We need your help to maintain the features that make this a special place: its scenery, peace and quiet, wildlife and history. Following a few simple guidelines will ensure that future visitors will enjoy their trip as much as you enjoyed yours.
LAND CONSERVATION ON THE BYWAY
We need the land for good health — places to play and explore, to exercise and let go of stress. We need the land for vibrant communities — gardens, parks, and trails that draw people, where neighbors get together. We need the stories rooted in the land, so we can explore who we are. We need the beauty of the land to inspire us.
— Land Trust Alliance
The West Elk Loop derives its name from the West Elk Mountains, which the Loop circumnavigates. Major geological upheavals created the rugged landscape and rare natural beauty encompassed by the Loop.
The northern tail of the Loop is defined by the Crystal River Valley and the massive sedimentary layers of the Colorado Plateau. Rising dramatically above Carbondale is Mt. Sopris (12,953 ft.), an igneous intrusive formation that rose 70 million years ago and weathered into the formidable mountain peak that rises dramatically above Carbondale and the lower Crystal Valley.
Aspect, elevation and climate determine the great variety of creatures living along the West Elk Loop. The Byway contains numerous micro-climates, temperatures can vary so be prepared with jackets and layers. Carbondale has relatively scant snowfall, while Redstone and Marble are often inundated. Although Paonia is known as the "Banana Belt," nearby Crested Butte and Kebler Pass receive up to 400 inches of snow a year and are lush and verdant in summer.
Evidence of human life followed the retreat of the last glacial Ice Age 10,000 years ago. The Utes, indigenous people of the region, were moved onto reservations by the early 1880s, a result of increasing pressures from white settlement of the area. To find out more detailed information about the Ute people, consider a visit to the Ute Indian Museum in Montrose (phone 970-249-3098).