Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park

The Painted Wall Of Black Canyon - ©Susan Humphrey - (

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, located in Colorado is known for its steep, jagged slopes towering above an impossibly narrow canyon with a swift rushing river 2,722 immense feet below. The canyon is only 1,100 feet across at the narrowest point and is only a minuscule 40 feet across at its base. This narrow, steep gorge only receives direct sunlight for 33 minutes each day. Aptly named “Black Canyon”, its rocky sides are a deep charcoal tone. “Painted Wall” features rich dark texture and striking pink lines that almost look like an artist took a brush and frantically slashed large stokes of pink across the canvas of the canyon wall. Some fearless hikers may be tempted to brave the rugged and untamed path to the river 2,722 feet below. Be forewarned, there is no formal trail to the bottom, and is so steep at points that hikers will need to slide on their bottom. There is an 80 foot long chain to provide extra support during one portion of the descent, but be prepared for a long and strenuous trip. The magnificent views of the narrow gorge seemingly ascending to the heavens is breathtaking and worth the effort, but be prepared for an even more difficult trip back to the top, so save your energy and mental stamina. 

The Immense Beauty Of Black Canyon - © Jonathan Urrutia

Big enough to be overwhelming, still intimate enough to feel the pulse of time, Black Canyon of the Gunnison exposes you to some of the steepest cliffs, oldest rock, and craggiest spires in North America. With two million years to work, the Gunnison River, along with the forces of weathering, has sculpted this vertical wilderness of rock, water, and sky.
— National Park Service

Although this national park is “off the beaten path”, it is truly a gem and worth the trip. To really understand the incredible magnitude and depth of the canyon, one must see it with their own eyes. Due to its rural location, visitors who do venture to this rarity can experience Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park with peaceful and quiet awe. The fewer number of visitors contributes to the raw and wild feeling that permeates amongst the rural and rugged landscape. Travel the winding road along the canyon rim on the North Rim Road to experience rich views of the plummeting depths of the gorge. The East Portal Road caters to the adventurous visitors who wish to venture down the perilously steep canyon road to the rushing Gunnison River at its base. At a 16% grade with curves so sharp it will leave you breathless, a sturdy and reliable off-road vehicle is a must to survive the intense descent. Once below, the Gunnison River provides endless recreational activities, with the most popular being fishing, kayaking, camping, rafting and hiking. For those who wish to challenge their wits and skills, rock climbing is the best method to do so. Be aware that these are very difficult climbs, and beginners should resist the urge to attempt a climb on any of the walls of Black Canyon.

Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park - ©Susan Humphrey

Sunset At The Painted Wall - ©Susan Humphrey

Overlooking The Black Canyon - © Jonathan Urrutia 

Although there is a plethora of recreational opportunities and trails to take, one of the best ways to experience Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is to simply stand on the canyon rim and take in the vast and awe-inspiring depth of the narrow gorge and contemplate how it all came to be.