Exploring the Northern-most Byways of Southwest Colorado
Total Number of Days/Nights: 5
Travel historic and scenic byways, marvel at geologic wonders, endless views, engineering feats and a remarkable historic timeline that begins with indigenous tribes and moves onward with early explorers, settlers and pioneers. Visit friendly historic towns where some of time seems to have stood still.
West Elk Loop Scenic Byway
Farms, Wineries and Fresh Produce Stands
Pioneer Town Museum
Crested Butte Registered National Historic Distirct
Unaweep Tabeguache Scenic Byway
Grand Mesa National Scenic & Historic Byway
Day One: Gunnison. Start the adventure on the West Elk Loop by heading into Gunnison on Hwy. 50. The West Elk Loop derives its name from the West Elk Mountains, which the Loop circumnavigates. Major geological upheavals created the rugged landscape and rare natural beauty along the Loop. The Pioneer Museum is a great stop for train enthusiasts.
Day Two: Crested Butte. Head north to Crested Butte, a National Registered Historic Distirct, where in the 1860s, hopeful gold and silver miners found their way north to the valleys and gulches of the upper East River Valley, and where coke-quality coal made mining a mainstay into the 1950s. Remnants of the coke ovens may still be seen on the east edge of Big Mine Park. From there, head over Kebler Pass and into the Anthracite Creek drainage, meeting Highway 133 at the Paonia Dam. The Irwin Cemetery, located on top of the pass, includes the grave of Mary Bambrough, who died in 1881 of scarlet fever at the age of 17. A
poem adorns her grave marker.
Day Three: Paonia. Head south toward the North Fork Valley of Delta County. The journey follows a route once traveled by Spanish explorers Friars Dominguez and Escalante, and travels through an area once home to the Ute Indians. Later, early pioneers recognized the agricultural potential of the valley and set
down roots here. This bounty is still harvested today. The rich agricultural landscapes provide opportunities to experience wine tastings, roadside produce stands, and farm tours providing modern-day agricultural experiences.
Day Four: Grand Mesa. Start in Cedaredge to enjoy the Grand Mesa National Scenic and Historic Byway and some Pioneer Heritage. Take a tour of Pioneer Town and learn more about the lives of settlers. A quick spur trip along Land’s End Road provides access to the Raber Cabins and then on to the Land’s End Observatory. Each site offers interpretation and stunning views of the valley below, including five mountain ranges. The Grand Mesa has over 300 lakes and history that may be enjoyed by all ages. A feud between an English Baron and local fishermen once became an international issue ending in 1904 with U.S. Congress compensating the Baron with $25,000 to settle the matter. Connect to I-70 and go west into Grand Junction.
Day Five: Norwood. Take Hwy 50 south out of Grand Junction and watch for the Unaweep Tabeguache Byway exit in Whitewater then turn west onto Hwy. 141. The Unaweep Tabeguache Byway provides a journey through geological time zones and engineering wonders. The Ute Indians called the canyon “Unaweep,” a Ute word for “canyon with two mouths.” This is the only canyon in the world with a watershed divide in the middle of the canyon. Features along the Byway include Driggs Mansion, Thimble Rock and the Hanging Flume. Remnants of the wooden flume still cling to the canyon walls today.