Visiting Gunnison

View of Gunnison from Hartman Rocks – Josh Lambert

Gunnison– It is believed the Ute Indians summered in the Gunnison area in the 1500s. The first few non-Native American individuals arrived in the early 1840s in search of good trapping and mining, though none set up permanent settlements. In 1853, the U.S. Army Topographical Engineers led by Captain John Gunnison arrived looking for a suitable path for the transcontinental railroad route. The settlers came in the 1870s drawn by the promise of success through mining gold, silver and other metals. While the ore deposits for precious metals did not pan out, the nearby land proved good for ranching and on May 22, 1877, the City of Gunnison became the official seat of the county and the center for local commerce. The railroad arrived in Gunnison in 1880 allowing for further growth of the region.

Gunnison, CO – Josh Lambert

To learn more about the history of Gunnison and its historic buildings, please pick up a copy of the “Walking Tour of Historic Gunnison” brochure provided by the City Of Gunnison at the Gunnison Visitor Center located at 500 E. Tomichi Avenue.

Gunnison Pioneer Museum – Flor Lutin

Gunnison Pioneer Museum In the 1930s the Pioneer Society formalized and incorporated as a non-profit organization, and in 1964 they opened the doors to the Gunnison Pioneer Museum. On display at the 5-acre museum is an extensive collection of memorabilia and artifacts from throughout Gunnison County, the No. 268 Denver and Rio Grande Railroad Engine and a collection of 14 historic buildings including Gunnison’s first post office from 1876, a school house built in 1905 and a depot from the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. It also includes the Mallett Antique Car Collection, one of the largest historic vehicle collections in Colorado with 72 vehicles.

Blue Mesa – Josh Lambert

Blue Mesa Reservoir This reservoir is the largest body of water in the state of Colorado at more than 20 miles long and with approximately 91 miles of shoreline. The reservoir formed when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamationfinished the Blue Mesa Dam in 1965. The reservoir provides water for irrigation, municipal and industrial uses. The dam is one of three, including the Morrow Point Dam and the Crystal Dam that make up the Wayne N. Aspinall Unit in the Colorado River Storage Project approved by Congress in 1956. The water from the project feeds into the Gunnison Tunnel completed in 1909; today it is recognized as a National Civil Engineering Landmark.

Prior to the construction of the dams, the land under the reservoir was used first by Native Americans as far back as 10,000 years ago. In the 1880s, new settlers used the land for agricultural purposes. The reservoir covered the area where the towns of Iola and Sapinero once stood and where the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad operated its trains regularly through the area from 1882 until 1949, with the last train coming through in 1954. When the water in the reservoir is very low, a few of the foundations from Iola can still be seen and the water covers over 79 man-made structures.

Blue Mesa Damn– Flor Lutin

The National Park Service offers tours by boat through Morrow Point, the eastern end of the Black Canyon of the

Gunnison National Park The Visitor Center is open from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., its winter hours are Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Black Canyon of Gunnison The Spanish were the first Europeans to canvas western Colorado with two expeditions, one led by Juan Rivera in 1765, and the other by Fathers Dominguez and Escalante in 1776. Today, you can walk in the footsteps of some of these hardy and inquisitive forbearers. The canyon continues to offer a rugged and demanding experience as it did more than a hundred years ago.


W Mountain in Gunnison

“W” on Tenderfoot Mountain Western Colorado University’s “W” is the largest collegiate symbol in the world at 320 feet by 420 feet. In 1923, students and faculty carried hundreds of heavy flat rocks from the side of Tenderfoot Mountain. The rocks are whitewashed annually and each year at Homecoming, the “W” is set aflame (the “Lighting of the W”,) creating an incredible sight from Gunnison Valley floor.

Parlin– Named for John T. Parlin who started a dairy farm and stage stop there in 1877, becoming a busy spot as prospectors and settlers streamed into the area. In 1881, the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad (D&RG) arrived at the town, making an agreement that Mr. Parlin would trade them land for right of way; in exchange, D&RG would build a depot and make a five-minute stop each time the train came through. In 1882, the Denver South Park and Pacific Railroad also reached Parlin from the Quartz Creek Valley. With the D&RG pulling the station in 1891 and the Silver Crash of 1893, most of the business in town dried up. The general store and post office remained in business for the local ranchers.


