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Southwest Colorado is the land beyond the interstates. Old mining roads, legacies of the late 19th and early 20th centuries when gold and silver mining was ascendant, lead through drop-dead gorgeous mountain valleys to the rugged high country. However, much of this part of the state is designated as wilderness area which means that no roads may be built and no wheeled or motorized vehicles are permitted. This is a region where some state highways are unpaved, a federal highway known as U.S. 550 corkscrews over a high mountain pass known for heavy snows and a lack of guardrails, and snowmobiles regularly replace other motor vehicles as winter transportation. High-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicles in summer and snowmobiles in winter are required for backcountry exploration, but regular passenger cars can travel most roads.
Crested Butte and Gunnison. Explore this mountain paradise on single track in summer and Nordic track in the winter. The Taylor and Gunnison rivers round out the adventure with white-water rafting, kayaking, and great fly-fishing.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and Montrose. The western town of Montrose makes a great base for exploring the majestic canyon that plunges 2,000 feet down sheer vertical cliffs to the roaring Gunnison River.
Lake City and Creede. Route 149 meanders south of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison through a scattering of cozy, laid-back communities, including Lake City and Creede.
Telluride and the San Juan Mountains. Old mining camps including Silverton, Ouray, and Telluride now welcome adventurers seeking other riches—wilderness trekking, rugged four-wheeling, mountain climbing, extreme winter sports, and horseback riding.
Mesa Country. Durango makes an ideal base for exploring Mesa Country and its star attraction—Mesa Verde National Park. This college town is a hot spot known for its eclectic eateries, historic hotels, and modern boutiques.
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