Montrose to Gunnison, Highway 50 + ADD NEW ROUTE
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On Colorado's western slope, go from Montrose east on Hwy. 50 to Gunnison.
The trip goes to the heart of the Rocky Mountains. The route is constantly climbing or descending. Only the ten miles west of Gunnison is fairly level.
The varied scenery starts right away as you are steadily climbing from Montrose (5,647') up to Cerro Summit (a pass) at 8,010'. You'll see open ranch land as you leave Montrose, then pass through a narrow canyon. Along the way you'll have views of distant mountain ranges, deep valleys and wide pasture slopes.
As you pass Cimarron, you will see some pleasing riverbanks with cottonwood trees and streamside vegetation. You will head up to the highest point, Blue Mesa Summit at 8,704'. Dropping down from here is about the only stretch with tall conifer trees. They are in a narrow, shady, twisty canyon from which the road climbs up to another pass.
As you drop down this time, you will ride along the length of Blue Mesa Reservoir, Colorado's largest lake. The first sight will be of the dam which is at the upper end of the deep canyon that forms Black Canyon National Park.
You will pass through the small community called Sapinero. This settlement was named after a Ute Indian sub-chief in the 1880's. Being about 26 miles west of Gunnison, and just before tackling the rugged canyons and peaks to the west, it was a good place for travelers to have a rest stop before continuing.
Then you'll come upon a 500' wall of rock across the lake called the Dillon Pinnacles. They're pretty impressive. The top is an extremely hard layer of cemented ash from volcanoes (called Blue Mesa Tuff) that has prevented the softer underlying rock from eroding more gently. The ride along the lake is on open country with little vegetation.
As you ride closer to Gunnison, you'll see some colorful barns and lush pastureland. Along here are more of the narrow leaf cottonwood trees (while at lower elevations, the broad leaf is more common).
Gunnison (7,700') is an updated 1800's town that caters to sportsmen, tourists passing through, and ranchers in the area. It is nice in that it's not overrun with tourists as many of these towns are (think Telluride!). Across from the city park is a nice museum area of old buildings and equipment. The main park has numerous carved sculptured trees. Good picnic stop.
Mostly old asphalt with long cracks, but no potholes. 1/3 is new pavement. Mostly open curves and just a few tight ones.
Montrose and Gunnison are full service. There is some gas and food at Cimarron and Sapinero. Photos will show some sights along the way.
There seems to be continual road work being done every year. So there may be traffic stops. This is a popular motorcycle route.
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