Photos by Cathy Edwards

West Elk Loop Cathy Edwards aspen kebler pass

West Elk Loop Cathy Edwards aspen kebler pass

Overview

The West Elk Scenic and Historic Byway was described by a forest ranger as “the closest you can come to a wilderness experience in a passenger car.” Visitors are likely to see an abundance of wildlife, scenic and rugged views of some of Colorado’s most iconic mountain scenes, and quite a few places that tempt you to step out of your car to explore. This magnificent landscape has been home to generations of Native Americans, such as the Utes, early White settlers, ranchers, and miners. This byway is rich in history and culture, and abundant in natural beauty and recreation.

205 miles

Key Attractions

  • An abundance of wildlife – such as bears, elk, deer, bighorn sheep, coyotes, and eagles

  • Three wilderness areas (Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness Area, Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area, and West Elk Wilderness Area)

  • Thousands of acres of national forest (Grand Mesa National Forest, White River National Forest, Gunnison National Forest

  • Several state parks located in close proximity (Vega State Park, Sweitzer Lake State Park, Crawford State Park, Paonia State Park,

  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

  • Curecanti National Recreation Area – extremely popular fishing, boating, wind sailing, hiking, climbing, camping, picnicking, backpacking, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, ice fishing, cross-country skiing, backcountry skiing, etc.

  • Crested Butte National Historic District

  • San Juan Scenic Overlook

  • Extremely beautiful scenery – wildflowers, alpine trees and greenery, narrow canyon walls, summits and peaks, majestic mountains, and crystal clear rivers

  • Historic mining and ranching communities and relics

Locations

  • Located in central-western Colorado; approximately 30 miles from Aspen, CO to Carbondale, CO

  • Driving the byway:

    • Starting in Gunnison, CO, drive north of Colorado Hwy 135 toward Crested Butte

    • Then drive west over Kebler Pass (a dirt road usually open from Memorial Day through early November) to Hwy 133 south through Paonia

    • In Hotchkiss, take Hwy 92 east toward Crawford

    • Hwy 92 ends at US Hwy 50 at the Blue Mesa Dam, where you will turn east and drive back to Gunnison

  • There are amenities such as gasoline, food, and lodging located along this byway

Other Information