This West Elk Loop has a little bit of everything, but it is much gentler that sharp rugged beauty of the San Juan Skyway. You will see views of distance mountain ranges, fields of alpine wildflowers, farmland pastures, thick aspen forests, and steep river canyons.
On this 6-8 hours, 204 mile loop you will be traveling through Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests. The main attractions are the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and Curecanti National Recreation Area with includes Morrow Point, Crystal, and Blue Mesa Reservoirs
Colorado in the Fall
This West Elk Loop travels through the small mountain towns of Paonia, Hotchkiss, Crawford, Gunnison, and Crested Butte. It is not uncommon to see a variety of wildlife along the byway. With luck you may see elk, deer, bighorn sheep, coyotes, eagles and even black bears.
The points of interest along the West Elk loop are:
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park The sheer canyon walls rise for over 1,000 feet above the rushing Gunnison River below.
Crawford State Park The park is one mile south of Crawford. Surrounded by beautiful Rocky Mountain, this park offers boating, fishing, camping, bird watching, picnicking, hiking, photography, water skiing & swimming.
Crested Butte, Colorado is 30 miles north of Gunnison This beautiful off the beaten path, ski town was once a coal mining town. It was founded in the late 1800’s, today you can still see many of the original Victorian false front stores.
Curecanti National Recreation Area The Curecanti National Recreation Area is made up of three separate lakes, each separated by the placement of a major dam along the Gunnison River.
Blue Mesa Reservoir This is the largest of the three lakes in the Curecanti National Recreation Area. It is very popular for fishing and boating.
Crystal Reservoir Crystal Lake sets in the narrow, twisting canyon of the Gunnison River. It part of the western edge of the Curecanti National Recreation Area.
Morrow Point This lake is the center of the three lakes in the Curecanti National Recreation Area. A trip into the depths of the lake reflects the Fjord-like charcter of the gorge.
McClure Pass At an elevation of 8,755 feet, this is an easy high mountain pass. It offers magnificent views of the surrounding mountains in the area.
Morrow Point Overlook on Hiwy 92 This a great pull off stop on the north side of the canyon. It has picnic tables and toilets and an incredible view of the Black Canyon and The San Juan Mountains to the south.
San Juan Scenic Overlook on Hiway 92 This scenic overlook offers travelers a magnificent view of the San Juan Mountains to the southwest. The overlook also serves as a trailhead for several area trails.
Paonia State Park This beautiful state park offers waterskiing, boating, camping, picnicking and fishing in the heart of the Gunnison National Forest. The park is 16 miles east of the town of Paonia.
The West Elk Loop skirts the black canyon rims, follows Whitewater Rivers, plunges into deep Pine and Aspen forests and traverses desert and sagebrush plains.
You will enjoy this scenic drive. The West Elk Loop provides a grand insight into the scenery, history and the culture of Western Colorado.