East of Blue Mesa Reservoir, the Gunnison River passes through a narrow canyon, then meanders into an open valley with the City of Gunnison at its center. Hay meadows intermixed with rolling hills of sage and rabbitbrush join the grasslands on the edges of town. These hills connect to pine-forested mountains surrounding the entire Gunnison Basin. Spectacular views of the West Elk and Fossil Ridge Wilderness Areas and the Continental Divide can be seen from town.
Deposits of placer gold and silver lured thousands of hardy miners seeking their fortune to the area in the 1860s through 1880s. The cattle industry prospered with the turn of the 20th Century, and many Gunnison ranches remain in operation today. It isn't unusual to encounter a cattle drive during spring and fall.
You can't drive into Gunnison without noticing the huge “W” on Tenderfoot Mountain, indicating this is the home of Western State Colorado University.
Gunnison attracts sportsmen year around and has an active summer visitor season. Fairs, recreational events, arts festivals, college conferences and community programs fill a busy summer calendar.
Cattlemen's Days Rodeo, one of the oldest rodeos in Colorado, turns Gunnison into a cowboy's dream for one week every July.
Gunnison's two main streets are very wide, and if you're traveling through during winter you might observe “windrows,” a center divider made of snow in the middle of the street. Tomichi Avenue (Highway 50) and Main Street (Highway 135) were constructed to handle “windrows” during the winter months. Gunnison is also known for the Gunnison Valley Observatory, Hartman Rocks Recreation Area and Whitewater Park where the annual celebration of the county’s rivers takes place during the Gunnison River Festival.
The fish hatchery is located along the East River north of Almont. Young salmon and trout can be viewed in the ponds and raceways, and in late October to early November visitors can view the milking and egg fertilization of Kokanee salmon. In spring and summer bird watchers can view a variety of shorebirds and songbirds along the marshy willow bottoms.
The charming western Victorian town of Crested Butte nestles in a wide glaciated valley, surrounded by spectacular peaks. Crested Butte is known for friendly people, great arts, and abundant recreation enjoyed during the snowy winters, wildflower summers and vivid golden autumns.
In the 1860s, hopeful gold and silver miners found their way north to the valleys and gulches of the upper East River Valley. Crested Butte became a prominent supply depot, lumber producer and smelting center for the many mining camps that sprang up.
Crested Butte prospered initially from silver mining, but high quality coking-coal gave it staying power into the 1950’s. Remnants of the coke ovens can still be seen on the east side of Big Mine Park at Third and Belleview, near the skate park and ice rink.
In the early 1960s, Crested Butte was revived as a ski area, establishing recreation and tourism as the new economy. Preserving a rich history and opportunities for outdoor recreation are big priorities, as evidenced by the unpretentious authenticity of Crested Butte’s National Historic District and the miles of trails through acres of protected open space surrounding the town.
Crested Butte is also home to one of Colorado’s Creative Districts. An honor that only a few of the Colorado communities can claim The District was designated because of the dedication of locals to bring art front and center to create an economic benefit for the artists and the community.East of Blue Mesa Reservoir, the Gunnison River passes through a narrow canyon, then meanders into an open valley with the City of Gunnison at its center. Hay meadows intermixed with rolling hills of sage and rabbitbrush join the grasslands on the edges of town. These hills connect to pine-forested mountains surrounding the entire Gunnison Basin. Spectacular views of the West Elk and Fossil Ridge Wilderness Areas and the Continental Divide can be seen from town.
New and old blend in interesting ways: beside the aged coke-ovens at Big Mine Park, a public skateboard park and Frisbee golf course entertain all summer and fall. Hockey rules the free ice rink come winter, alongside a great sledding hill and renowned Nordic Ski Center.
Crested Butte is the Colorado birthplace of mountain biking. The oldest mountain bike event in the world starts from Crested Butte every September - the Pearl Pass Tour to Aspen. The Crested Butte Heritage Museum is located in Tony's Conoco, a restored storefront at Elk Avenue and Fourth Street. Stop by the museum for a brochure and enjoy the self-guided walking tour or sign up for a guided walking tour.
Smartphone users can scan a decal found at historic buildings to begin the walking tour.
Opportunities abound for a wide range of recreational activities along the West Elk Loop Scenic and Historic Byway: hiking, road/mountain/motor biking, horseback riding, camping, fishing, hunting, photography, wildlife and wildflower viewing, golf, tennis, rock climbing, kayaking, rafting, sailing, swimming, windsurfing, pleasure boating, ice fishing, ice skating, ice climbing,
skiing, snowmobiling and don't forget
shopping for antiques and collectibles in
numerous towns and shops along the Byway.