- One of the biggest attractions to the West Elk Wilderness is the possibility of solitude. Because this area is not located close to any metro area your chances of having a true wilderness experience are heightened.
The Anthracite Mountain Range near it's eastern boundary, is comprised of several 13,000 foot peaks. Although no fourteeners are located within this wilderness, there are several peaks over 13,000 throughout the area. This region was formed by fallout from ancient volcanoes. The Castles, volcanic spires between Castle Creek and South Castle Creek, are remnants of the ancient volcanoes. Most streams and the few lakes that lie in this area support native cutthroat, rainbow, brook and brown trout.
Recreation - The West Elk Wilderness encompasses more than 176,000 acres on the Gunnison National Forest. Over 200 miles of constructed trails lie within the region. This rugged and remote terrain is great for hiking, backpacking, horseback riding and fishing. Motorized and mechanized vehicles are not permitted within wilderness boundaries.
Climate - Weather for the area can vary greatly; but generally, you can expect a cool mountain climate with scattered rain showers throughout the summer months. Normally, the West Elk Wilderness area is snow free from July to September, but conditions depend on the elevation and amount of snowfall each winter. Lower elevations from around 7,000 to 8,500 feet may become snow free by early June, but some creek and river water levels tend to be high. The annual precipitation varies from 25 inches to 40 inches.
This region lies south of Kebler Pass (closed in winter), which extends from Crested Butte to Paonia State Recreation Area, and north of Curecanti National Recreation Area. The largest communities surrounding the area are Crested Butte, to the northeast; Gunnison, to the southeast; and Paonia, to the northwest.