Ohio City, Colorado – Photo by Allan Ivy

Ohio City– The area surrounding Ohio City had been explored by prospectors as early as the 1850s. In 1880 miners set up the town of Eagle City; however, they soon changed the name to Ohio City, after Ohio Creek, which was soon changed to Gold Creek. The town grew quickly to boast a population of 300 people where numerous gold and silver mines and four mills up the Gold Creek Valley kept the town in business for many years. Many of their remnants still stand. After the Silver Panic of 1893, production switched to primarily gold. By 1910, many of the mines closed and production had completely ended by the early 1940s. Today the school house, jail, town hall, general store, and a few cabins still stand.


Pitkin, Colorado – Photo by Allan Ivy

Pitkin– The oldest incorporated city on the Western Slope of Colorado is Pitkin. Prospectors first came to the area in 1878 and named their camp Quartzville. The town incorporated on August 11, 1879, and changed its name to Pitkin to honor Colorado Governor Fredrick Pitkin. Settlers chose the area for its mineral deposits of gold, silver, copper, lead and iron, and numerous mines boosted the economy. In 1882, over 300 houses stood in the town and 60 businesses were open with more than 1,000 people living in the hills surrounding town. However by 1883, the promise of the mines had already played out and the population dwindled to half that of 1882. Silver mining brought spikes to the population in the early 1890s and again in the early 1900s. The fish hatchery and the timber industry helped keep Pitkin populated in the 1920s and 30s. Today the town has around 80 full-time residents, and the population swells to 300 in the summer months.

Tin Cup, CO – Josh Lambert

Tincup– The mining boom had already played out by 1882, but enough mineral wealth remained for individuals to make a living mining there through the early 1900s. Tincup once had a bustling downtown, about a block-and- a-half long, with storefronts, hotels and restaurants on either side of Washington Avenue. However a fire in 1906 destroyed the south side of the street, and a fire in 1913 flattened the north side. Only a few buildings on either end of Main Street survived. The 1930s brought new part- time residents to the area and many buildings from the mining area were razed with new cabins built in their place. Frenchy’s Restaurant is named after the saloon that operated in Tincup from 1879 to 1913 by A.N. “Frenchy” Perrault. The General Store Building was probably moved to its current site from Hillerton in 1904, where it served as a land office and the current business as a general store began in 1976.

Taylor Reservoir – Josh Lambert

Taylor Park– Named for James Taylor who came into the area while prospecting for gold in 1859. Purportedly, a member of his party dipped his tin drinking cup into a stream and found gold in 1860. The party named the area Tincup, and the river and the park were given Taylor’s name. The lack of huge promise for gold and the Civil War kept many early prospectors at bay. The first great strike in the area was made at the Gold Cup Mine in 1878, and the area became flooded with prospectors in 1879. The people who came renamed the Tincup Camp, Virginia City. For the first few years, this renaming led to a great deal of confusion until in 1882, when the local citizens voted to keep the name Tincup

Taylor Dam– In 1933, the Bureau of Reclamation approved the plan presented by Western Slope Congressman Ed Taylor to install a dam at the site. Between 1935 and 1937, more than 300 men worked to construct the dam, which has a structural height of 206 feet. The dam is part of the Uncompahgre Project and keeps the water on the Western Slope for irrigation. Taylor Reservoir covers 2,030 acres of land.

