Shaped like a lasso that’s been dropped on Colorado’s pristine West Elk Mountains, the West Elk Loop Scenic and Historic Byway unites three very different mining communities, gets within arm’s reach of four diverse wilderness areas and meanders through the Gunnison Country mountain towns of Marble, Gunnison and Crested Butte.
- Marble is a sleepy hamlet where some of the finest marble in the world has been mined. In fact, marbled used in the Lincoln Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier came from local quarries.
- Veering to the south and just west of Gunnison, the loop passes the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. No other gorge in North America combines the narrowness, depth and sheer drop-offs of the Black Canyon.
- Head to Gunnison next, one of Colorado’s top summer recreation destinations. Gunnison is a town that is equal parts ranching community and University town, where wide streets tell of the town’s original hopes to be Colorado’s future state capitol. Gunnison is a great place from which to explore the backcountry and enjoy outdoor recreation year-round. Be sure to stop by the Gunnison Pioneer Museum to see a railroad depot and re-created schoolhouse.
- Travel north on Hwy 135 to Crested Butte, a town surrounded in summer by so many blooming meadows that the Colorado legislature dubbed it the Wildflower Capital of Colorado. A Shangri-La to skiers, a paradise to mountain bikers and just plain heaven to everyone else, Crested Butte offers year-round recreation, entertainment, festivals and events. Much of the town lies within a designated Historic district where Victorian buildings decked in vibrant colors preserve the aura of the past. A stop at the Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum affords the chance to learn about the history of the community and its role in the invention of mountain biking as a sport.
- Just two-miles to the north, Mt. Crested Butte is home to Crested Butte Mountain Resort and a host of year-round events and activities.
- Kebler Pass lays claim to some of Colorado’s most colorful scenery. Travel over a vast and untrammeled mountain range that is perfect for backcountry hiking and boasts one of the largest aspen groves in the world that turn brilliant shades of red, orange and gold in fall.
TRAVEL PLANNING: Call (877) 448-1410 or stop by one of our Official Visitor Information Centers:
- Gunnison Visitor Center, 500 E. Tomichi Avenue
- Crested Butte Visitor Center, 601 Elk Avenue
- Mt. Crested Butte Visitor Center, Crested Butte Mountain Resort, Transit Center, 6 Emmons Rd
- Gothic Visitor Center (summer only), Rocky Mountain Biological Lab, 8000 County Road 317
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: West Elk Scenic Byway
SEASONAL TRAVEL: Kebler Pass is closed in winter (Nov.–May)
DISTANCE: 205 miles
TOTAL ELEVATION GAIN: 5,351 – 9,980 feet
TRAVEL TIME: Allow 8 to 10 hours