The yellow flowers of grindelia subalpina
have between 18 and 27 thin ray florets, about half an inch long, and a center of yellow disc florets, but the most distinctive aspect are the curly green phyllaries underneath; these occur in 5 to 6 rows, and curve backwards, terminating in a reddish tip, sometimes hooked. They are somewhat sticky. The branched stems are reddish, and bear toothed leaves at alternate intervals. These leaf edge teeth are narrower, longer and more widely spaced than the similar grindelia squarrosa
, and the plant grows at higher elevations. Leaf surfaces have a covering of rough, very short hairs. Stem leaves are clasping.