Colorado National Parks Road Trip: Part 3 - Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Spires of rock, steep cliffs, and narrow depths all await you at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.
The Grand Canyon, known for its immense size, is also difficult to perceive when viewed from the rim. The depth and distance is almost too great to comprehend. Black Canyon of the Gunnison stands in stark contrast to that feeling. Stepping to the edge of its rim, one is immediately overwhelmed by its incredible depth in relation to its narrow width.
The Black Canyon owes its incredible steepness to the rate at which the Gunnison River descends through the canyon, dropping an average of 96 feet per mile, quickly carving into the hard rock walls. The result is a canyon that reaches 2,722 feet at its deepest point, but only 1,100 feet at the narrowest part of the rim.
Most facilities are located on the south rim, with a visitor center, campground, and park road to several stunning vistas. After a quick visit there, it’s worth making the long drive around to the north rim, where a small first come first serve campground is located. The north rim has more stunning views due to the steeper slope of the canyon walls on that side. Two longer hiking trails are also located on the north rim.
We hiked out to Exclamation Point on a rainy afternoon to catch a cloud strewn view straight down the narrowest part of the canyon. With clear skies the next morning, we were able to drive the north rim road to several morning incredible vistas.
It is possible to descend to the bottom of the canyon both for the day and overnights (permit required). The easiest route is located close to the visitor center. Rock climbing is also possible in the park for experienced climbers.
We opted not to make the steep descent to the bottom, instead saving our legs for some backpacking in Rocky Mountain National Park, still to come…
Brewery to Visit: Colorado Boy Brewing Company in Montrose, for deliciously fresh brick oven pizza and craft beer.