After unexpectedly leaving Silverton, Colorado, earlier than planned, we headed towards our next planned destination of Montrose, Colorado. We mainly planned to visit Montrose to see Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, but we ended up taking a whole bunch of day trips to various nearby cities and areas. It turns out that the Montrose area is an excellent launching point for lots of other Western Colorado adventures. We spent seven nights in this area and really enjoyed our stay.
WHERE we stayed:
When we initially arrived in Montrose, we stayed at an OHV area found on Campendium. We only stayed on night here and would definitely not recommend it. It’s loud (full of ATVs and UTVs), crowded, and the sites are too close together. In addition there is absolutely no shade, which was brutal in the heat of mid-summer, and it seems that there was a permanent resident present that ran their generator all night long. We are very easy to please, but this was not an ideal campsite. The next day, we made plans to vacate and try a different site.
After finding no other sites on Campendium for stays longer than one or two nights, we checked our Harvest Hosts database, and found a beautiful little winery about twenty minutes up the road in the town of Olathe. (For those who do not know, Harvest Hosts is a collection of wineries, farms, museums, and more that allows you to stay on-property at any place of your choosing for FREE!) Choosing this winery as our next stop was almost fateful, as we became good friends with the owners, who treated us like family during our stay there.
Out of all the Harvest Hosts we’ve ever stayed at, Mike and Wendy were by far our kindest ever hosts. At the end of the week, we found ourselves reluctant to leave our new friends, who had cooked us dinner multiple times, let us play with our dogs off-leash, and had been more than accommodating. Because of them, this was easily one of my favorite weeks on the road thus far.
WHAT we cooked:
Because our hosts fed us so much, we didn’t really cook a whole lot while in Olathe. One night they made us grilled steak and salmon (“surf and turf”) with veggies and another night they made us Olathe-famous corn-on-the-cob and seared tuna steaks. We also shared delicious watermelon.
Another night, we assembled a cheese board to bring over during one of our evening hangouts. We had several types of cheese, apples, green and black olives, grapes, summer sausage, salamis, marinated onions, and honey. And they, of course, provided plenty of wine. It was quite a feast.
WHERE we dined:
While visiting Montrose County, we did not eat out at all, surprisingly. Montrose has a thriving downtown scene with many places to eat, but we had so much fun having dinner with our new friends that we didn’t end up trying any of the local fare. We did, however, try homecooked Olathe sweet corn, which is said by many to be the sweetest and most delicious in the world. We loved it.
WHAT we did:
We went for many day trips to nearby areas from Olathe counties. I’ve linked several longer blog posts with more details in the following sections.
1. Drive-In Theater
On the Fourth of July, we went to the Star Drive-In theater in Montrose and saw a double feature of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Adrift. We were allowed to bring our dogs and even outside snacks. At only $8.50 per person for a double feature, we had a great, budget-friendly night out, complete with fireworks that were visible from the theater. We found out after the fact that this drive-in is RV-friendly, and we will definitely be bringing the entire RV to our next drive-in movie.
In the town of Delta, about twenty minutes from Olathe (in the opposite direction of Montrose), there is another drive-in theater that also shows double features for the same price. Mike and Wendy told us that at one point, there were less than two dozen drive-in theaters in the United States, and the drive-ins in Montrose and Delta were two of them. Both have been open since the 1950s and have never closed, a neat little fact we were intrigued to learn.
2. Downtown Montrose
As I mentioned above, Montrose has a cute little downtown area that we passed through several times. There are plenty of places to eat, shop, and hangout. The locals seem to love this area, and we will be sure to spend a morning or an afternoon here during our next visit to Montrose.
3. Telluride day trip
My favorite day while in Montrose was a day trip to Telluride. This little mountain town is fun, lively, and full of kind people. Its extreme dog-friendliness makes it an ideal destination for us, and maybe even somewhere we would consider settling down one day. While here, we explored downtown, walked alongside the San Miguel River, rode the free gondolas to Mountain Village, hiked in the Uncompahgre National Forest, and enjoyed some local coffees. 10/10 would do again.
