Gunnison has the shared distinction (these things are always debatable) of being one of the coldest places in the US during winter thanks to its location at the bottom of several valleys in the heart of the Rocky Mountains (the record low recorded there was a frosty −60 °F). For most visitors, Gunnison comes as a package with nearby Crested Butte, so much so that the towns have joined forces to form the Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association. We’ve put together a fun two day guide for a weekend of outdoor activities, stargazing, and dining in Gunnison, Colorado.
Day 1 – Mountain Bike Time
Get up and out early to explore the region’s 750 miles of mountain biking trails. For advice on what trails might be best for you and to get a coffee and breakfast before you head out, look no further than Double Shot Cyclery. The bike shop/coffee shop has everything from breakfast burritos to Kolach.
After a late lunch— Pie Zan’s or Mikey’s for pizza, Sherpa Cafe for something a little spicier, or Twisted Fork for ‘Asian-influenced American’—head to the abandoned mining town of Gothic, via Crested Butte, to visit the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL). The once abandoned town has welcomed, seasonally at least, thousands of students and scientists since it was founded in 1928, and today offers various events and talks throughout the summer on topics as varied as “Marmot Behavior” and “Mustard in Mountain Meadows”. In July, the RMBL hosts the annual Gothic to Crested Butte 1/3rd Marathon. The town’s visitor center also offers one-hour walking tours to learn exactly what it is they do at the RMBL.
Get to Crested Butte by taking what the Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association has dubbed the “best free public transportation system in the world”. The Gunnison Valley RTA runs between Crested Butte and Gunnison more than 13 times a day during the winter and summer and at least seven times a day during the rest of the year.
Day 2 – The Wild West
Curecanti National Recreation Area is a series of three reservoirs along the Gunnison River and is a short drive from town (30 miles or so west, depending on exactly which part of the recreation area you want to go to). Blue Mesa Reservoir (Colorado’s largest body of water), Morrow Point Reservoir, and Crystal Reservoir make up this stunning landscape.
As for what to do, there are a plethora of options. Take a boat – powered or otherwise – out on the water or, if you prefer, you can be dragged behind a boat at high speed on skis or even an inner tube. Among the more sedate options on offer are fishing, hiking, and parasailing, but easily the most relaxing option is the Morrow Point Boat Tour. The 90-minute, ranger-guided ride on a 42-passenger pontoon is a great way to see the upper Black Canyon of the Gunnison up close.
Several hours clambering in and out of a boat (or holding on to an inner tube for dear life) will quickly build up an appetite. Pappy’s overlooks the water off Elk Creek Marina and serves classic Americana, namely burgers, sandwiches, wings, and nachos. Pappy’s is seasonal (May through mid-September) and even during the season, it is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
If you do head back to town, consider popping in to the Gunnison Valley Observatory for some stargazing. It is open for public viewing every Friday and Saturday evening from the second weekend in June through the second weekend in September and opens at sunset. While admission is by donation, it is available for private viewing parties for a fee.
Gunnison is the sixth host town for the 32nd installment of Ride the Rockies, the seven-day, 450-mile endurance ride across Colorado, June 10-17, 2017. Click here to explore Salida, the seventh and final Ride the Rockies host town!