RLT #6: West Elk Loop Scenic Byway in Colorado

in Pinmapple2 months ago (edited)

Continuing on with my Fall Colors tour through the mountains of central Colorado, today I am heading up into Kebler Pass, home of the largest aspen grove in Colorado! To get there, my RTL route followed the West Elk Loop Scenic Byway.

Lead Photo: West Elk Mountains at the entrance to the West Elk Loop Scenic Byway
(Click on any image in this post, in PeakD, for an
enlarged view
of any picture of interest. Try it!)

From the start, at the base of the dam at Paonia Reservoir, to the finish in the Town of Crested Butte, it is just a little over 30 miles long. It only takes +2 hours to get across there, depending on how much one stops to take in the amazing scenery!


Before taking a closer look, this is a map of the area:

Source: Highlighted Google map of area covered in this post

Here is a brief look at each of the highlight points illustrated above, with links to more information, if you are interested in learning more about it:

  1. Paonia State Park ("The park itself is fairly primitive." 👍) - The adventure begins by turning off CO 133 and crossing the bridge over the North Fork of the Gunnison River.

  2. Summit at Ruby Anthracite trailhead - A gateway into the Raggeds Wilderness.

  3. Lost Lake - A very popular destination on the West Elk Loop.

  4. Kebler Pass - Elevation 10,007 ft (3,050 m).

  5. Town of Crested Butte - Elevation 8,909 ft (2,715 m). A prime recreation destination all year around, with their nearby ski resort.


Let's be on our way! 😎

Climbing up to the Ruby Anthracite Trailhead

The West Elk Loop Scenic Byway begins once you turn off the main highway below Paonia Dam on the North Fork of the Gunnison River. For the first several miles, the road is at the bottom of the canyon along Anthracite Creek. It is a popular area for summer cabins, so there were a fair number of people and other signs of (gasp!) civilization! 🙄

Once the road forked away from the stream and began to climb and switchback up the side of Marcellina Mountain, we were back into RLT country! 👍

View of Marcellina Mountain, at the beginning of the climb up along the West Elk Loop Scenic Byway

Trip detour off onto 4-WD roads, amongst the aspens. Yes! My little road warrior gets to "play in the dirt!"

Enjoying the wonderful coolness, under the aspens, amidst the cycles of life. Vultures circling overhead, in the distance ...
Photos: Views climbing up to the Ruby Anthracite Trailhead


The first leg of the journey was very memorable when I elected to extend the time of the trip by impulsively taking off on a side venture down a 4-WD road down across Grouse Spring Creek and out into the basin you see in the lead photo.

My little road warrior truck probably thought it died and went to heaven! It spends so much time just sitting in our garage, always ready, but ... Nowhere to go.

Until days like this one!

Basin holding Lost Lake

Once climbing up to the summit of the ridge, beside Marcellina Mountain, where we passed the Ruby Anthracite Trailhead, we found ourselves in a big, high mountain basin. A highlight was driving up to see Lost Lake. From there, I had a great time exploring other parts of the basin, with all of its very nice, healthy groves of aspen trees.

Lost Lake Slough, with the North face of East Beckwith Mountain looming in the background

Beautiful forests with lots of water!

Very nice, healthy aspen grove above a stream in the foreground, with East Beckwith Mountain towering in the background

Walking through the aspen grove, with Fall's end-of-life vegetation on the forest floor

View north to Afley Peak. Even the mountains themselves have different colors!
Photos: Views of high mountain basin holding Lost Lake


Beautiful afternoons like this one in the high country never last long enough. I was particularly struck by how healthy the trees seemed to be. Sadly, all over far too many places in the American West, that is not the case. The combination of the weakening effects of drought and their lowered resistance to disease are unmistakable.

Up in this magnificent high mountain basin, though? Looking good! 🙌

Up over Kebler Pass

Then dropping back down into Crested Butte ...

Since you are already "way up there," upon entering and driving through the basin detailed above, there is definitely still a climb out of it, up and over Kebler Pass.

Panoramic view looking back west from the eastern end of the West Elk Loop Scenic Byway

The road up and out on the right ...

East Beckwith Mountain - 12,441 ft (3,792 m) high. The most prominent on the West Elk Loop Scenic Byway

View looking North to Ruby Peak

The town of Crested Butte, with its popular ski resort in the upper right, at the base of Crested Butte Mountain.
Photos: Views around Kebler Pass and then down into Crested Butte

Like all of this country, the views on this last leg of the day were spectacular. To "close it out" in grand style, you will not want to miss the view from the summit of Crested Butte, by clicking on the link to the right above.

Then scroll down a bit and watch the 30-second video. Wow! If this does not fill you with the desire to experience this country, well ... No words ...

    • For ... "extra credit" ... check out the webcams, accessed in the upper right of this webpage!


Upon leaving Crested Butte and continuing south, there was sure a lot of country I wish I had the time to stop and take more pictures. For the memories, but ...

Time was running out, on a long day ...

"After Hours" in Gunnison

For your appreciation, dear reader, let me preface my comments in this section with these two points:

  • I know nothing about the "fine art" of taxidermy.

