Gunnison County is situated at an altitude of 7,703 feet (2,348 m).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 3.2 square miles (8.3 km2). All of it is land and none of it is covered by water. Gunnison is near Blue Mesa Reservoir. One can travel to Gunnison from the towns of Salida and Buena Vista by going over Monarch Pass.U.S. Route 50 is the main east-west thoroughfare through the town. At the 2010 Census the there was a population of 15,324 within the county.
Gunnison is located at the bottom of several valleys. Due to its location in the Rocky Mountains, cold air in all the valleys settles into Gunnison at night, making it one of the coldest places in winter in the United States, especially when snowpack is present. The average January low is −8 °F(−22 °C), and the average July high is 82 °F (28 °C). The record low is −60 °F (−51 °C), recorded at Blue Mesa Reservoir. The record high is 98 °F(37 °C), set on August 15, 1931.
The city typically experiences moderate snowfalls, with an average of 50 inches (130 cm) per year. Early fall and late spring snows are not uncommon, and snow can remain on the ground in town from as early as November to as late as April. Surrounding mountains experience very heavy snowfall with longer periods of snow on the ground. Many locations average 300–400 inches (760–1,000 cm) of snow annually. The snow is welcome to the area, as it is beneficial to water supplies and local ski resorts.
Gunnison is home to Western State Colorado University which received its third renaming since its beginnings from an approval of Governor John Wright Hickenlooper on August 1, 2012. The college was originally founded as The Colorado State Normal School for Children by a bill signed on April 16, 1901 by Governor James B. Orman. In 1923, the college’s name was changed to Western State College because its role expanded from a teaching institution to a liberal arts college. Historical papers in the Leslie Savage Library on campus state that the school was the first liberal arts college west of the Continental Divide.
The Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport serves the valley and nearby Crested Butte with both commercial airline and general aviation flights. Gunnison Valley Rural Transportaion Authority (RTA) operates bus service between Gunnison and Crested Butte serving Western State Colorado University and Crested Butte Mountain Resort. Charter bus service to Denver, Colorado Springs and Grand Junction from the Gunnison Valley is provided by Alpine Express. This service is scheduled by reservation and is not a daily scheduled run.
The League of American Bicyclists has awarded Gunnison the silver level in bicycle friendliness.
Winter activities for Gunnison include skiing at Crested Butte Mountain Resort, skiing at Monarch Ski Area, snowmobiling, cross country skiing, hunting, and snowshoeing.
Activities during the summer in Gunnison include fishing on the Gunnison River, Tomichi Creek and Blue Mesa Reservoir. Hiking in any of the numerous areas within a short distance of town like Curecanti National Recreation Area, Tomichi State Wildlife Area, Sapinero State Wildlife Area, McIntosh State Wildlife Area. Biking activities include road biking and mountain biking; Hartman’s Rock has many bike trails for mountain biking as well as motorcross and rock climbing. One rafting practice is to rent a raft in Almont and drift 10 miles (16 km) down the Gunnison River to the town of Gunnison. Below the Hwy 50 bridge on the Gunnison river is the kayak park. The Gunnison Ranger District Office located at 216 North Colorado Street offers maps and information about details particular to vehicle access, private, BLM, federal and state properties, trails, and other areas of interest.
Gunnison also hosts festivals and farmers markets during the summer months.
A rodeo in Colorado takes place over a 10-day period in July featuring PRCA Rodeo activities as well as family-based activities. Cattlemen’s Days celebrated its 112th year of rich western heritage in a first class and nationally recognized rodeo event for the year 2012. In 2011, this rodeo was nominated as one of the five finalist for Mid-sized rodeo of the year. It continues to be a leader in PCRA rodeos in fund-raising for breast cancer with their Tough enough to wear pink campaign. Cattlemen’s Days also offers scholarships to support and further the education of longtime 4-H/FFA exhibiters.
After the killing of Curley Bill, the Earps left Arizona and headed to Colorado. In a stop over in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Wyatt and Doc Holliday had a falling out but remained on fairly good terms. The group split up after that with Holliday heading to Pueblo and then Denver. The Earps and Texas Jack set up camp on the outskirts of Gunnison, where they remained quiet at first, rarely going into town for supplies. Eventually, Wyatt took over a faro game at a local saloon.
Slowly all of the Earp assets in Tombstone were sold to pay for taxes, and the stake the family had amassed eroded. Wyatt and Warren joined Virgil in San Francisco in late 1882. While there, Wyatt rekindled a romance with Josie Marcus, Behan’s one-time fiancée. His common-law wife Mattie waited for him in Colton but eventually realized Wyatt was not coming back (Wyatt had left Mattie the house when he left Tombstone). Earp left San Francisco with Josie in 1883, and she became his companion for the next 46 years (no marriage certificate has been found). Earp and Marcus returned to Gunnison where they settled down, where that state’s governor refused to extradite Wyatt back to Arizona on the grounds that he could not get a fair trial, and Earp continued to run a faro bank.
Gunnison residents isolated themselves from the surrounding area during the Spanish Influenza epidemic for two months at the end of 1918. All highways were barricaded near the county lines. Train conductors warned all passengers that if they stepped outside of the train in Gunnison, they would be arrested and quarantined for five days. As a result of the isolation, no one died of influenza in Gunnison during the epidemic. This served as partial inspiration for the novel The Last Town on Earth.