By Amy David
The spring and early summer season is chalked full of fresh energy as nature renews plant life, baby animals are born, and the landscapes burst into full bloom. Lush green hills with abundant wildflowers are prime for awe-inspiring hikes displaying a plethora of color. The early season temperatures are perfectly cool for raising your heart beat on the trail. Hit the hills during the next few months for a vibrant spring stroll. Below is a go-to list of locations covered with lupine, arrowleaf balsamroot, and many other native flowers.
Popular Local Spring Wildflowers
- Arrowleaf Balsamroot is very popular in the area and extremely vibrant. It blooms early spring covering south-facing slopes with bright yellow petals and arrowhead shaped leaves.
- Penstemon are quick growing, long lasting blooms with delicate petals of light purple colors.
- Fireweed re-populates burned landscapes and along streams up to 9,000 feet elevation. This purple flower can reach a height of three feet or more.
- Western Columbine starts blooming in late spring as one of the few red flowers populating the Big Wood region. Complex and delicate, this flower is found by streams and on moist slopes.
- Western Spring Beauty blooms early in the springs at the edge of melting snow with delicate white petals accented by pink antlers.
- Lupine of the legume family grows in tall, dense clusters of blue, purple or pink.
Croy Canyon Area
Several miles west of Hailey is one of the first trail networks to erupt with wildflower colors. This area offers an array of trails to ride bikes or hike on. The smoothe, flowing single track becomes euphoric when surrounded by the sweet smells and sights of freshly bloomed flowers. Croy Creek is known for abundant lupine and arrowleaf balsamroot.
A more lightly used area, Taylor Canyon trail is a loop with abundant Arrowleaf Balsamroot flowers and stunning views of the surrounding Pioneer, Boulder, and Smoky mountain ranges. The 3.8 mile loop is an intermediate challenge for hikers, bikers, or equestrians gaining up to 1,489 feet. Drive 3.4 miles north of Ketchum, turn right onto Lake Creek Road, and follow the signs to Taylor Canyon Trailhead.
This destination is an iconic gem with remarkable views of Bald Mountain and the town of Ketchum below. Along the descent of this trail, Proctor Mountain hosts one of the first operating chairlifts in the world! It was built in 1936 and its remnants are still standing tall. This route is one of the first places in the valley to blossom with bright yellow arrowleaf balsamroot and several other wildflowers. The three mile loop increases 1,133 feet elevation transitioning from the flat valley floor, through aspen groves, several steeper switchbacks between shaded evergreens, and topping out at the point of the mountain before a steep descent back to the trailhead.
Expansive wildflower blooms cover the open spaces of Bald Mountain. There are several traill options weaving between the flowers. The most common trek starts at River Run Plaza along the Big Wood River before switchbacking up the heavily wooded hillside. The wooden overlook platform is a prime midway break before continuing through the aspens and mature evergreens to the Roundhouse Connector trail. Keep an eye out for the Louis Stur memorial and water fountain near the junction. The summit is reached at the top of the Challenger ski lift with jaw-dropping 360 degree views. The chairlift runs in the summer, so you could opt for a lift ride down or vice versa.
Greenhorn and Cow Creek Area
Sweeping trails through a regenerative forest and open fields provide options for various out-and-back hikes or loop connections. Several trail options will be open until you reach the few unmelted snow patches. Later in the spring, the fireweed flower is prominent through the burned forest areas with bright purple blossoms that move up the stem as the season progresses. This flower is nicknamed “Summer’s Time Keeper.”
A trail fit for every fitness level with very quick access from downtown Ketchum. The best parking is at Sun Valley Lodge then simply cross the road to the path which loops around the White Clouds Golf Course. This trail has very little elevation gain and can be taken as a four mile loop or out-and-backs in whichever direction. The south facing slopes are engulfed by lupine, arrowhead balsamroot and several other beautiful wildflowers. The optimal time to hike this trail is morning or evening because there is no shade. Bald Mountain is the highlight of the view paired with site of the jagged Pioneer Mountains and valley views sprinkled with colorful blooms.
Camas Prairie Wildflowers
The purple camas lily bloom peaks about mid-June with Camas Creek filled bank to bank. This Centennial Marsh Wildlife Management Area is a slightly longer drive south of Sun Valley close to Fairfield, but is an incredible sight to see. Alongside the abundant lily bloom is an array of thousands of waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors and songbirds. Expansive fields of purple, red, and green will leave you speechless. While the marsh is too wet for walking access through the fields, there are tables for a mid-day picnic.
Spring and early summer is special time in Sun Valley. There are fewer visitors on the trails, days are getting longer and the vegetation regrowth is lush green and sprinkled with the brightest wildflowers. Enjoy the beauty of the valley this spring!
Reposted from Visit Sun Valley.