Gunnison, Colorado RTA: Free Bus Routes & Accessibility Details

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With its pristine wilderness, breathtaking landscapes, and wealth of recreational activities, Gunnison offers limitless opportunities for adventure and exploration.

TL;DR

  • Gunnison is renowned for its spectacular hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and hunting.
  • Scenic drives like the Alpine Loop and West Elk Loop winding through the mountains surrounding Gunnison provide jaw-dropping vistas.
  • The area has an abundance of wildlife, wildflowers, lakes, waterfalls, and other natural attractions to discover.

Hiking and Backpacking

From relaxing walks to challenging, multi-day backpacking trips, Gunnison has no shortage of trails to satisfy hikers of all abilities. Some of the most popular hikes include:

  • Crested Butte's scenic Gothic Mountain Trail
  • The spectacular views along Curecanti National Recreation Area's Blue Mesa Trail
  • Almont's demanding 13-mile South Beaver Creek Trail leading to a secluded valley
  • Waunita Hot Springs via Gunnison's Lottis Creek Trail

With an extensive network of trails traversing mountain peaks, evergreen forests, and alpine meadows brimming with colorful wildflowers in summer, Gunnison is a hike-lover’s utopia.

Mountain Biking

Gunnison is acclaimed as one of Colorado’s top mountain biking destinations. From single-track trails and dirt roads to downhill runs, riders of all skill levels can test their abilities. Some epic rides include:

  • Challenging Hartman Rocks' terrain near Gunnison
  • The Evolution Bike Park at Crested Butte Mountain Resort
  • The 401 Trail encompassing the mountains surrounding Crested Butte
  • Waunita Hot Springs' downhill ride from Blue Mesa Reservoir

With its high-altitude lung-busting climbs and adrenaline-pumping downhill runs, Gunnison delivers an unforgettable mountain biking experience.

Fishing

From fly fishing in crystal-clear streams to casting from the shores of glistening lakes, Gunnison County has seemingly endless angling opportunities. Some top fishing spots include:

  • The Gold Medal waters of the Gunnison River near Gunnison
  • Trout-filled Blue Mesa Reservoir
  • The Taylor and East Rivers flowing through Crested Butte
  • Almont's secluded Beaver Creek brimming with Brook and Rainbow Trout

Whether fishing for trophy-sized trout or a peaceful afternoon catching panfish, Gunnison guarantees superb fishing tailored to every taste.

Hunting

Teeming with elk, deer, bighorn sheep, and game birds, Gunnison draws hunters eager to bag their next trophy animal. Some prime hunting terrain includes:

  • Curecanti National Recreation Area during rifle season
  • Gunnison National Forest's Raggeds Wilderness
  • The West Elk Mountains surrounding Crested Butte
  • Public land around Lake City rich with elk and mule deer

With its remote wilderness areas and plentiful big game, Gunnison offers a hunter’s paradise.

Scenic Drives

Boasting striking scenery, Gunnison’s roads carve through some of Colorado’s most spectacular landscape. Here are two must-do scenic drives:

Alpine Loop

This 65-mile backcountry route connects Lake City, Ouray, and Silverton, traversing two 12,000-foot mountain passes. Highlights include:

  • Stunning views of the San Juan Mountains
  • The ghost town of Animas Forks
  • Alpine wildflowers and abundant wildlife
  • Historic mining sites and remnants of the Gold Rush

With high-clearance 4WD vehicles recommended, the Alpine Loop is an incredible off-roading and sightseeing adventure.

West Elk Loop

This byway loops 205 miles around the West Elk Mountains, delivering non-stop vistas of Gunnison’s soaring peaks and valleys. Notable attractions include:

  • The sheer cliffs of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison
  • The wildflower-filled meadows of Ohio Pass
  • Towering volcanic formations in the West Elk Mountains
  • Historic Victorian buildings in Crested Butte

Offering a showcase of Gunnison’s diverse landscapes, the West Elk Loop is a must-drive for any sightseer.

