The Gunnison and Crested Butte locals know that September is the best month of the year! The crush of summer crowds starts to ease up. Fall temperatures are perfect with some chilly nights and sunny days in the 50s and 60s. When the aspens start to turn to the golden and orange colors, it’s magnificent set against the backdrop of our giant mountains. Typically, we see less families visiting and more empty nest couples, friend groups, hunters and anglers or younger people with no children or very young children. Whatever your reason for visiting in September, here are some of our favorite things to do!
Drive the West Elk Loop
Check out these websites for loop route and info: HOME (westelkloop.com) and West Elk Loop | Colorado.com. My preference is to drive it from Almont through Gunnison first, then returning over Kebler Pass Road into Crested Butte. The out and back spur up the Crystal Valley is also worthwhile if you have the time. Redstone is my favorite little village! This gorgeous drive offers a glimpse into the Black Canyon, then drops into farm country with plenty of orchards and wineries along the way. My favorite stop is at Big B’s https://www.bigbs.com/ near Paonia. They serve amazing food, you can pick fruit from the orchard, shop at the market and even camp, especially when there is a music event. It is also worthwhile to take the short detour into the downtown area of Paonia. It’s like stepping way back in time!
Fly Fish the Salmon Run
We’re already receiving phone calls from anglers wondering if the salmon are running yet. For full salmon run information, read our blog on this topic: https://3riversresort.com/salmon-run-gunnison-colorado/. It is the largest kokanee salmon run in the state and people flock to the valley in September to land these prehistoric looking fish! We can’t guarantee a strong run but when it happens, you are busy on almost every cast! The cabins at Three Rivers Resort offer access to our private section of the Taylor River where you can actually keep the salmon you land. If you catch them on the Gunnison or East Rivers, you have to put them back.
Take a Fall Raft Trip
It used to be the norm for us to raft through the month of September, as we raft on the Taylor River, which is dam-controlled. However, with recent drought conditions, they have cut the water flows back after Labor Day. Thanks to a strong winter, we will raft this year all the way through September. There is nothing like floating down the Taylor River (the prettiest river in Colorado?) among the golden trees and towering cliffs. Spotting a bear or moose is not out of the question. Three Rivers Outfitting will provide all of the clothing necessary to keep you warm on your river adventure. Book here: https://3riversresort.com/rafting/.
Since the September weather is usually perfect, it’s a great time to take in a fall festival. Crested Butte’s Chili and Beer Festival kicks off in early September and usually sells out fast. Sample a huge variety of… chili and beer! https://cbchamber.com/chili-and-beer-festival/ . At the end of the month, grab your tickets to the fabulous Crested Butte Film Festival: Crested Butte Film Festival (cbfilmfest.org) The peak fall colors provide the dramatic backdrop to this 12-year-old international film festival.
Hike Along Kebler Pass Road
Kebler Pass Road is in its full glory during late September, as the aspens turn gold, red and orange in one of the largest aspen forests in the world. You cannot go wrong hiking anywhere along this road. Favorite hikes for fall colors include Horse Ranch Park/Dyke Trail loop, Three Lakes Loop at Lost Lake, Cliff Creek Trail to the Beckwith Bench and for those tough hikers, do the 13-mile Dark Canyon trail end to end. Find some great hikes here: https://travelcrestedbutte.com/crested-butte-hiking-guide/.
Whatever your September passion is (even if just lounging in the cabin), just get here because it’s the best time of the year! Rent a cabin at Three Rivers Resort for a central location to everything. https://3riversresort.com/lodging/
Jen Bickford has been the General Manager at Three Rivers Resort since 2005 and she is an avid hiker, mountain biker and all-around adventurer.