribe would make a tea out of the plant to increase a nursing mother’s milk production. A tea made from the powdered root was also used to alleviate itching caused by smallpox and measles.

What are a few of your favorite wildflowers this time of year? Share your photos with us!