Your Complete Guide To Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National

suset-in-black-canyon-of-the-gunnison

Planning a Trip to the Park


When Should You Visit the Park?

The ideal time to visit this national park is during the summer, especially since the Main South Rim road, ranger station, and North Rim roads are closed from November to April. Winter is also a good time to explore this park as there are plenty of winter activities organized here, including snowshoeing, downhill and cross-country skiing.


How Much Will the Visiting the Park Cost?

You will need an annual or a weekly pass to visit this park. Typically, visitors opt for a weekly pass as it gives them sufficient time to enjoy all the facilities and places inside the park.

Here are the different options available:

  • Per person - $10 (pedestrian, hiker, biker)
  • Per vehicle - $20 (non-commercial, private, single vechicle)
  • Per motorcycle - $15 (non-commercial, private; 2 passengers)

For commercial buses:

  • Bus with seating capacity of more than 26 passengers - $100
  • Bus with seating capacity of 7 to 25 passengers - $40
  • Bus with seating capacity of 6 or less passengers - $25

The annual pass is valid for 12 months from the date of purchase, but only covers the entry fees.

  • Annual pass - $40 (pass holder and passengers in a vehicle)


How Long Should the Trip Be?

Since there is so much to explore in this park, it is best to set aside at least three days to properly enjoy what it has to offer. The drive from South Rim to the North Rim itself is about two hours long, so make sure to plan the trip accordingly.


Do You Need Special Permits?

You only need a special permit if you want to hold an event in the park, including ceremonies, entertainment, spectator attractions, pageants, memorial services, weddings, motorcycle/automobile club rallies, large group rendezvous or camps, and organized rides or tours. You can get a special permit for a group activity which is short-term, and:

  • Benefits an organization, group or individual instead of general public
  • Needs written authorization or certain management control to protect the public interest and park resources
  • Isn’t prohibited by regulation or law
  • Isn’t conducted, sponsored, or initiated by NPS
  • Isn’t managed under a concession contract

It is essential to note that the space in the park for such activities is provided on the first-come-first-served basis. It typically takes 10 business days for a standard request to be processed. For events that require some other environmental compliance, the minimum processing time is four weeks.


Top 10 Must-Do Things in the Park


Here is a list of the top ten things you must do during your visit to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park:


Enjoying the Scenic Views

The drive on both the South and North Rims roads offer stunning views, with plenty of overlooks where you can stop and admire the view. You can get a glimpse of the sheer black cliffs of the Black Canyon from these overlooks. There are 12 of them just on the South Rims. You don’t want to miss the overlooks on the Sunset View, Pulpit Rock, Painted Wall, and the Chasm View.


Heading Back in Time

Visiting Cimarron, a historic town, is a must thing to do here. It used to be a train depot but now takes you back in time. Start with the visitor center to gather all the details, and head towards the rail yard exhibit to learn how things were at the Black Canyon during 1882. You can even glimpse at the last remaining truss bridge.


Getting the Camping Experience

If you are looking for a fun-filled camping experience, then there are plenty of campgrounds in the Black Canyon National Park to choose from. For the thrill-seekers, hiking towards the river from the canyon rim is a good choice. This trial is not suitable for amateur hikers since the trail isn’t marked clearly and is rather steep. Be prepared to face frequent hazards, like stinging nettle, ticks, and poison ivy. Make sure you have the right equipment and experience before opting for this hike towards the campground. Start early and take a large refillable water bottle along with you, especially if you are hiking during the summer season. Other campgrounds are easily accessible through a drive or an easy hike. The Gunnison Route is ideal for first-time hikers and campers.


Boating

There is a boat tour that takes you to the Black Canyon through the Curecanti National Recreation Park. A park ranger leads this tour and shares fascinating geological, wildlife, and historical information as the boat gently floats down the river. This trip is 1.5 hours long, where you get the chance to explore the inner canyon.

The trip starts around 40 miles west of Montrose and 25 miles east of the Gunnison River. It is a wonderful way of discovering the north rim of the Black Canyon. However, you will have to make a reservation well in advance to get a seat on the boat. You can call in to make the reservation or head to the park visitor center. They don’t accept walk-ins. So, make sure you reserve your spot to avoid disappointments.

Make sure you are well prepared for the Colorado weather. What might seem like a perfect summer day can suddenly transform into a harsh rainy one. Make sure that you pack rain gear, sun protection, snacks, warm jacket, and drinking water before you head for the boating tour.


Watching the Sky

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is also known as the International Dark Sky Park, which means it is an ideal location for stargazing. There are plenty of opportunities offered by the park for constellation tours and night-sky viewing. These also include telescopes! Be sure to check out the schedule for the upcoming tours and viewings.


Exploring the North Rim

The North Rim of this national park is not as developed as its South Rim. There isn’t any visitor center here, and its ranger station has few staff members. However, this also reduces the amount of traffic on this side of the park and boasts more stunning views as compared to the other side. The cliffs in the North Rim are sheerer with incredible trails. Don’t miss out on exploring this side of the park, but be prepared for longer hikes.


