November 13 2014
Written By
Josey Orr
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The Great 59 - Part 7: Black Canyon of The Gunnison National Park

The Great 59 is a series on America’s National Park Service.

Black Canyon of The Gunnison National Park

State: Colorado

Created: October 21, 1999

Size: 30,750 Acres

Black Canyon of The Gunnison National Park is one of the smallest national parks you can visit. Interestingly enough, it’s named for its darkness. The canyon is so deep that it makes it difficult for the suns rays the penetrate it and it’s also home to Colorado’s steepest vertical wall, The Painted Wall.

The park is located in the western part of Colorado and offers scenic drives as well as extreme climbing and rafting opportunities. To give you a better description of the landscape we’ll refer to the man who first traversed this area, John Williams Gunnison. He described the area as “the roughest, most hilly and most cut up,” he’d ever seen.

What To Do:

Camping -There are two campgrounds within the park you can stay at. The North Rim campground is open from spring to Fall and has 13 sites. The South Rim campground has 88 sites and multiple loops. Loop A is open all year round and loops B & C are open from spring to fall. Costs range from $12-$18 depending on which amenities your require.

Rafting - The rapids in Black Canyon are all class V and even the most seasoned rafting experts proceed with caution. If you’re not experienced we’d recommend just staying away from these bad boys.

Climbing - The peak climbing times are from mid-April through June and mid-October through November. Again, we recommend that you only traverse these walls if you are an expert climber.

Hiking & Scenic Drives - There are a few hikes and drives in the park that will afford you the opportunity to witness amazing views. Just keep in mind that the cliffs are steep and be bear aware because there are definitely black bears in this neck of the woods.

Places Of Interest:

Tomichi Point - Tomichi is an overlook that offers spectacular views of the canyon. This lookout is situated in the beginning of a seven mile scenic drive to High Point on the Southern Rim.

Painted Wall - The painted wall is the steepest cliff in all of Colorado, rising to 2,250 feet high. If you have only a limited time in the park, this is a must see.

Gunnison River - You can hike down to the river or view it from the top of the canyons. However, like most of the other activities in this park, you’ll need to be in pretty good shape to make the hike down to the river. Most trails are both difficult and unmarked.

The South Rim and it’s accompanying visitor center are open all year long and the North Rim is closed during the winter.


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