BLM Camping

Gunnison Gorge Wilderness

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is responsible for 1 in every 10 acres of land in the U.S.

Gunnison Gorge Wilderness is a popular area that's renowned for its backcountry camping, 17 miles of hiking trails, gold medal waters, and whitewater rafting. The area is overseen by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), a government agency that manages its 17,700 acres within the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area, which comprises almost 63,000 acres. BLM camping is permitted within the boundaries of the wilderness though it does require campers to practice "leave no trace" guidelines for the preservation of the natural environment. In the Gunnison Gorge, hiking, rafting, and kayaking are among the most popular activities that visitors enjoy, and the area features two OHV sites that are perfect for riders at any skill level. 

To the south, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park borders the wilderness and offers excellent views of its painted canyons from hiking trails in Gunnison Gorge. Rocky Mountain National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park are both within a few hours drive of the Gunnison Gorge Wilderness.

What to See and Do

What to See and Do

Hiking and BikingHiking and Biking

Chukar Trail

The Chukar Trail provides a rather challenging trek that rewards you with amazing views of the gorge from the river below. The trail begins with a steep descent of 600 feet followed by a series of switchbacks that assist with the change in elevation. Further down, you'll encounter a section of steps that make the trail easier to traverse. The Chukar Trailhead is located past the Peach Valley Staging Area at the end of Chukar Road. Expect rough terrain on the last five miles of the drive, and four-wheel-drive vehicles are recommended to reach the trailhead. 

Length: 2.1 miles

Intensity: Moderate 

Ute Trail

The Ute Trail is a rugged out-and-back hike that starts on the edge of a ridge that winds east toward the Gunnison River. At the two-mile point, views of the river become evident from Precambrian granite cliffs that are followed by the steepest section of the trail. As you near the end of the path, there will be two campsites with picnic tables, shaded areas, and a vault toilet. A fee is required to hike this trail, and there's a self-serve fee station at the trailhead. The Ute Trail is located on Peach Valley Road. 

Length: 4.5 miles

Intensity: Difficult

Fishing and BoatingFishing and Boating

The Gunnison River is known for its challenging whitewater rapids and the breathtaking black granite canyons that it flows through. Whitewater kayaking and rafting are permitted on the 14 miles of river in the wilderness with the proper permits. The Gold Medal waters of the Gunnison are also famous for their abundance of cutthroat, brown, and rainbow trout.


Though there are no climbing routes in the Gunnison Gorge Wilderness, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is full of some of the longest and most challenging climbs in Colorado.

Wildlife ViewingWildlife Viewing

Throughout this wilderness area, visitors are likely to see elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, coyotes, river otters, and a variety of raptors. Bald eagles and Swainson's hawks are two species common to the area. Mammals such as ringtail cats and mountain lions remain mysterious inhabitants of the gorge and are rarely seen — though sightings are entirely possible.


The Gunnison Gorge Wilderness has three designated picnic areas: one off Ute Road before you officially enter the wilderness area, the second at the end of Duncan Road near the banks of the Gunnison River, and the third at the wilderness area's northernmost tip where the Gunnison River and the North Folk Gunnison River converge.

Off-Road Vehicle Riding

Within the Gunnison Gorge Wilderness, off-road vehicles such as ATVs and dirt bikes are granted access to two "open" recreation areas. The Flat Top OHV Staging Area offers riders a variety of routes that wind through a scenic desert landscape, and there's an area specifically designated for beginners. The second area in Peace Valley limits OHVs to a 50-inch width maximum, but qualified off-roaders have access to a training area, a skills course, and a beginner's loop. There's also trailer parking, vaulted toilets, picnic tables, and loading ramps at the 900-acre site.


Bureau of Land Management Camping

RV Camping Caravan Icon

There is no BLM RV camping in the Gunnison Gorge Wilderness; however, there are Bureau of Land Management campgrounds that accommodate RVs up to 25 feet in the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area just outside wilderness boundaries. The Cottonwood Grove Campground is located near the northern portion of the Gunnison River, and it features amenities that include fire rings, vaulted toilets, picnic tables, a fishing pier, and boat ramp access. If you prefer to do your RV camping in town, Valley Sunset RV Ranch in Delta, Uncompahgre River Park in Olathe, and Montrose/Black Canyon Nat'l Park KOA Journey in Montrose are great options.

Free Camping Campground Icon

Bureau of Land Management free camping is available in several areas throughout the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area. Dispersed campsites are located on the Chukar Trail and in the OHV Flat Top Area and Cottonwood Grove Campground.

RV Rentals Near Gunnison Gorge Wilderness Plan your next adventure

Planning Your Trip

Credit: Vanna Mae, @vannamaeart

Planning your Gunnison Gorge Wilderness BLM trip

When planning a camping trip to the Gunnison Gorge Wilderness, keep in mind that RV camping is limited and that campsites are offered on a first-come, first-served basis. The best way to ensure yourself a spot is to park your rig in a nearby RV park and head to the wilderness from there. 

Those who search "BLM camping near me" will find a variety of RV parks located within 15 miles of the wilderness in three different urban areas. You can choose the location that best suits your outdoor plans. 

It's also important to pack the right gear for each activity. Bring patches and glue for inflatable watercraft that may require repair during your adventures, and pack extra clothing, bug spray, and sunscreen to protect yourself from changing weather conditions. Before you head out on your trip, check out our blog for all you need to know about BLM camping.

Leave No Trace Leaf

Bureau of Land Management camping requires visitors to leave the natural elements of the wilderness as they found them to preserve the integrity of the ecosystem. All trash must be packed out, and dishwater needs to be filtered before it's returned to the river. Some campsites in the Gunnison Gorge Wilderness have vault toilets, which campers are encouraged to use. Camping along the Gunnison River requires visitors to bring a portable toilet and pack out waste.

Leave No Trace

Gunnison Gorge Wilderness Location

From Montrose, drive north on Highway 50 until you reach Falcon Road. Turn right to go east toward the Gunnison Gorge Wilderness. This route is about 10 miles north of Montrose and will provide you with access to the north and southwest sides of the Gunnison Gorge. 

Address: 2505 South Townsend Avenue, Montrose, CO 81401

Ready to visit Gunnison Gorge Wilderness? An RV rental is a great way to experience your destination. Not only will you be close to all the action, but at the end of a long day exploring, you’ll have your RV to return to for the night where you’ll enjoy a full kitchen, bathroom, and nice soft bed. Not sure about renting an RV? Here’s a step-by-step guide to renting an RV with RVshare.