Touring the Byway
117 miles | 5 Days/ 4 Nights | Gateway City: Crested Butte, Colorado
Your journey begins in the free-spirited mountain town of Crested Butte. After exploring for a day, on Day Two, you’ll be headed Gunnison and then the dramatic canyons of the Curecanti National Recreations before reaching Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. This spectacular National Park is a not to be missed experience. By the time you have explored the entire Park, you will be only eight miles from Montrose, which is not on the Byway, but will be better for an overnight stay than backtracking all the way to Gunnison in the evening. That way, if you didn’t have the opportunity to explore both the North and South Rim Roads of the Black Canyon, you can explore the rest today on the way back to the Byway.
View the Detailed Itinerary below to see the full route, which is complete with dining, shopping, and lodging recommendations!
It all started about 60 million years ago when some metamorphic rock was lifted up, only to be buried by two erupting volcanoes. About two million years ago, the Gunnison River found its way through a crack in the rock and Mother Nature began using the forces of wind and water to keep the crevice growing. Little by little the black rock gave way, creating the massive plunging vertical cliffs that are now the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Even though fewer people know about the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, it ranks right up there with America’s most famous parks. The steepest cliffs, oldest rock and craggiest spires host a sculpted vertical wilderness that is not to be missed. There are two views of the Black Canyon. To get to the North Rim Road, take Colorado Route 92 to Crawford State Park. The North Rim is reached by a gravel road from the east end of the State Park. The road provides access to six overlooks to canyon walls that are almost vertical; some of the most impressive views in the Park. The South Rim is reached by traveling west on US Route 50 to Colorado Route 347, which takes you to the South Rim Visitor Center and 12 overlooks. Be sure to stop at Gunnison Point, Chasm View, Painted Wall and Sunset View. The Visitor Center is located at Gunnison Point.
Located at the beginning of the Bachelor Loop, few museums are as authentic as the Creede Underground Mining Museum. In the museum completely built underground in an actual mine, you will receive a first-hand taste of the miner’s subterranean experience in 22 alcoves blasted out of solid rock specifically for the purpose top housing demonstrations and exhibits. Exploring both early silver mining techniques and more recent technology, the Underground Mining Museum provides fascinating insight into a very important part of mining culture in the American West. An exhibit hall with minerals and artifact displays provides a colorful prelude to tours guided by experienced hard rock miners. The local fire station was built into the mountain next door to the museum.
The Bachelor Loop Historic Tour is a 17-mile drive to that takes you to mining locations, where Nicholas Creede struck it rich at the Holy Moses in 1889 and ghost towns, like Bachelor that was once home to 1200 people, rivaling Creede in size, all in the historic mining district above Creede, Follow Main Street out of Creede as it weaves its way up through the ragged canyon. A number of interpretive stops and points of interest provide direction along the route.
Housed in the Old Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Depot, the Creede Historical Museum has collected the first hand-drawn fire wagon, early pioneer utensils, a horse-drawn hearse, gambling equipment, a large photo collection, early newspapers, and a treasure trove of memorabilia and other artifacts providing great insight into the lives of the homesteaders, prospectors, miners, entrepreneurs, lawmen and notorious characters who lived here. An Historical Library with research information, books and photos is located in a small cabin next to the museum.
Born out of a desire to preserve the mining history of this beautiful city, underground mine tours, and exhibits work to bring mining heritage to life. The Hard Tack Mine was originally intended to serve as an underground transport tunnel for the Hidden Treasure Mining Company’s ore production, which ultimately produced more than a million and a half dollars in silver ore. Once the location of a milo, offices, a bank, boarding house, commissary and schoolhouse, when metal ore production declined in the 1930’s, the surrounding community died out.
Curecanti National Recreation Area is the gateway to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, the massive canyon it took the Gunnison River millenniums to carve out.
Located on a 14-acre campus, the Pioneer Museum has created its own frontier town at the base the W Mountain. In this cultural jewel you can explore two frontier schools with their original furnishings, a red dairy barn and pole barn, a Denver and Rio Grande Narrow Gauge train engine and caboose at a railroad depot, a log cabin chapel, water tower, several cabins, the Odd Fellows lodge building, Gunnison’s first post office, 10 additional whole buildings filled with displays, outdoor displays on the south and east end of the grounds and the Andy Mallett Antique Car Museum with 55 vehicles.
Housed in the historic Finley Block, the Hinsdale County Museum celebrates Lake City’s past, with a donated collection of photographs and other materials that relate to early history.