DescriptionBlack Canyon of the Gunnison National Park has several observation points on the South Rim, reached via SR 347, leading off US 50, 8 miles east of Montrose; the North Rim is reached by an 11-mile road (the last half is gravel) from SR 92 east of Crawford.
Embracing approximately 30,000 acres, the park contains 14 miles of the deepest portion of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Some of Earth's oldest base rocks have been cut by the river to a depth of 2,722 feet. At the narrowest point along the top of the canyon, the distance between the canyon walls measures about 1,100 feet across, but narrows to only 40 feet near the riverbed below.
The name Black Canyon comes from the many shadows cast on the cliff walls due to the narrowness of the canyon and from the dark-colored schists, granites and other Precambrian rocks. Descent into the canyon is arduous and hazardous; do not attempt it without consulting a ranger.
Summer recreational options include camping, hiking along the canyon rim, picnicking, fishing, rock climbing and extreme kayaking. Winter recreation offers cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
The South Rim Visitor Center at Gunnison Point provides information about current interpretive programs and houses exhibits and a video describing the park's history, geology, flora and fauna. Recreational activities taking place in the inner gorge require a permit, which can be obtained from the visitor center. Programs are held daily, mid-June through Labor Day. Camping and rangers are available year-round at the South Rim, and in summer at the North Rim.
The park provides several options for scenic drives. South Rim Drive is a 7-mile paved road; 12 overlooks provide grand views of the canyon and the river. East Portal Road is a very steep paved drive; vehicles longer than 22 feet are prohibited. The road ends at the Gunnison River, a popular spot for camping, fishing and sightseeing.
The South Rim Visitor Center is open daily 8-6, late May to mid-Sept.; 8-5, mid-Sept. to late Oct.; 9-4, rest of year. South Rim Drive and East Portal Road are open early April to mid-Nov. (weather permitting). North Rim Road is open intermittently May-Oct. (weather permitting). Admission (valid for 7 days) $15 per private vehicle or $7 per person arriving by other means; free (ages 0-16). Camping $16-$22. Phone (970) 641-2337.
GEM DescriptionA narrow opening and sheer walls of crystalline rock dropping some 2,000 feet create spectacular and intimidating views.