Almont– This small town sits at the junction where the Taylor River and the East River meet, forming the Gunnison River. Originally the settlement was known as Fishers after Sam Fisher who began operating a toll bridge and toll road to Jack’s Cabin at the spot in 1879. The bridge provided access to prospectors and freight haulers traveling back and forth from the northern mines to Gunnison. The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad arrived in 1881, putting an end to the toll road. Fisher began breeding horses. In 1881 he renamed the town Almont after a famous horse, known as the leading Hambletonian stallion of the time. In 1893, the property was sold to Vernon Davis, the man responsible for transforming the ranch and way stop into a resort. Davis built cabins and a hotel named the Marston. In 1912, the Almont Sportsman Association purchased the resort and then sold it in 1918 to Mr. and Mrs. John Brittian, who operated it until 1945. The Brittians began hosting fish fries in 1927, an annual event that people came to in the thousands. The largest one was the last; it was held in 1940, and the Republican candidate for president, Wendell Wilkie, spoke in front of more than 10,000 guests.

For more information visit:


Crested Butte Heritage Driving Tour

Crested Butte, CO – Josh Lambert

The Town of Crested Butte The Ute Indians summered in the Crested Butte area for hundreds of years before the first settlers of European descent arrived looking for precious metals as early as 1874. The town incorporated in 1880 and quickly grew as a supply center for the mining camps. The mother lode of gold or silver never materialized, but the town survived due to the large concentration of high quality bituminous coal in the area. The Colorado Fuel and Iron Company (CF&I) and a few smaller companies developed coal mines and coke ovens. By 1882, Crested Butte produced much of the state’s coal supply. The English, American and northern European settlers and miners arrived first followed by the Croatians, Italians and Slavs in the early 1900s. The CF&I operated its mine until 1952. Many buildings from the late 1800s and early 1900s still stand. Crested Butte was designated a Registered National Historic District in 1972 and received the Dozen Distinctive Destination Award in 2008 from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum– Flor Lutin

The Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum / Mountain Bike Hall of Fame
This building began operating as a hardware store in 1883. It was the town’s first gas station. A.J. “Tony” Mihelich operated the store from 1939 until his death in 1996. Martha Sporcich, Tony’s stepdaughter, and her family helped him with the store for over 35 years. This building is now the home of the Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum and the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame. For more information about Crested Butte’s historic buildings please visit the Heritage Museum where you can obtain a free copy of a historic walking tour. Staff offers a free weekly guided walking tour.

The Museum is open from mid-November through mid-April from noon to 6 p.m. and from Memorial Day Weekend through the end of September from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. There is an admission to visit the Museum’s exhibits.

Crested Butte Cemetery– Flor Lutin

Crested Butte Cemetery – Approximately 1⁄4 mile north of the Town of Crested Butte on the east side of highway 135. The cemetery is located in a spectacular setting with the rugged beauty of Mt. Crested Butte as a backdrop. The cemetery is a great place to get a sense of the history of the area and many graves are those of miners from the early days of Crested Butte.


The Anthracites & Ohio Pass – Photo by Allan Ivy

Ohio Pass – This pass served as one of the earliest roads in the county allowing access from Ruby and Irwin to Gunnison. The Denver South Park and Pacific Railroad planned on running their line to Kebler Pass by way of Ohio Pass, however never got beyond laying the railroad bed before pulling out of the project in 1882. Union Pacific briefly took over the project in 1893, but never completed the job either. The road remained in poor condition for many years. In 1954, the Crested Butte branch of Gunnison County road crew, under the direction of Anton Danni, started to make “an all vehicle road” from Kebler Pass to Ohio Creek Road. The county undertook this project with the expectation that they would have a good deal of traffic, with sightseers making the loop from Gunnison to Irwin Lake to Crested Butte.


Irwin, Colorado Cemetary

Irwin Cemetery – Located just east of the crest of Kebler Pass on County Road 12 about ten miles west of Crested Butte. Ruby and Irwin were silver mining camps established in 1879, located about a half mile apart, a mile northeast of the cemetery. While the cemetery historical marker indicates both communities died in 1885 with the silver bust, the Irwin Post Office remained open until June 1900 so burials after 1885 are probable. The cemetery has enjoyed a “revival” since 1970.
Kebler Pass In July 1904, the state of Colorado took over the maintenance of Kebler Pass road; previously, it was a private road. The road provided a good connection to the coal mining community of Somerset. Somerset had become the largest coal producer in the state by 1903 when the Denver Rio Grande Railroad reached it. Kebler Pass is named for Julian Kebler, who worked as a chief lieutenant for the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. The old road bed is marked by a stone bed which sits above the current Kebler Pass Road. The road today follows the route which the railroad traveled at a four percent grade. This bed is now used as a bike trail.

