West Elk Scenic Byway

Southwest Colorado, USA

Even though the Fourth of July fell on a Wednesday this year, I didn’t want to give up a celebratory, adventure-filled weekend. Following an Independence Day spent people-watching in the Clear Creek river in Golden and then drinking around Denver with friends, James and I headed southwest for toward Crested Butte and then Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park for a quick, yet fulfilling weekend adventure.

I knew the Wildflower Festival was going on in Crested Butte so I wanted to check out the mountain town known for its wildflowers while headed that direction. We never found the site of the wildflower festivities but did end up at a great campsite in a dispersed camping area about 20 minutes north of the town. Located in a meadow surrounded by yellow wildflowers and the well-photographed Mt. Crested Butte, we found ourselves in the kind of picturesque Colorado summer setting we had one imagined. We got there close to dark so we really only had time to make dinner before heading to bed but we did spot a Fox in the meadow just before we headed into our tents. Nature, man…

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On the road to Crested Butte

The next morning the bright sun woke us up just after sunrise so we made an oatmeal breakfast and coffee, and then picked a few wildflowers to make a lovely bouquet. Of course I had to have a little photo shoot with my freshly picked flowers… 😉

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An alright way to wake up
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Hand-picked wildflowers
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I had to…

The town of Crested Butte was charming, beautiful and a tad bit cookie-cutter. I realized it is one of the more “exclusive” mountain towns I’ve been to with a lot more retired couples than young people, but that didn’t change the fact that is was in fact, very lovely. Clean and quaint with fresh mountain air and views surrounding it, it had a certain Colorado charm.

After a walk down the one Main Street in town, we headed toward the rougher town of Gunnison to begin our journey farther west to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Like many others who visit Colorado, I had never heard of this place until I moved here but began hearing about it as “the most underrated National Park” by people and backpacker magazines. Because of its remote location, not many visitors make it down there. Lucky for the locals though because it gives Colorado natives their own secluded, striking canyon to enjoy.

We set up camp at the North Rim of the canyon, which was a longer drive to get to but also a more secluded place to view the canyon from. Just behind our campsite we could climb down a bit and be standing on the edge of the canyon. It was a wild feeling to be so close to the canyon wall without a fence or a crowd of people taking pictures. It was there to soak in without any noise except for the flowing Gunnison river below.

Black Canyon, Colorado
The intimidating view behind our campsite

We did a hike that day that took us around the rim a bit higher to get a more aerial perspective of the canyon. The entire way the depth and colors of the canyon continued to blow us away. And all the while there was hardly anyone else there to disturb the peace 🙂

The weekend finished off watching the sunrise from the other side of the campground, where we could watch the sun semi-light up the canyon before we left. It was pretty amazing to sit there in peace and take in the power of nature before us. The pictures could never do the moment justice but believe me when I say the serenity that comes with the sun coming over a black, deep canyon is quite the way to start a day.

Black Canyon, Colorado, sunrise
Sunrise at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

It was back to Denver after two amazing days exploring Colorado’s southwest. While the driving took a toll, the views are always worth it.

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