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Planning a Trip to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park | RMHP Blog

Planning a Trip to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park | RMHP Blog

By RMHP

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Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is one of four national parks in Colorado.It’s also one of the Western Slope's most unique and dramatic outdoor destinations. This guide highlights where to go for some of the best views, where to camp, and other essential trip-planning tips.

Should I visit the North or South Rim of the park?

There’s no bridge across the Black Canyon, and many visitors wonder whether they should spend their visit at the North Rim or the South Rim. Your trip could include both if you have enough time, but if you can’t spare the 2+ hour drive between the rims, here’s what you need to know:

  • The rugged North Rim is situated southwest of Crawford. This side of the park is quieter and has fewer amenities. There are five overlooks with jaw-dropping, vertigo-inducing views, three trails, and access points to the inner canyon.
  • The South Rim is the more developed side of the park, and its located closer to Montrose. There are four trails, twelve overlooks along South Rim Drive (including three accessible overlooks), and inner canyon access routes.

If your main goal is to see some truly spectacular scenery, head over to Chasm View on the North Rim, it offers one of the most iconic views in the entire park.

Where to camp in Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Each side of the park has a developed campground. The North Rim’s 13 secluded sites are first-come, first-served, and often fill up during busy summer weekends.

The South Rim campground contains 88 established sites across three loops. Some spots are reservable on recreation.gov during the summer season. During spring, fall, and winter all sites are first-come, first-served. You can bring an RV or trailer to this campground, but double-check length maximum for the loop you intend to camp in before heading out.

Backcountry camping is also available in the inner canyon, though a permit is required. There are established campsites to use, and park officials request that campers use these spots whenever possible.

How to get to the Black Canyon’s inner canyon

Some visitors are fully satisfied with exploring the park’s rim. For others, standing at the edge isn’t enough. Accessing the Black Canyon’s remote and wild inner canyon will lead to an adventure like none other, but it does require experience, physical endurance, and planning. There are no established trails, and the wilderness routes are more akin to unmarked scrambles down to the river’s banks.

Before you go off-trail, you’ll need a free permit from the South Rim Visitor Center or the North Rim Ranger Station. Each spot has self-registration kiosks with instructions. There are no reservations and permits are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

For help planning an excursion down to the Gunnison River, look no further than the National Park Service’s website — it’s full of information on hiking, kayaking/rafting, and rock climbing in the canyon’s depths.

When should I visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park?

You can explore the park all year long, but here are some seasonal closures to be mindful of:

  • South Rim Drive is generally open to vehicles from April through mid-November. In winter, the road is open up to the visitor center, and the rest of the path is closed to vehicles, however, cross-country skiing, running, snowshoeing, and other human-powered activities are allowed.
  • The North Rim Road and ranger station generally close by late November, not to reopen until approximately mid-April.

No matter when you visit, get ready for an unforgettable experience in southwestern Colorado!

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