One of the first things visitors bound for Montrose spot is the mountains — those craggy, snaggletoothed San Juan Mountains that, on one of the many clear days that spoils us here in western Colorado, can be spotted two counties away.
That impressive sight leads many to be drawn farther south to the resort towns engulfed by those impressive peaks, in the process bypassing this town of roughly 20,000.
That’s understandable, but gives short shrift to Montrose.
With an incredible variety of outdoor activities, its trio of museums and array of downtown shops, and the chocolate wonderland that is the Russell Stovers Candies factory outlet store, Montrose offers something for everyone.
So if you’re not familiar with what Montrose has to offer, or you’re not entirely sure what you want to do with your time here, the Montrose Visitor Center, 107 S. Cascade Ave., should be your first stop.
Located a block south and a block east of the primary downtown intersection of Townsend Avenue and Main Street, the state-of-the-art, interactive facility allows visitors to pick from a menu of activities, whether they want a hard, 30-minute hike or a mellow, off-road bike ride.
Go to visitmontrose.com to learn more.
Starry-eyed: The perfect place to start your weekend might be in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park — after dark on a Friday. Pack a picnic with a bottle of wine, head east of Montrose, and then, after the sun dips below the horizon, watch the sky put on a show.
“You’re completely off the beaten path. You literally feel like you can reach up and touch the stars.
It’s an amazing experience,” said Rob Joseph, Montrose assistant city manager and director of the Montrose Office of Business and Tourism.
Of course, Black Canyon looks pretty good in the daytime, too. The park contains 12 miles of the 48-mile canyon of the Gunnison River and offers ample hiking, rock climbing, kayaking and rafting opportunities.
(970-641-2337, nps.gov/blca) Get downtown: Take advantage of shopping specials in downtown Montrose. On the second Saturday of every month, for every $100 you spend at downtown businesses, you’ll get back $10 in Montrose bucks that can be spent at 95 percent of all businesses in the city, according to Rob Joseph, Montrose assistant city manager and director of the Montrose Office of Business and Tourism.
Jump in: The new Montrose Water Sports Park in Riverbottom Park offers kayakers, ankle-waders and anglers a common place to cast a line or dip a shoulder — or a toe — in the Uncompahgre River. Consisting of 1,000 feet of river, six drop structures and terraced spectator areas, it is one of the largest in Colorado and the first in the U.S. to be fully accessible by Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
The Water Sports Park is complemented by a new series of trails that connect Riverbottom Park with Cerise Park.
To celebrate the park’s opening, Montrose will host the inaugural Fun on the Unc, a one-day festival on Aug.
1 featuring food, vendors and music.
(Riverbottom Park, 1036 Riverbottom Drive, cityofmontrose.org/613/Water-Sports-Park).
Take a tour: If you’re looking for a scenic, family-friendly activity, book a boat tour on Morrow Point Reservoir, found within the Curecanti National Recreation Area. A park ranger will lead a leisurely 90-minute tour, giving participants an opportunity to learn about geology, wildlife, early inhabitants, the narrow-gauge railroad and more. Tours begin around the beginning of June and end after Labor Day and run twice a day every day except for Tuesday. (970-641-3447, ext. 205, nps.gov/cure)