Heading to the Hiking Trails

There are plenty of hiking trails all over the Black Canyon Park. All the trials have stunning views, particularly on the North Rim. The trails on this rim are usually secluded, making them ideal if you prefer the quiet. These trails are also rather challenging so prepare accordingly and avoid if you are a beginner. The hiking trails on the South Rim also offer beautiful views and are easier as compared to the strenuous ones on the North Rim.


Participating in the Ranger Programs

Different ranger-led programs and activities are organized within the park, including historical sessions, night sky viewings, seminars, or workshops on nature, geology, and more. Make sure you stop by at the visitor center, visit their website, or call in for the schedule to plan your trip accordingly.


Rock Climbing

This national park is one of the most popular climbing areas in the country, offering chills and thrills to the rock climbers. The Black Canyon has a Chasm View Wall with its classic long routes, as well as the ever-popular Painted Wall. Both of these walls provide the climbers a challenging climb that they are sure to enjoy. You must ensure that you get the updated information about the routes before you head towards the climb.


Catching Fishes

The Gunnison River is among the Gold Medal Water Rivers, meaning that the river offers outstanding opportunities to catch trophy-sized trout. The fishing starts from around 200 yards downstream from the Crystal Dam and runs with the North Fork, the north end side of the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area.

You will need to attain a fishing license to fish here. Moreover, anglers are only allowed to use lures or flies to catch the trout. If you are an expert hiker, then you can descend towards the strenuous canyon trials to reach the river. Otherwise, you can reach the lake by driving down the East Portal Road. There is also a campground here, making it an ideal fishing base camp. The Blue Mesa Reservoir situated nearby provides another opportunity for trout fishing.


The Best Trails in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park


This national park is truly a sight to behold; all of the hiking trails here boast scenic views. On the inner side of the canyon, the hiking trails are so dangerous and steep that the National Park Service hasn’t even designated them as trials. It is certainly not an easy task to venture into the canyon. There are several great hikes along the North and South Rim of the park with different levels of hiking difficulty levels. You will also find several overlooks throughout the drive within the park.

If hiking is one of your prime activities for this trip then consider hiking on the following trials:


North Vista Trail

Adding a short urge trial towards the Exclamation Point while heading upwards to the Green Mountain is undoubtedly the greatest hike within the park. Keep in mind that this is not an easy trail, but you will be rewarded with the best view of the canyon. This trial is hardly ever crowded since it is a difficult one. The North Vista trail is near the ranger station on the North Rim.

Length: 6.5 miles

Difficulty: Strenuous


Warner Point Nature Trail

The majority of the viewpoint trials in this park are barely more than a stroll from the car parking. This trail might require you to put in a bit more effort to explore the deep side of the canyon from the Warner Point. You will be able to enjoy the West Elk Mountains towards the north and the San Juan Mountains towards the south side of the trial. This one is one of the most picturesque trails within the park.

Length: 1.5 miles

Difficulty: Easy


Red Rock Canyon Route

Only eight hikers are allowed to hike on this trail every day. While it is the most managed trial that leads to the inner canyon, it goes through a private property, which is why there is limited access. However, this trial is also difficult. There isn’t any true trail here, so you will have to track your steps. Also, be on a lookout for poison ivy. The trailhead of this hike is near the Bostwick Park Road parking lot.

Length: 3.4 miles (one way)

Difficulty: Strenuous


Oak Flat Loop

This loop is a great trial for individuals hoping to enjoy the dramatic views of the canyon without having to descend to the bottom of the canyon. It is somewhat narrower in certain sections, and the path back towards the start is a bit rough.

Length: 1.3 miles in a loop

Difficulty: Moderate


Rim Rock Nature Trail

This nature trail is self-guided and follows the canyon’s South Rim. It is a fairly easy trail, suitable for all skill levels. You can enjoy the scenic views of the Gunnison River, as well as the sheer walls of the Black Canyon. The trailhead of this hike is right next to the Campground Loop, near the Visitor Center on the South Rim.

Length: 1.8 miles

Difficulty: Easy


Gunnison Route

If you are unable to hike the Red Rock Canyon Route, then this is another thrilling and popular hike that will take you to the inner canyon. It also includes an 80” chain almost one third down the hike to help the hikers in ascending or descending the steep path. The trailhead of this trial is off the Oak Flat Loop near the Visitor Center of the South Rim.

Length: 1 mile (one way)

Difficulty: Strenuous

No matter which trail you want to hike in, make sure that you are prepared for it. Take a large bottle of water and protein snacks. Always wear hiking boots and comfortable clothes when going on a hike. Be sure to get all the information from the park personnel before leaving for the hike. Follow their instructions carefully, and don’t ignore any warning signs posted within the park. Avoid hiking in bad weather, especially if you are planning to take one of the strenuous trials as the path will become more dangerous during the rain or storm.


Accommodations


Since it will probably take you two to three days to explore the Black Canyon of the Gunnison national park, you will need to find the right accommodations. There are plenty of accommodation options that you can select. You can reserve a campsite in the available campground in the park or book a nearby hotel to stay the night while you explore the park during the day. Let’s have a look at all the accommodations available to the visitors.


