Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Guide

Featuring some of the most dramatic vertical cliffs, impressive vistas, and scenic drives, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is Colorado’s scenic feast. 

In this article, we see the best things to do in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, the best time to visit it, the best places to see here, etc. to help you plan a fantastic trip to this incredible park.


Let’s get started!


ParkBlack Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park
Things to doDriving, Hiking and many more
Hotels near Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National ParkBlack Canyon Hotel, Country Lodge and many more
Entry Fee$15-$30
Validity7 days
Camping LocationsMultiple Locations

Where Is Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park?

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is situated in the southwest part of Colorado near Gunnison, Crawford, and Montrose.

You can reach the south edge of the park from Montrose, which is 14 miles away, or from Gunnison, which is 63 miles away.

The north edge lies 11 miles to the southwest of Crawford. Also, there is no bridge adjoining the rims, so you will have to drive two-three hours to reach from one rim to another.

About Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National park

Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a National Park in Western Colorado that boasts some of the most spectacular landscapes in the country.

Stretching over 47-square miles, the park protects the magnificent vertical cliffs and a mighty river that changed everything.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is an International Dark Sky Park and provides an excellent opportunity to see the Milky Way and constellations on a clear night.

The park also offers 14-miles of gorgeous scenic routes around the rim of the Black Canyon, a variety of hiking trails, and a unique vertical environment for wildlife. 

Despite offering so much, Black Canyon of the Gunnison is the least visited park in Colorado, mainly because of its distance from the nearest Airport.

However, the lack of visitors makes it a perfect place to find some solitude and enjoy a whole lot of unobstructed views. 1

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History Of Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison was first discovered in 1853 by an American Military officer named John Williams Gunnison, leading an expedition in the region.

Ute Indians killed him, and the Gunnison River got renamed after him in his honor. 

On March 2, 1933, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park was designated as a National Monument and was upgraded to the status of a National Park on October 21, 1999.

It became the 55th National Park and the third smallest part of the country. 

During 1933-35, the Civilian Conservation Corps built North Rim Road of the park, including five miles of roadway, associated structures, and five overlooks over the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

The road was listed as a historic district on the U.S “National Register of Historic Places” for its scenic beauty and significance. 2

Best Things To Do In The Park

Whether you’re visiting for a couple of hours or plan to camp, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park offers the widest variety of things to do:

Black Canyon Of The Gunnison 

Black Canyon is one of the most distinctive landmarks in Colorado and the park’s main highlight.

Thousands of years ago, the Gunnison River carved this rugged, dark, and deep Canyon. The canyon walls are black, and the gorge’s depth reaches over 2,000 feet.

The Canyon provides the opportunities to see spectacular and critical geological features, including some of the steepest cliffs in North America.

It is also home to the Peregrines falcon, the fastest bird globally that can exceed 200mph in its drives. 

Hike To The Warner Point Trail 

Are you looking for an intense adventure? Hike to the Warner Point Trail and enjoy the stunning views of the Black Canyon.

This 1.5-mile roundtrip trail is one of the most beginner-friendly trails and provides expansive views of the Black Canyon and the surrounding area.

There are benches placed all across the trail at the most scenic spots for the convenience of the visitors.

At the end of the course, you’ll be treated to the sweeping vistas of the West Elk Mountains and views into the more significant portion of the Canyon.

Drive The South Rim 

Go on a scenic drive through the South Rim to enjoy some of the most phenomenal views in the park.

This 7-mile scenic drive along the edge of the Black Canyon gets past through twelve sheer and steep overlooks that are bound to give you vertigo along with incredible views.

The drive starts at Tomichi Point and goes to High Point. Some of the most popular stops are Gunnison Point, Painted Wall View, Pulpit Rock, and Sunset View.

Visit The Painted Wall

The Painted Wall is another park’s highlight that no one should miss when visiting the park.

It is the highest cliff in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and all Colorado, standing 2250 feet.

The wall can be seen from the several overlooks on the South Rim Road and the Chasm View Trail on the North Rim Road.

