Site Details

descriptions and directions

Cottonwood Marsh photo by Peter Burke

Rainbow Lake Road (CR 724) - Gunnison County
Aliases: West Elk Wilderness, South Baldy
Ownership: None Listed
Description: Rainbow Lake Road starts in the sagebrush lowlands along Highway 50 and climbs 16 miles into the mountains, ending at a trailhead that goes into the West Elk Wilderness. Passing through most of the major habitats in the county, birding on Rainbow Lake Road can be very good with a great range of birds. However, the alpine areas are only accessible by hiking the trail into the wilderness. The best time to visit is summer; fall can be good until the road is closed for winter. Access is limited in the spring. Resident birds include jays, Pine Grosbeak, crossbills, and Townsend's Solitaire. Nesting birds include Green-tailed Towhee, Sage Thrasher, Brewer's Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Yellow Warbler, MacGillivray's Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Common Poorwill, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Clark's Nutcracker, Western Tanager, both kinglets, etc. Easiest access for ptarmigan, pipits, and horned larks are the slopes of South Baldy. There are also many opportunities for raptors including Cooper's Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk and Prairie Falcon.

Habitat: Sagebrush, Grassland/Prairie, Lowland Riparian, Aspen Grove, Mixed Conifer Forest, Spruce-Fir Forest, Krummholz, Alpine Tundra
Directions: Go west of Gunnison on US 50 to milepost 143 (14.3 miles). Rainbow Lake Road is on the north side of the reservoir and offers easy and productive access to higher elevations. Alpine areas are accessible by hiking and only those in good physical condition should attempt to climb South Baldy. There is a camping area at Rainbow Lake. Make sure to bring your camera! The wildflowers are stunning in this area, especially in July.
Other Wildlife:
Other Attractions:

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