24 Hours in the Black Canyon at the Gunnison National Park — Hiking for Donuts (2022)

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is one of the least known national parks and that is a travesty. I admit, I wasn’t too familiar with this park myself. Located in western Colorado, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison did not gain National Park status until 1999, making it the second youngest national park in the U.S. The Black Canyon is named so because the walls are often covered in shadows making them appear black. These steep walls were formed over 1.7 billion years ago. Another awesome note on this park is that it contains 12 out of the 48 mile-long canyon of the Gunnison River.

For most national park or outdoors enthusiast, you want to experience as much as possible in your travels. Planning trips can be difficult and offer time restraints. Exploring most national parks you need anywhere from 3 days to two weeks. On my recent Colorado road trip, I planned for one day at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. There is a North and South Rim. This guide will be for the South Rim only. This rim is more developed and accessible. Can you explore the entire South Rim in 24 hours? The answer is yes. The best time to visit is April to November. We stayed in Montrose, which is about 15 minutes from the park. The downtown is pretty cool. Oh, and there is an amazing donut shop, Montrose Donut and Deli Shop. The best donuts I had in Colorado. Get the biscuit donut. I digress…..

The South Rim is comprised of a modest 7 mile loop with 12 spectacular overlooks. I suggest to stop at each overlook. A lot of the overlooks do require walking a short trail but nothing strenuous. I would not miss out on Painted Wall, Cedar Point and Sunset View. There are multiple hikes on the South Rim. I went out of my way to do them all and to be honest, if you are stressing for time, skip the hikes. If camping is your thing, there are campgrounds here. Lastly, do NOT leave the park without driving down East Portal Road. I cannot recommend that enough. There is no crowd concern at this park. I counted maybe 30 people on a Friday in mid-May. I read the peak of the visitors stroll through in July. There are even less visitors on the North Rim, which is a 3 hour drive from the South Rim. However, the views are even more dramatic from the North Rim. The scenic driving was amazing. This park should be way more popular. The views were ridiculous. One of the best experiences I had in a national park. Here’s my guide to the South Rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

Black Canyon’s South Rim is about 14 miles from Montrose and 63 miles from Gunnison. To get there from Montrose, travel 7 miles north on CO Highway 347 from the intersection with U.S. Highway 50 east of the city.

The first viewpoint that visitors will see entering the park is Tomichi Point. This is right off the side of the road, no hiking needed. The second viewpoint, Gunnison Point, is located right behind the visitor center. A short path down some steps leads views of the canyon facing northwards. The view is more vivid than Tomichi Point and there is sneak peak of the ravine.

(Video) Hiking the Gunnison Route at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (+ Overlooks!)

The next viewpoint is about two miles down the road at Pulpit Rock Overlook. There is a 134 yard trail leading to this area. The canyon really opens here with the river in view as it curves around a 90 degree bend. Cross Fissure View offers a different a unique look at the canyon. The river is not visible and most of the canyon is hidden. There is a view of overlapping ridges and crevasses from multiple angles. This viewpoint is a 357 yard walk.

(Video) Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park- Hikes, Drives and Roaring Rivers

Rock Point is a less traveled path at 294 yards. The longer the path the less visitors you will see. Devils Lookout is the longest path at 607 yards. This path goes right the edge of the rims for great views including the river and the valley. Both this and Rock Point lie above the narrowest part of the entire canyon.

Chasm View is one of those jaw dropping views. This is a very short path off the road above the steepest part of the whole canyon. Painted Wall View is almost adjacent to Chasm View. This may be the most well-known viewpoint. Painted Wall is the highest cliff in Colorado at 2,250 feet and a half mile across.

Every viewpoint from here on is a must see. Cedar Point is a 303 yard path overlooking the lower canyon. This is a spectacular view as you can see 1.5 miles of the river, flowing rapids, and some greenery below. Next up, Dragon Point offers very similar views. The widening ravine enclosing colorful waters of the river. This can be reached by a path of 300 yards.