For more information visit:



Lake City– Flor Lutin

Lake City– The Town of Lake City boasts more than 200 historic structures that preserve the memories of times gone by. Houses, outbuildings, churches, commercial blocks, public buildings, 1930s to early-50s motor court cabins – each has a story to tell and a place to claim in the history of this community. Whether you tour the district with a knowledgeable Historical Society guide or see what you can see with a self- guide pamphlet in hand, the past awaits from rustic cabin to Victorian mansion, from Hell’s Acres bawdy- house to eminent courthouse, from lofty opera house to even the lowliest outhouse.

The Lake City Historic District consists of a portion of the 1875 town plat and several circa 1880 residential additions. It was designated as a National Register Historic District in 1978, honoring Lake City’s role in the development of the American West. To protect the Lake City Historic District, the town adopted its Historic Preservation Ordinance and Design Guidelines in 1984. The Town Board of Trustees published the design Guidelines in handbook form in early 2001.

The Historic District contains commercial and residential buildings of various sizes and styles. Many commercial structures were built of wood, with front-facing gable and false-front façade. There are also a few masonry buildings located on the Hough, Bank and Finley “blocks.” Residences include chinked-log pioneer cabins, simple miners’ cottages, and the Queen Anne style homes of merchants and mine owners. Most homes have front porches and decorative features. Tall cottonwoods planted by early Lake City citizens are carefully tended today. Fences, boardwalks and outbuildings are also features of the district.

Historic Commercial Buildings
The commercial buildings of the National Historic District, located mainly on Silver Street and Gunnison Avenue between Second and Fourth Streets, were historically the center of retail, civic, and social activity. Early settlers built stores with false-fronts that mimicked the blocky multi- story look of commercial downtowns in the east. Some of the buildings were built of stone, brick, and cast iron. Many of these buildings in Lake City are still used by businesses and organizations today.

Lake City’s Historical Churches
Four historic churches are in active use in the National Historic District. The First Baptist Church, St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, the Community Presbyterian Church and the diminutive St. James Episcopal Church are well-maintained structures whose congregations welcome visitors.

St. James Episcopal Chapel on 5th Street in Lake City started out as a carpenter’s shop and was later used briefly as a public school building, before being purchased by local Episcopalians in December, 1876. The chapel still uses a rare Estey organ, with “Philharmonic” reeds, which was purchased in 1910.

A Lake City Baptist organization was first formed in 1883, but it wasn’t until early 1890’s that the local congregation succeeded in building their own church. A stylish Queen Anne-style frame church was completed by the Baptists on Bluff Street at the head of 4th Street in 1891. The church was unusual in Lake City in that it was the first, and for many years only, local sanctuary with leaded stain glass memorial windows.

St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, the oldest Catholic church on Colorado’s Western Slope, started with an organizational meeting hosted by Father Hays of Del Norte, Colorado, in Lake City on September 2, 1877. Funds were raised that fall and winter for a 30’x60’ Gothic-style building which was formally dedicated on January 6, 1878. The church steeple was added to the building in the 1890’s.

Pioneer Western Colorado missionary George M. Darley assisted in constructing the Community Presbyterian Church of Lake City. Formally dedicated in November, 1876, it was the first church completed on the Western Slope of Colorado. Total cost of the structure, which included adobe bricks for insulation within the frame walls, was $1,700. One of the structure’s most notable features is its steeple which was added onto the front of the original church building in 1882.

