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Colorado > West Elk Wilderness
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West Elk Wilderness

Cebolla Ranger District- The Cebolla Ranger District encompasses the southeast end of the Gunnison National Forest. It is located to the east and south of the town of Gunnison.
Paonia Ranger District- The Paonia Ranger District encompasses the northwest portion of the Gunnison National Forest. It includes much of the North Fork of the Gunnison River drainage and the West Elk Mountains.
Taylor River Ranger District- The Taylor River Ranger District encompasses the portion of the Gunnison National Forest north of Gunnison and Blue Mesa Reservoir. It includes the area around Crested Butte and the Taylor River drainage.

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General Information

Description - One of the biggest attractions to the West Elk Wilderness is the possibility of solitude. Because this area is not located close to any metro area your chances of having a true wilderness experience are heightened.

The Anthracite Mountain Range near it's eastern boundary, is comprised of several 13,000 foot peaks. Although no fourteeners are located within this wilderness, there are several peaks over 13,000 throughout the area. This region was formed by fallout from ancient volcanoes. The Castles, volcanic spires between Castle Creek and South Castle Creek, are remnants of the ancient volcanoes. Most streams and the few lakes that lie in this area support native cutthroat, rainbow, brook and brown trout.

Recreation - The West Elk Wilderness encompasses more than 176,000 acres on the Gunnison National Forest. Over 200 miles of constructed trails lie within the region. This rugged and remote terrain is great for hiking, backpacking, horseback riding and fishing. Motorized and mechanized vehicles are not permitted within wilderness boundaries.

Climate - Weather for the area can vary greatly; but generally, you can expect a cool mountain climate with scattered rain showers throughout the summer months. Normally, the West Elk Wilderness area is snow free from July to September, but conditions depend on the elevation and amount of snowfall each winter. Lower elevations from around 7,000 to 8,500 feet may become snow free by early June, but some creek and river water levels tend to be high. The annual precipitation varies from 25 inches to 40 inches.

Location - This region lies south of Kebler Pass (closed in winter), which extends from Crested Butte to Paonia State Recreation Area, and north of Curecanti National Recreation Area. The largest communities surrounding the area are Crested Butte, to the northeast; Gunnison, to the southeast; and Paonia, to the northwest.

Current Conditions & Trip Reports

Trip Reports:
Add your own trip Report! Newly re-released feature. One of the most popular features on Wildernet, trip reports allow you to share your experiences with others. This is an invaluable resource for determining what to expect on your outdoor adventure, so please participate! To prevent spamming, you must be a registered user of Wildernet in order to submit a trip report

Filed By: Milissa Dunlap (Montrose, CO)
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly

More Information

Contact Information:
Taylor River/Cebolla Ranger Districts, 216 North Colorado , Gunnison, CO, 81230, Phone: 970-641-0471

Additional Information:
Colorado Wilderness Areas - Some of the most spectacular terrain in Colorado is preserved within Colorado's extensive system of Wilderness Areas.

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