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When to Go
Southwest Colorado, like the rest of the state, is intensely seasonal. Snow begins falling in the high country in late September or early October, and by Halloween seasonal closures turn most unpaved roads into routes for snowmobiles. The San Juan Mountains are the snowiest region of the Colorado Rockies, with average annual snowfalls approaching 400 inches in some spots. Winter lingers well into the season that is called spring on the calendar—the greatest snowfalls generally occur in March and April. Skiing winds down in early to mid-April, and ski towns virtually shut down until summer. Gunnison and Durango, being college towns, keep rolling throughout the year.
In mid-April the snow in the higher elevations begins to melt. Cresting streams provide thrilling, if chilling, white-water rafting and kayaking. Hiking trails become accessible, and wildflowers begin their short, intense season of show. Summer is glorious in the mountains, with brilliant sunshine and cobalt-blue skies. Late summer brings brief and often intense showers on many an August afternoon, sometimes accompanied by dramatic thunder and lightning. Summer tourism winds down after Labor Day and shuts down completely in October, and the cycle begins again. Spring and fall are the best times to visit the harsh dry climate of the mesa-and-canyon country around the Four Corners.
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