Silver Thread/Alpine Loop – Josh Lambert

Silver Thread Scenic Byway

Like many attractions in the San Juans, the Silver Thread Scenic Byway finds its roots in the rich mining days of the late 19th century. Industrialists and merchants became road builders and widened the narrow footpaths of the Ute Indians, turning the paths into toll roads for transporting ore, supplies, and people to the remote San Juans. Eventually, the railroad came to Hinsdale County, making travel faster and more efficient. By the 1920s, more and more travelers were using automobiles, creating the need for better roads. Highway 149 remained a dirt road until 1968, when paving began between Lake City and Creede. The last stretch was paved in the Santa Maria Reservoir area in 1983. In 1990, portions of Highway 149 were designated as a historic byway.

For more information visit:


Gunnison County Recreation Map

Information & Gunnison County Recreation Map provided by Vince Scola Designs.

1. Neversink Trail – Easy

Great park and hike. The trail runs along the north shore of the Gunnison River. This is a flat trail with plenty of flowers, fishing and bird watching. Located in Curecanti.

2. Dillon Pinnacles – Easy

Wondrous views of Blue Mesa and the Dillon Pinnacles, with signs along the way explaining the natural formations of the spires. Located in Curecanti.

3. Mill Lake – Moderate

Steep hike on a well traveled trail through a thick pine forest to an incredible alpine lake, half of which is above tree line.

4. Mill Creek & Castles – Easy to Difficult
All day hike to reach the famous ‘Castles’ rock formation. Be sure to leave early and travel with an experienced hiker.

5. Beckwith Pass – Moderate

From Lost Lake or Kebler Pass Road. This is the saddle between the Anthracites and West Beckwith.

6. Upper Loop / Tony’s – Easy
Access the Upper Loop trail system from Tony’s Trail just easy of Crested Butte. Nice westerly views as the trail meanders through thick aspen groves.

7. Oh-Be-Joyful – Moderate
Wondrous hike along a creek cliff into Oh-be- joyful valley. Wildflower watchers paradise.

8. Copper Lake/Judd Falls – Moderate
Famous hike with gradual ascent. Pristine alpine lake awaits.

Classic Biking Trails

  1. Hartman Rocks – Easy
  2. Doctor Park – Difficult
  3. Reno Ridge – Moderate
  4. Strand Hill – Moderate
  5. Snodgrass – Easy
  6. Lower Loop – Easy
  7. CBMR Trails – Moderate
  8. Trail 401 – Difficult

Classic Drive To / Picnic

  1.  Monarch Pass – Easy
  2. Soap Creek – Easy
  3. Rainbow Lake – Moderate
  4. Taylor Resevoir – Easy
  5. Spring Creek Res. – Moderate
  6. Lost Lakes – Moderate
  7. Scenic Byway – Difficult
  8. Blue Mesa Dam – Easy
Gunnison River near Almont, CO – Josh Lambert


Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association provides frequent river and Colorado fishing reports for your Gunnison Valley outdoor experience. The Gunnison River Taylor River and East River offer some of the best fishing in the world with Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, Brook Trout and Cutthroat. You can access Gold Medal stretches for a peaceful yet exhilarating Colorado fly fishing experience. Cast your line on any of our mountain streams and lakes, such as Blue Mesa Reservoir, Morrow Point Reservoir and Pac Man Pond (perfect for kids) for a plentiful catch on a hot summer day. Check out the beautiful Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Curecanti National Recreation Area. Your days will be filled with the brilliant reflection of high mountain water.

Whitewater Paddling

Raft, kayak and Duckie the upper and lower Taylor River, which offers ratings of I to IV class waters through mid September. For class I to III take a ride on the Gunnison River. For more excitement, put in at the Gunnison Whitewater Park, located just west of town.

Horseback Riding

The Gunnison Valley’s extensive trail systems and many wilderness areas combine to make it one of the finest horseback riding areas in the state. From family friendly day rides to serious backcountry pack trips, local guides and outfitters can have you trotting down the trail in no time. Favorite Rides include the West Elks, Oh- Be-Joyful, Raggeds and the spectacular Rustler’s Gulch.