(Video) Things to Do at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (Where to Stay + What to Expect)

Sunset View was one of my favorites. This is the westernmost viewpoint along the South Rim road. There is large parking area along with restrooms and picnic tables. This a great place to soak in amazing views of the canyon. This is the longest stretch of V shaped canyon. The last viewpoint is another mile down the road, High Point. There’s not much to this but you have to pass this in order to turn around and head back.

At the end of South Rim road, there is a parking lot where the Warner Point Trail begins. This a 1.5 mile out and back that takes you to the furthest overlook on the South Rim. The trail starts flat with views of green fields 1,000 feet above Bostwick Park. The trail begins to climb slowly then drops and ascends again before reaching the final viewpoint. This overlook offers stunning views of the San Juan Mountains, West Elk Mountains, Uncompahgre Valley, and the canyon. If you choose a hike in the South Rim, this would be the one I suggest.

(Video) East Portal Road in Black Canyon of the Gunnison N.P.

The Oak Flat Loop begins by the visit center. The trail is narrow and traverses down a steep slope. This offers a peek at the landscape below the canyon’s rim. This is the most challenging hike in the South Rim with steep uphill and downhill portions. In total, the loop is 2 miles.

Rim Rock Nature Trail starts at the visit center or the Campground Loop C entrance. You can even hop on this trail from Tomichi Point. This relatively flat hike takes you along the rim of the canyon for views of the Gunnison River and sheer walls of the gorge below. This can be between 1-2 miles.

(Video) Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park: Hiking the Overlooks

Located right at the entrance/exit to the park, you will see the access for East Portal Road. This is a 5 mile road with a significant decline (16% grade) with hairpin turns taking your car to the base of Black Canyon. This is the only way to get down into the canyon. Once arriving at the bottom, the views from down below are gorgeous. The picturesque surroundings of the beautiful lake and the cliff walls of the canyon from up above are majestic. By far the coolest experience I had in the park. I was just in awe. I read a lot of things online and it made it sound dramatic and dangerous to drive down. Any car/van can handle it. Vehicles with an overall length (including trailer) greater than 22 feet are prohibited. Trailers may be left unhitched and left at a parking area at the campground entrance. This road is closed in the winter. Just be smart about driving down. It took us about 30 minutes. This is a bucket list type event. Don’t chicken out!

FAQs

Can you do Black Canyon of the Gunnison in one day? ›

How Many Days Do You Need in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park? If you want to visit both the North and South Rims, you will need two days. On the quickest of visits, you can visit the South Rim in about 4 to 5 hours, simply by driving South Rim Road.

How long do you need in Black Canyon of the Gunnison? ›

Allow 2-3 hours for a leisurely tour. Information is available at the North Rim Ranger Station, open intermittently in summer. The North Rim Road is closed in winter.

Is Black Canyon of the Gunnison open 24 hours? ›

The North Rim is open 24 hours a day during the summer season. In the winter, the North Rim is closed. The North Rim is open 24 hours a day during the summer season. In the winter, the North Rim is closed.

Do you need a permit to hike rim to rim in one day? ›

There is no permit needed to hike from Rim to Rim in the Grand Canyon, as long as you are only going to be in the park for a day. If you plan to do this hike over two days and are going to be staying at the South Rim Lodge, Grand Canyon Lodge, or Phantom Ranch, you will not need a permit either.

What is the best hike in Black Canyon of the Gunnison? ›

According to users from AllTrails.com, the best place to hike in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is Warner Point Nature Trail, which has a 4.5 star rating from 1,093 reviews.

How much does it cost to get into the Black Canyon? ›

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park normally charges $20 per vehicle, $15 per motorcycle and $10 per pedestrian or bicycle. Entrance fees are good for seven days. The entrance fee waiver for the fee-free days does not cover user fees for camping.

