Southwest Colorado Travel Guide

Parks and Recreation Areas

Southwest Colorado includes a wealth of national and state parks and recreation areas. Three of the 13 rivers designated as "gold medal" waters by the Colorado Wildlife Commission—the Animas, Gunnison, and Rio Grande—are here. Blue Mesa and McPhee reservoirs, the state’s largest bodies of water, are destinations for boaters, waterskiers, windsurfers, and anglers (including the ice-fishing kind). Up in rustic Almont, a small community near the Gunnison headwaters, they love—and live—fly-fishing. Anglers also love Ridgway State Park, with access to rainbow trout and other prize fish. Anyone older than 16 needs a Colorado fishing license, which you can obtain at local sporting-goods stores.

The precipitous Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is a mysterious and powerful attraction. Some of the most intact remains of the ancient, little-known Ancestral Puebloan culture are inside Mesa Verde National Park and Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.

The San Juan Mountains stretch through 12,000 square miles of southwest Colorado, encompassing three national forests and seven wilderness areas. The enormous San Juan National Forest is a virtual paradise for all kinds of adventuring. Directly north, the Uncompahgre National Forest encompasses nearly a million acres of alpine wilderness and the picturesque peaks of Mt. Sneffels and Lizard Head. To the east, the Rio Grande National Forest stretches from the magisterial Sangre de Cristo Mountains across the San Luis Valley.

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