  • I am an avowed, until "death do us part" (😉), carnivore omnivore!

    • No! No. No .... I am not sorry!


After a "hard day's work" out on the "open range" ... 😉

    • "You're booking yourself too tight!" as my favorite comedian Brian Regan would say ... 🙄

... I still had a ways to go, as I had reserved my night's stay in Gunnison, not Crested Butte ... Due to where I had originally planned to spend the following day.

    • Which is coming up in my next post - saving the best for last!

So ... Upon arriving, I asked for recommendations to the best steakhouse in the area, as Gunnison is the center of an amazing basin full of big ranches on the upper reaches of the Gunnison River.

Here is where I ended up:

Photos: Views inside Ol' Miner Steakhouse in Gunnison, Colorado

Supplied from local ranches, the steaks were exactly as one would hope - absolutely excellent!

But ...

The inescapable decor left me wondering about the fate of the various animals mounted on the walls. In what way? Whether their meat had been properly harvested and used to provide food for families somewhere.

Or ?...?

    • I've just never understood the thought behind hunting for "sport" only!


I thought you might enjoy my little postscript, dear reader. All in all, I enjoyed a very nice evening in the great little town of Gunnison, hub of the spectacular ...

Source: VisitTheUSA website for Gunnison Valley in Colorado

... Gunnison Valley, with a little after-dinner stroll through town and exploring along some of the river flowing through it! 🤠


With another great day out on the open road behind me, I enjoyed a very nice and restful evening in Gunnison. I ended the day on my pillow, looking forward to the following day, which I had long anticipated would be the highlight of this trip. Was I disappointed?

In my next post, you will find the answer!

I hope you enjoyed "seeing through my eyes" this remote part of the American West. If so, I’d love to hear any feedback you may be inspired to provide.

Until "next time," all the best to you for a better tomorrow, as we all work together to build up our Hive Communities and add increasing value to our Hive blockchain! 👍 😊

Blogger @roleerob
Hive "Dolphin" 🐬 & Man Cave "Dragon" 🐉

P.S. Unless otherwise noted, all images are pictures taken by my smartphone - a Samsung Galaxy S9+.


“Immutably enshrined” in the Hive blockchain on Saturday, 24 February 2024!
🌲 No trees were harmed in the publishing of this post! 🌲

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The first of my RLT ("Road Less Traveled") series, as I began writing again on Hive in 2024. An open road. With no one on it. Out in remote portions of the great American West. Hmmm. I wonder what it all means?
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A remarkable place. Built by remarkable people. Writing about it resulted in some of my highest rewarded posts, including "Daily Top Payout" on Hive. Please don't miss
my tribute
to Lynn Finney, in the top comment.
R2R Travelogue: Recap of "@roleerob's excellent adventure!" In winter ...
My R2R series - "Road to Recovery" trip of a lifetime. In 31 days, I drove 4,984 miles through a part of 8 states - Colorado, Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Unforgettable memories relived and new ones made!


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Practically not another soul in sight, it looks like you have the place all to yourself. Your little road warrior must be having so much fun roaming around this beautiful part of the country, I know I certainly would! This brightens up my weekend, thanks @roleerob

Ahhh, warms my heart, @livinguktaiwan ...

"This brightens up my weekend, thanks @roleerob"

... to hear this. My little road warrior had such fun on our little side tour out into that big basin beneath the West Elk Mountains. As with most any adventure like it, the only problem is they are all over far too soon ...

Thank you kindly for stopping by and letting me know you enjoyed it!

P.S. My next post in 3 or 4 days will provide a glimpse into 4-WD "heaven" for many in the State of Colorado - the high country in the remarkable San Juan Mountains above Lake San Cristobal!

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I found myself singing "Rocky Mountain High" by John Denver for the whole time I've spent reading this post. Incredible. Those landscapes pictures with the open view over the forest, lake and mountains made my day.
Thank you for sharing this post :)

🌄 Good morning (UTC-7)!☕

Nice to hear from a John Denver fan. He had an amazing gift. Many years ago, I had the blessing of hearing him live in the Red Rocks amphitheater just out of Denver. He was at the height of his fame / game, at the time.

Before starting to perform, he told his audience it was his favorite venue. And then proceeded to prove that out, with his performance.

Gone too soon ...

"... made my day."

Thank you kindly for stopping by and letting me know! 🫡

Dear @roleerob !
The vastness and natural richness of the American continent always amazes me!

To travel through such a vast and rugged wilderness, Americans would always have to travel in big trucks for safety!
I can understand why Americans want big, sturdy cars!

By the way, I have never seen such huge American deer and moose! 😲

Thank you for good article!😃

Autumn in Colorado must be a wonderful season, I see many pictures of autumnal colours in Colorado ❤️❤️ Your walk make me think about them❤️

🌄 Good morning (UTC-7)! ☕

"Autumn in Colorado must be a wonderful season ..."

Yes, most definitely, if you go up into the high country and pass through the aspen belt. I have been in many other parts of America and I personally do not believe there is anything like it.

Thank you for stopping by and letting me know you enjoyed this post! 🫡