Camping Sites

There are three main camping grounds in this national park. It is best to reserve a spot in your preferred campground early on to avoid disappointments. Here are the campgrounds available for the campers:


East Portal Campground

This campground is situated within two miles downstream of the Crystal Dam of the canyon. Take the right turn after the entrance of the park and head on to the East Portal Road for five miles to reach the campground. Numerous box elder trees provide shade to almost the entire camping area. It is near the Gunnison River Diversion Tunnel, which means you can enjoy the breathtaking view of the river and even do some fishing.

There are a total of 15 spaces in this campground, which are all strictly first-come-first-served. If you are taking an RV or a trailer, keep in mind that vehicles over 22’ feet length are not allowed to enter due to the 16% steep grade of the road and narrow curves. This campground is open from May till October. Water is available only during the summer season.


North Rim Campground

This camping ground is situated about 16 miles south of Crawford, the last seven miles of the path is not paved. The Pinyon-Juniper forest provides shade to all the camping sites. Moreover, the campground often fills up fast during the fall and spring season, and sometimes in the summer. Spots on this site are also first-come-first-served. You can camp on this ground for a maximum of 14 days consecutively.

Each of the sites can accommodate eight or fewer people and two vehicles. Vehicles over 35’ feet are not allowed within this campground. The ground is open for campers from April to November. There are a total of 13 campsites in the ground. Water is available only from May till mid-September.


South Rim Campground

This campground is situated around six miles north of the CO Highway 347 intersection. All of the camping sites are within the oak-brush forest. The use of the generator is not allowed in this campground, but a few electrical hookups are available only in Loop B during the summer season. You can camp on this campground for a maximum of 14 days consecutively. The site can easily accommodate eight people or less and two vehicles. Loop C is first-come-first-served, but reservations can be made for Loop A and Loop B at least three days in advance. Loop A is open for campers all year long. There are a total of 88 camping spots here. Water is available from mid-May to mid-October. During the summer season, ranger programs are also offered.

Dogs are allowed on this campground. However, you are not allowed to take them out for walks. Moreover, you shouldn’t carry around your dog around the Rim Rock Trail or South Rim Campground because of aggressive deer protective of their fawns.


Hotels Nearby


If you rather stay at a while exploring the stunning sights of the Black Canyon, then there are various options available for you. Following are eight hotels near the park that you can consider for your stay:


Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Montrose

This hotel is situated 20 miles drive away from the park. They offer a free airport shuttle, and their room features complimentary Wi-Fi and cable TV. There are plenty more amenities you can enjoy here if you want to take a break from your Black Canyon adventures or can’t go hiking due to bad weather.


Hampton Inn Montrose 

This hotel is situated 35 minutes' drive away from the Black Canyon National Park and merely 5 minutes drive from the Montrose Regional Airport. You can enjoy onsite Jacuzzi, indoor pool, and gym. You can even park your vehicle here free for an entire week! They also offer a complimentary airport shuttle.


Rodeway Inn Montrose 

 Located 20 minutes away from the Black Canyon National Park, this hotel offers daily breakfast and cable TV in all of their rooms. They also have an onsite seasonal pool. You can stay at this hotel at very affordable rates.


Days Inn by Wyndham

This hotel is another affordable accommodation near the national park. You can enjoy a continental breakfast, which they serve every morning. The hotel is situated in a central location, which will make it easy for you to explore the nearby areas as well.


GreenTree Inn

This hotel is located close to the airport and also offers airport shuttle services. If you are looking for pet-friendly accommodation, then this is an ideal hotel for you and your furry friend.


Double G Guestranch

Ideally situated near the Black Canyon of the Gunnison national park, this hotel boasts stunning garden views and even has a horse ranch. Free parking is also available for guests. You can even request dinner in advance and the owners will have it prepared for you on time.


Super 8 by Wyndham Montrose 

This motel is located around 12 miles drive away from the national park. You can enjoy a continental breakfast here every morning. It is not only affordable but also offers scenic views from the rooms.


Hotchkiss Inn Motel 

This model offers free Wi-Fi for the guests and serves delicious continental breakfast every morning. The Black Canyon Park is 54 miles away from this place. After your adventures in the park, you can relax on the patio of this motel overlooking the mountains. There are also various restaurants near this motel where you can enjoy a hearty meal.

These are some of the many accommodations available near the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. You can reserve a campsite or rooms in your preferred hotel. Whichever accommodation you select, ensure that you go through the terms and conditions and reserve the room in advance, especially if you are visiting during the peak season.


Tips for a Safe and Stress-Free Trip


To have the best experience exploring the wonders of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison national park, you must be well-prepared and be vigilant about the safety guidelines. Since this park has various unmaintained trials for hiking and steep walls for climbing, safety must be your priority.


Safety Precautions to Take

There are various safety guidelines that you should thoroughly go through and follow throughout your time at the park.



