NATIONAL PARK SERIES: The Black Canyon of the Gunnison – RVing in Colorado’s Deepest Canyon
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a deep canyon located in Colorado. It’s been called Colorado’s deepest and most amazing canyon. Most people who visit this area are doing it as an overnight stop when they travel through from nearby Utah or New Mexico, but there is so much to do here that you could spend weeks exploring every corner of this gorgeous valley!
Whether you want to explore nature up close or just take in some stunning views at sunset, The Black Canyon offers something for everyone.
What is the Black Canyon of the Gunnison?
Location of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is located in western Colorado, just east of the Continental Divide and south of Gunnison, Colorado. It is approximately 60 miles long and 2,000 feet deep.
- What is the best time to visit: The best time to visit the Black Canyon of the Gunnison is from mid-May to mid-October when the weather is warm and dry. The canyon is also open year-round for hiking, camping, and rock climbing.
- What to bring: When visiting the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, be sure to bring plenty of water, sunscreen, a hat, snacks, and comfortable shoes.
History of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a steep and narrow gorge located in western Colorado. The canyon was carved over millions of years by the Gunnison River. The first people to see the canyon were Native Americans who lived in the area for thousands of years.
Exploration and Development: The first Europeans to see the canyon were Spanish explorers in the 17th century. However, it was not until 1869 that a party led by John Wesley Powell explored the canyon. In 1874, Congress created a park to protect the canyon. Today, the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park is a popular tourist destination.
Geology of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a product of erosion. The Gunnison River flows through the canyon and over time, has carved out this deep and dramatic gorge. The rocks that make up the canyon walls are mostly sedimentary, which means they were deposited in layers by water or wind. The oldest rocks in the canyon are from the Precambrian Era and are about 1.7 billion years old.
Wildlife in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison
The Gunnison River and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park are home to a variety of animals. Some of the animals that live there include elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, black bears, cougars, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, porcupines, beavers, otters, and a variety of birds.
- What they eat: The animals in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park mostly eat plants. The elk and deer eat grasses and shrubs. The bighorn sheep eat mostly grasses. The black bears eat berries and nuts. The coyotes eat rabbits and rodents. And the foxes eat mice and voles.
- How they live: The animals in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park have to be able to adapt to a wide range of conditions. They have to be able to find food and water in a desert-like environment where there is very little rainfall. They also have to be able to avoid predators such as cougars and bobcats.
Recreation in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a recreation mecca. The canyon offers opportunities for hiking, camping, rock climbing, fishing, and much more.
- What to bring: Be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks, as there is no potable water available in the park. Also, be sure to wear sunscreen and hats, as the sun can be intense at high altitudes.
- Fees and Permits: There is a $15 fee for vehicles entering the park. Annual passes are also available for $30. No permits are required for day hikes or camping in developed sites.
Where is the Black Canyon of the Gunnison?
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is located in western Colorado, just east of the Continental Divide and north of Montrose. It is easily accessible from both Denver and Salt Lake City.
- Accessibility: The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is open all year round, 24 hours a day. However, some roads and trails may be closed due to weather conditions. The South Rim Road is open to vehicles from mid-April through mid-November, while the North Rim Road is open from late May through mid-October.
- Camping options: There are two developed campgrounds in the park – East Portal and South Rim – as well as several backcountry campsites. East Portal Campground is only accessible by foot or bike, while South Rim Campground can be reached by car.
How Deep Is the Black Canyon of The Gunnison?
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is one of the deepest canyons in North America. It is 2,250 feet (686 m) deep at its deepest point.
- Width: The canyon is only 30 to 60 feet (9 to 18 m) wide at its narrowest point.
- Erosion: The Black Canyon of the Gunnison was formed by erosion from the Gunnison River. The river carved out the canyon over millions of years.
Sightseeing in The Black Canyon of The Gunnison
There are two main ways to see the Black Canyon of the Gunnison: from the South Rim or from the North Rim.
The South Rim is more popular because it is easily accessible by car. From here, you can drive along the rim and stop at various viewpoints to take in the views. The North Rim is only accessible by hiking or 4WD and is less developed, so you’ll really feel like you’re in nature.
- When to go: The best time to visit the Black Canyon of the Gunnison is from late May to early October when all the facilities and roads are open. However, if you want to avoid crowds, aim for mid-week visits during June, September or October.
- Getting there: The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is located in western Colorado, about halfway between Montrose and Gunnison.
- If you’re coming from Denver, take I-70 westbound until exit 195 for US-50 E towards Montrose/Gunnison. Follow US-50 E for about 98 miles before turning left onto CO-347 S/Black Canyon Rd. After another 12 miles, you will reach the South Rim Visitor Center.
Tips for visiting:
Here are some tips to help you make the most of your visit to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison:
- Wear comfortable shoes as there is a lot of walking involved.
- Bring plenty of water, especially if you’re hiking.
