Gunnison

Gunnison is rather like a home on the range surrounded by ski areas, a national recreation area, national park, lakes, rivers and mesas and high-mountain sage that looks like it’s right out of a John Wayne Western movie. The city, which feels like a cattleman's town, is the kind of place where you don't feel like a tourist as much as somebody visiting the folks.

It's a great base camp for exploring a treasure trove of natural and manmade attractions. To get there, you cross Monarch Pass on Hwy. 50 heading west from Denver or Colorado Springs or fly right into the Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport year-round. Head north from town and you'll end up in Crested Butte, passing through Almont, the home of the confluence of the East and Taylor rivers that forms the great Gunnison River. It’s the second largest tributary to the Colorado River.

But head west and the valley drops away into the Curecanti National Recreation Area, Blue Mesa Reservoir and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. In the summer, the reservoir — Colorado's largest body of water — is full of canoes, sailboats, pontoon and motor boats, and people water-skiing, fishing and even parasailing in the refreshing water. Summer celebrations honor the area's Western roots.

Among Gunnison's newest attractions is a manmade whitewater park on the Gunnison River. The park stretches several hundred feet, with various rock structures providing a playground for recreational kayakers and rafters. Fishing is also allowed in some sections. To take in the clear night skies, visit the new Gunnison Valley Observatory.

Near Gunnison are some well-preserved ghost towns, which they'll be happy to tell you about at the visitor's center. In fact, they're right friendly folks in Gunnison. Stop in, say howdy and settle in for a few days. There’s so much to see and do!

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