Which rim is better in Black Canyon? ›

If you only have one day to visit Black Canyon, the south rim will give you a greater variety of viewpoints and short hikes. The north rim is the best if you want a more isolated experience. East Portal Road can be accessed from the South Rim and takes you to the base of the canyon. The road is steep and windy.

Do you need a permit to hike Black Canyon of the Gunnison? ›

Permits are required for all inner canyon wilderness use - both day and overnight trips. Permits are available at the South Rim Visitor Center and North Rim Ranger Station.

Is the Grand Canyon entrance open 24 hours? ›

The South Rim of the park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The South Rim includes Grand Canyon Village and Desert View. Most services are available year-round.

What time does the Black Canyon of the Gunnison open? ›

Location: 7 miles north on CO Highway 347 from the intersection with U.S. Highway 50. Winter Hours (approx. October to May): Open daily from 9:00 am - 4:00 pm. Closed 12:00-12:30 pm for lunch.

Are there bears in Black Canyon of the Gunnison? ›

It is unlikely that you will see a black bear and even less likely a mountain lion.

Can you swim in Black Canyon? ›

Other things to do near Black Canyon of the Gunnison

There's a large lake where you can boat, swim or just dip your feet in. It does require a $9.00 day pass per vehicle to enter.

What is the Black Canyon famous for? ›

Fishing enthusiasts should add the Black Canyon to the list of great fishing in the Gunnison Valley. With gold medal waters stretching for 12 miles within the park, this is one of the best stretches of trout fishing in the state of Colorado.

Which is more scenic North Rim or South Rim Grand Canyon? ›

The South Rim is at a lower elevation which allows you to get a better view of the walls of the opposite rim. The sheer magnitude of the Grand Canyon is much more visible from the South Rim. The South Rim is more “user friendly” with paved paths along the rim.

Is the North Rim or South Rim better to visit? ›

But those who have seen the canyon from both sides tend to agree that the North Rim is the nicer side of the Grand Canyon, in several senses of the word – calmer, quieter, and reminiscent of what the National Parks may have been like in years past.

Is the West Rim or South Rim better? ›

The West Rim, with its location closest to Las Vegas, Nevada, is the warmest year-round. Summers are dry and hot, with mild spring and fall temperatures and occasional snowfall in the winter. The South Rim offers moderate temperatures in the spring, summer and fall, with snow and rain common in the winter.

How hard is Rim to Rim in one day? ›

Long distance thru-hikers typically average between 10-15 miles a day. Hiking more than that is totally doable but not necessarily the most fun or painless. Hiking Rim to Rim in one day means hiking at least 21 miles. If the pain hasn't already kicked in by mile 15, it's very likely it will at mile 16.

How long does it take to hike 24 miles? ›

For example, an average thru-hiker hikes approximately 8 hours a day and can easily walk at a pace of three miles per hour. On an average day, they can cover up to 24 miles especially on flat terrain.

How do you prepare for Rim to Rim hiking? ›

The Week Before the Rim to Rim Hike

No 10 + mile hikes within a week of the real thing. Go down to only one or two cross training days instead of 3 that final week. Stretch plenty and use a foam roller when able, but emphasize rest this week. Your legs and body need to feel fresh the morning of your Rim to Rim hike.

Is Black Elk peak a difficult hike? ›

This is an easy hike that gets moderate in parts, but there are plenty of nice spots to stop for a drink of water and a picture. (Make sure you bring your own hydration, as there's no water available on the trails.) But one of the best parts of Black Elk Peak is the number of options you can take to get to the top.

Is Black mountain a hard walk? ›

Generally considered a moderately challenging route, it takes an average of 1 h 23 min to complete. This is a very popular area for birding, hiking, and running, so you'll likely encounter other people while exploring.

How long does it take to climb the Devil's Bit? ›

A satisfying hill walk on Devil's Bit Mountain, this pleasant loop takes 90 minutes to complete. The terrain is a mix of sandy laneways, forestry tracks, green roads and hillside paths.