- Pack a lunch or snacks as there are no restaurants inside the park.
- Be sure to stop at the visitor center to get a map and information about ranger-led programs.
- If you’re driving, be aware that some roads and pullouts can be very narrow. Take your time and enjoy the drive.
What Are Some of The Recreational Activities Available in The Black Canyon of The Gunnison?
- Hiking: The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is one of the best places in Colorado to go hiking. With over 12 miles of trails, there is something for everyone. The trails range from easy to difficult, so you can find one that is perfect for your skill level.
- Camping: If you are looking for a place to camp, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a great option. There are several campgrounds located within the park, so you can find one that suits your needs. Whether you want to rough it in a tent or have a more comfortable experience in an RV, there is a campground for you.
- Fishing: The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is home to some of the best fishing in Colorado. There are many different types of fish that can be found in the river, including trout and bass. If you are looking for a great place to fish, this is definitely the place for you.
What Are Some of The Camping Options in The Black Canyon of The Gunnison?
There are three campgrounds in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park: South Rim, North Rim, and East Portal. All three campgrounds offer stunning views of the canyon, and each has its own unique amenities.
- South Rim Campground: The South Rim Campground is the largest of the three campgrounds in the park, with 96 sites. This campground is open year-round, and reservations are recommended from May through September. Amenities at this campground include flush toilets, drinking water, picnic tables, and fire grates. There is also a dump station for RVs.
- North Rim Campground: The North Rim Campground has 30 sites and is open from mid-May through mid-October. This campground offers stunning views of the canyon, as well as amenities such as flush toilets, drinking water, picnic tables, and fire grates. There is also a dump station for RVs at this campground.
- East Portal Campground: The East Portal Campground has 14 sites and is open from mid-May through mid-October. This campground offers beautiful views of the canyon and river below. Amenities at this campground include flush toilets, drinking water, picnic tables, and fire grates. There is also a dump station for RVs at this campground.
- Backcountry Camping: Backcountry camping is allowed in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, but a permit is required. This permits allows campers to stay overnight in the backcountry, away from developed campgrounds. Backcountry campsites must be at least 1/4 mile from any road or trail, and must be located at least 100 feet from any water source. Campfires are not permitted in the backcountry, and all food must be stored properly to avoid attracting wildlife.
What Are Some Tips for RVing in The Black Canyon of The Gunnison?
Camping in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison
- Amenities: There are no hookups or showers at the campgrounds in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. However, there are flush toilets and drinking water available. There is also a dump station available for RVs.
- Cost: The cost of camping in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is $20 per night for a site with up to eight people. Additional vehicles are $15 per night. Camping is also available in the adjacent Curecanti National Recreation Area for $16 per night.
- Travel tips: RVs are allowed on all roads in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park except for South Rim Road and North Rim Road. These roads are too narrow and steep for RVs. When camping in the park, be sure to bring plenty of food and water, as there are no services available within the park boundaries.
Hiking in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison has many different hiking trails that offer different levels of difficulty. Some of the easier trails include the South Rim Trail and the North Rim Trail. These trails are great for beginners or those who want to take a leisurely hike. For those looking for a more challenging hike, there are also several options available. The Gunnison River Trail and the Painted Wall Trail are both great choices for experienced hikers.
- What to bring: When hiking in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, it is important to be prepared. Make sure to bring plenty of water, as it can get very hot in the canyon during the summer months. It is also a good idea to pack snacks and lunch, as there are no food options available once you enter the park. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and clothing, as well as sunscreen and a hat if you plan on being in direct sunlight for extended periods of time.
- Cautions: There are some things to be aware of when hiking in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. First, due to its remote location, cell phone service is not available in most parts of the park. This means that if you have an emergency, you will not be able to call for help. It is important to hike with a partner and to let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return. Additionally, the canyon walls are very steep and there is no guardrail in place. This means that if you slip or fall, you could seriously injure yourself. Be sure to stay on the trails and away from the edge of the canyon.
Fishing in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is a great place to fish. There are many different types of fish that can be found in the park, including brown trout, rainbow trout, and cutthroat trout.
What to fish for: There are many different types of fish that can be found in the park, including brown trout, rainbow trout, and cutthroat trout.
Fishing regulations: All fishing in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park must be done in accordance with Colorado state fishing regulations.
What Are Some of The Nearby Attractions to The Black Canyon of The Gunnison?
- Cliff dwellings and mesa top villages built by the Ancestral Puebloans
- Curecanti National Recreation Area: Three reservoirs on the Gunnison River, hiking, camping, boating, fishing and horseback riding
- Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area: Hiking, camping, fishing, rafting and kayaking
If you’re looking for an RVing adventure that will take you to some of Colorado’s most beautiful and wild places, then you need to get yourself to Black Canyon of the Gunnison. This guide has everything you need to know about making the most of your trip. So what are you waiting for? Get packing!