Encountering Wild Bears

Occasionally, black bears roam around the campgrounds of the park, looking for food. It can indeed be a rather exciting event in any campers' life, and you will be tempted to leave food for them. However, any bears that gradually become habituated to the humans and their food will, unfortunately, have to be killed. Therefore, the campers are discouraged from feeding the bears any food to ensure their longevity.

Here are the rules of the campgrounds you must follow:

  • Always make use of the bear-proof lockers available to store your food in, as well as other scented products. These include bug repellant, sunscreens, tobacco, deodorant, toothpaste, and beverages (except for water)
  • If you can’t find an empty locker, keep the food and scented items in your vehicle. Be sure to lock your vehicle and secure the windows shut.
  • Always clean up the table and campsite after you are done eating
  • Be sure to lock the dumpsters securely after depositing the trash


Encountering Other Wildlife

The visitors are requested to watch the wildlife from a safe distance. You should never try to feed, approach, or disrupt the wildlife. During your hikes, avoid making any loud noises so that you don’t disturb or surprise any wildlife. Make sure you always have your backpack within arm’s reach. While it is rare to see a mountain lion or a black bear in the park, it is still best to know what to do if you encounter them. Here is how to behave in such cases:

  • Ensure the lion or bear has a path to escape. The majority of animals avoid confrontation.
  • If the lion or bear are with their young, give them additional space since they aggressively protect their young
  • Swiftly hold on to or pick up any child who is with you
  • You should make eye contact with the lion, but never with a bear
  • Be calm and composed. Firmly speak to the animal.
  • In case the lion or bear doesn’t leave, slowly start backing away to leave the area. Never run or turn your back


General Safety Precautions

Here are a few other safety precautions you must follow in the park:

  • When you are on an overlook, keep in mind that there will be several rock climbers or hikers below any of the overlooks. Therefore, never throw anything from the overlook. Even a tiny rock can prove fatal for someone.
  • Children must be supervised at all times. The edges of the rim are hazardous, so be vigilant.
  • Always keep dogs on a leash
  • The peak of the canyon is about 8,000 feet above the level of the sea. Always walk or climb slowly and keep yourself hydrated.
  • All the climbing routes are a bit complex. You might find clear lines and clean crack, but soon enough, they can disappear. It can get you off the route and into a dangerous situation. So always be careful about the surroundings.
  • There are various loose rocks in the Black Canyon, make sure to double-check the holds before you climb forward.
  • Always wear a helmet when climbing as you might be in danger of loose rocks falling from above.
  • If the climb seems too dangerous or overwhelming for you, don’t be afraid to climb back down. Make sure you are aware of your abilities. Don’t play with your life just to show off.
  • While there is a rescue team available, it can take time since the paths are highly technical. Be prepared for a self-rescue, and avoid relying on others to help you out.


RV Camping Tips

If you are heading to the park in your RV, then the following tips can enhance your experience:

  • Determining the location to camp with your RV – all the4 campgrounds in both the rims in the park are RV friendly. Therefore, it is up to you to decide where you want to camp. The South Rim is open for campers all year long. Make sure to reserve your spot beforehand. Make sure you check any specific requirement for the vehicles allowed in the campground before you head out to avoid any disappointments.
  • Always make sure that you check out at the specified time. Just like hotels, the campgrounds have set check out times. There might be other campers who have reserved the spot after you. So make sure you have packed up well before your checkout time.
  • Make sure you clean up thoroughly before leaving. How would you feel if you excitedly arrive at your reserved camping spot to find it littered? Since you expect the spot to be neat and clean when you arrive, so do the campers arriving after you. Clear off the trash and excess food, and leave the site clean and ready for the next family to enjoy.
  • Avoid making loud noises while you are camping. Be mindful of other campers who want to enjoy the peace of the park. If you are using an entertainment center, keep the volume low. Make sure all the noises are at the minimum.
  • Always respect any boundaries, safety rules, or other guidelines provided to you by the park’s personnel.
  • Keep a good distance from other campers to respect their privacy.

When you follow the specified safety precautions and rules, you will have a better time enjoying the park. Follow these tips to keep yourself and others safe.


Final Words


The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is one of the national parks in the country you wouldn’t want to miss – especially if you are an adventure seeker. There is plenty of exciting activities to do around the park while enjoying the stunning view of the canyon and the river. The deeper you head towards the inner canyon, the more mesmerized you will get with the beauty and wonder of this massive canyon. Whether you want to climb,camp, or hike, this is a great place to indulge in an adrenaline rush.

To make the fullest of what this park has to offer, make sure you thoroughly plan your itinerary, along with the activities you are planning to do here. Reserve your accommodations beforehand, and check the upcoming ranger-led programs in the park. Pack your luggage according to the season to be comfortable throughout your trip and always follow the instructions and guidelines highlighted by the park personnel.

Follow all the details and suggestions in this guide to have a memorable time exploring the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.


Disclaimer

goglides.com, © 2020 – All Rights Reserved

Text copyright © 2020 by goglides.com

Cover art design © 2020 This cover has been designed using resources from :  Canyon Arizona  Blue Mesa Reservoir  Sunset in Black Canyon

No part of this eBook can be transmitted or reproduced in any form including print, electronic, photocopying, scanning, mechanical or recording devices without prior written permission from the author.

While the author has taken utmost efforts to ensure the accuracy of the written content, all readers are advised to follow information mentioned herein at their own risk. The author cannot be held responsible for any personal or commercial damage caused by misinterpretation of information.

All readers are encouraged to seek professional advice when needed.

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Your Complete Guide To Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National

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Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National

Planning a Trip to the Park


When Should You Visit the Park?

The ideal time to visit this national park is during the summer, especially since the Main South Rim road, ranger station, and North Rim roads are closed from November to April. Winter is also a good time to explore this park as there are plenty of winter activities organized here, including snowshoeing, downhill and cross-country skiing.


How Much Will the Visiting the Park Cost?

You will need an annual or a weekly pass to visit this park. Typically, visitors opt for a weekly pass as it gives them sufficient time to enjoy all the facilities and places inside the park.

Here are the different options available:

  • Per person - $10 (pedestrian, hiker, biker)
  • Per vehicle - $20 (non-commercial, private, single vechicle)
  • Per motorcycle - $15 (non-commercial, private; 2 passengers)

For commercial buses:

  • Bus with seating capacity of more than 26 passengers - $100
  • Bus with seating capacity of 7 to 25 passengers - $40
  • Bus with seating capacity of 6 or less passengers - $25

The annual pass is valid for 12 months from the date of purchase, but only covers the entry fees.

  • Annual pass - $40 (pass holder and passengers in a vehicle)


How Long Should the Trip Be?

Since there is so much to explore in this park, it is best to set aside at least three days to properly enjoy what it has to offer. The drive from South Rim to the North Rim itself is about two hours long, so make sure to plan the trip accordingly.


Do You Need Special Permits?

You only need a special permit if you want to hold an event in the park, including ceremonies, entertainment, spectator attractions, pageants, memorial services, weddings, motorcycle/automobile club rallies, large group rendezvous or camps, and organized rides or tours. You can get a special permit for a group activity which is short-term, and:

  • Benefits an organization, group or individual instead of general public
  • Needs written authorization or certain management control to protect the public interest and park resources
  • Isn’t prohibited by regulation or law
  • Isn’t conducted, sponsored, or initiated by NPS
  • Isn’t managed under a concession contract

It is essential to note that the space in the park for such activities is provided on the first-come-first-served basis. It typically takes 10 business days for a standard request to be processed. For events that require some other environmental compliance, the minimum processing time is four weeks.


Top 10 Must-Do Things in the Park


Here is a list of the top ten things you must do during your visit to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park:


Enjoying the Scenic Views

The drive on both the South and North Rims roads offer stunning views, with plenty of overlooks where you can stop and admire the view. You can get a glimpse of the sheer black cliffs of the Black Canyon from these overlooks. There are 12 of them just on the South Rims. You don’t want to miss the overlooks on the Sunset View, Pulpit Rock, Painted Wall, and the Chasm View.


Heading Back in Time

Visiting Cimarron, a historic town, is a must thing to do here. It used to be a train depot but now takes you back in time. Start with the visitor center to gather all the details, and head towards the rail yard exhibit to learn how things were at the Black Canyon during 1882. You can even glimpse at the last remaining truss bridge.


Getting the Camping Experience

If you are looking for a fun-filled camping experience, then there are plenty of campgrounds in the Black Canyon National Park to choose from. For the thrill-seekers, hiking towards the river from the canyon rim is a good choice. This trial is not suitable for amateur hikers since the trail isn’t marked clearly and is rather steep. Be prepared to face frequent hazards, like stinging nettle, ticks, and poison ivy. Make sure you have the right equipment and experience before opting for this hike towards the campground. Start early and take a large refillable water bottle along with you, especially if you are hiking during the summer season. Other campgrounds are easily accessible through a drive or an easy hike. The Gunnison Route is ideal for first-time hikers and campers.


Boating

There is a boat tour that takes you to the Black Canyon through the Curecanti National Recreation Park. A park ranger leads this tour and shares fascinating geological, wildlife, and historical information as the boat gently floats down the river. This trip is 1.5 hours long, where you get the chance to explore the inner canyon.

The trip starts around 40 miles west of Montrose and 25 miles east of the Gunnison River. It is a wonderful way of discovering the north rim of the Black Canyon. However, you will have to make a reservation well in advance to get a seat on the boat. You can call in to make the reservation or head to the park visitor center. They don’t accept walk-ins. So, make sure you reserve your spot to avoid disappointments.

Make sure you are well prepared for the Colorado weather. What might seem like a perfect summer day can suddenly transform into a harsh rainy one. Make sure that you pack rain gear, sun protection, snacks, warm jacket, and drinking water before you head for the boating tour.


Watching the Sky

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is also known as the International Dark Sky Park, which means it is an ideal location for stargazing. There are plenty of opportunities offered by the park for constellation tours and night-sky viewing. These also include telescopes! Be sure to check out the schedule for the upcoming tours and viewings.


Exploring the North Rim

The North Rim of this national park is not as developed as its South Rim. There isn’t any visitor center here, and its ranger station has few staff members. However, this also reduces the amount of traffic on this side of the park and boasts more stunning views as compared to the other side. The cliffs in the North Rim are sheerer with incredible trails. Don’t miss out on exploring this side of the park, but be prepared for longer hikes.


Heading to the Hiking Trails

There are plenty of hiking trails all over the Black Canyon Park. All the trials have stunning views, particularly on the North Rim. The trails on this rim are usually secluded, making them ideal if you prefer the quiet. These trails are also rather challenging so prepare accordingly and avoid if you are a beginner. The hiking trails on the South Rim also offer beautiful views and are easier as compared to the strenuous ones on the North Rim.


Participating in the Ranger Programs

Different ranger-led programs and activities are organized within the park, including historical sessions, night sky viewings, seminars, or workshops on nature, geology, and more. Make sure you stop by at the visitor center, visit their website, or call in for the schedule to plan your trip accordingly.


Rock Climbing

This national park is one of the most popular climbing areas in the country, offering chills and thrills to the rock climbers. The Black Canyon has a Chasm View Wall with its classic long routes, as well as the ever-popular Painted Wall. Both of these walls provide the climbers a challenging climb that they are sure to enjoy. You must ensure that you get the updated information about the routes before you head towards the climb.


Catching Fishes

The Gunnison River is among the Gold Medal Water Rivers, meaning that the river offers outstanding opportunities to catch trophy-sized trout. The fishing starts from around 200 yards downstream from the Crystal Dam and runs with the North Fork, the north end side of the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area.

You will need to attain a fishing license to fish here. Moreover, anglers are only allowed to use lures or flies to catch the trout. If you are an expert hiker, then you can descend towards the strenuous canyon trials to reach the river. Otherwise, you can reach the lake by driving down the East Portal Road. There is also a campground here, making it an ideal fishing base camp. The Blue Mesa Reservoir situated nearby provides another opportunity for trout fishing.


The Best Trails in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park


This national park is truly a sight to behold; all of the hiking trails here boast scenic views. On the inner side of the canyon, the hiking trails are so dangerous and steep that the National Park Service hasn’t even designated them as trials. It is certainly not an easy task to venture into the canyon. There are several great hikes along the North and South Rim of the park with different levels of hiking difficulty levels. You will also find several overlooks throughout the drive within the park.

If hiking is one of your prime activities for this trip then consider hiking on the following trials:


North Vista Trail

Adding a short urge trial towards the Exclamation Point while heading upwards to the Green Mountain is undoubtedly the greatest hike within the park. Keep in mind that this is not an easy trail, but you will be rewarded with the best view of the canyon. This trial is hardly ever crowded since it is a difficult one. The North Vista trail is near the ranger station on the North Rim.

Length: 6.5 miles

Difficulty: Strenuous


Warner Point Nature Trail

The majority of the viewpoint trials in this park are barely more than a stroll from the car parking. This trail might require you to put in a bit more effort to explore the deep side of the canyon from the Warner Point. You will be able to enjoy the West Elk Mountains towards the north and the San Juan Mountains towards the south side of the trial. This one is one of the most picturesque trails within the park.

Length: 1.5 miles

Difficulty: Easy


Red Rock Canyon Route

Only eight hikers are allowed to hike on this trail every day. While it is the most managed trial that leads to the inner canyon, it goes through a private property, which is why there is limited access. However, this trial is also difficult. There isn’t any true trail here, so you will have to track your steps. Also, be on a lookout for poison ivy. The trailhead of this hike is near the Bostwick Park Road parking lot.

Length: 3.4 miles (one way)

Difficulty: Strenuous


Oak Flat Loop

This loop is a great trial for individuals hoping to enjoy the dramatic views of the canyon without having to descend to the bottom of the canyon. It is somewhat narrower in certain sections, and the path back towards the start is a bit rough.

Length: 1.3 miles in a loop

Difficulty: Moderate


Rim Rock Nature Trail

This nature trail is self-guided and follows the canyon’s South Rim. It is a fairly easy trail, suitable for all skill levels. You can enjoy the scenic views of the Gunnison River, as well as the sheer walls of the Black Canyon. The trailhead of this hike is right next to the Campground Loop, near the Visitor Center on the South Rim.

Length: 1.8 miles

Difficulty: Easy


Gunnison Route

If you are unable to hike the Red Rock Canyon Route, then this is another thrilling and popular hike that will take you to the inner canyon. It also includes an 80” chain almost one third down the hike to help the hikers in ascending or descending the steep path. The trailhead of this trial is off the Oak Flat Loop near the Visitor Center of the South Rim.

Length: 1 mile (one way)

Difficulty: Strenuous

No matter which trail you want to hike in, make sure that you are prepared for it. Take a large bottle of water and protein snacks. Always wear hiking boots and comfortable clothes when going on a hike. Be sure to get all the information from the park personnel before leaving for the hike. Follow their instructions carefully, and don’t ignore any warning signs posted within the park. Avoid hiking in bad weather, especially if you are planning to take one of the strenuous trials as the path will become more dangerous during the rain or storm.


Accommodations


Since it will probably take you two to three days to explore the Black Canyon of the Gunnison national park, you will need to find the right accommodations. There are plenty of accommodation options that you can select. You can reserve a campsite in the available campground in the park or book a nearby hotel to stay the night while you explore the park during the day. Let’s have a look at all the accommodations available to the visitors.


Camping Sites

There are three main camping grounds in this national park. It is best to reserve a spot in your preferred campground early on to avoid disappointments. Here are the campgrounds available for the campers:


East Portal Campground

This campground is situated within two miles downstream of the Crystal Dam of the canyon. Take the right turn after the entrance of the park and head on to the East Portal Road for five miles to reach the campground. Numerous box elder trees provide shade to almost the entire camping area. It is near the Gunnison River Diversion Tunnel, which means you can enjoy the breathtaking view of the river and even do some fishing.

There are a total of 15 spaces in this campground, which are all strictly first-come-first-served. If you are taking an RV or a trailer, keep in mind that vehicles over 22’ feet length are not allowed to enter due to the 16% steep grade of the road and narrow curves. This campground is open from May till October. Water is available only during the summer season.


North Rim Campground

This camping ground is situated about 16 miles south of Crawford, the last seven miles of the path is not paved. The Pinyon-Juniper forest provides shade to all the camping sites. Moreover, the campground often fills up fast during the fall and spring season, and sometimes in the summer. Spots on this site are also first-come-first-served. You can camp on this ground for a maximum of 14 days consecutively.

Each of the sites can accommodate eight or fewer people and two vehicles. Vehicles over 35’ feet are not allowed within this campground. The ground is open for campers from April to November. There are a total of 13 campsites in the ground. Water is available only from May till mid-September.


South Rim Campground

This campground is situated around six miles north of the CO Highway 347 intersection. All of the camping sites are within the oak-brush forest. The use of the generator is not allowed in this campground, but a few electrical hookups are available only in Loop B during the summer season. You can camp on this campground for a maximum of 14 days consecutively. The site can easily accommodate eight people or less and two vehicles. Loop C is first-come-first-served, but reservations can be made for Loop A and Loop B at least three days in advance. Loop A is open for campers all year long. There are a total of 88 camping spots here. Water is available from mid-May to mid-October. During the summer season, ranger programs are also offered.

Dogs are allowed on this campground. However, you are not allowed to take them out for walks. Moreover, you shouldn’t carry around your dog around the Rim Rock Trail or South Rim Campground because of aggressive deer protective of their fawns.


Hotels Nearby


If you rather stay at a while exploring the stunning sights of the Black Canyon, then there are various options available for you. Following are eight hotels near the park that you can consider for your stay:


Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Montrose

This hotel is situated 20 miles drive away from the park. They offer a free airport shuttle, and their room features complimentary Wi-Fi and cable TV. There are plenty more amenities you can enjoy here if you want to take a break from your Black Canyon adventures or can’t go hiking due to bad weather.


Hampton Inn Montrose 

This hotel is situated 35 minutes' drive away from the Black Canyon National Park and merely 5 minutes drive from the Montrose Regional Airport. You can enjoy onsite Jacuzzi, indoor pool, and gym. You can even park your vehicle here free for an entire week! They also offer a complimentary airport shuttle.


Rodeway Inn Montrose 

 Located 20 minutes away from the Black Canyon National Park, this hotel offers daily breakfast and cable TV in all of their rooms. They also have an onsite seasonal pool. You can stay at this hotel at very affordable rates.


Days Inn by Wyndham

This hotel is another affordable accommodation near the national park. You can enjoy a continental breakfast, which they serve every morning. The hotel is situated in a central location, which will make it easy for you to explore the nearby areas as well.


GreenTree Inn

This hotel is located close to the airport and also offers airport shuttle services. If you are looking for pet-friendly accommodation, then this is an ideal hotel for you and your furry friend.


Double G Guestranch

Ideally situated near the Black Canyon of the Gunnison national park, this hotel boasts stunning garden views and even has a horse ranch. Free parking is also available for guests. You can even request dinner in advance and the owners will have it prepared for you on time.


Super 8 by Wyndham Montrose 

This motel is located around 12 miles drive away from the national park. You can enjoy a continental breakfast here every morning. It is not only affordable but also offers scenic views from the rooms.


Hotchkiss Inn Motel 

This model offers free Wi-Fi for the guests and serves delicious continental breakfast every morning. The Black Canyon Park is 54 miles away from this place. After your adventures in the park, you can relax on the patio of this motel overlooking the mountains. There are also various restaurants near this motel where you can enjoy a hearty meal.

These are some of the many accommodations available near the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. You can reserve a campsite or rooms in your preferred hotel. Whichever accommodation you select, ensure that you go through the terms and conditions and reserve the room in advance, especially if you are visiting during the peak season.


Tips for a Safe and Stress-Free Trip


To have the best experience exploring the wonders of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison national park, you must be well-prepared and be vigilant about the safety guidelines. Since this park has various unmaintained trials for hiking and steep walls for climbing, safety must be your priority.


