Scenic Drive to Gunnison National Park
[Montrose, CO, July 23, 2022]
This trip began with a half marathon we had signed up for just outside Rocky Mountain National Park. There are 3 other national parks in Colorado, so I was really struggling to decide which way to extend this trip. Since I wanted to see some of the classic mountain towns in Colorado, I eventually settled on a clockwise loop via Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Aspen and Vail.
I flew from Portland to Denver on Saturday morning. I usually pick aisle seats but this time I opted for a window seat, hoping for nice views of the Cascades in Oregon and the Rockies in Colorado. The departure from Oregon did not disappoint. We quickly got above the clouds and and I saw Mount Rainier and Mt St Helens towering up above the clouds.
A little later, still over Oregon, I spotted Mount Jefferson and the Three Sisters.
Denver was incredibly busy. It felt like a holiday weekend. Olivia was waiting for me at the gate. I was so happy to be reunited with her. We have many amazing trips under our belt but it had been a while since we had traveled together and I was very much looking forward to this trip.
I reached for my water bottle so I can refill it at the airport, but it wasn’t in the side pocket I had stuck it in. It must have fallen off in the overhead bin. I went back to the gate and the flight attendant was nice enough to go back and pick it up for me. Whew!
We picked up our rental car and started driving the 5 plus hours between Denver and Montrose, Colorado.
The drive begain with crossing the Rockies. After that, the landscape slowly transitioned to this weird mix between Colorado mountains and Utah desert. It rained on and off the whole way. I really enjoyed watching the beautiful thunderstorms because we don’t get those kinds of storms in LA. Of course, they weren’t that much fun to drive in but they were quick to pass. The mix of clouds, rain and sun created some really unique light.
Eventually, we reached the Gunnison river, the river that created the canyon we were about to see the next day. The road followed the river at first but soon it started climbing into the mountains.
Before long, we were down to one lane each way. Some construction between Gunnison and Montrose had us driving pretty close to the edge with a huge drop off on one side.
We got to Montrose just after 6:30 PM. We checked into our hotel and headed out for dinner. Montrose is home to only 20,000 people – tiny by most standards, so there weren’t that many restaurants to pick from. We ended up at Horsefly Brewery. We tried to enjoy the patio but as soon as we ordered our drinks, the rain got again and we had to go back inside.
Even though we were exhausted, we were excited to be 10 minutes away from the entrance to Gunnison. Let the adventure begin!