Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

In western Colorado, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park consists of 12 miles of the deep Black Canyon created by the Gunnison River. Designated as a national park in 1999, it is one of the country’s newest national parks, yet contains some of the oldest exposed rock in North America. The rugged terrain includes cliffs, the canyon, and river, making it a great destination for hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, or fishing.

Weather at the park is considered somewhat mild, with highs around 91 degrees Fahrenheit in July and lows around 18 degrees in January. Spring starts out chilly, with temperatures in the high 50s gradually warming up to the mid-70s by May. Summers can be hot, with average highs between 86 and 91 degrees. During the fall, the weather cools off and the daily high temperature drops to the mid-50s by November. In the winter, when some roads and trails become used for skiing and snowshoeing, temperatures range from as low as 18 degrees to as warm as 48 degrees in February.

The closest well-known town to Black Canyon of the Gunnison is Telluride, which is about 80 miles and a 1 hour, 40 minute drive away. But nearby, you’ll find a handful of other small towns, including Gunnison, Delta, Cimarron, and Montrose.

During the warmer months, park rangers lead guided walks on topics ranging from astronomy to geology. One of the activities most unique to Black Canyon of the Gunnison is stargazing. Night sky viewing and constellation tours are available throughout the year. On certain nights, the Black Canyon Astronomical Society also brings telescopes for visitors to use free of charge.

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Weather
Spring 50-70s F
Summer 86-91 F
Fall 50-70s F
Winter 18-48 F
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Nearby Cities
Montrose, CO
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Where To Stay

Several campgrounds are available near Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Some are publicly owned by the National Park Service, while others are privately operated. For the most part, the park’s public campgrounds are first come, first served and not available by reservation. If you like to plan ahead, it may be best to book a reservation with one of the privately owned campgrounds nearby.

RV Rentals Near Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

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Hit the Trails

In all likelihood, you’ll start your hikes at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park at either the South Rim or the North Rim. The South Rim, which is open throughout the year, is generally considered the more visitor-friendly of the two. With restrooms, a visitor’s center, and paved roads, it tends to be the most popular launching point for hiking the park’s many trails.

Accessing the North Rim isn’t as easy, although many serious hikers consider it a destination. Driving to the North Rim from the South Rim takes about two to three hours on a gravel road. You’ll also want to make sure it’s open, as the North Rim closes in early winter until the later months of spring.

No matter what part of the park you’re in, the National Park Service warns visitors to be aware of bears in the area, as many come searching for hikers’ food. For this reason, NPS asks hikers to keep their backpacks and belongings within arms’ reach at all times.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park South Rim Trails

Rim Rock Nature

Distance: 1 mile round trip

Terrain: Mostly flat, great for spotting local flora, views of the canyon and Gunnison River, considered moderate

Oak Flat Loop

Distance: 2 miles round trip

Terrain: Steep slopes, includes jaunt through the forest, ends at overlook above Gunnison River, a great introductory hike for new visitors, considered strenuous

Cedar Point Nature

Distance: 0.67 miles round trip

Terrain: Views of Painted Wall, the tallest cliff in Colorado, considered easy

Warner Point Nature

Distance: 1.5 miles round trip

Terrain: Views of the San Juan and West Elk mountains, as well as Uncompahgre Valley, Bostwick Park, Gunnison River, and Black Canyon, considered moderate

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park North Rim Trails

Chasm View Nature

Distance: 0.34 miles round trip

Terrain: Trail leads through forest and up to an overlook above Painted Wall and Serpent Point, considered moderate

North Vista

Distance: 3 to 7 miles round trip

Terrain: Trail leads through forest up to Exclamation Point (3 miles round trip, moderate), then up to Green Mountain with views of the San Juan and West Elk mountains, Grand Mesa, the Uncompahgre Plateau, and Black Canyon (7 miles round trip, considered strenuous)

Deadhorse

Distance: 5 miles round trip

Terrain: Views of spring-fed pond, Black Canyon, and Dead Horse Gulch, considered easy to moderate

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What to Do

The area around Black Canyon of the Gunnison reflects the Southwestern charm that makes western Colorado such a great place to visit. Once you’ve explored the park, take advantage of your trip by wandering out to the nearby towns for a great meal, some shopping, a visit to a local museum, or sightseeing. Here are some of our favorite recommendations for what to do outside of the park.

Restaurants

Worked up an appetite while out on the trail? Whether you’re looking for gluten-free options, authentic Indian cuisine, or a family-friendly Mexican restaurant, you should have no trouble finding the perfect spot. Here are some of our top picks around Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

Ol’ Miner Steakhouse

Type: Casual, family-friendly steakhouse

Location: Downtown Gunnison

Himalayan Pun Hill Kitchen

Type: Authentic Nepali and Indian restaurant

Location: Downtown Montrose

Garlic Mike’s Italian Cuisine

Type: Homestyle Italian restaurant

Location: Between Gunnison and Almont

Double Shot Cyclery

Type: Coffee shop with pastries and breakfast burritos

Location: Downtown Gunnison

Mi Mexico

Type: Family-friendly Mexican restaurant

Location: Downtown Montrose

Starvin’ Arvin’s

Type: Homestyle breakfast restaurant

Location: Two locations in Downtown Delta and Downtown Montrose

Camp Robber

Type: Southwestern-spun restaurant with several gluten-free offerings

Location: Just south of Montrose

Shopping

She She Boutique

Looking for a new outfit while visiting Montrose? Find brands you love like Michael Stars and Kendra Scott at this charming boutique on Main Street.

