Attractions and adventures:
Montrose’s main attraction is the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, just 15 miles east of Montrose. The Park is noted for its incredible views of the chasm of the Gunnison River. Here within the Park the Gunnison River drops 34 feet per mile, making it the fifth steepest mountain descent in North America. Comparing the Gunnison to the Colorado River downstream in the Grand Canyon National Park, which drops 7.5 feet per mile, this section of river and deep gorge are spectacular. The Park is a must see for any Western Slope visitor.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park: MAP
Traveling to the south along Highway 550 is the town of Ouray, at an elevation of 7,792 feet. Ouray is often called the Switzerland of America, due to the nature of the deep box ended valley where the town is situated. Founded in 1876 on silver mining in the San Juan Mining District, Ouray is the gem of the northern San Juan Mountains. Antique shops, inviting restaurants, the famous Hot Springs Pool, and a relaxed atmosphere is Ouray’s claim to fame. Summer time Ouray becomes the “Jeep Capital of the World” with back country roads and tours. Winter finds one in the Ouray Ice Park for ice climbing. Open all year, the Historic Hot Springs Pool welcomes visitors on the north end of town and is a must at the end of a long day of adventure.
Ouray, CO: MAP
If your driving the “San Juan Skyway” over the Million Dollar Highway and Red Mountain Pass your next stop is Silverton. Silverton is best known as the final destination of the “Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway.” Nestled in the upper Animas River valley at 9,318 feet, Silverton is famous for being isolated from the outside world in the winter. When Red Mountain Pass closes from a high snow depth and Molas and Coalbank are closed from the south, Silverton sits all alone with out physical contact from the outside world. No wonder, Silverton has become a winter destination for cross country skiing, sledding, ice climbing, extreme downhill skiing, and even ice climbing are some of the winter diversions. Summer brings the back country backpacking in near by Weminuche Wilderness. Wildflowers and skunk cabbage are visible to those on back country jeep, or ATV/OHV expeditions. Other outdoor activities include biking, horseback riding, fishing, camping, hunting and rafting. Don’t forget the cozy eateries and brew pubs after a long day out in the backcountry. Silverton is one of the many hidden gems awaiting the visitor of the San Juan Mountains.
Silverton, CO: MAP
The Animas River or El Rio de las Animas flow from the high mountains above Silverton down to Durango. The rail line has been a constant link between the two communities since 1881. The steam powered train can be heard downtown as it starts the scenic journey north to Silverton. Downtown provides the visitor with multiple options for a shopping adventure, local crafts and unique gifts as well as, local fare are old standards. Known as a mountain biking center for the southern San Juan Mountains, Durango is also famous for it’s gold medal fly fishing, rock climbing, road biking, kayaking, canoeing, and whitewater rafting. Durango can be ones base camp for exploring Mesa Verde National Park.
Durango, CO: MAP
Created in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt, Mesa Verde National Park boasts some the of the best preserved cliff dwellings in the “four corners” region. Covering only 81.4 square miles the Park instills in the visitor the lifestyle and culture of the Anasazi people. Mesa Verde was inhabited between AD 600 to 1300, then suddenly they left the region. By first starting with villages on the tops of the high mesas, and finally developing elaborate dwellings in the cliffs below, the Anasazi are best known for their high quality basketry and pottery. The Spanish term “Mesa Verde” means “green table” in English. Mesa Verde is just one stop on the tour of ancient Indian communities of the region.
Mesa Verde National Park: MAP
In Delores, a visit to the Anasazi Cultural Center is a must see for the visitor. This Center is an archaeological museum for the Anasazi peoples. Located next to the Escalante and Dominguez Pueblos, the center houses some 3 million artifacts from the region. The Cultural Center is also the headquarters for the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. The Monument covers some 164,000 acres with the goal of preserving the ancient archeological sites of the southwestern corner of Colorado. By 2005 some 6,000 individual sites had been identified making this the best preserved densely occupied archeological sites in the United States. Contained in the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is Hovenweep National Monument.
Anaszai Cultural Center: MAP
Hovenweep became a National Monument in 1923 and consists of six village sites located in the southwestern corner of Colorado and the southeastern corner of Utah, between Cortez, Colorado and Blanding, Utah. The early puebloan peoples settled in the area from about AD 200 until the 1300’s. Best known for their stone towers rising to a height of three stories, these ancients exhibited expert masonry skills. From Hovenweep and the Canyons of the Ancients, the visitor has many options, to continue westward into the canyon lands of Utah or northward into the Grand Valley.
Hovenweep National Monument: MAP
The Grand Valley of Colorado home of Grand Junction is the largest population area of the Western Slope. Grand Junction began as an agricultural community at the junction of the Gunnison and Grand Rivers, forming the Colorado River. The upper Colorado River was named the Grand River until 1921, when it was renamed the Colorado River.
The Colorado National Monument is located just south west of the city, and is famous for it’s Rim Rock Drive which winds along the top of the monument exposing the visitor to the vast panoramas of the deep sandstone canyon and the Book Cliffs in the distance. The main attraction of the Park is “Monument Canyon” which contains rock formations such as the “Coke Ovens, Independence Monument and the Kissing Couple.” Colorado National Monument was set aside for preservation in 1911.
Colorado National Monument: MAP