Friday, June 16, 2017

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

The whole reason for our trip to Western Colorado was to check out the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.When we first moved to Colorado I found a picture of it on Instagram and showed it to Drew, he instantly fell in love and we've been trying to plan a trip over ever since.

This trip was planned before we found out I was pregnant, so as it got closer we had to tweak it. Luckily this is another Park that you could drive to all the different locations and didn't have to hike, if you didn't want to. Drew always wants to hike.

There are unmaintained hiking trails on the north and south rims of the canyon, which take about two hours to hike down, and four hours to hike back up. All inner canyon descents are strenuous and require Class 3 climbing and basic route finding skills., plus an official permit. 

From the entrance it is a 7-mile drive has 12 overlooks to test your fear of heights. A lot of the overlooks require walking a short trail but nothing difficult. The last point of interest is Warner Point Trail, and that's where we started from.

According to every single person who's ever been to the park, there is no better way to see the park than to hike a trail. There are a handful of trails that take you to spectacular overlooks. But we soon realized that I wouldn't be able to hike anything major. So Drew looked up the different hikes in the Black Canyon and found Warner Point Nature Trail.

It's said to be an easy grade hike (he also said that about the Pulpit Rock in Norway--he lied) But after reading many reviews, it said that it was a very family friendly hike, and that people toddlers were able to do the hike. The hike it self isn't bad. But the elevation is what killed me! Be prepared for that! 


Although the hike itself wasn’t exciting, but the views at the end were worth it! The only bummer was that this is the ONLY trail where dogs aren't allowed. But, we had come all the way with Rylie, and we weren't about to leave her in the car-so we took her with us. Luckily she was a very good girl and lots of people just wanted to pet her! haha

The park contains 12 miles of the 48-mile long Black 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 Curecanti National Recreation Area and downstream into Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area.

From Warner Point we drove back stopping at all the little look outs. There were a couple that I just stayed in the car for, the 3 mile hike definitely wore me out! But Drew was able to get some great photos.

The most famous "look out" is the Painted Wall. It was the busiest, but definitley the most impressive. If you only have the chance to check out one, This is the one you need to check out.

By the time we had gotten back the visitor center I was starving and ready to have lunch. We packed a picnic and decided we would eat when we made it down to East Portal Road, since it was near the river. It was totally worth the wait. Almost every look out point had a picnic area, but this was the only one next to the river. You literally go down into the canyon.

The East Portal Road gives you access to the river. Keep in mind that it is extremely steep (16%) with hairpin turns. They don’t allow vehicles over 22 ft. You are literally riding your brakes the whole way down. I could smell our brakes when we got down to the bottom.  Don’t forget to check to see if it’s open, since they close the road during winter.

It was a beautiful day, and an amazing trip. If you ever get the chance make sure to stop by the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, you won't regret it!

Here is Drew's video of our day there! 

Interesting Facts:

  • Parts of the canyon only receive a little over 30 minutes of sunlight a day. (Hence it's name)
  • The Gunnison River is the 5th steepest mountain descent river in North America. 
  • At its narrowest point, the canyon is only 40 feet wide at the river.
  • Painted Wall is the tallest sheer cliff in Colorado at 2,250 feet.