If you happen to miss the Pioneer Day fireworks on Thursday, don’t worry. There are plenty of colorful explosions going off in Utah’s high country as the wildflower season peaks this holiday weekend. And you won’t have to wait until dark.
"The timing this year seems perfect," said Jessie Walthers of the Cottonwood Canyons Foundation, which hosts the annual Wasatch Wildflower Festival in Big and Little Cottonwood canyons. "We have been out training and hiking for the festival and it seems like we are just shy of the peak. It looks like this weekend will be great timing."
Wasatch Wildflower Festival schedule
The Cottonwood Canyons Foundation is holding its annual Wasatch Wildflower Festival in Big and Little Cottonwood canyons Friday through Sunday. The non-profit group offers free hikes for beginners to advanced hikers and provides wildflower guides to help participants spot, identify and learn how to protect fauna in the Cottonwood canyons.
Brighton » Meet at the Brighton Ski Resort parking lot at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon. Beginner walks on the Silver Lake boardwalk or the lower mountain at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., hour to 90 minutes. Intermediate walk at 10 a.m. up the ski hill trails, 90 minutes to two hours. Advanced walk, 9:30 a.m. toward the upper lakes, 90 minutes to two hours. Kid walks 10 and 11 a.m., less than an hour, must be accompanied by an adult.
Solitude » Meet at Solitude Village (entry 2) in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Moderate walks to Lake Solitude with a lift ride, leave between 3 and 4 p.m. for two to two-and-a-half hours; $5 lift ticket required with half of the cost donated to Cottonwood Canyons Foundation. Wildflower walks leave between 3 and 5 p.m. with a lift ride and hike down the mountains, two to three-and-a-half hours. Beginner walks, ongoing between 3 and 6 p.m. on the lower mountain, one hour. Kid walks, 3:30 and 4:30 p.m. for 45 minutes.
Alta » Beginner walks, on the hour between 9 a.m. and noon on gentle terrain, one hour. Intermediate walks up the Albion Meadows Trail, departures on the hour between 9 a.m. and noon. 90 minutes. Advanced walk on Twin Lakes trail, on the hour between 9 a.m. and noon. 90 minutes. Kid walks 9:30 and 10:30 a.m., must be accompanied by an adult. Alta will have live music from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and art activities from 9 a.m. to noon.
Snowbird » Meet at Plaza Deck, Snowbird Entry #2. Hikes that require the tram include a suggested $5 donation to the Cottonwood Canyons Foundation and require an early sign-up between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. The tram for beginner and advanced hikes leaves at 9:30 a.m. The advanced hikers will travel back down to the base, three to four hours. The beginner hikers will tour the top of Hidden Peak and ride the tram back down, 90 minutes to two hours. The second tram for the beginner hike leaves at 10:30 a.m. Lower mountain walks of an hour to 90 minutes will be held between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. and will depart whenever the groups fill. Kid walks will be held at 10 and 11 a.m.
See Utah mountain wildflowers
Summer wildflowers, of course, happen across the state. Get out on the trails and in the backcountry and find your own special garden.
Here’s a list of easily accessible places to look for wildflowers.
Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons
Cedar Breaks National Monument east of Cedar City
Wolf Creek Pass (State Highway 35 between Woodland and Tabiona)
Monte Cristo (State Highway 39 between Huntsville and Woodruff)
Boulder Mountain (State Highway 12 between Boulder and Torrey)
Logan Canyon (Highway 89 between Logan and Bear Lake)
Guardsman Pass (between Brighton and Park City)
The idea behind the festival is not necessarily to draw people to the mountains, but to reach out to people who are already planning to visit the canyons for wildflower hikes.
"We are targeting a time when a lot of people are in the canyons as an opportunity to provide education about the wildflowers and spread awareness on the importance of protecting the resource," Walthers said. "We hope that by focusing on the various resorts that people will disperse across the forest and spread the impact. They are all wonderful places to see wildflowers."
Temperatures at the top of the canyons should be 15 to 20 degrees cooler than the valley during the holiday weekend.
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