Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Activity Guides:
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Trails:
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Overview
Sheer black walls of schist and gneiss plummet as much as 2,700 feet along the 53-mile stretch of narrow gorge known as the Black Canyon. The 14 miles that lie within the park are like a raw cut in the Earth's crust, exposing geologic viscera and illuminating millions of years of history. On the canyon floor, the Gunnison River rips through the gorge as it did 30 million years ago, when it began carving a chasm into the hard black rock of the Gunnison Uplift.
The status of Black Canyon of the Gunnison changed from monument to park on October 21, 1999. The park service commemorated the event by adding 10,000 acres of wilderness to help protect the striking beauty and wildlife habitat of this river corridor.
Hikers can experience the canyon from a variety of perspectives by hiking along the North Rim, the South Rim, and on inner-canyon routes that descend deep into the chasm. Grab your binoculars to snoop on park denizens like the yellow-bellied marmot, a jolly rodent that likes to sunbathe on rocky ledges and outcrops. If you want to catch a glimpse of the peregrine falcon, you'd better be quick on the drawit's the fastest bird in the world.
Hike the Canyon Rims
The Rim Rock Nature Trail snakes its way through thickets of sagebrush, pinyon pine, Utah juniper, and stunted Gambel oak before it slides alongside the canyon rim. "Pygmy forests" dominate the high desert and deep canyons of the Colorado Plateaudwarf vegetation is all that can survive the pebbly soil, scarce rainfall, and elevations of 8,000 feet. The one-mile round-trip hike is rated as moderate and offers views of the distant West Elk Mountainsremnants of ancient volcanic activity. As you walk along the edge of the canyon, you will notice that its dark walls are speckled with milky-white quartz crystals, pinkish-orange feldspar, and flaky mica. These igneous rocks penetrated the cracks of the harder rock millions of years ago, like molten toothpaste.
Duel with Rainbow on the Gunnison
Anglers along the Gunnison River can be excused if they look a little worn out. After all, the fishing for large trout is so good along the Gunnison that the river is rated as "Gold Medal Waters" by Colorado's wildlife commission, a designation earned by a mere 168 miles of the state's more than 9,000 miles of trout streams.
Kayak the Gunnison River
The 14-mile stretch of mad whitewater that surges through this portion of the Black Canyon is rated Class V and is strictly for expert kayakers. In the past, this section has claimed the lives of experienced and respected kayakers. Extreme gradientsas much as 360 feet per mileand difficult portages make this section of the river unraftable. West of the national park, several rafting outfitters offer guided rafting trips in the tamer waters of the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area.
Snowshoe to Devils Lookout
Winter is a great time to visit the Black Canyon. Strap on snowshoes and trek over to Devils Lookout. Snowshoers can take in stunning winter views of the canyon's jet-black rock juxtaposed against brilliant white snow. Excellent treks can be undertaken along the upper part of the Oak Flat Loop and Rim Rock Trail. Cross-country skiers can also gain access to the overlooks by skiing along the six-mile South Rim Drive, which is left unplowed during the winter months.
Camp along the Canyon Rim
Pitch a tent 2,000 feet above the Gunnison River at the South Rim Campground. The South Rim Campground has 88 sites in oak-brush forest with vault toilets, tables, and grills. Water is available mid-May to mid-October, and 30 amp electrical hookups are available in Loop B only. All sites have a maximum 14 consecutive-day stay in a 30-day period. Vehicles greater than 35 feet are not recommended, and there is a maximum of eight people and two vehicles per site. The North Rim Campground has 13 sites in Pinyon-Juniper forest. It does not offer hookups. Additional campgrounds are available at Curecanti National Recreation Area, Ridgeway Lake, and Crawford Lake State Recreation Areas. Private campgrounds are located near Montrose, Delta, and Cimarron.
Ogle on South Rim Drive
The six-mile South Rim Drive meanders along the canyon rim from Tomichi Point to High Point. The drive leads to ten overlooks where visitors can stop to ponder the astonishing chasm that lies below. We strongly urge you to pull over at Chasm View, Pulpit Rock, Sunset View, and Gunnison Point. A visitor's center at Gunnison Point features exhibits on the canyon.
- Loneliest Road
- Split the country in two by driving cross-country between San Francisco and the Chesapeake Bay
- Top Ten Offbeat Summer Parks
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park