Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument Things to Do

  • The Painted Wall
    The Painted Wall
    by Tom_Fields
  • More of the canyon
    More of the canyon
    by Tom_Fields
  • Western end of the canyon
    Western end of the canyon
    by Tom_Fields

Best Rated Things to Do in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument

  • KiKitC's Profile Photo

    South Rim Drive

    by KiKitC Updated Jun 11, 2009

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    Look...no guardrails...
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    Ride along the rim of this spectucular gulch. If you are acrophobia(afraid of heights) beware. The two lane road is paved all throughout this area of the park, but the road winds along the cliff edges, and often there are no guradrails on curves. I know they make me nervous.
    The views from up here are amazing, and every turn on the road offers another, completely unique, breath-taking view.

    There are plenty of places along the road to stop. Each point has a little observation deck, complete with nice thick steel guardrail, so even I could stand nearer to the edge...
    The road winds around, up to High Point, then turns you around back towards the visitors center. So, if one stop is full, you can always stop there on the way back down. Some stops have a short walk to the deck, but the views are worth it.

    South Rim Drive is closed in winter past the Visitor's Center. The road remains open all year to this point.

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    East Portal Road

    by KiKitC Updated Oct 5, 2007

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    Road not for the faint...
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    This two-lane road which will take you down to the bottom of the canyon has extremely steep, 16% grades and hairpin turns. Not for the faint of heart. And, for good reason, this road is closed in winter.

    There is picknicking, a recreation area and camping down below, as the road winds along the river. The road passes through some private property, but as always, stay on the roads and stop where the park system has set-up for parking.

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  • dutch_anna's Profile Photo

    Black Canyon of the...

    by dutch_anna Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Black Canyon of the Gunnison.
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    Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

    You can camp in the Park. No electricity, and it was very quiet. Just us and the stars. You pay the camping fee by putting the money ( $4.- in '95, I see, that it is now $5.-) in an envelope and the envelope in a box. The nights are very cold in May, but wow, what a scenery!

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  • Basaic's Profile Photo

    High Point

    by Basaic Written Nov 4, 2011

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    High Point

    High Point is the last overlook along the South Rim Road. It is a good example of a Pinyon Pine/Juniper Forest. The type of trees in the forest depend on the climactic environment where they are located. Pinyon Pines and Junipers are specially adapted for the harsh arid climate and thin soil of Black Canyon. There is a hiking trail here leading to Warner Point the deepest part of the canyon at 2772 feet.

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    Black Canyon by boat

    by goingsolo Updated Mar 6, 2003

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    The Curecanti Recreation area lies between Gunnison and Montrose and surrounds three lakes which were the result of three dams built between 1960 and 1976. These dams are all on the Gunnison river. The tallest one, a concrete structure of 496 feet, is near the small settlement of Cimarron. This dam created a long, deep and narrow lake named for the dam and called Morrow Point. This lake runs through the Black Canyon. To take the tour, you must take Pine Creek Trail down a huge stairway (232 steps) and along the Rio Grande Rail Bed deep into the canyon just below Blue Mesa dam. The tour through the Black Canyon lasts about an hour and a half and passes Chipeta Falls and the Curicante Needle

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    Oak Flat Loop Trail

    by goingsolo Updated Mar 11, 2003

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    The Oak Flat Loop Trail (built by Student Conservation Association volunteers) offers variety to the hiker who would like to explore below the rim without taking on the challenge of hiking to the river. The 2 mile trail is narrow in places and traverses some steep slopes. The trail begins near the Visitor Center. Go a short distance to the Oak Flat Loop/River Access sign and follow the trail which leads right. . The trail descends about 1/4 mile through gambel oak and then descends rather steeply through douglas fir and aspens before reaching Oak Flat. The entire trail drops nearly 400 feet. The Oak Flat Loop reaches the signed turnoff for the unmarked route to the bottom, which drops 1,500 feet in less than a mile. A permit is required to continue down this trail.
    Descend through a grove of aspen to another signed junction. Turn left here to continue on the Oak Flat Loop. The trail meanders through a thicket of oak scrub (Gambel oak) passing near a rock outcrop, a pleasant location where you can relax and enjoy the view. The trail then heads west where it begins its ascent through a forest of Douglas fir, Aspen, and Gambel oak. On the return leg one encounters another unmarked overlook offering spectacular views The Oak Flat loop continues west along a ledge, passing an outcrop with a view of the canyon. From here, the dark walls of the canyon are visible, along with the light streaks created from molten rock. The trail heads west again briefly before climbing up, passing a strand of aspens at the base of a cliff. The climb out on this portion of the loop trail is not nearly so steep as the portion of the trail leading from the visitors center.

