Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
When you think of hidden gems this really is one of those. I have no idea why Black Canyon isn't more popular, but it's probably best it isn't. The canyon views are something you just have to see for yourself. The popular South Rim of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is located just 73 miles southeast of of Grand Junction, CO. While you can have a different experience visiting either side of the canyon, I'm going to give you an idea of what to expect with each.
The South Rim is by far the most popular side of the park for its easier accessibility. The South Rim is what you'd typically expect in a U.S. National Park with little pullover stops marked on the map for scenic view points. Unlike the less popular North Rim the South Rim has entirely paved roads. This side of the canyon is a must see, and I highly recommend sticking around for sunset at Dragon Point. Although Sunset View may sound like its the place to be, trust me Dragon Point is better!
The North Rim is for the more adventurous type! This is the side of the canyon you will want to visit if you want to do any climbing or hiking down into the canyon. Although South Rim is where I said the paved roads are, don't worry there is no off roading on the North Rim. It's just a normal gravel road any car can handle. For myself making it to the bottom was a must. There are a few different trails you can choose when making a decent the most popular being Long Draw and SOB Draw. My friend Joseph and I choose Long Draw because getting down into the narrows of the canyon sounded the most interesting to me. The route down was steep and filled with loose rock. Because of this climbing back out was actually much faster than descending. I know guides and rangers will tell you it's always faster to go down than up, but not in my experience because I wasn't sliding as much on the way out. Whatever route you choose remember it is important to fill out a permit at the ranger station. This can actually be done at any ranger station. It's free, and it's for nothing more than accountability and safety! On certain routes you can actually spend the night in the canyon, but because I was visiting in October the night would have been below freezing so we only day hiked it. Long Draw also doesn't allow overnight camping because there just simply isn't a place to do it. Being that it's the narrowest part of Black Canyon, there's only about a 1/4 mile area to actually explore once you're down there.
Clearly and most obviously be careful around the rim of the canyon. It happens all too often at places like this, The Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, etc. that someone falls in! If you do decide to hike into the canyon take it slow on the loose rock, and stagger yourself from other people in your group or around you so you are not kicking rocks on the person below. Something to watch out for especially on SOB Draw is poison ivy. It's abundant so learn how to identify it! Lastly there are bees everywhere at the bottom of the canyon. I can only speak for Long Draw, but if someone in your group is allergic to stings plan ahead. Also don't let your food sit out as this will only attract them. One last thing to keep in mind is the water level. After heavy rain or snowmelt the Gunnison River can rise significantly or flash flood so check with the local rangers for the current river status and advice.
This blog is for information purposes only and I ACCEPT NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY INJURY, LOST INDIVIDUALS, OR LEGAL TROUBLE ENCOUNTERED WHILE FOLLOWING THE INFORMATION POSTED HERE.
As always find the most up to date information and conditions on the official National Park website.