When I was planning a road trip to the southwestern regions of Colorado I initially had no idea that on our 2-week road trip we would see not one but two national parks. And one of them, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, I had never even heard of. (I think it’s sad I had lived in Colorado a good portion of my life and didn’t know the park existed.)
We traveled in a lumpy counterclockwise circle that began and ended in Denver and included a stop at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison towards the end of the journey. The canyon is situated kind of in the left-middle part of the rectangular state and is not quite on the way to anywhere, nor is it near to anything else you may already be planning to see. So I guess this explains why it gets missed by people like me who actually like visiting national parks.
When we got to the Black Canyon, we saw that there was really just one main road (South Rim Road) that winds about 7 miles along the top edge of the canyon and dead ends at High Point View. There is some stuff on the north rim, but there aren’t any bridges across.
There are a number of different pull offs – some conveniently located right along the road and some with a slight hike to the canyon’s edge – which make it easy to get a great overview of most of the park if you don’t have much time. If you have a little more time and want to hit the trails, there are a handful of official trails you can choose from. All of them are 2 miles or shorter and located at the top of the canyon. Just watch your step, of course, because 2000 feet is a long way to fall.
If you’re on the south side and want to see a little more, you can take the windy East Portal Road down a super-steep road (up to 16% grade) to the Gunnison River at the bottom of the canyon. The drive offers some decent views, but unless you have extra time or just want to do it because it’s there and want to be thorough I’m not convinced it’s necessarily worth the roughly 7-mile drive one way. The highlight for me wasn’t the canyon but some deer with babies who happened to be there at the same time. Look how cute Bambi is!
If you have the time and are kinda near the area, I definitely recommend you go see the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Even though it took me decades to go, I’m so glad I finally found out about it because the canyon is stunning and worth the out-of-the-way stop.