The canyon walls look like they are painted with large brushstrokes, but in fact, it is caused by the black color of the gneiss and the pinkish hue of the pegmatite.

No matter what age you are, this incredible sight is sure to stimulate your imagination. 

Look For The Wildlife 

Despite its rocky landscape, the Park is home to diverse wildlife and provides the perfect opportunity to see wildlife in its natural habitat.

As you look deep into the depths of the Canyon, you can spot Bald Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, chipmunks, coyotes, mule deer, and more.

Birders also come to park in the hopes to spot the migratory birds. The best time to spot wildlife is the sunrise and sunset when they go out searching for food or returning to their homes. 3

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Reddit Users Share Their Experience

I went to Black Canyon of the Gunnison this summer and I still can’t believe it doesn’t get more visitors
by u/penguin_trooper in NationalPark

Best Time To Visit

Since the main roads and ranger station of the North Rim are closed from November through April, the best time to visit the Park is in summer.

Winters are also the ideal time to visit to enjoy snow sports, including cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. 


Map Of Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park

Make sure to download the map of park before your visit to find your way around the park with ease.

Visit the NPS Website to download the map of the park. 

Best Hotels To Stay Near Black Canyon 

There are no lodging options inside the Park. But there are plenty of hotel options in the nearby town of Montrose.

Here are some best places to stay near the park: 

  • Country Lodge
  • Black Canyon Motel
  • Hampton Inn Montrose 
  • Stay Wise Inn Montrose
  • Red Arrow Inn & Suites
  • Green Tea Inn Montrose

Camping Locations

There are three developed campgrounds in the Black Canyon; South Rim CampgroundNorth Rim Campground, and East Portal Campground.

The South Rim is located one mile from the South Rim Visitor Center, while North Rim is situated near the Juniper Forest.

The East Portal Campground is located at the bottom of the Canyon near the river to fish or just enjoy the views.

All campgrounds feature designated campsites, drinking water, and restrooms. For more information or to make a reservation, visit the NPS Website.

Weather Of Black Canyon National Park

The Park has a warm, humid continental climate. The elevation influences the weather.

There’s a huge temperature difference between the canyon rim and the Gunnison River below. Canyon rim has the most stable and temperature ideal for visitors. 

The temperature at the river can be high even if it’s under the shade all day.

The average temperature in summer ranges between 51 to 87 degrees, with an occasional thunderstorm.

Winters are cold, with an average temperature ranging from 15 to 39 degrees with frequent snow.

Makes sure to check the latest weather forecast before planning a visit. 

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Entry Fee Of Black Canyon National Park

All the visitors above 16 are required to pay an admission fee to enter the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

The entry fee is $30 per vehicle, $25 per motorcycle, and $15 for pedestrians or bicycles, valid for seven consecutive days. 

We’d highly recommend purchasing the Black Canyon Annual Pass for $55 or America the Beautiful Pass for $80 to get free access to the park for one calendar year.

The entrance passes can be purchased online or at the park entrance. 

Checklist Of Things To Bring

Here are some must-have items you should bring with yourself to the Park:

  • Daypack 
  • Comfortable seasonal clothes 
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Sunblock and sunglasses
  • Hiking boots
  • Binoculars 
  • Tent & Sleeping bag
  • Animal proof food containers
  • Refillable water bottle
  • Hiking snacks
  • Pocket knife
  • Firestarter 
  • First-aid kit 
  • Bear Spray
  • Map 


Which is the most popular section of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park?

There are three sections of the park; South Rim, North Rim, and the East Portal.

But if you have limited time, go for the South Rim area as it is the most popular section of the park featuring all the main attractions.

How many days Do I need at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park?

Two days are enough to explore all three sections of the park, learn about the history, geology, and wildlife of the area, and camp under some of the darkest skies in the world. 5

How long does it take to drive through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park?

Depending on how many times you stop along the way, it takes approximately 2-4 hours to drive through the park.

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