Photo by

Crested Butte Mountain Resort

Test your personal limits! Whether starting off with ski lessons or hitting one of the many infamous extreme runs, your options at Crested Butte Mountain Resort are endless. Enjoy the pure mountain air and breathtaking scenery while you explore the many options including diverse runs, terrain parks and even a superpipe. You can’t go wrong at Crested Butte Mountain Resort! / 800.810.7669

Monarch Mountain Ski Area

Enjoy the 63 trails that Monarch Mountain has to offer on their rare but phenomenal all natural snow. With 100% of their snow coming from the snow gods, take pleasure in each turn. / 719.530.5000

Photo by

Crested Butte Nordic Council

Crested Butte Nordic Council offers fun and easy winter activities for the whole family. Enjoy spectacular mountain scenery from expertly groomed ski and snowshoe trails, ice skate under the sun or stars, or swoop down our sledding hill. Guided trips and ski and snowshoe rentals available. The Nordic Center is on the free bus route. / 970.349.1707

Gunnison Nordic

The goal of Gunnison Nordic is to provide high- quality groomed cross- country trails close to the City of Gunnison and sponsor events and activities that promote nordic skiing in the area. On average the club keeps 40-45K set for free public use.

For more information
visit: www.gunnisoncrestedbutte



Hinsdale County Recreation Map

American Basin – (to Handies Peak) 3.2 miles For those with 2 wheel drive vehicles, park along the side of the main road and an easy 3/4 mile walk can be made to the trailhead near the site of an old mine. From there, motorized use stops and the hiking trail climbs to Sloan Lake to offer nice views of Handies Peak and the surrounding basin. The trail to Handies Peak continues on from Sloan Lake. The peak, at 14,048 feet, offers a panoramic view of the San Juan Mountains.

Cataract Gulch – 4.1 miles

Several times along the trail, Cataract Creek will be crossed without bridges. Water levels at these points are relatively low making wading across safe and easy. Waterfalls and an old miners cabin add variety to the trip. Near timberline, the trail becomes easier but less defined. The Continental Divide is just south of the largest lake at an elevation of 12,200 feet.

Nearby 14er Mountains –

Uncompahgre Peak – 2.5 miles
From Lake City, take the Engineer Pass Road along Henson Creek about 5.5 miles to the Nellie Creek Road (the road is signed). Take the Nellie Creek Road (four-wheel drive) 5 miles to the trailhead.

Redcloud & Sunshine Peaks – 5.7 miles
The trail goes from the parking area, along the west side of the Silver Creek drainage for 3 miles to the head of the basin. From there the trail steepens on its way to a saddle northeast of Redcloud Peak. From Redcloud the trail continues for another mile along the ridge to Sunshine Peak.

Handies Peak (via Grizzly Gulch) 4.2 miles
From the trailhead, follow the trail that starts behind the restroom to a bridge crossing the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River. At timberline, the trail continues up the basin then climbs the ridge to the west. A sign points to a long switchback that turns to a ridge leading to Handies Peak.

Wetterhorn Peak – 7 miles
From the upper trailhead, follow the trail north. Drop down once or twice before heading north up through rocks. Once you are above the streams (on the left), hike west across the grass and look for the trail that climbs up to the end of the southeast ridge.


Alpine Loop – Photo by Nathan Odor

Four Wheel Driving Tours
The Alpine Loop Backcountry Byway traverses passes up to 12,800 feet while showcasing old mines, ghost towns, beautiful wildflowers, and abundant wildlife. These roads were originally paths used by Native Americans crossing the region. In the 1880s, these trails were widened and used to access mines. Today, the Alpine Loop is an avenue for exploring nature and history amidst thrilling views and stunning geography.

Hinsdale Haute Route Backcountry Hut System Our hut system offers the finest in winter back
country self-reliance. Ski or snowshoe with your

friends to any of the four cozy yurts in this system. Each yurt is carpeted, insulated and furnished with wood stoves and firewood, plus propane cook stoves and lanterns, a sink, and cooking and washing utensils. They are equipped with tables, chairs and beds

1. Jon Wilson Memorial Yurt
Elevation 10,661’ Superb views of Lake City, Lake San Cristobal, Sunshine, Grassy and Red Mountains. 1.25 miles from highway 149. Sleeps up to 6. Rated beginner to intermediate.