Is Black Canyon of the Gunnison crowded? ›

The 9 Best Black Canyon of the Gunnison Hiking Trails for Avoiding People. In the ranking of America's most popular national parks, Colorado's Black Canyon of the Gunnison falls toward the bottom. In 2021 it ranked 48th of 63 parks with 308,910 total visitors.

Can you swim in Black Canyon of the Gunnison? ›

Other things to do near Black Canyon of the Gunnison

There's a large lake where you can boat, swim or just dip your feet in. It does require a $9.00 day pass per vehicle to enter.

Why do they call it Black Canyon? ›

The Black Canyon derives its name from its black-stained, lichen-covered walls, which accentuate the gloom of the chasm. Roads on the North and South rims, with overlooks and foot trails, reach about 8,000 feet (2,400 metres) above sea level.

What do you wear to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison? ›

The park is notorious for its poison ivy, which grows many feet high along the walls of the canyon. If you plan on descending into the canyon, you should wear pants and long sleeves to protect yourself.

Do you need a permit to thru hike the AT? ›

No fees, memberships, or permits are required to walk on the Trail. However, the A.T. passes through numerous state and national parks, forests and public lands, a few of which charge fees or require permits or reservations to park or to stay overnight in shelters or campsites.

Can you hike to the bottom of Black Canyon of the Gunnison? ›

Hiking To The Bottom Of Black Canyon Of The Gunnison: The Gunnison Route Hike- The Gunnison Route is a rim to rim trail in Black Canyon of The Gunnison National Park. You do need a permit to go on this hike to the bottom of The Black Canyon of The Gunnison.

Should you wear jeans to the Grand Canyon? ›

In the summer, wear shorts, a t-shirt, and running shoes with a light jacket or sweater. In the winter, opt for jeans, good shoes (or even boots – it does snow at the Grand Canyon!), and a long-sleeved shirt with a jacket or sweater.

Can you sleep in your car at Grand Canyon? ›

Can you camp in your car in the Grand Canyon? Yes, the National Park Service allows you to sleep in your car inside the park, but you still need to reserve a campsite. You cannot just sleep in your car in a parking lot, for example.

What should you not do at the Grand Canyon? ›

Grand Canyon: What Not to Do
  • Grand Canyon: What Not to Do. ...
  • Timing is Everything: Don't Arrive at Peak Times. ...
  • Liquid Assets: Don't Neglect to Stay Hydrated. ...
  • Get an Altitude Adjustment: Don't Underestimate the Elevation. ...
  • Weather or Not: Don't Forget to Pack for Changing Conditions.
11 Jan 2018

Can you drive to the bottom of the Black Canyon? ›

The East Portal Road travels five steep miles to the bottom of the canyon. You'll find a small campground, picnic area, and primitive trail when you reach the end of the road.

How much is it to camp at Black Canyon of the Gunnison? ›

$12 per night. No reservations; first-come, first-served at all 21 sites. People love the hiking trails in the area as well as the abundant shade, which is not available at many of the other campsites near the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

Can you camp at the bottom of Black Canyon? ›

Black Canyon offers two campgrounds - one on each rim. There is also a campground at the bottom of the canyon called East Portal. Although accessed through the park, East Portal is within the boundary of Curecanti National Recreation Area.

Are there rattlesnakes in Black Canyon of the Gunnison? ›

There are four types of rattlesnakes in the Black Canyon area and all are to be considered dangerous.

What time of day are black bear active? ›

Daily Activity Period: Most bears become active a half-hour before sunrise, take a nap or two during the day, and bed down for the night an hour or two after sunset. However, some bears are active at night to possibly avoid people or other bears. Preferred Foods: Nuts, acorns, fruit, insects, succulent greens.

How many days do you need in Black Canyon of the Gunnison? ›

How Many Days Do You Need in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park? If you want to visit both the North and South Rims, you will need two days. On the quickest of visits, you can visit the South Rim in about 4 to 5 hours, simply by driving South Rim Road.

