Paradise Divide Drive – Crested Butte, CO

Gunnison, CO

On Tuesday we drove the Jeep over to the repair shop and returned the rental car.  We then walked into Gunnison and enjoyed breakfast at the W Cafe.  Thanks Joe and Gay for the recommendation as the food was delicious.

The Jeep repairs were completed that afternoon and the next day we headed back north from Gunnison to Crested Butte for a beautiful drive up over two high mountain passes.  The Paradise Loop Drive begins and ends in Mt. Crested Butte.  We followed Joe and Gay’s experience (good-times-rollin) and did the drive in a clockwise direction beginning on Slate River Road, between Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte.

One of the locals keeps an eye on any visitors

The road begins as a wide graded road.  At about 9 miles it narrows and begins a steep climb.

Autumn is in the air

Going up . . .

. . . and up . . .

. . . and up . . .

. . . to the top

Beautiful small lake at the divide

Lunch with a view (ok, we cheated and ate in the jeep)

Continuing down past the divide

Schofield Pass

After going up and over Schofield Pass we turned east (left) on to CR 317 heading back down toward Mt. Crested Butte.  We soon passed beautiful little Emerald Lake.

The road’s a bit steep and narrow near the lake

The water was crystal clear

Continuing down past the lake

As we continued down toward Mt. Crested Butte we drove through the former silver boomtown of Gothic, now home to  the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory.

Established in the 1880s, Gothic’s heyday was short lived.  By 1890 prospectors seeking the motherlode had moved on.  In the 1920s Dr. John Johnson, a biology professor at Western Colorado College in Gunnison, led his students on field trips near Gothic.  Recognizing the rare and rich ecology of the remote high valley,  he set up a field station in 1928 within the ruins of the old mining town. Since then the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory has become an internationally renowned center for scientific research on high-altitude ecosystems.

Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory Visitor Center

One of the few original buildings (now a coffee house open in the summer)

After perusing the well done visitor center and spending time with a very informative docent there we continued down the road, enjoying the early fall colors all around us.

Crested Butte (12,168′) comes into view

This 26 mile loop is an absolutely beautiful drive that can be completed in most vehicles.  We wouldn’t do it in our Lamborghini, but any vehicle with a bit of clearance could complete the drive.  But those with a fear of heights might want to avoid it, as the road is often steep and narrow with no guard rails.

Well, that completes our visit to Gunnison and Crested Butte.  Next up is a week long stay in Montrose, about 60 miles to the west, for a visit to the lower section of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.  More on that later . . .

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7 Responses to Paradise Divide Drive – Crested Butte, CO

  1. exploRVistas says:

    That’s some amazing scenery. Definitely keep that Lamborghini off that road. 😉

  2. Sue says:

    Man…..the western slope just keeps on giving beautiful scenery at every turn!

  3. Jeff Pierce says:

    Nice to see the Jeep back on this beautiful drive.

  4. Ingrid says:

    Funny how we both took photos at similar spots on that loop. But I think during July when all the wildflowers are blooming takes the scenery to a whole new level. Glad the Jeep is back and you were able to do this scenic drive. It’s one of my favorites even with the scary drop-off portions.

  5. Joe Taylor says:

    After reading your posts and enjoying all your beautiful photos, we need a Gunnison fix! I do agree with Ingrid…as beautiful as the fall colors are the wildflowers in the summer are my favorite. Maybe that is because we lived near the Smokey Mountains and often visited there in the fall. The wildflowers are a whole new beautiful scene for me!

  6. Laurel says:

    What a gorgeous drive! I love it when the aspens turn to gold. Fall is definitely on the way—your weather looks perfect for exploring and hiking!

  7. That is a fabulous drive. We did it counterclockwise.

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