While planning your next trip to the Gunnison-Crested Butte area, think about adding a day trip to your vacation plans. Sure, there are a gazillion wonderful things to see and do in this valley, but perhaps you come every year and are looking to mix it up a bit. Here are my top picks for day trips. Some are short while others will take you the entire day.
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
- Lake City
- Crystal Valley to Redstone-Carbondale-Aspen
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Take a scenic one-hour drive to the south rim of the national park. The views are incredible and the experience never disappoints, no matter how many times you visit. Be sure to stop at the Visitor Center and watch the interesting movie about the early exploration of the canyon. Out the back door, a short walk leads to a jaw-dropping overlook. Follow the park’s road map and choose the overlooks to explore. Do not miss the Painted Wall! If you visit in the winter and there is enough snow, the road will be closed to vehicles but it is groomed for cross-country skiing. Rock climbing, fishing and very technical hiking are other activities available in the park. Check out the website for more information: https://www.nps.gov/blca/index.htm
Ouray – pronounced You-Ray, not Ooo-ray!
This scenic little town calls itself the “Switzerland of America” with towering peaks surrounding it in every direction. Ouray is an easy 2-hour drive from Almont and could actually be an extension of your visit to the Black Canyon. The town itself is very cute with ample shopping and restaurants lining the main street. It is also well-known for the hot springs pool facility where you can soak in a variety of temperatures while gazing out at the spectacular scenery. For recreation in every season, it’s all there at your fingertips. Choose an easy, short hike to Lower Cascade Falls right from town or visit the impressive Box Canyon Falls with a small entry fee. For the more adventurous, access difficult day-long hikes or summit a “fourteener.” For a guided tour, contact one of the Jeep tour operators to access the rough roads and amazing scenery. In the winter, the Ouray ice climbing park attracts climbers from near and far. More info: https://www.ouraycolorado.com/
A short one-hour drive south from Almont will lead to Lake City, which features the beautiful clear blue waters of Lake San Cristobal and a town where time stopped years ago. For a full day of adventure for any age, rent a Jeep in town and drive the Alpine Loop scenic byway. This is a rough road with the most incredible high mountain experience you could have aside from mountain climbing on foot. For passenger vehicles, a drive over Slumgullion Pass leads to the old west style town of Creede. On the way, you are likely to spot a moose or two. Lake City is great place for fishing, hiking, climbing multiple “fourteeners” or just doing a quick mine tour and grabbing ice cream in town afterwards. More info: https://www.lakecity.com/
Drive over scenic Cottonwood Pass from Almont and drop down into Buena Vista, turn left and head to Leadville. At an elevation of 10,152’ it is the highest incorporated city in the United States, so be prepared to be winded just walking around town! The city has a colorful past rooted in mining and has hosted some famous residents including Buffalo Bill Cody, Doc Holiday, “The Unsinkable” Molly Brown and the Guggenheim family. Each year the town hosts the Leadville 100 ultramarathon trail run and mountain biking race too. There is no shortage of elite athletes training here. The town offers a variety of cute shops plus a surprising selection of good cuisine. Take a relaxing high mountain train ride on the Leadville Colorado & Southern Railroad. Or climb Colorado’s highest peak, Mt. Elbert, just a short drive from town. The National Mining Hall of Fame is also a great place to learn about all things mining! More info: https://leadville.com/
Crystal River Valley
In the summer/fall months, take Kebler Pass Road out of Crested Butte and enjoy the spectacular scenery all the way to Highway 133. Take a right and head over McClure Pass. You are now dropping into the Crystal River Valley and the drive is gorgeous. Possible stops along the way include Marble, a tiny little town that offers summer BBQ and a rough road to the Crystal Mill, one of the most photographed sites in Colorado. Marble is also home to the quarry that supplied marble for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Continue down the main highway to the charming little town of Redstone. There are some good lunch spots here, a couple of shops, a nice restroom and if you have time, take the tour of the Redstone Castle. You could turn around here or continue for a very full day trip through Carbondale, Aspen, over Independence Pass (amazing!) and then back over Cottonwood Pass down to Almont. Any and all options along this route are sure to please; just pick your distance.
By: Jen Bickford, General Manager at Three Rivers Resort
Use Three Rivers Resort as the basecamp for all of your adventures. Choose from a variety of cabins, homes or RV spaces. Enjoy private fishing on the Taylor River or take a guided raft or fishing trip through the outfitting services. www.3riversresort.com or 970-641-1303