Summer is here and the mountains are calling. It’s the perfect time of year to see native flowers blooming on peaks and in meadows and foothills. Here are seven of the most spectacular summer wildflower hikes in New Mexico to get outside this season.
1. Stewart Lake, outside Santa Fe
This jewel in the Pecos is always a picturesque hiking destination. The alpine lake glitters in the shadow of Santa Fe Baldy. From June to mid-October, the 11-mile loop trail is also lined with blooming wildflowers. The trail meanders past evening primrose, mountain woollywhite, scarlet penstemon, Wyoming paintbrush, Richardson’s geranium, and blue flax, to name a few. The trail departs from the Winsor Creek Trailhead, just outside the town of Cowles, and travels into the Pecos Wilderness.
2. Cave Creek Trail, outside Santa Fe
Another popular destination in the Pecos Wilderness, north of Santa Fe, the Cave Creek Trail leads to a trio of caves created by flowing water. Although the caves are the destination, the journey along this trail is a stunning one during peak bloom from July to August when you may find common yarrow, sweet yellow clover, cutleaf coneflower, black-eyed Susan, and pink Woods’ rose along this trail. The 5-mile roundtrip trail departs from the Panchuela Campground, outside the town of Cowles.
3. La Garita Trail, outside Los Alamos
Over a million years ago, a massive volcanic explosion created the 13-mile-wide circular depression that we now know as the Valles Caldera National Preserve, but not all of the preserve is a grassy bowl. The 7.2-mile La Garita Trail ascends forest and high meadows for views of the caldera—and passes fields of delicate wildflowers along the way. During the May to September bloom, you may spot purple Rydberg’s penstemon, yellow groundsel, yellow leafy arnica, mountain parsley, and spreading fleabane. Enter the preserve through the main gates and stop off at the visitor’s center for a backcountry hiking permit and directions to the trail.
4. Domingo Baca Trail, outside Albuquerque
This five-mile out-and-back trail treks through the Sandia Mountain foothills beginning at Elena Gallegos Open Space. It’s a well-traveled trail through desert country, and sometimes requires a keen eye to pick out wildflowers among the bunchgrasses during the April to September bloom season. It’s well worth slowing down to spot yellow flowered whitestem stickleaf, purple Dakota mock vervain, baby aster, and prairie evening primrose. June brings Apache plume and prickly pear cactus blossoms in great number.
5. Bull of the Woods Meadow, outside Taos
This five-mile out-and-back trail departs from the wooden kiosk where N.M. 150 meets Twining Road outside Taos and chugs up into the Wheeler Peak Wilderness area. From June to September, both the journey along Rio Hondo and the destination at Bull of the Woods Meadow overflower with delicate blossoms. Look for red and orange blanket flower, Richardson’s geranium, northern goldenrod, and thickets of Woods’ rose. Higher up, you’ll traipse through aspen groves with yellow cinquefoil, snowberry shrubs hanging heavy with pink bell-shaped flowers, and purple and white northern bedstraw.
6. Williams Lake and Falls, outside Taos
This popular trail departing from Taos Ski Valley is best known for the picturesque alpine lake that marks the turn-around point in the 4.5-mile out-and-back trail. However, there’s a lot to see along the way during the May to September bloom season. Osha, yellow avens, Richardson’s geranium, Parry’s thistle, pink common yarrow, light purple Jacob’s ladder, and more line the route from beneath the ski lift into the dense forest.
7. Dot-to-Dot Trail, outside Los Alamos
Departing from the Blue Dot parking lot near White Rock Overlook, this 6.7-mile loop rewards hikers with outstanding canyon views overlooking the Río Grande. However, there’s quite a bit to view within closer range, too. Harweg’s sundrops, Sego lily, chocolate flower, Dakota mock vervain, James’ catseyes, and antelope horns dot the trail during the March to September bloom season in this rocky desertscape.
These hikes explore some of New Mexico’s most stunning scenery—both near and far.