Hi! This is Chris Ashbach again. I’m back with another perfect layover idea. This time, I’m in Gunnison, Colorado. Gunnison is a year-round tourist destination that offers everything for the outdoorsman, from world class fly fishing, to hiking and skiing. Trans States Airlines has a regular layover here that arrives about lunchtime with a departure the next morning so you get to have the afternoon to explore this jewel of the Rockies.
Our layover hotel is just north of downtown Gunnison. From the hotel, there are three things within walking distance that are worth visiting; downtown Gunnison, The Powerstop, and the Gunnison State Wildlife Area. For the more adventurous, I’d recommend trying fly fishing. You can also visit Crested Butte, or just take a tour around on the free Gunnison Valley RTA bus.
Near Our Hotel
Downtown Gunnison is an easy walk from our hotel. If you prefer, the van driver is usually more than happy to offer crews a ride to town though. Gunnison offers a few restaurants and some shopping. It’s a good way to spend a couple of hours on a nice afternoon. If you are looking for recommendations, check out The Twisted Fork which offers Asian influenced American food. For great pizza and an outdoor patio, visit High Alpine. On a recent trip, I really enjoyed The Bean cafe. It is a little more hipster and has some great coffee and crepes.
After several Captains told me it was one of the best burgers they had ever eaten, I had to try The Powerstop. While The Powerstop is an old gas station, it won’t take you more than one bite to know they make an absolutely killer burger.
Hike the Gunnison State Wildlife Area
A short walk northwest from the hotel will bring you to a dirt road that leads both wanderers and seasoned walkers to this wildlife area. It is a gorgeous walk and a large loop through the wilderness. During the winters, you will see cross-country skiers. Other times of the year, you may see couples out for a sunny walk, along with the occasional runner.
The wildlife area is very flat and is easily accessible. Clearly marked paths help keep you on the right track as you explore some of the natural beauty Gunnison has to offer. If you visit, make sure to walk all the way to the west, toward the large cliff face. Nestled next to the towering rock cliffs of the mountain you will see the Gunnison River tumbling and churning past you. It’s a perfect place to sit and read a book while the warm sun beats down on you next to the cool mountain water rushing by.
Make a Day Trip Through the Gunnison Valley
If you are a little more adventurous, you have to see some of the rest of the Gunnison Valley. It offers a lot of outdoor recreation, shopping, and history to explore.
Getting Around the Valley
The Gunnison Valley has a free bus that is scheduled throughout the day. Getting on the Gunnison Valley RTA is simple; the nearest stop is a stones throw from our hotel. The front desk has a schedule and can give you directions if needed. The RTA runs between Crested Butte and Gunnison and makes several stops along the way.
I caught this bus at the corner of Spencer and Main. Along the bus’s route, three stops worth noting for our layovers: First, the historic district of Crested Butte. Second, the Crested Butte Mountain Village and finally, the Three Rivers Resort in Alma for fly fishing. This stop is a flag stop and you have to tell the bus driver or the bus will continue without stopping. To get picked up here, just wait at the stop to waive the bus for your return.
Visit the Crested Butte Historic District
Crested Butte was originally settled in the late 1800’s as a hard rock mining town. Today, visitors can step back in time and experience the sense of adventure the first explorers must have felt when they see this historic town. To get here, simply take the valley transit bus and get off at the “Crested Butte 4 Way” stop. As you exit the bus, you will be directly in front of the Crested Butte visitors center, which is at one end of the four-block-long historic district. Enjoy shopping, dining, and even a gourmet donut shop while you are in town.
I’d like to tell you that I had enough self-control to avoid Nikky’s Donut Shop while I visited. But that would be a lie… Look at how good these little guys are!
Mountain Village in Crested Butte
Mountain Village in Crested Butte is the entryway to world-class skiing on Mount Crested Butte. Nestled at the foot of the ski resort, Mountain Village offers direct access to the hills. I tried to get a half day pass. So you know, between the rentals and the pass, it came to about $180. You can check ahead of time to see if they have any specials at 877-547-5143. If that is out of your price range, you can still visit the public square and the patios with scenic views of the resort. It’s a great place to people watch, get something to eat and enjoy some fresh mountain air.
Fly Fish the Gunnison or Taylor Rivers.
The Three Rivers Resort and Outfitting in Almont has a fly shop that offers guides, rental gear, and plenty of advice for a new fly fisherman. Many people don’t know that the Gunnison Valley has some of the worlds best fly fishing and many of Colorado’s record fish have come from the Taylor River, a tributary to the Gunnison River. I took the crew out last January for some winter fishing and made this video to share what a beautiful place this is.
Why is the Taylor River such a unique place to fish? It is protected from large amounts of fishing pressure by its remote location and the Taylor Park Reservoir which feeds the lower Taylor River. It has produced many trophy fish because it is filled with high-calorie mysis shrimp. Many decades ago, in an effort to bolster Colorado’s fishing, mysis shrimp were introduced to the reservoirs as food for the trout. These shrimp were originally harvested from the Great Lakes and thrive in very sterile low-nutrient waters and were thought to be a perfect match for the very pure mountain water reservoirs. For various reasons, only a handful of reservoirs successfully hosted and then fed the shrimp to these trout downstream. The Taylor River is one of the success stories of this project leading to very large and abundant trout for anglers to hook.
With trophy-sized Rainbow, Brown, and Brook Trout calling us just minutes away, I convinced the Captain to split the cost of a rental car with me. We did some serious team building by renting fly gear and hitting this exceptionally rare honey-hole of a river with a couple of fly rods. We braved the mid-January cold and headed up to the Taylor River reservoir. To get there, drive 15 minutes to Alma, rent your gear, and then continue 20 miles up Country Road 742 to the dam. The road twists and turns along the river bank among the high peaks of the mountains on both sides. As you drive, you will see well-marked let-in places to fish. I recommend starting at the top by the reservoir and working your way down.
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This article was written by Chris Ashbach, MA; a First Officer at Trans States Airlines, professional speaker, blogger, and photographer. If you liked “The Perfect Layover In Gunnison” please read “A Winter Wonderland in Sioux Falls.” Chris owns the travel site VacationTripReviews.com and a food blog FourKidsAndAChicken.com. In addition, Chris owns LiveDan330.com and his brand has been recognized by the Wall Street Journal, Investment News Magazine, and IZEA, Inc. You are welcome to read more about Chris on ChrisAshbach.com. Chris is also a featured gardener in the upcoming book on Straw Bale Gardening by New York Times best-selling author Joel Karsten.