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Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Curecanti National Recreation Area, Montrose, Colorado

One of the oldest canyons in North America, Black Canyon of the Gunnison was carved over a period of 2 million years. Today, the National Park encompasses vertigo-inducing drops and colorful mesas that are sliced in half by the Gunnison River.

Black Canyon breeds opportunities for hiking, rock climbing, fishing, and kayaking.The canyon rim has the easiest hiking trails and some of the most dramatic views, but hiking to the canyon floor requires a permit and involves an extremely steep descent down unmarked gullies; this, along with rock climbing inside the canyon and kayaking down the Gunnison River, should only be attempted by experienced and well-equipped travelers.

For a less physically-challenging way to appreciate the canyon, take a scenic drive along the South Rim or North Rim roads, both of which feature many overlooks. The East Portal Road winds down to the canyon floor via hairpin turns, and leads to fishing and camping sites in the Curecanti National Recreation Area.

  • Stop at the Visitor Center for trail maps and ranger tips on how to explore the area safely.

  • Rafting is not permitted inside the canyon; kayaking is only suitable for those at the expert level

  • When hiking the rim trails, be mindful of steep drops and closely watch children and pets. Proper footwear such as hiking boots is a must.

  • The park has no food services, so bring all the food, water, and equipment you will need with you.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is located in southwestern Colorado, about halfway between Durango and Grand Junction. The main entrance is on the South Rim of the park, seven miles (11 kilometers) north of US Highway 50 on CO Highway 347. Vehicles and trailers greater than 22 feet (6 meters) are not allowed on the East Portal Road

The North Rim Road is closed in winter, as is the much of Rim Drive Road beyond the second viewpoint. Check the NPS website for road closures and conditions.

Thanks to its remote location and lack of light pollution, the park offers excellent night sky viewing. It’s open 24 hours a day, so campers or those who visit at night will be treated to brilliant views of the Milky Way. Bring a telescope and look to the stars from the Chasm View Nature Trail or Dragon Point overlook. New moon phases during the summer are the best times to sky watch.


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