Wildlife Viewing

From moose meandering through wetland meadows to bighorn sheep grazing mountainsides, Gunnison provides front-row seats to an abundance of wildlife in their natural habitat. Prime viewing spots include:

  • Tomichi Dome searching for elk, deer, and coyotes
  • Curecanti National Recreation Area's wetlands, home to over 200 bird species
  • Waunita Hot Springs watching for foxes, black bears, and mountain lions
  • Almont looking for moose and Rocky Mountain goats

With plentiful mammals, birds, and other creatures to spot, Gunnison delivers a wildlife spectacle.

Lakes and Waterfalls

Dotting Gunnison’s soaring peaks and valleys are crystalline lakes and thundering waterfalls waiting to be explored. Some stunning sites include:

  • The shimmering Blue Mesa Reservoir with 96 miles of shoreline
  • Cascade Falls pouring over ancient lava rock cliffs
  • Scenic Lake Irwin surrounded by wildflower meadows
  • High-altitude Crystal Lake reflecting the West Elk Mountains

Whether boating, fishing, or picnicking beside these aquatic wonders, Gunnison’s waterways offer both beauty and recreation.

Wildflowers and Fall Foliage

Each summer, vibrant wildflower meadows burst into bloom, blanketing Gunnison’s mountain basins and valleys in color. Popular spots to view these floral displays include:

  • Crested Butte Wildflower Festival every July
  • Waunita Hot Springs' lupine and mountain bluebells
  • Curecanti's columbine, larkspur, and paintbrush blooms
  • Almont's fields of fiery Indian paintbrush

Come fall, the Aspens flaunt their golden foliage while other trees glow red and orange. Top leaf-peeping locales include:

  • Taylor Canyon's blazing Aspen groves
  • The West Elk Loop byway's fall tapestry
  • Ohio Pass' hillsides ablaze in Autumn hues
  • Hartman Rocks' vibrant mixed foliage

Boasting wild blooms and dazzling fall colors, Gunnison delivers stunning floral scenery.

Historical and Cultural Attractions

Beyond its wealth of outdoor attractions, Gunnison also offers an intriguing glimpse into the region’s cultural heritage. From Native American sites to Old West towns, notable historical attractions include:

  • Ute Indian Museum chronicling Gunnison's indigenous people
  • Pioneer Museum displaying settler and mining artifacts
  • Lake City's Victorian-era buildings from the Silver Boom era
  • Crested Butte's historic log cabins and clapboard buildings

Gunnison also hosts annual cultural festivals like Crested Butte’s Alley Fest and Lake City’s Burro Days celebrating the area’s traditions. Through its sites and events, Gunnison brings its past to life.

Seasonal Attractions and Events

Gunnison delivers year-round adventures catering to each season. Top attractions include:

Spring

  • Whitewater rafting on the Gunnison River's surging spring snowmelt
  • Wildflower viewing on Blue Mesa Lupine Trail
  • Fishing for spawning Rainbow Trout and Brown Trout

Summer

  • Hiking and biking with over 300 miles of trails
  • Kayaking and stand up paddleboarding Blue Mesa Reservoir
  • Family camping and boating at Nathrop's Elk Creek Marina

Fall

  • Hunting for elk and deer during rifle season
  • Off-roading the golden Aspen-lined Alpine Loop
  • Apple picking at Talbott's Mountain Gold Orchard

Winter

  • Downhill and cross-country skiing at Crested Butte Mountain
  • Ice fishing, skating, and hockey on Blue Mesa's frozen surface
  • Snowmobiling and dog sledding through the powdery backcountry

With activities constantly evolving with the seasons, Gunnison promises year-round fun.

Dining

After a day exploring Gunnison’s wilderness and historic towns, visitors can refuel at an array of dining establishments. Options range from casual cafes to fine dining rooms, each spotlighting fresh, seasonal ingredients. Recommended spots include:

  • Brick Oven Pizzeria's handcrafted pies baked in a wood-fired oven
  • Sage Creperie's sweet and savory French crepes
  • The Alpineer Restaurant's upscale Colorado cuisine with mountain views
  • Uley's Cabin grilling juicy burgers and steaks fireside

From cozy cafes to hilltop fine dining, Gunnison’s eateries offer tasty meals celebrating Colorado’s culinary bounty.

