6 Best Day Hikes in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park


Although it only receives a fraction of the visitors compared to the Grand Canyon, Black Canyon of the Gunnison is truly a sight to behold. Because of its steepness, the interior of the canyon only receives about 33 minutes of sunlight a day which is where Black Canyon got its name. Routes into the inner canyon are so steep and dangerous that the National Park Service does not even designate them as ‘trails’. Venturing into the canyon is not for the faint of heart but does make for one unique, strenuous adventure. There are also several amazing hikes in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park along the South and North Rim that are ranked below that allow visitors to get outstanding views of the canyon and Gunnsion River.

There are also many easy to get to overlooks for those just driving through the park such as: Chasm View, Painted Wall View, Cedar Point, and Pulpit Rock Overlook. Official Website.

Nearest Metro AreaGrand Junction, CO
Area Size30,750 acres
EstablishedOctober 21, 1999
Hiking Trails30 miles

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Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Hikes in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

1. North Vista Trail

If you add on the short spur trail to Exclamation Point on your way up to Green Mountain, this is easily the best hike in the park. The climb up to the summit is no joke but you cant beat the views into the canyon. Another positive note of this trail is that it is rarely crowded, even in the summer months, so enjoy! The trailhead is next to the North Rim Ranger Station off of Black Canyon Road.

  • 6.7 miles – Out and back
  • 1200′ gain
  • Strenuous

2. Warner Point Nature Trail

Most viewpoint hikes in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National park are little more than a stroll to and from your car. You’ll have to put forth a little more effort on this hike to view the deepest part of the canyon at Warner Point. Along the way, hikers can admire the San Juan Mountains to the south and the West Elk Mountains to the north. The trailhead is at the end of South Rim Road.

  • 1.5 miles – Out and back
  • 300′ gain
  • Easy

3. Red Rock Canyon Route

Only 8 hikers per day are allowed to access this hike via permit lottery. The reason being is that this is one of the most manageable hikes into the inner canyon but you have to go through private property to get there! As with all inner canyon hikes in this park: be careful, trace your steps as there is no true trail, and watch out for poison ivy. The trailhead is near a parking area off Bostwick Park Road.

  • 3.4 miles – One way
  • 1300′ descent
  • Strenuous

4. Oak Flat Loop

This is a perfect hike for anyone that wants to venture into the canyon to see the dramatic views without descending all the way to the bottom. The trail is fairly narrow in sections and the hike back up to the visitor center is tough but you’ll be happy you did it. The trailhead is located next to the South Rim Visitor Center.

  • 1.3 miles – Loop
  • 300′ gain
  • Moderate

5. Rim Rock Nature Trail

Self-guided nature trail that follows the south rim of the canyon; perfect for all skill levels. There are magnificent views of the Gunnison River and immense sheer walls of the canyon. The trailhead is near the South Rim Visitor Center next to Campground Loop C.

  • 1.8 miles – Out and back
  • 200′ gain
  • Easy

6. Gunnison Route

If you miss out on the lottery for the Red Rock Canyon Route, the Gunnison Route is considered the most popular and ‘easiest’ of the inner canyon hikes. An 80′ chain is located about 1/3 of the way down to aide in the steep descent/ascent. The trailhead is near the South Rim Visitor Center off of the Oak Flat Loop.

  • 1.0 mile – One way
  • 1800′ descent
  • Strenuous

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