2. Rambouillet Yurt Elevation 11,640’ Routes vary from 3.5 to 5 miles from Highway 149. Sleeps up to 8. Rated beginner to intermediate.

3. Colorado Trail Friends Yurt
Elevation 11,800’ High on the divide. Three routes vary in difficulty. One is 6 miles from CR 30, and the other two are 4 and 5 miles from the Rambouillet Yurt. Sleeps up to 8. Rated intermediate to advanced.

4. Fawn Lakes Yurt Elevation 12,080’ The highest and most remote hut in the system. This yurt is 4 miles from the Colorado Trail Friends Yurt or 6 miles from Pearl Lakes. Sleeps up to 6. Rated advanced.


Western State Colorado University

Western Campus – Josh Lambert

Past: Western State Colorado University was established in 1901. It was the first college on Colorado’s Western Slope and is the fourth oldest public college in the state. The University actually opened for classes in 1911 as the Colorado State Normal School. Originally planned as a preparatory college for teachers, Western’s role changed when it became Western State Colorado University in 1923. Though for many years Western was known for its graduates who became teachers, it was, in fact, the first Colorado college designed to teach a primarily liberal arts curriculum, and the liberal arts have remained at the core of Western’s academic life ever since. Some of Western’s most cherished buildings — hallmarks of the lasting durability of the University — were constructed during the lean years of the Depression. Savage Library, the President’s House, and Ute Hall are striking architecturally and add character to the campus.

During the postwar years of the 1940s, Western’s enrollment soared as veterans took advantage of the GI Bill and new programs were added. By the 1970s, enrollment was exceeding 3,000, crowding the University so much that new freshmen often slept in the halls of their dorms for the first few days, until a dorm room became available. During the 1980s, Western began to focus exclusively on undergraduate education in three core areas: the liberal arts, teacher education, and professional programs. Western’s enrollment has remained at about 2,400 students. Throughout its history, Western has been a source of innovation and excellence, which is reflected in the quality of its programs and in the success and achievements of its graduates.

Taylor Hall – Josh Lambert

Remodeled Taylor Hall at Western State Colorado University

Borick Business Building – Josh Lambert

Present: The academic year is full of opportunities for students to learn from, and become acquainted with, outstanding scholars, great thinkers, fine performers, and others from throughout the world. Just as importantly, summer in Gunnison is full of educational opportunities, such as the Summer Teacher Institute and academic enrichment summer camps for elementary and high school students. Western offers a broad range of courses of study in a beautiful mountain setting. Many degree programs take advantage of this environment, which has been called “one of the world’s greatest natural laboratories.” Western offers students an opportunity to study in a wide range of fields such as business, computer science, mathematics, communications, social and behavioral sciences, recreation and outdoor education, professional land and resource management, performing and fine arts, the sciences and teacher education. In 2010, Western added two graduate programs – an M.A. in education and an M.F.A. in creative writing – and the University is developing additional graduate program offerings.

Western hosts the only nationally certified college Mountain Rescue Team, and a Wilderness Pursuits program offers students ample opportunities to explore themselves and the mountains, rivers, and forests that surround the University. The University’s vibrant theatre and fine arts departments provide a cultural center for the entire Gunnison Valley. In athletics, Western traditionally has one of the country’s finest small- college athletic programs.


Rendering for new 120,298- square-foot recreation center / fieldhouse.

Future: In 2011, Western celebrated its “Heritage to Horizon” 100-year legacy and is looking toward another remarkable century of service. New academic programs are in development along with new buildings, including The Pinnacles student apartment complex, which will open in the fall 2012. Also slated for construction is a 120,298- square-foot recreation center / fieldhouse that will contain a full 200- meter, 8-lane track, long jump and pole vault, with three multipurpose courts in the center. The design also will include a new High Altitude Performance Laboratory, 5,000 square feet of new fitness equipment and 6,000 square feet of activities and exercise rooms. Student voting and initiatives led to the inclusion of a 3,000- square-foot, 54-foot- tall climbing tower, a 400- square-foot training foam pit with trampoline, and a hot tub addition to the existing natatorium.


