Here’s a stat about Black Canyon of the Gunnison that likely will make you pause: the rocks found at the bottom of the canyon are nearly 2 billion years old, and date back to the Precambrian Era when Earth was first being formed. It’s walls rise over 2,000 feet from the Gunnison River below, and at many points the distance down is more than the distance across.
It’s a scenic, surreal, and special place on the North American continent, and one of America’s most underrated parks- considering the natural beauty. When visiting Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, drive the length of the South Rim Road and take in the cliff top viewpoints, many of which offer gulp-inducing, sheer, vertical drops. To test your strength on the canyon walls, follow one of the zigzagging trails that lead to the floor down below, and experience the sensation of looking straight up at the canyon rim back above. To really boost the adrenaline and adventure, run the turbulent Gunnison River as part of a guided raft trip, or throw out some lines on an unforgettable fishing trip through the gorge. However you choose to visit America’s third smallest national park, you’ll quickly see why native Ute Indians were superstitious of the canyon—as the vertical, rugged, shadow strewn walls can leave you silenced by awe.
The main entrance to Black Canyon of the Gunnison is on the south rim of the park. The northern entrance is closed in winter, as is the much of Rim Drive Road beyond the second viewpoint. If you plan on hiking to the canyon floor, be sure to arrive early since permits go fast.
Did You Know? Black Canyon, at its narrowest point, is only 40 feet across, and received its name from the fact that the canyon receives 33 minutes of sunlight per day.