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Abundant Wildflowers Along Rock Island Trail in Colorado Springs

perennial sweet pea

With frequent rains during the summer of 2009, wildflowers have been popping up all over Colorado Springs. I would not make this city a destination for seeing wildflowers (Crested Butte and the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway have some of Colorado's best display), but I created this page to show the potential for wildflower viewing here if you take the time to search. All I had to do was take a couple of walks and a bike ride along the Rock Island Trail between mid-June and early July and I found several dozen varieties of wildflowers, much to my delight.

The photo below was taken early July on the east end of the path and shows where the original railroad ran through and where people now ride horses with Pikes Peak in view. The paved bike path is down the hill to the left. Wildflowers are scattered along the trail and occasionally appear in showy bunches.

Rock Island Trail horse path - Pikes Peak top right

Rock Island Trail east end - prickly poppies and soapwort The Rock Island Trail is about six miles one-way paralleling Constitution Ave. on the south side. It stretches east-west from Powers to I-25, where it meets up with the north-south Santa Fe Trail. This is one of my favorite bike paths in Colorado Springs (second to the Santa Fe) because it leads through primarily residential areas and fields with gently sloping hills. Plus, you aren't constantly crossing busy roads. Much of it is paved and gravel sections are in good shape except for the 1 1/4 mile stretch at the I-25 end where a mountain bike is needed to traverse the rough railroad gravel. For a couple miles at the Powers end a dirt trail for mountain bikers follows the paved path. Just east of Academy the path intersects a paved trail that heads south for a couple miles, going under some bridges.

I like seeing the few sections of the Rock Island rails that are still in place. The line from Chicago to Colorado Springs was finished in 1888. By 1936 a streamlined passenger fleet called the Rocky Mountain Rocket started flying over its rails. The railroad entered its final bankruptcy in 1980 when the last train rolled through.

Rock Island Rails - east end of path

A short distance east of Murray a sign describing the history of the Rock Island Railroad stands at a nice spot overlooking the south end of the city and some of the front range.

Sign describing Rock Island Railroad history and city overlook

Western Spiderwort and Prickly Pear Cactus

The flowers below are primarily presented in the order in which I found them. I have identified (correctly, I hope) the majority of the flowers below. Just move your cursor over the flower to see if it's been identified. Drummond Milkvetch Tumble Mustard

Copper Mallow

Colorado Guara Sprawling Daisy

Wild Onion

Alfalfa Perennial Sweet Pea

Pygmy Golden Weed

Silver Lupine Yellow Sweet Clover

Prairie Snowball

Perennial Sweet Pea (left) and ?

Western Spiderwort Begonia Dock

Prairie Evening Primrose

Golden Banner (with Yucca spikes) Venus Looking Glass

Canadian Thistle

Yellow Salsify

Alpine Senecio Spanish Bayonet (Yucca)

Nutall Morning Glory Pineywoods Geranium

Row of Soapwort

Wing-fruited Sand Verbena

Bristle Thistle


Prickly Poppy

Prickly Pear Cactus

Crown Vetch Common Mullein - Pikes Peak in background

Many-Flowered Evening Primrose - opens at night

Mexican Hat

Soapwort Prairie Clover

Showy Milkweed - Monarch Butterflies love it

Sunflower - they pop up all over in July

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