Western State Colorado University campus – Photo by Allan Ivy

For more information visit:


Hartman Rocks & Gunnison Trails


Hartman Rocks rider – Photo by Matt Burt

Gunnison Trails is a non- profit organization focused on improving and expanding the outstanding trail opportunities near the City of Gunnison for walking, running and riding mountain bikes.

Gunnison Trails partners with managers of public lands, including the Bureau of Land Management, the US Forest Service, the State of Colorado, and local entities; the City of Gunnison, Gunnison County and Western State Colorado University–to work on environmentally sustainable trails for people. Education is a priority; we promote sharing the landscape with other trail users, wildlife and the local ranching community.

Additionally, Gunnison Trails continually works on opportunities for new trails including:

• The Gunnison to Crested Butte trail
• The Van Tuyl – Palisades Ridge trail system

• The WSC – Signal Peak – Lost Canyon trail system

Trail-based events support the organization and include weekly trail work and numerous running and cycling events.

Growler Race Series

Hartman Rocks Growler Race 2019 – Josh Lambert

Trail work Tuesdays- most evenings, April –October

For more information volunteer opportunities and event details visit:


History of Mt. Biking


Pearl Pass – Photo courtesy Mountain Bike Hall of Fame/Museum

The folks maneuvering their battered, barge-like Schwinns around the mountain town in the mid 1970’s hardly considered themselves trendsetters; those old balloon-tired clunkers were just the only non-motorized vehicles that would stand up to Crested Butte’s pot holed streets.

But gradually, the enticements of the mountains lured Crested Butte adventurists farther afield. Crested Butte’s grand mountain valley, laced with old mining roads and single- track trails, beckoned. Why not explore by pedal power? Bicycles, these folks figured, were fleeter than foot less hassle than horses and gentler on the ear and earth than jeeps and motorcycles.

In the mid to late ‘70s, local garage- shop tinkerers set to work cross- breeding old one-speed junkers, ten- speed road bikes and motorcycle parts, with odds and ends like ski grips thrown in for fun. The result: Frankenstein bikes, monstrous and plodding, but with multiple speeds and enough intestinal fortitude to withstand treks into the mountains.

Still, no one envisioned a revolutionary sport in the making. Until, in 1976… “A bunch of guys used to ride their motorcycles over the pass from Aspen, hit the Grubstake Bar and steal all the Crested Butte women,” mountain bicyclist Kay Peterson-Cook began the tale. “Well, the Crested Butte guys who hung out at the Grubstake plotted their revenge; they’d ride their one-speed clunkers over Pearl Pass to Aspen, park them in front of the Jerome Hotel, and do their thing. In a way, the whole thing started out as a joke.”

But the joke found its way into the media, which of course, made it real. A group of Californians, who’d also been experimenting with multiple- speed, fat tired bicycles, stumbled on an article about the Crested Butte- to-Aspen bicycle trek and showed up the next September for the “Annual Pearl Pass Tour.” “What the heck,” the Crested butte riders figured, “we’d better make one up.”

In 2005 the Pearl Pass Tour celebrated 30 years of existence and is still a tradition today. But now designer-clad cyclists pedal high- tech, lightweight bikes replete with fashionable accouterments. Mountain bicycling for a period of time outstripped road cycling in growing popularity and a few of those early garage-shop tinkerers (the ones who didn’t “grow up and get real jobs”) now boast multi- million-dollar mountain bike businesses.

Ah, but the spirit of mountain bicycling remains unchanged. There’s still nothing like conquering an uphill climb, soaking in a spectacular mountain vista, piloting a heart-stopper downhill and rolling back into town, exhausted, victorious and blissful. And Crested Butte is still considered one of the premier places to experience the U.S. born sport.

For more information visit: Mountain Bike Hall of Fame/Museum
22 Teocalli Ave., Crested Butte, CO 81224