Lake Isabelle Wildflowers
After hiking to Lake Isabelle and Isabelle Glacier Trail on the weekend, a friend of mine invited me to go for a hike just to Lake Isabelle. In addition to wanting to spend quality time with my friend, I also wanted to record the abundance of wildflowers on the trail. In this post I’ll review the many types of wildflowers you can see on the trails if you hike to Lake Isabelle.
Long Lake Parking Lot was full at 7 am, so we had to start from the Niwot Parking Area, adding 0.6 miles to the trek in each direction. If we had arrived around 6:30 am, we likely would have been able to park at Long Lake Parking Lot.
The hike starts out going through forest and meadows on the Niwot Cutoff Trail for 0.6 miles, following the Jean Lunning Trail for 1.4 miles, then connects with the Pawnee Pass Trail for about 1 mile before reaching Lake Isabelle. For variety on the way back, you can take the Pawnee Pass Trail along the north side of Long Lake.
If you are able to park at Long Lake Parking Lot, the hike is a shorter 4.2 miles.
Whether you have to go the longer way or the shorter way, the hike to Lake Isabelle is relatively easy and can be done with the whole family.
Jean Lunning Trail
I recommend hiking along the Jean Lunning Trail on your way out to Lake Isabelle. Not only do you get better views of the Indian Peaks mountains as you hike out, but if you start in the early morning, as we did, you see a wide variety of wildflowers bathed in the beautiful morning light.
American Bistort, or Bistorta bistortoides, is a member of the Buckwheat Family (Polygonaceae). A native wildflower, it grows in late spring and summer in sunny damp meadows, fens at high elevations, and tundra throughout the western U.S.
Elephant Flowers, Elephant’s Head, or Pedicularis groenlandica, is a member of the Broomrape Family (Orobanchaceae). A native wildflower, it grows late spring through summer in wet mountain meadows and along streams throughout the western U.S. and all throughout Canada. You can see how it gets its name by the shape of the flowers!
Rosy Paintbrush, Rose Paintbrush, Alpine Paintbrush, Splitleaf Indian Paintbrush, or Castilleja rhexiifolia, is a member of the Broomrape Family (Orobanchaceae). A native wildflower, it grows from late spring through summer in moist meadows and forests throughout western North America.
Alpine Leafybract Aster
Alpine Leafybract Aster, or Aster foliaceus, is a member of the Aster Fmaily (Asteraceae). A native wildflower, it grows in the summer in woodland openings and moist meadows throughout western North America.
Sulphur Indian Paintbrush
Sulphur Indian Paintbrush, or Castilleja sulphurea, is a member of the Broomrape Family (Orobanchaceae). A native wildflower, it grows in late spring through summer in meadows, forests, and along streams in western North America.
Bracted Lousewort, or Pedicularis bracteosa, is a member of the Broomrape Family (Orobanchaceae). A native wildflower, it grows late spring to summer in open forests, thickets, moist meadows, and along streams throughout western North America.
Parry’s Primrose, or Primula parryi, is a member of the Primrose Family (Primulaceae). A native wildflower, it grows summer to fall in subalpine bogs and wet meadows throughout the western United States.
There were a lot of these flowers growing by the streams on the Jean Lunning Trail.
Heartleaf Bittercress, or Cardamine cordifolia, is a member of the Mustard Family (Brassicaceae). A native plant, it grows late spring through summer in wet soils near ponds and streams, moist meadows, and forests throughout western North America.
There were many of these flowers growing beside the Parry’s Primroses by the streams on the Jean Lunning Trail.
Pawnee Pass Trail
After turning onto Pawnee Pass Trail, you can see other varieties of wildflowers.
Colorado Blue Columbine
Colorado Blue Columbine, or Aquilegia coerulea, is a member of the Buttercup Family (Ranunculaceae). A native wildflower, it grows spring to summer in sun or light shade in meadows, mixed forests, and alpine slopes throughout several western U.S. states. I’ve seen these growing in the wild with petals ranging from light purple to deep purple.
This is the state flower of Colorado.
Wholeleaf Indian Paintbrush
Wholeleaf Indian Paintbrush, or Castilleja integra, is a member of the Broomrape Family (Orobanchaceae). A native wildflower, it grows in spring and summer in sunny forest openings, dry foothills, and gravelly soil in several southwestern states, including Colorado.
White Marsh Marigold
White Marsh Marigold, or Caltha leptosepala, is a member of the Buttercup Family (Ranunculaceae). A native wildflower, it grows in spring and summer in wet meadows, and by streams and springs throughout western North America.
I’ve seen them growing by streams along several trails here in Colorado.
After reaching Lake Isabelle, we hiked a short bit along the Isabelle Glacier Trail and sat on a rock looking out at this amazing view while eating snacks.
There is an unofficial trail that skirts the bottom of the lake, from which you get a slightly different view. This side trail also features different kinds of wildflowers.
Wildflowers around Lake Isabelle
Mountain Death Camas
Mountain Death Camas, Mountain Deathcamas, or Zigadenus elegans, is a member of the False-Hellebore Family (Melanthiaceae). A native plant, it grows in summer in high damp meadows, forest openings, and along lake shores and rocky slopes throughout most of North America. All parts of this plant are poisonous.
Featherleaf Fleabane, or Erigeron pinnatisectus, is a member of the Aster Family (Asteraceae). A native wildflower, it grows late spring to summer in sunny tundra areas in only a few western states – Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico.
Mountain Meadow Cinquefoil
Mountain Meadow Cinquefoil, Varileaf Cinquefoil, or Potentilla glaucophylla, is a member of the Rose Family (Rosaceae). A native wildflower, it grows in spring and summer in high elevation meadows throughout western North America.
Mountain Bluebells, Tall Fringed Bluebells, or Mertensia ciliata, is a member of the Borage Family (Boraginaceae). A native wildflower, it blooms in late spring and summer in subalpine and montane wetlands along streams and creeks in several western states. There are several types of bluebells that grow in Colorado, but I identified these because they are the tallest – growing up to 50 inches tall.
Recommended as a Wildflower Hike
Lake Isabelle is a beautiful alpine lake all on its own, but if you’re a fan of wildflowers, the hike to and around the lake features an amazing variety of wildflowers in the summertime. The Jean Lunning Trail that skirts Long Lake on the way out in particular is a wildflower goldmine.