Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Welcome to the magnificent Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP, it’s South Rim located only 127 mi or a good 3 hours drive from Durango, being one of the lesser visited National Parks.

A hidden gem located in the mountainous west of Colorado that offers breathtaking views of the canyon, river and mountain ranges. The park boasts of one of the steepest canyons in North America that tells a tale of the area’s geologic past. With numerous hiking trails and scenic drives, Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP is a must-visit for all national parks enthusiasts. Come and witness the beauty of nature’s masterpiece in Montrose’s east.

The Painted Wall, a 2000 ft Cliff Face

With its towering height and intricate detail, it’s no wonder the Painted Wall is one of the most popular attractions in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP. This 2,000-foot cliff face is a remarkable sight with its colorful layers of rock revealing stories from millions of years ago. Exploring this incredible wonder will transport you back to a world that existed long before humans inhabited the earth. The unique formations of the Painted Wall are a testament to the power of nature and the wonders it can create over time. So if you’re looking for an adventure that will leave you in awe of nature, be sure to add The Painted Wall to your list of things to see in this incredible park!

Spectacular scenic drives

There are two scenic roads for exploring the national park by vehicle, when arriving from the Montrose area.

South Rim Road

The South Rim Drive is accessible with any kind of vehicle and offers 12 overlooks on a 7 miles stretch from Tomichi Point to High Point. Most of the overlooks can be reached via short footpaths, and you are rewarded with truly spectacular views into the depths. My personal advice: If you are afraid of heights, maybe don’t go all the way to the edge, the canyon still looks great from a few meters further back.

The South Rim Visitor Center is located at Gunnison Point. The visitor center is open daily throughout the summer, and most days of the week the rest of the year. The South Rim Road beyond Gunnison Point is closed to vehicles in winter.

East Portal Road

East Portal Road is an option for those, wishing to drive to the Gunnison River. It’s extremely steep with up to 16% grades and features several hairpin curves. So it doesn’t make one wonder, that it’s closed for vehicles with an overall length of more than 22 ft, but there’s options in the park to leave a trailer parked. Of course, this road is also closed during the winter months

If you’re arriving from the north / Crawford State Park, you can take a gravel road to the North Rim Road, offering another 6 overlooks. Just make sure the road is open and your vehicle is capable enough before heading out!


Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP offers several shorter hikes on the South Rim, most of them along the rim and Oak Flat Loop Trail even brings you a bit into the canyon. If you’re bringing pets, make sure they are allowed on the particular trail your looking at.

There are 3 hikes on the North Rim, two of which are longer and more strenuous. You can find all the information about the hikes in the park here.

There are extremely steep descents into the canyon, for which a backcountry permit is required, in addition to excellent physical condition and the necessary equipment!


For being a relatively small NP, Black Canyon of the Gunnison offers several options for campers.

One is the South Rim Campground, the largest of the developed campgrounds with 88 sites, which also offers some electric hookups. As it is a great starting point for all activities in the park and some hikes start from here, it fills up quickly. I would definitely book in advance on
The North Rim Campground is limited to vehicles up to a maximum length of 22 ft, offers 13 sites and is on a first-come, first-served basis.
East Portal Campground is actually part of the Curecanti National Recreation Area, but is only accessible from the NP. Due to road length restrictions for vehicles over 22 ft, it has limited access and offers 15 sites, 10 of which are only accessible to hikers and kayakers.

If you want to stay overnight, fish or kayak in the Black Canyon NP or Red Rock Wilderness Area, you will need a backcountry permit.

Another overnight option for campers is the public land in front of the park entrance at the South Rim. Please leave everything as you found it (or cleaner).



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