Wildflower Wonderland

Colorado,San Juan Mountains,Sultan Mountain,rainbow
Sultan's Rainbow : Prints Available

Sultan Mountain at the end of the rainbow.

Colorado,San Juan Mountains,wildflowers, paintbrush
Paintbrush Morning : Prints Available

A large field of Indian Paintbrush wildflowers on a stormy July morning.

Earlier this week Claudia and I backpacked for 5 days in the mountains west of Silverton, Colorado, following an improvised route that took us through numerous high alpine basins filled with endless fields of wildflowers. With a weather forecast calling for lots of rain, we almost decided against this trip – but then I considered that bad weather usually equals good photos, so at the last minute we decided to go for it anyways. Although we did have our fair share of rain, we also witnessed some of the most spectacular scenes of the summer so far!

See lots more photos below!

Colorado,San Juan Mountains, Grand Turk, reflection
Grand Turk Reflection : Prints Available

Grand Turk reflects in a small alpine pond.

After dropping our truck off at a distant trailhead, I walked and hitchhiked six miles to our starting point near Sultan Mountain. We crossed the river, hiked up an unmarked trail, and arrived at our first camp just as the first raindrops started falling. In the evening we were stoked to watch a brilliant double rainbow form overhead. You bet I was glad we went backpacking after all!

Colorado,San Juan Mountains,tent

The second day involved a fairly grueling but highly scenic 12 mile hike joining the Colorado Trail for a while then crossing over a high pass towards Engineer Mountain – the latter half of the hike in pouring rain.

Colorado,Engineer Mountain,San Juan Mountains,wildflowers, panorama, sunrise
Paintbrush Sunrise Panorama : Prints Available

The sun rises upon a glorious field of Indian Paintbrush wildflowers – July. Click the photo to see a much larger view!

The wildflowers were the best I’ve ever seen, thick fields coloring the mountainsides in pastel shades from afar, and brilliant kaleidoscopes of colors up close. Pure eye candy everywhere! The profusion of wildflowers this summer is likely due to a healthy winter snowpack that lingered around until late June, as well as a fairly wet and not-super-hot June. Wildflowers like water!

Colorado,Engineer Mountain,San Juan Mountains
Engineer Ridge : Prints Available

Looking down the shattered ridge of Engineer Mountain.

Colorado,Engineer Mountain,San Juan Mountains, rock glacier
Rock Glacier Pano : Prints Available

A large rock glacier below Engineer Mountain.

Colorado,San Juan Mountains,wildflowers
Paintbrush Forest : Prints Available

Vast field of Indian Paintbrush wildflowers.

Colorado,Grizzly Peak,San Juan Mountains,wildflowers, sunset
Fiery San Juan Sunset : Prints Available

A fiery sunset over Grizzly Peak – July.

We spent two nights in this fantastic spot, and on the second night after a wet and stormy day spent mostly in the tent, we were treated to an insanely awesome sunset.

Colorado,Grizzly Peak,San Juan Mountains
Grizzly Morning Reflection : Prints Available

Grizzly Peak (13738 ft) on a calm July morning.

Next we continued on towards Rolling Mountain for an evening with a view of the rugged and remote Grizzly Peak.

Colorado,San Juan Mountains, aspen, carving
Aspenglyph : Prints Available

Artistic carving on an aspen tree.

Though we didn’t see a whole lot of that Colorado sun on this trek, it couldn’t have been any more beautiful.

14 thoughts on “Wildflower Wonderland

  1. Beautiful pics as always We were in Ouray last weekend and jeeped Brooklyn/Skyline drive and Yankee Boy. No time for more 🙁 Wildflowers were incredible!

  2. The write-up and pictures simply outstanding Jack. As much as I enjoy the 4th in Ouray I think next year I’ll postpone until August to catch some of this scenery. Nice job!

  3. Jack,

    Wow, just wow. The Indian Paintbrush pano is U N B E L I E V A B L E. I’m glad you put the forecast aside and decided to head out. This is some of the best stuff of yours I’ve seen.

  4. Jack, that Paintbrush pano is simply STUNNING! I think it’s one of your best ever, the shapes, lines, colors and that sun come together PERFECTLY. What an awesome job, so unique.

  5. Wow, Jack. Fantastic. The print of the pano shot is going to be outrageous. And I’ve to to say it. Double rainbow all the way!

    Question: what is your preferred method of keeping your camera kit dry when you backpack in the rain? Also: do you have a preferred remote shutter release for the A7R? Picking the A7R up right now…again. Beautiful shots…damn fine job.


    1. Thanks Jack! Yeah I’d love to print that wildflower shot at billboard size…

      As for keeping the camera dry, I have it all organized in an F-Stop ICU. When I’m out and about photographing in wet conditions, I carry the ICU wrapped in my backpack’s rain cover. That way I can put the case down in wet grass, in the rain, etc. I don’t really have a system dialed in for when it’s actually raining when I’m shooting; during the rainbow shot for example it was very difficult to keep the lens dry and my wife Claudia was helpful by holding a rain jacket over my camera. It would be really nice to have a little backpacking umbrella for this reason. I’ve tried camera sheaths that strap on to the lens and cover the camera with rear access, but those are too much of a PITA to be practical. Probably an umbrella system would be best, perhaps with a cheap shower cap to keep the camera dry when not actually shooting.

      I’m still trying to find a good remote shutter release for the Sony.

  6. Great stuff, Jack! I did an overnight a few years ago up by Jura Knob and Rolling Mountain, and it’s an amazingly beautiful area, though I didn’t have anything like your flowers. I’m a little surprised that country doesn’t get photographed more, though the explanation is probably that you actually have to walk a bit to get there, and those willing to get out of their cars all head to Ice Lakes.

    1. Thanks Jackson! I think your reasoning is spot on. While this area is exceptionally beautiful, it doesn’t have the obvious star attractions like Ice Lakes, nor any 14ers to climb, so it stays off the radar. Although, Engineer Mountain is popular, and the Colorado Trail is annoyingly populated with large groups of hikers as well. Aside from those spots it’s just empty wild country!

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