Gunnison: The Hidden Gem of the Rockies
Nestled in the Southwest region of the Rocky Mountains lies the small, vibrant town of Gunnison. The area remains relatively unknown, even to many Colorado natives. However, any mountain enthusiast or outdoor recreationist who takes the time to explore will find Gunnison has much to offer. Uncrowded trails and rivers, miles of National Forest land and a welcoming town center with a rich history await the lucky traveler that stumbles upon this hidden gem. Whether you’re a thrill-seeking outdoor adventurer, or a family looking for a getaway into nature, Gunnison is your ultimate destination for playing outside. Here are five reasons to make Gunnison your next weekend getaway.
1. It’s the perfect place to escape the crowds.
While many mountain towns throughout the west suffer from over-development and touristification, Gunnison has remained authentic and welcoming, making it the best-kept secret of the Rockies. The businesses are locally-run and the people are friendly. The town is cozy and unique, but large enough to provide visitors with everything they may need during their stay. With countless pristine trails to hike or dirt bike, waterways to paddle and rocks to climb, you won’t be fighting crowds to enjoy the outdoors or to get a glimpse of the stunning views Gunnison has to offer.
2. It’s minutes away from Colorado’s largest body of water — Blue Mesa
If you haven’t spent a day at the Blue Mesa soaking up the Colorado sunshine, put it on your bucket list! The Blue Mesa is the dream destination for those who love to stand up paddle board, kayak, float, swim or relax on the shore with a cold drink and some good company. This area is best to explore in July and August, when the days are hot and you can take full advantage of cooling off in the crisp mountain water. Blue Mesa is a quick drive from Gunnison, making it the perfect day trip during your stay.
Make sure you get the most out of the Blue Mesa by renting water gear in town. Line up rentals at Gunnison’s outdoor adventure company, Wheelies and Waves, and choose from a large selection of standup paddle boards, kayaks and innertubes, so you can make the most of the water without the hassle of packing up all your own gear.
3. You can explore Colorado’s largest aspen grove as it transitions into autumn.
Just an hour outside of Gunnison, enjoy the breathtaking views of Kebler Pass as hundreds of old growth aspens transition into brilliant yellows and oranges. Growing from a single root system, this aspen grove is one giant living organism, making it the largest living thing in Colorado, and one of the largest in the world. Plan an afternoon hiking or mountain biking to take in the sights. The colors begin changing in mid-September through October.
4. It’s the perfect basecamp for endless outdoor adventures.
You’ll find plenty of opportunities to hike, climb or paddle in and around the city, but venture out to the surrounding natural areas and you’ll find endless opportunities for all kinds of adventure. Gunnison is perfectly located for day trips to the nearby Gunnison National Forest, Curecanti National Recreation Area and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. These areas are home to a vast network of trails for hiking, mountain biking and dirt biking. Some of the best and most challenging rock climbing in the state can be found in the Black Canyon. These destinations also hold crystal clear water features, perfect for paddling, floating or boating. Don’t know where to start? Stop by the Wheelies and Waves shop in town to get some killer recommendations. They’ll help you find the adventure you’re looking for, whether you’re a thrill or chill-seeker.
5. It’s easy to enjoy the area like a local.
When visiting a hidden gem like Gunnison, it’s helpful to have a local expert in your corner to help you make the most of your time in the valley. Locals Courtney and Braden Burton have created a business around being your guide to Gunnison and sharing their outdoor passions with visitors through their company Wheelies and Waves. You can experience Gunnison like a local, as Wheelies and Waves’ guides show you the best trails to ride or the perfect alpine lake to float.