Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is a hidden gem located in western Colorado. It is known for its steep, narrow canyon walls and the Gunnison River that runs through it. The canyon walls are made up of some of the oldest rock formations in North America and the canyon walls are some of the steepest, dropping nearly 2,000′ to the river below. The canyon gets its name from the fact that some parts of the canyon only receive 33 minutes of sunlight a day.  

Pet Policy

Dogs are allowed on roads, campgrounds, and at overlooks. They are not allowed on trails below the canyon rim.

Seasonal Info

The park is open to pedestrians year-round and the roads are open from April through November.

Summer – Summer is the peak season for the park with warm temperatures and the longest daylight hours.

Fall – Fall is a popular time to visit the park with fall foliage, cooler temperatures, and fewer crowds.

Winter – Winter can be a challenging time to visit the park because South Rim Road closes and facilities are limited. Visitors can explore the park while cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

Spring – Spring is a beautiful time to visit the park with beautiful wildflowers and wildlife becoming active.

Helpful Links

Rafting Information

Rafting in the Gunnison River is highly technical and features rapids ranging from class II to class IV. Rafting here is only allowed through guided trips. The trips usually run from May through September, and conditions may vary depending on the season and weather patterns.

black canyon of the gunnison view from top of canyon looking down

What To Do

What can you do in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park?  Here are some of the most popular activities.

Park Wildlife Brief

Black Canyon of the Gunnison is home to several different wildlife species. This includes black bears, mule deer, bighorn sheep, elk, mountain lions, coyotes, and birds. The park is home to over 200 species of birds. Several species of rattlesnakes can be found in the park. Visitors should stay on the designated trail, watch where they step, and never approach these snakes. 

Curving Juniper tree above the Black Canyon at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Black Canyon of the Gunnison Tours & Outfitters

gunnison river expeditions logo

Gunnison River Expeditions

Guests at Gunnison River Expeditions can enjoy fly fishing, rafting, and hunting expeditions. Rafting trips range from 1/2-day to 2-days.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison FAQ

The park is open 365 days/yr and 24 hrs/day. Some buildings, facilities will close seasonally and daily. The South Rim Drive is usually open to vehicles from late-April to mid-November. In winter, the South Rim Road is open to Gunnison Point at the visitor center. The remainder of the road is closed to vehicles, but open to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing when conditions permit.

The best time to visit the park depends on what you want to do. The summer months offer the warmest weather and the most activities, but can also be the busiest. The shoulder seasons (spring and fall) offer cooler temperatures and fewer crowds.

A day trip is possible, but to fully explore the park and participate in multiple activities, plan for 2 – 3 days. 

There are 2 campgrounds in the park that offer tent and RV camping. The closest town is Montrose which has a variety of accommodations including hotels, vacation rentals, and RV parks. 

looking into black canyon of the gunnison national park

Tips for Visiting Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Visit both rims. The park has two rims, the South Rim and the North Rim. They offer different views and experience so be sure to visit both.

Take a scenic drive. If you have limited time and mobility the park’s South Rim Road offers stunning views of the canyon and several scenic points. Check out South Rim Road, North Rim Road, East Portal Road, and Black Canyon Scenic Byway.

Camp in the park. There are two campgrounds within the park that offer tent and RV camping: South Rim Campground and North Rim Campground.

Hike the inner canyon. The inner canyon is a great way to experience the canyon’s beauty up close. The hike requires a permit, so be sure to plan ahead. The Gunnison Route is the most challenging and requires a permit. The Oak Flat Trail is 2.5 miles and less challenging then Gunnison. Chasm View Nature Trail is an easy 0.6-mile hike starting at the visitor center. 

Check out the stargazing. The park has some of the darkest skies in the country, making it a great place for stargazing. Some great spots include Gunnison Point, Painted Wall viewpoint, and both of the campgrounds. This park has been designated as an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Society.

Check the park’s website before your visit. Check for any alerts or closures that may affect your plans. Bring plenty of water, snacks, and the appropriate clothing and footwear.