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    North Vista Trail Exclamation Point

    by goingsolo Updated Mar 11, 2003

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    Constructed by volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, the North Vista Trail offers some of the best scenic views and birding in the Park. Start this trail at the North Rim Ranger Station. The trail then follows the north vista trail west from the rangers station at the north rim entrance. The first portion of the trail passes through sagebrush and gambel oak, then proceeds through pine and juniper forests. The trail is mostly level, making this an easy hike, Exclamation Point is an undeveloped overlook that offers views of the inner canyon and a view of Chasm view point. After passing through an area of sage and oak brush, the trail meanders in a pinyon/juniper forest along the canyon’’s rim. Several overlooks offer views of SOB draw and the inner canyon. At Exclamation Point some of the best inner-canyon views can be found.

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  • Basaic's Profile Photo

    Bristlecone Pines

    by Basaic Written Nov 4, 2011

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    Bristlecone Pine

    To me, one of the most interesting looking trees is the Bristlecone Pine. It looks very rugged appearing almost dead (or at least dying) while actually quite alive. The Bristlecone Pine is also one of the longest lived plants in the world. There are Bristlecone Pines at Great Basin that are almost 5000 years old.

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    Gunnison Point

    by Basaic Written Nov 4, 2011

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    Gunnison Point
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    Gunnison Point is a good place to see pegmatite dikes, which are lighter bands of igneous rock that have been squeezed into small fissures in the darker rock that forms most of the walls of Black Canyon (especially visible on GP4). The pegmatite dikes erode slower than the softer rock around it forming the fins along the canyon walls. These pegmatite dikes are visible at most overlooks.

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  • Basaic's Profile Photo

    Pulpit Rock

    by Basaic Written Nov 4, 2011

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    Pulpit Rock
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    Notice the difference in the canyon walls at this overlook. Although the movement of the river through the canyon is the main factor in the formation of the canyon; moisture in the form of rain, snow and frost collects in the cracks in the rock and adds to the erosion. The South Rim is more eroded because it does not get as much sun and dries out more slowly.

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    Chasm View

    by Basaic Written Nov 4, 2011

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    Chasm View
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    The Narrows, between Pulpit Rock and Chasm View, is the shallowest (1750 feet) and narrowest (1/4 mile) part of the canyon. This very narrow part of the canyon is further indication of the power caused by the rapidly moving water of the Gunnison River.

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    Painted Wall

    by Basaic Written Nov 4, 2011

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    Painted Wall

    At 2300 feet, the Painted Wall is the highest cliff in the entire state of Colorado. If the Empire State Building was placed on the canyon floor it would only reach about halfway up the canyon wall. The name Painted Wall, came about because of the lighter colored igneous rock that was squeezed (or intruded) into the existing rock then cooled and hardened.

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    Sunset View

    by Basaic Written Nov 4, 2011

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    Sunset View
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    Sunset View is of interest for at least two reasons. One, it is a beautiful place to view a sunset and it is also a great place to view what geologists call an "unconformity". An "unconformity" is an absence of part of the geological record. This absence can be caused by a lack of deposits during that time period or uneven erosion. Sunset View has an easily observable "unconformity". The lighter colored rock you see in Photo 2 is Entrada Sandstone (165 to 170 million years old), which is laying directly on top of 1.75 billion year old rock. This indicates a gap in the geologic record of over 1 billion years.

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    Viewing the bottom

    by painterdave Written Jun 29, 2007

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    looking down river from the campground area
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    You can drive a very steep road to the bottom from the south side. Don't plan to drive an RV or pull a trailer down this road, it is too steep and there is no place to turn around. Good brakes are a necessity.
    Once at the bottom you can drive nearly all the way to the dam, or in the other direction go to the end of the road, which is a campground.
    There is a picnic area on the way to the dam. However, you can also use the tables in the campground for a picnic if they are not used by campers. It makes for a pleasant afternoon, and there will be fishermen fly fishing because this river is a Gold Water Area of the U.S. There are some big fish waiting. To fish this area you must use only flies or lures and barbless hooks. All fish must be returned to the river.
    There is water available down there, but no concessions. Vault Toilets.

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  • RebeccaParker's Profile Photo

    Crystal Dam

    by RebeccaParker Updated Dec 5, 2004

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    Crystal Dam and Spillway

    Crystal Dam slows the flow of the Gunnison River through the canyon and provides irrigation to nearby Montrose. It is truley amazing to see what man was capable of building, without injury, back when all they had were shovels and a plan. There are several historical signs detailing the building of the damn and it's history. Also, there is several calm fishing spots along the way for fishing from the bank or if your a fly fisherman, then you have it made in the shade.

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Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument Things to Do

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