Location: Downtown Montrose

The Great Outdoors Company

Since 2014, this family-owned store has sold outdoor equipment and sporting goods to locals and visitors alike. From clothing to kayaks to CamelBaks, you’ll find everything you need to enjoy your time in western Colorado.

Location: Downtown Montrose

Boom-A-Rang

Thrift store shoppers will love this eclectic consignment shop selling furniture and clothing.

Location: Downtown Gunnison

Creative Corner Artisan Co-op

Supporting local artists is at the heart of this unique gift shop. Whether you’re searching for a new piece of jewelry, a hand-knit scarf, or a watercolor postcard to send to someone special back home, Creative Corner is the place to find it.

Location: Downtown Montrose

Treads ‘n’ Threads

With brands like Columbia, Life is Good, Chaco, and Birkenstock, this clothing and footwear store owned by a husband-and-wife team is the spot to score the ideal Colorado wardrobe.

Location: Downtown Gunnison

Museums

Looking for arts and culture outside the park? Western Colorado has plenty of museums to teach you something new or keep you occupied on a rainy day. Here are a few of our favorite museums to visit.

Gunnison Pioneer Museum

This quirky local museum, which is completely self sustained, has an eclectic mix of exhibits. Inside, you’ll find antique gun collections, 1800s-era wedding dresses, and even a vintage car museum with more than 80 antique cars.

Museum of the Mountain West

Interested in what life was like in the 19th century? Visiting this museum in Montrose is like stepping back in time. Explore replicas of an old-timey saloon, dental office, drug store, hotel, school, and more.

Ute Indian Museum

The Ute Indians were the first to inhabit modern-day Colorado and Utah, and their influence on the region remains today. Learn more about the indigenous people at this Montrose museum, which consulted with leaders from different Ute tribes to create the exhibits.

Montrose County Historical Museum

Located in the old Montrose railroad depot, this museum focuses on the daily lives of the area’s early pioneers. Exhibits include historical newspapers dating back to 1896, a rare old stagecoach that used to travel from Montrose to Durango, and a preserved cabin with period furniture.

Sightseeing

While most people come to Black Canyon of the Gunnison for its spectacular views and scenic hikes, don’t forget about the attractions outside of the park.

Uncompahgre Plateau

Just west of Montrose, this plateau is a picturesque location for picnicking, mountain biking, hiking, or bouldering.

Curecanti National Recreation Area

This national recreation area contains seven hiking trails and also boasts the opportunity to fish at the largest body of water in Colorado, the Blue Mesa Reservoir.

Owl Creek Pass and Silver Jack Reservoir

Hiking, four-wheeling, fishing, camping -- do it all against the gorgeous backdrop of this Colorado gem where How the West Was Won and True Grit were filmed.

Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area

Fans of white-water rafting and trout fishing should check out this publicly owned conservation area, which also offers horseback riding and camping.

Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests

Together, these three national forests contain nearly 3 million acres that can be enjoyed through activities like horseback riding, hunting, climbing, and ATV riding.

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How to Get There

Most travelers to Black Canyon of the Gunnison arrive by car or RV, although you can also fly in to one of the nearby airports.

By Car

To get to the South Rim, drive 7 miles north on CO Highway 347 after passing the intersection of U.S. Highway 50. For access to the North Rim, start on CO Highway 92 and turn west on Black Canyon Road about 3 miles south of Crawford. Remember: There’s no bridge across the canyon, so give yourself between 2 to 3 hours if you need to drive from the South Rim to the North Rim.


By plane

If you’ll be flying, the closest airport is the Montrose Regional Airport, which is serviced by Allegiant, American Airlines, Delta, and United. Slightly farther away is the Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport, which is serviced by American Airlines and United. A third option is to fly into the Grand Junction Regional Airport, which is best for accessing the North Rim. Grand Junction’s airport is serviced by Allegiant, American Airlines, Delta, Denver Air, and United.

By RV

One of the best ways to travel to Black Canyon of the Gunnison is by RV. Many visitors find that renting an RV is the ideal way to see the park since you can stay directly inside and visit different spots without having to change hotels. Even if you don’t own one yourself, many RV rentals can be found online for less than $100 per day. Whether you’re looking for a small pop-up trailer or a large, family-sized motorhome, there are plenty of options to choose from.

If you’ll be camping inside the park, remember that only the South Rim campground has electrical hookups (and only during the summer). RV camping is available at the North Rim, but there are no hookups.

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Entering the Park

Private Vehicle : $20

Valid for seven days.

Motorcycle : $15

Cyclists & Pedestrians : $10

Four times a year, the park also offers free entry. Typically, those dates are Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January, the first day of National Park Week in April, National Public Lands Day in September, and Veterans Day in November. Be sure to check the National Park Service website for exact dates.

We hope you enjoy your time at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park! At RVshare, we love working with people like you who are passionate about travel, nature, and the outdoors. Whether you visit western Colorado in one of our RV rentals or simply want to share your national park experience with other travelers, email us your vacation photos at [email protected] or tag us on social media for a chance to be featured on our blog or social media channels.