The Black Canyon can be appreciated from either the South Rim, or the more remote, unpaved roads of the North Rim. Both rim roads are open from early April to mid-November, and the visitor's center at the South Rim is open year-round, weather permitting. Take a minute to read through the information below to gain a better idea of the differences in visiting either rim of the canyon.
The major point of access to the park, the South Rim offers an 88-site campground and access to the Visitor Center at Gunnison Point. The campground is in an oak-brush forest and rarely fills. The Visitor Center, open daily from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm, offers two video programs and recently installed interactive exhibits. Several loop trails of varying difficulty depart from here, offering stunning views of the canyon as well as the surrounding oak, pine, and juniper forest.
Heading northwest from the Visitor Center is the six-mile South Rim Road. A dozen overlooks, alongside the road or at the end of short trails, provide spectacular vantage points across and into the Black Canyon. At Chasm View the canyon narrows to just over 1,000 feet across, emphasizing the feeling of narrowness and depth. Painted Wall View looks across the canyon to Colorado's highest cliff, and from Sunset View visitors can look west as the river winds its way towards Grand Junction, where it joins the Colorado.
Access to the river is provided by the steep East Portal Road, which runs southeast from the Visitor Center down to the Gunnison Diversion Dam. The road is closed in winter, and its steep, hairpin turns make passage by vehicles longer than 22 feet impossible. From the Dam, visitors have access to boating, fishing, and rafting opportunities on the Gunnison River.
In winter South Rim Road is closed to vehicles, but offers a spectacular route for cross-country skiers or snowshoers.
The North Rim is more remote and rugged, but receives only a tenth as much traffic as the South Rim, and is thus an excellent alternative for more adventurous visitors. A gravel road up Grizzly Gulch leads to a ranger station and a 13-site campground. From there, the road weaves southeast along the edge of the canyon, stopping at several overlooks. The canyon walls on the North Rim are almost vertical, offering some of the most impressive views found in the park.
Lengthier hiking trails depart from either end of the road, offering access to more isolated views, such as the aptly named Exclamation Point. The North Rim Road is closed in winter.
Some Other Things To Know
In Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, pets on leash may be walked on roads, in campgrounds, to the overlooks, and are allowed on the Rim Rock Trail, Cedar Point Nature Trail, and North Rim Chasm View Nature Trail. Pets are not allowed on any other hiking trails, inner canyon routes or in the wilderness area.
Owners are responsible for their pet’s behavior and may receive fines if their animal creates problems with wildlife and/or other visitors.
Do not leave your pet unattended in a vehicle or campsite. Interior temperatures of vehicles rise within minutes and pets can quickly overheat and die, even with the windows cracked.