A truly enchanted experience can be found in Colorado’s Gunnison National Park throughout the winter as the beautiful Black Canyon and Uncompahgre Plateau accumulate plenty of the season’s white gold, and offer you a chance to experience a true, rugged Winter.
From Snowmobiling off-trail among the area’s 62,000 acres of public lands or on the abundance of groomed trails, to cross-country skiing or snowshoeing across some of the most beautiful and peaceful land in the West, Montrose is the place to be for outdoor winter adventures suitable for the whole family.
Snowmobiling The Uncompahgre, Black Mesa and Grand Mesa
The snowmobiling season often starts as early as the first week of December in Montrose, and lasts through the first half of April - sometimes longer! But the most dependable conditions can be found right after Christmas, until just about the middle of March. Montrose is lucky to be situated as close as 30 minutes to just about an hour from a few of the most attractive areas of the region for winter sports, and offers everything you need to get you started.
Black Mesa - just an hour outside of town - gets an average of about 500 inches of snow per year, and boasts some of the most spectacular powder riding in the state. Mile after mile of groomed trails, as well as thousands of acres of meadows and forests to explore - safely - off the beaten path open, wide, flat spaces to speed demons and cruisers alike. Those with an uphill predilection often climb up to the top of Baldy Mountain.
Grand Mesa - a little closer at about 40 minutes from town - and gets even more powder than Black Mesa, at about 525 inches annually. It’s also one of the world’s largest flat-topped mountains, and sports the longest snowmobile trail in the lower U.S. - the Sunlight to Powderhorn Trail (or just “The SP,” to the locals) - which clocks in at an awesome 123 miles. A few words of caution: Don’t skimp on supplies for a long ride like this one, and stay off of the blue paths marked for cross-country skiers only.
Uncompahgre Plateau, 30 minutes outside of Montrose, offers 1.5 million acres of wide-open space in the form of a high domed upland that rises from the Colorado River and peaks at 10,300 feet above sea level. The plateau gets about 450 inches of snow per year, and offers all kinds of intermediate snowmobiling, both on and off of groomed trails. There are even a fair amount of climbs sure to get the adrenaline flowing, but none too steep for the novice rider.
Snowshoeing and Cross-Country Skiing
During the winter, Gunnison National Park is incredibly quiet, serene and beautiful - providing a perfect atmosphere for the soft crunch of snowshoes or the light swoosh of cross-country skis to cut out a steady rhythm.
South Rim Drive remains closed to traffic and unplowed during winter, and instead becomes a 6-mile stretch of silent beauty, perfect for cross-country skiing. The journey along the drive and back to the South Rim Visitor Center provides unmatchable overlooks into the canyon, with views of some of the most rugged landscape in the country.
If a slower pace is more your style, snowshoeing around the canyon is also a possibility. Rim Rock Trail and the Oak Flat Loop are two highly recommended routes that provide plenty of nature to contemplate, while the winter and the landscape provide the perfect backdrop. Please be courteous and avoid established tracks on South Rim Drive when journeying on these trails, and, for the sake of local wildlife, please leave dogs at home.
For a guided tour, from mid-January to mid-March the Park Rangers offer a FREE adventure every Saturday and Sunday, at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. No special skills are required, and snowshoes - even kids’ sizes - are available to borrow (also FREE of charge) at the Visitor’s Center.