4. Mountain passes (Engineer Pass)
We also spent a day driving Engineer Pass. We began in Olathe, and drove two hours to Lake City in the Rio Grande National Forest. We then entered Engineer Pass and drove to the top of Engineer Mountain, before descending down to the old mining town of Animas Forks. At Animas Forks, we headed towards Silverton, where we exited the mountain pass and drove the Million Dollar Highway through Ouray and Ridgway, and back to Olathe. It was quite a day, full of some of the most amazing views we have ever seen. This pass is only recommended for vehicles with 4×4 and high-clearance.
5. Grand Junction (Colorado National Monument, wineries)
Another morning, we took a drive out to Grand Junction, about an hour northwest of Olathe. Olathe is a fertile farming community, but during the drive out to Grand Junction, the landscape quickly changes to a desert environment, similar to Moab. While there, we drove through Colorado National Monument, which was akin to a smaller version of Canyonlands National Park. We brought Luna with us, who was only allowed on overlooks. Because of this, we did not complete any hikes, but we were still treated to beautiful views at the many overlooks.
Grand Junction is considered the wine country of Colorado, and there are many wineries open for wine tastings all over the city. Wendy and Mike recommended Two Rivers Winery and Red Fox Cellars as their favorite wineries. Since we had Luna with us, we were unable to stop but will surely plan to on our next pass through the area.
6. Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park was the entire reason we planned to stop in Montrose in the first place. We took two trips there and absolutely loved this gorgeous, underrated national park. We drove the South rim, stopping at the various overlooks and hiked the Warner Point Nature Trail. We also stopped at the visitor’s center to learn more about this park, and Bren hiked the inner canyon, all the way down to the river.
This park is so unique in that the canyon is extremely deep and steep. We loved it, and it’s now one of my top five national parks.
7. Day Trip to Ouray
This is something that our hosts seem to do fairly often. At only about an hour from Olathe, it’s a great day trip destination. Ouray is neat in that it is perfectly situated inside a narrow canyon, making it a rather scenic place to visit. Recommended activities in Ouray include a visit to the Ouray Hot Springs, exploring the downtown area, hiking to Box Canyon Falls, and hiking the Baby Bathtubs Trail. They also have a great food and brewery scene that is worth checking out.
8. Day Trip to Ridgway
On the way from Silverton to Montrose, we stopped in Ridgway for our Fourth of July barbecue. This town is also an ideal day trip destination from Olathe. We had lunch at Ridgway State Park, which is also an ideal location for water sports. The downtown area is also cute and worth a stop.
9. Float/fish Gunnison River
We didn’t have time to do this in Olathe, but Mike and Wendy declared the Gunnison River an ideal place for trout fishing and paddling. This just gives us more of a reason to return to the area.
10. Lake Curecanti National Rec Area
We stopped at this lake to paddle with our friends Chris and Rachel on the way to Crested Butte. This recreation area is only about an hour from the Montrose area, and it is a beautiful place to relax, hike, fish, and enjoy water sports. We enjoyed a short-lived paddle with our friends, which was unfortunately cut-short early due to an impending thunderstorm. If you come here to enjoy the lake during summer, be sure to come in the morning or early afternoon to avoid the daily thunderstorms of the monsoon season.
Nearby this area is a popular hiking destination known as Hartman Rocks. We didn’t have the time to stop but have seen lovely pictures and heard good things.
11. Day trip to Gunnison
After getting rained out of our paddle trip, we headed into Gunnison for dinner with our friends. We decided to try the local brewery, which ended up having amazing drinks and delicious, artisan pizzas. 10/10
We absolutely loved our week spent in Montrose County and would gladly return, even if only to see our friends Mike & Wendy again. Because of its great location, the Olathe area is a ideal vacation spot. Our friends at Mountain View Winery even plan to open an AirBnB location on their property one day, so maybe you too can have as great an experience as we did.
Have you ever visited Montrose County in Colorado? How was your experience! Feel free to share with us in the comments below!