Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is not entirely black; the gneiss and schist layers are really more a grayish hue and are liberally dissected by veins of rose and white pegmatite. But due to the steepness of the cliffs and their unprecedented depth (up to 2,722 feet), the canyon often lies in shadow, darkening the ashen walls. The 14 miles of the canyon that lies within the park boundary is the most spectacular section, encompassing the narrowest part at the river (40 feet, 1,100 feet at the rim) as well as the a section at Chasm View where the river descends 240 feet in a mile. Millions of years of cutting into the bedrock by the Gunnison River have left this dramatic canyon, a testament to the powerful giant whose thunder can be heard thousands of feet up on the rim.

It was noticeably colder here than in southeastern Utah desert, and rainy. It never really downpoured during the day however – and the thunder storms were confined to the evenings — so we were able to do the few hikes along the rim of the canyon as well as the lookouts without getting drenched. We visited the more popular South Rim, followed the next day by the North Rim.

Warner Point Nature Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Warner Point Nature Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Cedar Point, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Cedar Point, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Painted Wall, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Painted Wall, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

View from the bottom of the canyon at East Portal, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

View from the bottom of the canyon at East Portal, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Underwater shot of the shallows of the Gunnison River, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Underwater shot of the shallows of the Gunnison River, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Driving around the canyon to the North Rim we were treated to lovely views of the canyon in Curecanti National Recreation Area, where the canyon is less dramatic, but offers better views of the river and the reservoirs. That is, before the clouds gathered and huge fog banks rolled down the mountains.

Blue Basin Reservoir, Curecanti Recreational Area, Colorado

Blue Basin Reservoir, Curecanti Recreational Area, Colorado

Fog descending into the canyon, Curecanti Recreational Area, Colorado

Fog descending into the canyon, Curecanti Recreational Area, Colorado

The rain let up just long enough when we arrived to set up our tent and cook dinner which was convenient. The next morning we set out on the North Vista Trail to Exclamation Point under low clouds and with occasional drizzle. Although there were numerous canyon overlooks along the trail, the view from Exclamation Point was impressive since it provided you with a sightline up the canyon as opposed to across it. Overall, the North Rim was noticeably less developed and provided superior viewpoints into the canyon along the river.

Exclamation Point, North Vista Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Exclamation Point, North Vista Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Big Island Overlook, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Big Island Overlook, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Kneeling Camel (light colored rock on left, 1/3 way down from top) Overlook, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Kneeling Camel (light colored rock on left, 1/3 way down from top) Overlook, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado