Sheer walls of gray stone stand more than 2,600 feet above the Gunnison River, creating one of the most dramatic canyon in the country. Deeper than it is wide in some areas, this giant slit in the Earth was created by water alone and took over 2 million years to create. The park protects some of the deepest and most spectacular miles of the gorge and offers amazing opportunities to spend time outdoors. It’s simply an unbelievable place to visit and a true testament of the wild.
The area was established as a U.S. National Monument on March 2, 1933, and made into a National Park on October 21, 1999.
When to Visit
Summer is the most popular time to visit, but keep in mind it gets pretty hot during summer months. Late spring and early fall make for great opportunities to hike thanks to crisp weather. Winter also provides opportunities for backcountry camping, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing.
While the park is open every day, certain roads and stations are not. The South Rim Road is open to vehicles from early April to mid-November. In the winter, it’s open to Gunnison Point. The remainder of the road is closed to vehicles, but open to cross country skiing and snowshoeing. North Rim Road and ranger station are closed in winter. The road typically closes late November and reopens mid-April. North Rim Road and ranger station are also closed in winter. The road typically closes late November and reopens mid-April.
North Rim Ranger Station is open intermittently during the summer and closed the rest of the year.
The South Rim is located northeast of Montrose, CO and is accessible by taking US50 and Colo. 347. The North Rim may be reached by US50W and Colo. 92.
Major airports are located in Montrose and Gunnison.
The entrance fee for the park, by vehicle, is $15 and provides entry at the South Rim entrance station and the North Rim ranger station. It is valid for seven days. Visitors entering by foot, bicycle, motorcycle, or moped is $7. Visitors under the age of 16 are not required to pay an entrance fee.
If you plan on visiting the park multiple times during the year, you may want to consider purchasing the Black Canyon Annual Pass for $30. It will admit you into the park, as well as passengers of your vehicle, for 12 months from date of purchase. Visitors who already own an America the Beautiful parks pass will not be required to pay an entrance fee.
Note that prices are accurate as of 2017 and are subject to change.
Things to Do
This park is gorges! There is no shortage of outdoor activities for visitors, including hiking, camping, scenic drives, fishing, kayaking, horseback riding, rock climbing, guided activities, rafting, and wildlife watching. The Black Canyon is known for crumbling rock, dizzying heights, opportunities for rock climbing, specifically for the experts.
Rim Rock Trail: The trail runs north-south for about a mile between campgrounds and the Visitor Center. With unbelievable views, you may spot bobcat, elk, or mountain lion tracks!
Painted Wall: A 2,250-foot sheer cliff decorated with natural pink and white stripes of crystalline pegmatite. Cedar Point Nature Trail offers good views of the wall.
Warner Point: Spectacular canyon views to the north.
Chasm View Nature Trail: Meander through juniper forests and come out to 2 overlooks. This is a great trail for bird watchers.
Exclamation Point: Check out jaw-dropping views into the canyon below.
Camping is a great way to stay in the park which offers two campgrounds. North Rim Campground is open from spring to fall. The campground contains 13 sites in the Pinyon-Juniper forest with vault toilets, tables, and grills. Water is available mid-May to mid-September. There are o hook-ups and vehicles greater than 35 feet are not recommended. The sites allow a maximum of 8 persons and 2 vehicles per site. All sites are available on a first-come, first served basis (no reservations) and have a maximum 14 consecutive day stay in a 30 day period.
The South Rim Campground contains 3 loops of sites. Loop A is open year round, while loops B & C are open spring to fall. There are a total of 88 sites in an oak-brush forest with vault toilets, tables, and grills. Water is available mid-May to mid-September. In Loop B, there are 30 amp electrical hookups available, and in all loops, vehicles greater than 35 feet are not recommended. The sites allow a maximum of 8 persons and 2 vehicles per site. Sites have a maximum 14 consecutive day stay in a 30 day period.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a true park in the wilderness. There is no food, lodging, gasoline, or similar services available at either rim. However, full services are available in nearby communities.
Pets are allowed in the park but must remain on a leash at all times. They may be walked on roads, in campgrounds, to the overlooks, and are allowed on the Rim Rock Trail, Cedar Point Nature Trail, and North Rim Chasm View Nature Trail. Pets are not allowed on any other hiking trails, inner canyon routes, or in the wilderness area.
Boarding services are available in the following areas:
Double Diamond Kennels, 23661 Horsefly Rd., (970) 249-3067
Redclyffe Kennels, 16793 Chipeta Rd., (970) 249-6395
Dogs' Inn, Inc., 330 Denny Court, (970) 252-8877
Critter Sitters and Outfitters, 98 County Road 17, (970) 641-0460
Waggin' Tails Doggy Daycare, 800 Rio Grande Ave, (970) 641-WAGS
Keep in mind that black bears are known to frequent both rims so knowing bear safety is crucial before your visit.