Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Big enough to be overwhelming, still intimate enough to feel the pulse of time, Black Canyon of the Gunnison exposes you to some of the steepest cliffs, oldest rock, and craggiest spires in North America. With two million years to work, the Gunnison River, along with the forces of weathering, has sculpted this vertical wilderness of rock, water, and sky.

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.

 

Rim Rock Nature Trail
Moderate – 1 mile round trip
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
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)»


NORTH RIM

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.

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).

Get more Information from the NPS website

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