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Black Canyon of the Gunnison: Know Before You Go

Time your trip right

Time of year considerations will obviously help you know what to pack, but there is more to consider for this park. Uniquely deep, Black Canyon’s walls are so steep that it can actually be difficult to get a good view of the river below. Shadows in the morning and evening bring stark contrasts that will be hard to overcome for photographers hoping to capture the beauty. We normally suggest hitting National Parks early in the AM to avoid the crowds, but Black Canyon of the Gunnison is one that you’ll want to enjoy mid day for best viewing.

Choose a Rim

As with most dramatic canyons, views of the river below vary based on which side of the canyon you are on. Unless you have the whole day to drive the area, you will probably pick either the north or south rim during your time in the park. The most popular is the south rim, featuring the visitor center, 10+ view points, and a steep drive down to the river on the canyon’s east side. The north provides another 6 view points, but does not connect to the south within the park.

Easy on the knees

Because of the steep nature of the canyon, visitors will find roads provide relatively easy access to most of the park’s ___ scenic overlooks. While some may still require walks of 100+ yards, there are few stairs and well maintained paths throughout. Another byproduct of the steep canyon walls is the minimal hiking trails available in Black Canyon.

Hitting rock bottom

While few trails make it to the river, there is one road leading from the south rim down to the bottom of Black Canyon. The drive is quite scenic and provides a nice perspective to this unique park. While cars cannot reach the most dramatic parts of the canyon, the wildlife and river sounds make the effort worthwhile. We were even treated to a black bear sighting across the river!

A must see visitor’s center

Not all national park visitor’s centers are created equal, but Black Canyon of the Gunnison’s should definitely be part of your day. With unique geology and limited park access, the movie and displays really enhance your experience of this park. With many great camp sites also available, a stop here for reservations makes sense.


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