West Elk Loop Scenic Byway, Colorado

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West Elk Loop Scenic Byway

The West Elk Loop Scenic Byway is a perfect tour of Western Colorado that offers drivers a chance to see everything from the bottom of Black Canyon to the top of Mount Sopris. Read More

Highlights 

  • Stop off in Crawford and Paonia State Parks. 
  • Drive through numerous Grand Mesa, White River and Gunnison National Forests. 
  • Get out and gaze down Black Canyon. 
  • Fish in one of Curecanti National Recreation Area’s three large reservoirs. 
  • Enjoy the beauty of Crystal River Valley. 
  • Climb to the top of the twin summits of Mount Sopris

Overview

The 204 miles of the West Elk Loop Scenic Byway passes through a vast amount of terrain and tours many of the scenic highlights surrounding Crested Butte. Climb up and over Kebler Pass, tour the fruit fields of Paonia, visit Crawford and Paonia State Parks and explore the expansive Curecanti National Recreation Area. You’ll find numerous places to stop and get out of the car, either with a quick walk through changing aspens, a boat ride on Blue Mesa Reservoir or a hike down Black Canyon.

West Elk Loop Scenic Byway is a well-maintained, two-lane paved road for most of its length. The stretch of Colorado Road 12 that passes over Kebler Pass is not all paved, and closes during the winter. The busiest stretch of the Byway is CO-135 between Gunnison and Crested Butte.

Driving Directions

From Crested Butte, head west on Whiterock Avenue/Colorado Road 12 over Kebler Pass until you reach CO-133. Turn left and go south through Paonia to CO-92. Head east on CO-92 until you reach US-50 in Blue Mesa Reservoir. Go east on US-50, past the Black Canyon, to Gunnison. From Gunnison, go north on CO-135 back to Crested Butte.

Time/Distance

The directions detailed above cover 162 miles of the West Elk Loop Scenic Byway and takes about five hours to travel, without stops. An additional 42 miles of the Byway stretches north from the intersection of Kebler Pass Road and CO-133 to Carbondale. This stretch takes just under an hour to drive, one-way.

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