Hit the Trail with Landmark - A Day at Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Spend a Day at Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Colorado’s Black Canyon of the Gunnison will take your breath away. Few sights are as spectacular as the canyon’s ancient rock formations thousands of feet above the winding Gunnison River. This national park is one of the country's most stunning and peaceful parks.

So grab your boots and hit the trail with us! We’re sharing our top tips for a day at Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

Entry and Parking

Black Canyon of the Gunnison is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Entry is $15 per person or $30 per vehicle. The park doesn’t draw huge crowds, so there’s plenty of parking at the park entrances and overlooks.

Drive South Rim Road

When you visit Black Canyon, you can choose between the South Rim or North Rim. If you’re up for a long day, you can try to visit both. The rims are close together, but no bridge connects the two, so you’ll have to drive around the Canyon to reach the opposite side. While both rims have spectacular views, we recommend the south rim. There are more hiking options, overlooks, and small towns nearby.

The seven-mile South Rim Road is a great way to see the twelve major outlooks along the southern canyon. If driving through a national park sounds disappointing, know that you’ll get out of the car often and do a little walking throughout your scenic drive. About half of the lookouts are right off the road, and the others are a 10-minute walk away.

As you step onto the overlooks, you’ll be amazed by the steep cliffs and craggy spires above the gorge. We especially love Chasm View and Painted Wall. At Chasm View, you’ll see where the canyon gets its name. This point is so narrow that the area is dark or black most of the day. At Painted Wall, you’ll see Colorado’s tallest cliff at 2,250 feet and get a clear view of the canyon’s striated walls.

Take the Warner Point Nature Trail

This moderate 1.5-mile out-and-back trail is worth it if you want a panoramic view of the nearby San Juan Mountain Range. Warner Point Trail can easily be done in an hour and is a great opportunity to stretch your legs, enjoy a picnic, and snap some photos.

Descend into the Canyon

If you’re up for a challenging hike and a bit of rock climbing, we love the Gunnison Route. This out-and-back trail is just shy of two miles and an incomparable way to experience the canyon. It takes you on a 1,800-foot descent into the canyon, where you can dip your feet into the river below.

The hike is steep and gravelly, so you’ll want to wear good boots and take precautions. It’s popular with climbers and experienced hikers, so you’ll likely see others along the way. If you go, plan to spend some time at the bottom enjoying the Gunnison River and start your return hike in the early afternoon when you won’t be chasing the daylight.

Camping and Lodging

There are two campgrounds at Black Canyon, one on each rim. We like the campground on the South Rim since it’s a mile from the Visitor’s Center and has plenty of shade trees. You can camp here with a reservation May-October or try to get a spot upon arrival. When you go, be sure to utilize bear canisters since there’s been an increase in black bear encounters in the area.  

You can also camp at nearby Curecanti National Recreation Area. The campsites are open year round and many are located on the water. Reservations are between $10 per day to $20 per week.

End your day at a Craft Brewery

After a full day of exploring, we love stopping by nearby Montrose. This small town in Western Colorado is a great place to eat, drink, and relax. Colorado is known for its craft beers, so we recommend Pomona Brewing Company for a cold lager and a burger.

When are you headed to Colorado’s western slope? When you go, snap some photos and let us know how you explored this shadowy, spectacular canyon!

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Unisex Short Sleeve Tee
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Poster

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