The Gunnison River is one of western Colorado’s many outdoor gems, and the Curecanti National Recreation Area includes three reservoirs (Blue Mesa Reservoir, Morrow Point Reservoir, and Crystal Reservoir) that connect to it.
This summer, explore the water with a family-friendly camping, fishing, hiking, or boating experience. Here’s what you need to know to get your trip started.
Since Curecanti is in the heart of the Rocky Mountains along the Western Slope, you’ll be completely immersed in nature when you camp here.
There are ten primary camping areas with up to 160 site options, so your family has plenty of choices. If you want to come back to Curecanti several times, you can easily stay in a different area each time. The campsites aren’t all RV-friendly, and they aren’t all reservable, so be sure to plan ahead before you set out on your outdoor adventure.
It is required to have a Colorado fishing license to fish here, though it’s not necessary for kids and teens under age 16 . That’s why this is such a great family-friendly outdoor adventure option for your crew this summer.
All rainbow trout are protected under catch and release, but you can keep the other fish you catch (and if you need some recipe ideas, check out these options). Visiting Curecanti this summer may inspire you to keep fishing year-round. The Iola Basin of the Blue Mesa Reservoir also offers ice fishing, so you’re covered for a good winter fishing spot, too.
Curecanti offers a variety of hiking trails, with beginner to more advanced routes. You can also bring pets on any of the trails, though they must be leashed at all times.
Since Curecanti has shorter, tamer trail options for new hikers, this is a fantastic option for young kids who are learning to love the great outdoors. However, hiking on the Western Slope often includes altitude changes. If you live at a lower elevation, you may want to do a few hikes closer to home before your trip to prepare.
For anyone who wants to enjoy the beauty of the Gunnison River without camping overnight, the Curecanti National Recreation Area offers a 1.5-hour boat tour that extends through the upper Black Canyon. Note that at the time of writing, tours have not yet been opened for 2020. The National Parks Service hopes to give tours later in the summer. Personal watercraft are also permitted, just be sure to double check any restrictions and requirements.
No matter how you enjoy the water, bring your camera. You’ll want to take pictures of the wildflowers and diverse wildlife that populate the canyon as you cruise down the river.