Safety Precautions to Take

There are various safety guidelines that you should thoroughly go through and follow throughout your time at the park.



Encountering Wild Bears

Occasionally, black bears roam around the campgrounds of the park, looking for food. It can indeed be a rather exciting event in any campers' life, and you will be tempted to leave food for them. However, any bears that gradually become habituated to the humans and their food will, unfortunately, have to be killed. Therefore, the campers are discouraged from feeding the bears any food to ensure their longevity.

Here are the rules of the campgrounds you must follow:

  • Always make use of the bear-proof lockers available to store your food in, as well as other scented products. These include bug repellant, sunscreens, tobacco, deodorant, toothpaste, and beverages (except for water)
  • If you can’t find an empty locker, keep the food and scented items in your vehicle. Be sure to lock your vehicle and secure the windows shut.
  • Always clean up the table and campsite after you are done eating
  • Be sure to lock the dumpsters securely after depositing the trash


Encountering Other Wildlife

The visitors are requested to watch the wildlife from a safe distance. You should never try to feed, approach, or disrupt the wildlife. During your hikes, avoid making any loud noises so that you don’t disturb or surprise any wildlife. Make sure you always have your backpack within arm’s reach. While it is rare to see a mountain lion or a black bear in the park, it is still best to know what to do if you encounter them. Here is how to behave in such cases:

  • Ensure the lion or bear has a path to escape. The majority of animals avoid confrontation.
  • If the lion or bear are with their young, give them additional space since they aggressively protect their young
  • Swiftly hold on to or pick up any child who is with you
  • You should make eye contact with the lion, but never with a bear
  • Be calm and composed. Firmly speak to the animal.
  • In case the lion or bear doesn’t leave, slowly start backing away to leave the area. Never run or turn your back


General Safety Precautions

Here are a few other safety precautions you must follow in the park:

  • When you are on an overlook, keep in mind that there will be several rock climbers or hikers below any of the overlooks. Therefore, never throw anything from the overlook. Even a tiny rock can prove fatal for someone.
  • Children must be supervised at all times. The edges of the rim are hazardous, so be vigilant.
  • Always keep dogs on a leash
  • The peak of the canyon is about 8,000 feet above the level of the sea. Always walk or climb slowly and keep yourself hydrated.
  • All the climbing routes are a bit complex. You might find clear lines and clean crack, but soon enough, they can disappear. It can get you off the route and into a dangerous situation. So always be careful about the surroundings.
  • There are various loose rocks in the Black Canyon, make sure to double-check the holds before you climb forward.
  • Always wear a helmet when climbing as you might be in danger of loose rocks falling from above.
  • If the climb seems too dangerous or overwhelming for you, don’t be afraid to climb back down. Make sure you are aware of your abilities. Don’t play with your life just to show off.
  • While there is a rescue team available, it can take time since the paths are highly technical. Be prepared for a self-rescue, and avoid relying on others to help you out.


RV Camping Tips

If you are heading to the park in your RV, then the following tips can enhance your experience:

  • Determining the location to camp with your RV – all the4 campgrounds in both the rims in the park are RV friendly. Therefore, it is up to you to decide where you want to camp. The South Rim is open for campers all year long. Make sure to reserve your spot beforehand. Make sure you check any specific requirement for the vehicles allowed in the campground before you head out to avoid any disappointments.
  • Always make sure that you check out at the specified time. Just like hotels, the campgrounds have set check out times. There might be other campers who have reserved the spot after you. So make sure you have packed up well before your checkout time.
  • Make sure you clean up thoroughly before leaving. How would you feel if you excitedly arrive at your reserved camping spot to find it littered? Since you expect the spot to be neat and clean when you arrive, so do the campers arriving after you. Clear off the trash and excess food, and leave the site clean and ready for the next family to enjoy.
  • Avoid making loud noises while you are camping. Be mindful of other campers who want to enjoy the peace of the park. If you are using an entertainment center, keep the volume low. Make sure all the noises are at the minimum.
  • Always respect any boundaries, safety rules, or other guidelines provided to you by the park’s personnel.
  • Keep a good distance from other campers to respect their privacy.

When you follow the specified safety precautions and rules, you will have a better time enjoying the park. Follow these tips to keep yourself and others safe.


Final Words


The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is one of the national parks in the country you wouldn’t want to miss – especially if you are an adventure seeker. There is plenty of exciting activities to do around the park while enjoying the stunning view of the canyon and the river. The deeper you head towards the inner canyon, the more mesmerized you will get with the beauty and wonder of this massive canyon. Whether you want to climb,camp, or hike, this is a great place to indulge in an adrenaline rush.

To make the fullest of what this park has to offer, make sure you thoroughly plan your itinerary, along with the activities you are planning to do here. Reserve your accommodations beforehand, and check the upcoming ranger-led programs in the park. Pack your luggage according to the season to be comfortable throughout your trip and always follow the instructions and guidelines highlighted by the park personnel.

Follow all the details and suggestions in this guide to have a memorable time exploring the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.


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