As its common name (Alpine sagebrush) suggests, artemisia scopulorum
is a high elevation species, not found below 10,000 feet, inhabiting exposed areas above the treeline, where it can be locally widespread. Plants are small, no more than 10 inches tall, and have leaves mostly at the base; they are twice divided into short, narrow lobes. The smaller stem leaves may be entire. Both sides of the leaves are covered by short, silky hairs.
Flowerheads form in mid to late summer in a cluster at the top of the stem, often all angled to one side, and either horizontal or drooping. The involucre is about 0.2 inches in diameter, lined by broad green phyllaries which have relatively wide, dark brown or black margins, and a covering of shaggy hairs. Florets either produce only pistils (numbering 6 to 14), or both stamens and pistils (15 to 30). The corollas become purplish as they mature.