What animals are in Black Canyon? ›

Other wildlife you may see while kayaking through Black Canyon include desert bighorn sheep, mountain lions, bats, rabbits, coyotes, and beavers.

What is the closest city to Black Canyon? ›

Towns & Cities Near Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
  • Montrose, CO. 19.9 mi / 36 mins.
  • Delta, CO. 41.1 mi / 58 mins.
  • Ouray, CO. 55.2 mi / 1 hour 17 mins.
  • Gunnison, CO. 68.8 mi / 1 hour 30 mins.
  • Crawford, CO. 69.9 mi / 1 hour 33 mins.
  • Telluride, CO. 84.5 mi / 1 hour 55 mins.
  • Mt Crested Butte, CO. 99.9 mi / 2 hours 11 mins.

What is the deepest canyon in America? ›

Hells Canyon, Idaho and Oregon

This is the deepest canyon in North America, the canyon is 8,043 feet (2,452 meters) deep.

Which is deeper Black Canyon or Grand Canyon? ›

Depth (feet) of the Black Canyon at Warner Point. That's impressive, but not by comparison to the true monsters. Hells Canyon, the deepest canyon in North America, is 7,913 feet deep at Hedevil Point (on the Idaho side). The Grand Canyon averages about 5,000 feet deep.

Can you see the South Rim in one day? ›

As already mentioned, you can see the main highlights of Grand Canyon's South Rim in just one day, but you can also spend a week at the Grand Canyon and still not see everything. So how much time you need will depend on what you absolutely want to see and whether you are planning to do any hiking.

How long is Black Magic canyon? ›

Try this 1.5-mile out-and-back trail near Shoshone, Idaho. Generally considered a moderately challenging route, it takes an average of 28 min to complete. This trail is great for hiking, and it's unlikely you'll encounter many other people while exploring.

Is the North Rim of Black Canyon worth it? ›

Because there is no bridge over the canyon, accessing the North Rim requires a bit of a drive. You'll need to allow two to three hours' drive time from one rim to the other—but it's entirely worth it. Not only are there far fewer people, but the views from the North Rim are also more dramatic, if that's even possible.

How hard is it to hike rim to rim in one day? ›

Long distance thru-hikers typically average between 10-15 miles a day. Hiking more than that is totally doable but not necessarily the most fun or painless. Hiking Rim to Rim in one day means hiking at least 21 miles. If the pain hasn't already kicked in by mile 15, it's very likely it will at mile 16.

How difficult is the scenic rim walk? ›

The Scenic Rim Trail is rough, steep and difficult to traverse. Although classified as a Grade 5 track overall, there are some sections of easier, well-formed walking tracks and management trails. Be aware of what to expect and how to deal with the conditions.

Does Black Star Canyon have mountain lions? ›

Due to its central location, Black Star Canyon acts as a wildlife corridor for larger animals like bobcats, mountain lions, and deer.

Is Black Star Canyon hard? ›

Experience this 6.7-mile out-and-back trail near Silverado, California. Generally considered a challenging route, it takes an average of 2 h 48 min to complete. This is a very popular area for hiking and mountain biking, so you'll likely encounter other people while exploring.

How long should I stay at North Rim? ›

Visitors to the North Rim can't realistically do it in just one day, so we encourage you to book at least one overnight; even better, increase your length of stay to at least two nights and plan to stay at the rim or in Page, Fredonia or southern Utah.

Videos

1. Steep Canyon Hiking | Van Life in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park | SOB Draw | vlog 13
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2. Epic views at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (28 of 419)
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3. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Fly Fishing
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4. The Steepest Canyon in North America! (Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado)
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5. Fly Fishing The East Portal // Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
(Outdoor Gold)
6. FREE Camping in Crested Butte Colorado + Pizza and Donuts! | Newstates in the States
(Newstate Nomads)

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