The Black Canyon of the Gunnison
One of America's Great National Parks

Views of the Black Canyon from the North Rim

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison's unique and spectacular landscape was formed slowly by the action of water and rock scouring down through hard Proterozoic crystalline rock. No other canyon in North America combines the narrow opening, sheer walls, and startling depths offered by the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. It is an awe inspiring place. When you gaze over the side for the first time, you realize the smallness of yourself. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is now a National Park, and it is a wonder to behold from either North Rim or South Rim!

View from the North Rim of the Black Canyon
Here is a view from the North Rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnision
She is Awestruck at the amazing beauty at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Robert is watching the eagles on the other side

Imagine the view they are seeing of the Black Canyon

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is a United States National Park located in western Colorado, and managed by the National Park Service. There are two entrances to the park; the more-developed south rim entrance is located 15 miles (24 km) east of Montrose, while the north rim entrance is located 11 miles (18 km) south of Crawford and is closed in the winter. The park contains 12 miles (19 km) of the 48-mile (77 km) long canyon of the Gunnison river. The national park itself contains the deepest and most dramatic section of the canyon, but the canyon continues upstream into the Curecanti National Recreation Area and downstream into the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area. The Black Canyon is just as dramatic to see as the Grand Canyon, but with some differences. The distance from one side to the other is much less at the Black Canyon. With my telephoto I could see clearly the visitors standing at the observation point across the canyon, while this would be impossible at the Grand Canyon due to the increased distance across.

Observation point at the South Rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison The Ute Indians had known the canyon to exist for a long time before the first Europeans saw it. By the time the United States gained independence in 1776, two Spanish expeditions had passed by the canyons. In the 1800s, the numerous fur trappers searching for beaver pelts would have known of the canyon's existence but they left no written record.

By the late 1800s and into the early 1900s, the canyon had been thoroughly explored and while the first explorers came for commercial success and wealth, the later visitors came to see the canyon as an opportunity for recreation and personal enjoyment. The area was established as a U.S. National Monument on March 2, 1933 and made into a National Park on October 21, 1999.

The main attraction of the park is the scenic drive along the south rim. There is a campground and several miles of hiking and nature trails. The north rim is accessible by automobile, though it is quite remote, and has a small, primitive campground. The river can be accessed by a steep, unmaintained trail that takes about four hours to hike down and six to hike back up. The Black Canyon is a center for rock climbing, in a style known as traditional climbing. Most of the climbs are difficult and are only done by advanced climbers. Rafting opportunities exist in the region, but the run through the park itself is a difficult technical run for only the best kayakers. There are several impassible stretches of water requiring long, sometimes dangerous portages to get around. The remaining rapids are class III - V, and are for expert river runners only. Downstream, in the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area, the river is somewhat easier, though still very remote and for experienced runners only, with rapids that are Class III - IV.

The North Rim is near the town of Crawford where there is lodging, gas and a restaurant or two. Also the towns of Hotchkiss and Paonia are a bit further from there with wineries and distilleries scattered all over the area. The western slope is a wonderful area to tour and is dramatically different than the eastern slope. Scenery, wineries, mesas and orchards make the area north of the Black Canyon a truly awesome destination for anyone traveling through the region.

No food, lodging, gasoline or similar services are available at either rim. Full services are available in nearby communities. Water is available mid-May through mid-October provided by the National Park. Weather can vary greatly between the canyon rim and canyon floor. Summer daytime temperatures range between 60 to 100F (15 to 38C), nights 30 to 50F (-1 to 10C) Winter daytime temperatures range between 20 to 40F (-6 to 4C), nights -10 to 20F (-23 to -6C) Precipitation is minimal, brief afternoon thunderstorms can occur during the summer. Layered clothing appropriate for the season is recommended.

We recently traveled to the North Rim of the Black Canyon where there are no access fees. We went there by way of Hotchkiss where our family members live. What a spectacular area this is. I cannot describe how wonderful it is to drive for just about 30 minutes, hop out of the car and walk to the edge of this magnificent canyon. You can hear it as you hike down the trail that leads to the North Rim walk. The natural updrafts sound like water running. In fact you can also hear the water all the way down the canyon walls (2500 feet on average) as you get to the edge. The river rages through the canyon, and even though it is formidable it appears to be a small creek from 2500 feet above, but a very loud one for sure!

View the Larger Map on Google Maps Here
sitting on the edge of the north rim of the black canyon
The North Rim offers great picture spots

Robert dangles his feet over the sheer drop off
My Cousin dangling his feet over the vertical cliff
The Edge of Eternity
Right on the edge of eternity (only if you fall off)

Our Visit to the Hotchkiss Area Included Wineries

Visiting A Winery Near Hotchkiss, Colorado We visited Hotchkiss Colorado in early August at the peak of the cherry season and on the edge of the peach season. At many of the orchards you can pick your own fruit for one price or you can skip the picking experience and buy them by the baskets or by the case. There is nothing better than sweet juicy organic cherries and peaches fresh off the tree.

In addition to the orchards some of the growers have planted vineyards and they make their own wine. The weekend we were there several of the wineries had gotten together to sponsor a tasting. Each winery offered a collectible recipe card and after visiting five of the participating wineries you earned a pair of engraved wine glasses. We were on our way!

At each stop we were offered a sample of 3 or 4 varieties of wine including Chardonnay that had a buttery flavor vs. some oaked varieties. We also sampled Riesling, Cabernet sauvignon, Merlot, several dessert wines and at Liliputian winery they had a guest from a local distillery that offered samples of flavored brandy and vodka. One of my favorite wines was at Leroux Creek vineyard, a Chambourcin blended with merlot.

We sampled the wine and food, purchased our share of the goods, collected our recipe cards and yes, we earned our wine glasses. It was a lot of fun to meet the local growers and learn about Colorado wines. At Stone Bridge winery they let us explore the vineyard and orchard on our own. I had no idea that growers have been making wine in Colorado for 100 years. No wonder they are so good at it.

Colorado is considered one of the finest emerging wine producing areas in the nation. The winery owners consider themselves a community, so they cooperate in their promotions and marketing. Their philosophy is to succeed as a group of wineries rather then just being in the business just for themselves. This attitude is similar to that of the founding winery owners in Napa, California many years ago. They are a very friendly and genuine bunch. They work hard to produce excellent wine, and that is exactly what they do!

America's National Parks | Colorado's National Parks | Black Canyon National Park | Hiking and Climbing