Lodging

Gunnison provides a spectrum of accommodation options to suit each traveler, from luxurious mountain lodges to family-friendly cabins. Top picks include:

  • Dunton Hot Springs' opulent all-inclusive resort and natural hot springs
  • Crested Butte Mountain Resort's ski-in/ski-out condominiums
  • Elk Mountain Lodge's scenic log cabins near Crested Butte
  • Lake Fork Ranch's dude ranch offering horseback riding and fishing

Whether seeking luxury, convenience, or a family-tailored stay, Gunnison’s lodgings deliver memorable Rocky Mountain hospitality.

Travel Tips

To make the most of your Gunnison escape, keep these travel tips in mind:

  • The best time to visit is June to September for summer sports and mild weather.
  • Rent an AWD vehicle for accessing unpaved mountain roads and trails.
  • Allow ample drive time when traveling as mountain routes have high elevation, steep grades, and sharp switchbacks.
  • Prepare clothing for unpredictable mountain weather including options for sun, wind, rain, and snow.
  • Reserve accommodations and restaurant seating well in advance during peak visiting periods.

Nearby Attractions

While Gunnison itself offers endless attractions, visitors can also explore incredible sites and terrain within day-trip distance. Nearby highlights include:

  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park's sheer canyon walls and scenic South Rim Road
  • Historic Leadville and its mines, Victorian homes, and Matchless Mine tour
  • Cinnamon Pass crossing a 12,700-foot summit with panoramic views
  • Monarch Pass summit with hiking trails passing abandoned mines and mountain peaks
  • Colorado National Monument's red rock canyons and towering monoliths

With incredible nature and history surrounding Gunnison, visitors can easily fill their itinerary discovering the area’s endless highlights and attractions through outdoor recreation, sightseeing, dining and cultural offerings. Whether planning a relaxed weekend escape or an extended Rocky Mountain adventure, Gunnison promises limitless opportunities to embrace Colorado’s breathtaking landscapes and pioneer spirit.

FAQ

Here are answers to some common questions about visiting Gunnison:

What is there to do in Gunnison during winter?

Popular winter activities include downhill and cross country skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing, snowmobiling, and dog sledding. Many hot springs resorts are also open year-round.

What is the best way to get to Gunnison?

Gunnison is accessible by car or shuttle bus from airports in Montrose (1 hour drive) and Denver (4 hour drive). Rental cars and shuttles are available at both airports.

Where are the closest major airports to Gunnison?

Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport services commercial flights but has limited routes. The nearest major airports are Montrose Regional Airport and Denver International Airport.

What cell phone providers have the best coverage in Gunnison?

Verizon tends to have the most reliable service in Gunnison’s mountainous regions. AT&T also has decent coverage while other providers can be spotty.

What should I pack for a summer trip to Gunnison?

Recommended clothing and gear for summer includes hiking shoes, lightweight layers, sun protection (hat, sunglasses, lotion), swimsuit, hydration pack, and bear spray for hiking. Be prepared for varied mountain weather by packing light jackets and rain gear.

Where can I find more information to help plan my Gunnison trip?

Visit the Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association website for detailed visitor guides, maps, event listings, and trip-planning resources tailored to the area and your specific interests.

James-Ranson

About the author

James Ranson

I’m an editor, traveler, and fan of the great outdoors. I’ve been to all 48 continental US states, and my drives through Colorado’s rugged peaks and snowy forests (not to mention whiskey tastings in Denver!) still stand out in my memories. I’m excited to use my ten years of editing experience to develop engaging and informative guides and articles that enhance the outdoor experiences of both Colorado residents and visitors. Whether a piece is about exploring the best ski resorts, uncovering scenic trails for hiking, or finding the most inspiring drives through the Colorado Rockies, my aim is to provide comprehensive and accessible content that encourages adventure and exploration.