Find Adventure in Every Direction in Montrose, Colorado

Gateway to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Montrose is where trails, water sports and local food abound.

Photo: by Jeremy Matlock courtesy of City of Montrose

While Montrose, Colorado is the gateway to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, east isn’t the only direction you can head from town for incredible outdoor recreation. When you basecamp in Montrose, you’ll get access to the stunning San Juan Mountains to the south, Colorado’s canyon country to the north, as well as the beautiful Uncompahgre National Forest to the west.

Gunnison Gorge
Gunnison Gorge (Photo: Courtesy City of Montrose)

For amazing hiking trails in the Gunnison Gorge, head just north of the national park to the BLM-managed Gunnison Gorge Wilderness Area. The 7.1-mile Ute Trail descends to the Gunnison River below and is a great early or late season hike thanks to the area’s mild weather. The road to the trailhead is rough, so it’s best attempted in a four-wheel-drive vehicle. For a breathtaking summer hike, head south to the Blue Lakes Trail near Ridgway. This trail, which ascends under the watchful eye of 14,150-foot Mount Sneffels, climbs to a series of three lakes that are spectacularly blue. Lower Blue Lake is a 7-mile roundtrip trek, while Middle Blue Lake adds a little over a mile and Upper Blue Lake brings the roundtrip distance to 8.6 miles with 2,370 feet of elevation gain. Looking for mountain biking? Start in town. Mountain bikers can head to Cerise Park where several trail options make it easy to get some quick laps in before dinner. Check out Montrose Surf and Cycle to rent bikes and gear.

Hiker on the Gunnison Route Trail
Hiker on the Gunnison Route Trail (Photo: Courtesy City of Montrose)

When summer days are hot, there’s no shortage of ways to get out on the water near Montrose. Blue Mesa Reservoir is one of the largest bodies of water in the state and offers boating and beach-going opportunities less than an hour east of town. For boating, head to Elk Creek Marina to rent pontoon boats, kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards. There’s also a restaurant at the marina. It’s a good idea to call ahead to make sure there is enough water for the marina to operate. Even when the water is low, sandy beach access is still epic. If you’re searching for a sandy place to set up for the day, Bay of Chickens, Dry Creek and Old Highway 50 provide good swimming opportunities along the 29-mile-long reservoir.

Blue Mesa Reservoir in Curecante National Recreation Area
Blue Mesa Reservoir in Curecante National Recreation Area (Photo: Getty Images)

Another gorgeous spot to enjoy the water is Ridgway State Park. With picture-perfect views of Mount Sneffels, you may spend more time taking pictures than you do paddling. Nevertheless, you can rent pontoon boats and a variety of paddle crafts at the park’s marina or at the Dallas Creek day-use area. If you’re looking to cast a line, this spot is also a great fishing destination, or check out the Gunnison River’s Gold Medal Waters inside Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park at East Portal.

Paddling at Ridgway State Park
Paddling at Ridgway State Park (Photo: by Ken Papaleo courtesy of Colorado Parks & Wildlife)

For something a bit more educational but still outdoors, head to the Museum of the Mountain West where 28 historic buildings have been moved from various sites across western Colorado and even as far away as Alaska. Wander through buildings like a hotel, saloon and schoolhouse to learn what life was like on the frontier with the help of half-a-million artifacts. Take a self-guided or guided tour Monday through Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the summer and Tuesday through Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., in the winter.

After a day spent recreating, grab a drink at Storm King Distilling Co. Enjoy a cocktail crafted with house-made whiskey, gin, vodka, rum or agave spirits. There’s also Colorado Boy Pizzeria, a brewery serving up local brews and pies showcasing the best of the area’s agriculture. For more local fare, Montrose has an abundance of taquerias located along Main Street. These humble-looking spots are hiding seriously amazing and authentic Mexican dishes. Head to Tacos el Gordo for barbacoa, asada and even birria.

Montrose Summer Music Series
Montrose Summer Music Series (Photo: Visit Montrose)

On the first Friday of the month throughout the summer, don’t miss the fun and family-friendly Montrose Summer Music Series. Hosted at Montrose Rotary Club Amphitheater, you can enjoy local music and a quintessential Colorado sunset on the sprawling lawn.

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