Last week the Wine Hiking Society hosted a Wildflower and Wine Wednesday hike in Little Cottonwood Canyon. We had a great time sipping on wine and soaking in the beautiful scenery and sunset while escaping the heat. This hike served as inspiration to create a mini-guide to some popular wildflowers native to the Wasatch Mountains that you may come across on your hikes this time of year.
Wasatch Wildflower Festival
The Cottonwood Canyons Foundation puts on the Wasatch Wildflower Festival. The festival started this past weekend in Big Cottonwood Canyon (BCC). The festival continues this upcoming weekend in Little Cottonwood Canyon (LCC).
Saturday, July 17th, the events will take place 9AM-2PM at Snowbird Resort on the Plaza Deck at the Snowbird Center. There will be guided tours and discounted tram ride tickets available. Sunday, July 18th, the events will be taking place 9AM-2PM at the Albion Base Parking Lot at Alta Ski Resort.
Basic Wildflower Guide
As always, remember the Leave No Trace principles. This means respecting/leaving what you find in nature and not picking the wildflowers so they continue to come back year after year.
Keep in mind when identifying wildflowers, it is important to pay attention to the leaf. This will help differentiate between similar looking flowers.
Heartleaf arnic was the predominate flower we saw on our hike last Wednesday. You can identify it by its large heart-shaped leaves and yellow flowers that are often mistaken as sunflowers. These are most commonly found June-July and under the canopies of spruces, firs, and aspens.
People also know this flower as Wyoming Paintbrush (state flower of Wyoming) and Painted Cup. Indian Paintbrush is very commonly found in Albion Basin, Mineral Basin, and other high elevation meadows here in Utah. It’s also found on rocky mountainsides, around sagebrush and aspen communities. Photos taken at Catherine’s Pass and Albion Basin.
Wild or Wood’s Rose
Due to its straight, long stems and dense wood, Native Americans used this species to craft arrows and spears. It is a shrub commonly found near maple, oak, and aspen communities May to July. Photos taken at Silver Lake in Big Cottonwood Canyon.
This plant is an important food source for many animals. It may look like it is dead, but each little pinpoint is a flower.
Butter and Eggs
This is an exception to the Leave No Trace rule. Butter and Eggs is an invasive weed that is difficult to control because it spreads via underground stems called rhizomes. Photo taken in Big Cottonwood Canyon at Brighton Resort.
California Corn Lily
This is a gorgeous but very poisonous plant. It has been heavily studied for its potential to treat skin cancer. However, it was found that the cells of this plant are too toxic and kill healthy cells just as fast as cancer cells. This is also known as “skunk cabbage.” Photos taken at Silver Lake in BCC and Alta resort in LCC.
This flower grows along stream edges and in standing water.
This is the state flower of Utah! This bloom is easily identifiable with three smooth white petals and patches of yellow and maroon at the base.
This plant’s name comes from its quick ability to colonize areas after a fire. It is one of the first plants you will see grow back in areas that have been burned by a fire. It is also a preferred food source for elk and deer!
Lupines, though poisonous, are beneficial because they take nitrogen from the atmosphere and deposit it into the soil. Photos from Catherine’s Pass and Albion Meadows.
If you look closely, the flowers of this plant resemble an elephant’s face, with a trunk and large ears. It is a root parasite that can be found in moist meadows.
Where to See These Beautiful Wildflowers
Wildflowers are present on too many hikes to mention, but here are a few suggestions that have been some of my favorites! Don’t forget to bring your wine!
- Albion Meadows [easy]
- Tony Grove Lake [easy]
- Silver Lake Loop [easy]
- Cecret Lake via Albion Meadows [moderate]
- Avenue Twin Peaks [moderate]
Written by Sam Martino
Salt Lake County Ambassador