Living History: Explore the 7 Towns of Colorado’s West End
Dramatic views of Dolores Canyon from the Unaweep-Tabeguache Scenic and Historic Byway (UTB). Photo Credit: Sage Carver.
The West End, a rural and historic region along Colorado’s Western Slope, is a diverse landscape where historic mining structures and ancient pathways can be found amongst hiking trails and beautiful reservoirs. From dinosaurs to ancient native peoples, from miners to contemporary recreationalists, this unique corner of Colorado has always drawn those in search of the road less traveled and other-worldly landscapes.
The towns that dot the West End—Norwood, Naturita, Nucla, Bedrock, Paradox, Redvale, and Gateway—are all connected by a shared history: They were all founded at the turn of the century as mining towns, and today, they are largely connected by the Unaweep-Tabeguache Scenic and Historic Byway. When you venture to the West End, you can expect to find charming towns, unparalleled access to outdoor adventures, and a culture unique to this special corner of Colorado. We’ve put together a guide to help you get to know the towns and places to visit in West End so that you can make the most of your next trip westward.
1. Nucla, Colorado
The town of Nucla, Colorado was borne from the “Panic of 1893”, a nationwide financial crisis that particularly affected miners and their families in the western states. The town, owned by the Colorado Cooperative Company, was governed by a system of cooperation in which kindness and equity were held above all else. Though mining operations have ceased, the town of just a few hundred people still thrives on community and endless opportunities to explore the outdoors.
Things to Do:
Check out the more than 124-mile Paradox Trail that winds along massive cliffs, deep canyons, and boasts stunning views of the arid landscape. You can dip your line into the nearby San Miguel River or head to the Rimrocker Trail for some of the best off-road vehicle adventuring in Colorado.
2. Naturita, Colorado
Naturita, Colorado, situated between the towns of Norwood and Nucla along the banks of the San Miguel River, was founded in 1881 as a ranching and mining community, though the area boasts 150 million years of history. From dinosaurs roaming the lush valleys to the Ancestral Puebloans who made their home in this area from 500 BC through to 1300 AD, and the Ute peoples who called the land their home until the 1880s when they were pushed to a reservation following the arrival of European settlers, this has always been a place of great beauty.
Things to Do:
Today, you can expect to find the Rimrocker Historical Society and Museum, which houses artifacts and historical insight into the rich culture of Naturita and the surrounding area. You can also use this beautiful town as a launching point for your climbing adventure. Head to the 16Z area off of Highway 141 for sport and crack climbing or for some unique bouldering off of Long Park Road.
3. Norwood, Colorado
30 miles west of Telluride sits the town of Norwood, Colorado. Situated at 7,000 feet above sea level on Wright’s Mesa, this beautiful community boasts stunning views of the surrounding peaks and rolling ranchland as far as the eye can see. The town was officially incorporated in 1903, but it had long been a supply stop for cattle herders as they made their way to their summer pastures near Lone Cone Peak.
Things to Do:
Today, outdoor recreationalists of all types flock to Norwood for its Old West charm and outdoor adventure. If you’re into water sports and camping, head to the Miramonte Reservoir for kayaking, paddle-boarding, or fishing on its shores, and plan to spend the night at the Miramonte Reservoir Campground in the Dan Noble State Wildlife Area. You can also hike Lone Cone Peak or go on a whitewater rafting adventure on the San Miguel River.
4. West End Communities
Like the larger towns of the West End, the smaller communities were largely shaped by the mining industry in the early part of the 20th century. One of the best ways to experience this area is to drive the Unaweep-Tabeguache Scenic and Historic Byway. As you drive the Unaweep-Tabeguache Scenic and Historic Byway from north to south through this stunning landscape, you’ll drive through the town of Gateway, along the Uncompahgre Plateau, and through millions of years of geological history. You’ll also pass through Uravan, just after site of the Hanging Flume, a 10-mile long remnant of mining history built from 1889-1891. The towns of Bedrock, Paradox, and Redvale are also home to small communities in the West End and are paradise for those who wish to experience Colorado wilderness at its most peaceful.
For more information about this beautiful corner of Colorado, visit https://www.choosewestend.org/.