What to See and Do
Hiking and Biking
Gunnison Route Trail
Gunnison Route Trail is one of many awesome hiking trails found in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. The challenging trail requires a wilderness permit to hike, which can be picked up at the on-site visitor center on a first-come, first-served basis. Visitors to the out-and-back route will enjoy memorable views, a beautiful river, and in most cases, plenty of solitude. The best time to visit the trail is between May and October.
Length: 1.8 miles
This cleverly named trail is also located within Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and is manageable regardless of your hiking skill or fitness level. The out-and-back trail offers stunning views of the impressive Black Canyon and the majestic Gunnison River. Unfortunately, visitors to the route aren't permitted to bring their dogs along.
Length: 2.9 miles
Mesa Lakes Trail
Mesa Lakes Trail is a gorgeous loop trail that lies within Grand Mesa National Forest about an hour and twenty-four minutes northwest of the Needle Rock Natural Area. While the serene route is most commonly used for hiking, many visitors make use of it for horseback riding as well. The trail features a peaceful lake, lush greenery, and picturesque scenery overall. You can bring your pups with you on the hike, but they'll need to be leashed at all times.
Length: 2.8 miles
Fishing & Boating
The scenic Crawford State Park is located just thirteen minutes southwest of the Needle Rock Natural Area and is known as a quality fishery for catching perch and crappie. Additionally, the on-site Crawford Reservoir is inhabited by channel catfish, largemouth bass, and northern pike. The state park is also a popular spot for all sorts of boating, water-skiing, and other water sports.
If you're looking for quality rock climbing areas, your best bet near the BLM site will be to head to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and explore some of the routes there. Most of the designated routes can be found at the North Rim of the canyon, with trad climbing opportunities ranging greatly in difficulty from 5.9- to 5.11. There are also quality climbing routes found at the canyon's South Rim. In addition to being an exciting challenge, climbing in the park will also provide some incredible views of the surrounding area.
Some of the most compelling opportunities for wildlife observation will be within the nearby Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area. The site, which is located an hour and nine minutes southwest of the Needle Rock Natural Area, is home to coyotes, ringtail cats, mountain lions, mule deer, elk, and numerous smaller mammals. Other cool creatures that inhabit the area include river otters, chukar, raptors, and a variety of neotropical bird species. Alternatively, numerous interesting species can be spotted at the nearby national park to the south. Either way, you'll want to bring your camera along and keep your eyes peeled.
Even though there may not be any tables of shelters located at the Needle Rock Natural Area, many visitors choose to bring along a picnic blanket and eat near the amazing Needle Rock. If you don't mind taking a bit of a hike to get close to the impressive formation, you can enjoy your meal with a great view of the rock and surrounding landscape. Another great option is to take the short trip to nearby Crawford State Park and have a pleasant picnic by the lake.