Known locally as “Gunny”, Gunnison, lies thirty minutes south of Crested Butte in the heart of the Rockies. Although remote, it offers plenty of fun things to do. There aren’t many towns around Gunnison, making it an ideal place to get away to. The surrounding area is filled with year-round recreation.
The historic downtown is lined with unique shops, nice restaurants, and plenty of places to grab a beer that offers a full menu, custom brews, and nightly specials. Lodging is easy to come by, with everything from chain hotels to rustic cabins.
A true frontier city, Gunnison was founded in 1853 during scoping of a railroad route from the Mississippi to the Pacific. By 1880, Gunnison was the biggest city in the area with over 10,000 people. Mines sprouted up in all directions around Gunnison. Naturally, the town became a shipping and supply center. After the gold and silver dried up, the ranching took over.
Shortly after, the fishermen, hunters, and sightseers came. Education also plays a big role in revenue for the area with Western State Colorado University. It was named after John W. Gunnison, the explorer who trailed the transcontinental route of the Rocky Mountains. But, before the land was occupied by the Spanish, the Ute Indians called this home.
They were a peaceful tribe that explored Gunnison’s natural ecosystem. By the 1680s, the Spanish have arrived and begun selling the Ute horses and other merchandise. Trade was difficult because of the mountain terrain and the climate. Explorers then populated the area, and by the early 1800s, groups of people migrated to the region to make a living for themselves.
Gold hunt also became a priority during the 1850s and miners rushed to Gunnison to search for the big prize. Over the years, the mining camps at Gunnison reportedly amassed about 13,000 ounces of gold. Because of its fame, Gunnison has been a coveted property in Colorado, with two different companies claiming ownership of the land.
The cattle industry boomed in Gunnison because of the abundant natural greeneries in the area. By 1901, Gunnison has been known for being the first town on Colorado’s western slope to have a college – the Colorado State Normal College. The college was officially signed on the local government’s bill by then-Governor James B. Orman.
It has expanded its teachings to liberal arts, and its system evolved. The college was later renamed Western State Colorado University. Now, Gunnison thrives because of its local mining, ranching, tourism, and education.
Curecanti National Recreation Area – The largest lake in the state, Blue Mesa Reservoir, begins shortly west of town. When full, it’s 20 miles long. The park then continues north of Highway 92 along the Black Canyon’s North Rim. The boating, camping, fishing, and hiking are tremendous.
Read about the best things to do in Gunnison.
- Gunnison National Forest is located both east and west Highway 50 with multiple roads that allow primitive camping. The road out to Waunita Hot Springs has camping along the road, before and after the ranch. The road then continues over an old mountain pass to Pitkin. Camping can also be found further east on Highway 50 along the Monarch Pass.
- To the west on Highway 50 is the Curecanti National Recreation Area. It houses the Blue Mesa Reservoir and numerous modern campgrounds, all along the highway.
- Read about the camping near Gunnison and Blue Mesa Reservoir.
- Gunnison River runs by town, offering a variety of spots to fish it. There’s a whitewater park that has a trail along the river and picnic areas.
- Read about the lakes and rivers to fish near Gunnison, Almont, and Crested Butte.
- Read about the hiking trails near Gunnison.
- During winter, visitors and locals go skiing on the Crested Blue Mountain Resort or the Monarch Ski Area. Locals learning the sport can do so in town at Cranor Hill, weather pending. The resort opens seasonally only if enough natural snow has fallen in time.
Hotels and lodging:
- Read about the best hotels in Gunnison.
Jul – Cattlemen’s Days is an annual three-day celebration in July with rodeo competitions, live music, and vendors.
Activities near Gunnison
Cross Country Skiing:
- Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park (63mi)
- Curecanti National Recreation Area (5mi)
- Fossil Ridge Wilderness Area
- Gunnison National Forest
- Powderhorn Wilderness Area
- Ohio City (20mi)
- Waunita Hot Springs Ranch (26mi)
Made in Colorado:
- Cochetopa Pass (44mi)
- Cottonwood Pass (47mi)
- Monarch Pass (41mi)
- North Pass (39mi)
- Silver Thread Byway (5mi)
- Waunita Pass (18mi)
- West Elk Loop (<1mi)
- Almont (10mi)
- Crested Butte (27mi)
- Lake City (54mi)
- Montrose (64mi)
- Parlin (11mi)
- Pitkin (27mi)
- Poncha Springs (60mi)
- Salida (64mi)
- Sapinero (24mi)
- Sargents (32mi)
- Tincup (40mi)
Latest in Gunnison
Colorado boasts some pretty big lakes and reservoirs within its state lines. From the eastern plains…