Columbine country

Colorado's state flower is one highlight of a spring hike
Lora J. Finnegan

Pamela Irwin knows just where to look for Rocky Mountain columbine. Aquilegia caerulea is among her favorite wildflowers for its fairylike, woodland quality. Colorado's state flower, the blue-and-white blooms are not only elegant but also wide ranging, found from the foothills to the high mountains.

This month, columbines are starting to pop up in Front Range foothills; by July you'll find them in the high country. One of Irwin's favorite June hikes is at Reynolds Park (free; click here or phone 303/271-5925), 33 miles southwest of Denver off U.S. 285 at Foxton Road. Combine the Oxen Draw and Raven's Roost Trails to make a moderate 3 1/2-mile loop, including the spur to Eagle's View.

An author and naturalist, Irwin has led wildflower walks across much of Colorado and is revising her definitive guides to wildflower hikes, due out next summer. The research has worn out six pairs of hiking boots, but Irwin says it's worth it. "Wildflowers," she says, "feed the eye and the spirit."

INFO:  Colorado's Best Wildflower Hikes Volume 1: The Front Range (Westcliffe Publishers, 1998; $20) and Volume 2: The High Country (Westcliffe Publishers, 1999; $23), by Pamela Irwin, are available online and in bookstores.