Million Dollar Highway to Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP

This weekend, I decided to leave my spot near Cortez and head further North. I drove back to Durango and headed up US 550. I found a campsite near the Potato Lake Trailhead, where I stopped to hike to Potato Lake before crossing the Million Dollar Highway on Saturday. Visiting the south rim of Black Canyon of the Gunnison, I stayed the night at the South Rim Campground before heading to the North Rim on Sunday and eventually making my way to camping at Washington Gulch outside of Crested Butte, CO for the week.

Potato Lake and million dollar highway

Finishing work on Friday morning, I packed up and headed back to Durango for some quick grocery shopping. I then turned onto US 550 and headed north. Just North of the Purgatory Resort, I turned off onto Lime Creek Road, a dirt road heading up into the mountains.

I found a beautiful campsite right by a small mountain lake, not realizing that this was in fact the trailhead to Potato Lake (or Spuds Lake as it is also called). Eventually coming to this realization via hikers passing through and chatting with me, I decided to go ahead and take the short hike.

Potato Lake is actually a great place to backpack into, with several spots where many people have setup camp right along the lake in the past. However, I didn’t take anything more than what I needed for the quick day hike, so I headed back to the trailhead to camp for the night.

Saturday morning, I packed up and headed back onto US 550, heading further north. I had read about the section between Silverton and Ouray, which is called the Million Dollar Highway for some reason. There were tons of bicyclists on the thin road the entire way, and plenty of other cars creating traffic, but for the time that I was able to avoid them, the drive was absolutely amazing and worthy of the hype!

Alas, it could only last so long before the road straightened out and flattened and I was headed on to Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

black canyon of the gunnison National Park

Arriving in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, I began on the South Rim. I was actually a bit more surprised by this canyon than I expected to be. The deepness and steepness of this canyon is remarkable. I visited all of the viewpoints on the South Rim and did a good deal of the small hikes on the rim.

Alas, I pulled into the South Rim Campground and found a campsite for the night before heading on to the North Rim Sunday morning.

I found the North Rim to be much more enjoyable than the South Rim, actually. In fact more scenic, better hiking opportunities, and a lot less people. It’s a lot more remote and weird to get to, but totally worth getting away from the larger crowds and everything from the South rim.

Of course, being Sunday, I could only stay for so long before heading out to a different campsite. I read up on a few spots outside of Crested Butte and decided to head there. I ended up finding a lovely spot tucked in the hills at Washington Gulch, where I setup for the week.

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