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Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Hike

As Colorado's own Grand Canyon, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison near Montrose, Gunnison and Crawford leaves guests speechless with its beauty and dramatic landscape. This National Park offers some of the most amazing views of a deep, dark canyon. 

The Black Canyon, so named because the walls are often shrouded in shadows making them appear black, has some of the world’s oldest exposed rock — Precambrian or “basement” rock that is nearly 2 billion years old.

To get there you have to drive 7 miles north on CO Highway 347 from the intersection with U.S. Highway 50 east of Montrose. This park is open every day. The South Rim Road is open to vehicles from early April to mid-November. In winter, the South Rim Road is 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. East Portal Road is closed in winter. The road typically closes mid-November and reopens mid-April. Campground is open 24 hours a day, all year. Check out time is 1 pm.. Water and electricity (B Loop only) is typically available mid-May to mid-September (after the last frost of spring and the first frost of fall). In the winter, only Loop A is open.


Many trails pass by steep dropoffs, so be cautious and keep a close watch on children.

Hikers should be aware that limited cattle grazing is permitted on the North Rim. Please keep cattle gates closed should you encounter them.

BE BEAR AWARE. Bears have made amazing efforts to obtain hikers' snacks. A bear that becomes habituated to humans and their food will ultimately need to be destroyed. Keep your backpack within arms reach at all times.



Rim Rock Nature Trail

Moderate - 1 mile round trip

As its name implies, this self-guided nature trail takes you along a relatively flat path following the rim of the canyon. Along this sunny route you will encounter a variety of plant life from sagebrush and Gambel oak to pinyon pine and Utah juniper. This trail allows many excellent views of the Gunnison River as well as the sheer walls of the canyon.

The trailhead is near the entrance to Campground Loop C and ends at the South Rim Visitor Center.

Oak Flat Loop Trail

Strenuous - 2 miles round trip

The Oak Flat Loop Trail (built by Student Conservation Association volunteers) offers variety to the hiker who would like to explore below the rim without taking on the challenge of hiking to the river. Parents should be aware that the trail is narrow in places and traverses some steep slopes.

The trail begins near the Visitor Center. Go a short distance to the Oak Flat Loop/River Access sign and follow the trail which leads right. Descend through a grove of aspen to another signed junction. Turn left here to continue on the Oak Flat Loop. The trail meanders through a thicket of oak scrub (Gambel oak) passing near a rock outcrop, a pleasant location where you can relax and enjoy the view. The trail then heads west where it begins its ascent through a forest of Douglas fir, Aspen, and Gambel oak. On the return leg one encounters another unmarked overlook offering spectacular views downstream. Pets are not allowed.

Cedar Point Nature Trail

Easy - 2/3 mile round trip

An excellent place for one to brush up on the local flora, this short, sunny, moderately sloped trail offers guideposts describing the various plants along the way. At the end are two overlooks offering breathtaking views of the river over 2,000 feet below. Also visible is the famous Painted Wall, the tallest cliff in Colorado (2,250 ft.), as well as rock islands jutting up from the depths of the canyon.

Warner Point Nature Trail

Moderate - 1.5 miles round trip

You can pick up a trail guide at the High Point Overlook or the South Rim Visitor Center. Along this trail you will find shady benches which allow you to rest among mountain mahogany, serviceberry, pinyon pine, and juniper. Looking south you can see the San Juan Mountain Range, Uncompahgre Valley, and Bostwick Park. To the north look for the West Elk Mountains, and at the end of the trail enjoy the views of the Gunnison River and the Black Canyon. Pets are not allowed.

Warner Point Nature Trail Guide (3MB pdf)»



Chasm View Nature Trail

Moderate - 1/3 mile round trip

This trail is located at the end of the one-way campground loop. After a short distance, the trail breaks out of the pinyon/juniper forest at the North Chasm View, some 1800 feet above the river. Continuing near the rim, the trail reaches a second overlook with excellent views of Painted Wall and Serpent Point. Keep a lookout for swifts, swallows and raptors frequently seen from this overlook. The people you can see on the far side, at Chasm View overlook are only 1,100 feet away.

North Vista Trail

Moderate to Exclamation Point - 3 miles round trip

Strenuous to Green Mountain - 7 miles round trip

Constructed by volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, the North Vista Trail offers some of the best scenic views and birding in the Park.

Start this trail at the North Rim Ranger Station. After passing through an area of sage and oak brush, the trail meanders in a pinyon/juniper forest along the canyon's rim. Several overlooks offer views of SOB draw and the inner canyon. At Exclamation Point some of the best inner-canyon views can be found. Those continuing to Green Mountain will be rewarded by panoramic vistas, including the San Juan Mountains, the West Elks, Grand Mesa, the Uncompahgre Plateau, and an aerial perspective of the Black Canyon.

Deadhorse Trail

Easy to moderate - 5 miles round trip

This trail offers good views of Deadhorse gulch and East Portal on the Gunnison River, as well as good birding.

Park at the Kneeling Camel Overlook and walk a few yards east to a spur road that leads to the old Ranger Station. The trail, actually an old service road, begins here. After 3/4 of a mile the road passes a stock pond. This pond is fed by one of the few springs found on the rim of the Black Canyon. Continue on another 1 1/2 mile until you encounter a stock fence. Turn right (south) here and walk 1/4 mile along the fence until you come to the canyon's rim. Deadhorse Gulch is the large side drainage located just east of the overlook (and the fence).

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