6 Best Hikes in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Black Canyon of the Gunnison Overview

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is located in western Colorado, about 1.5 hours southeast of Grand Junction, CO. 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. Several of the best hikes in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park along the South and North Rim that are described below also allow visitors to get outstanding views of the canyon and Gunnsion River.

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

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

North Vista Trail
Cracked land of the earth
Cracked land of the earth, Photo by David Fulmer

If you add on the short spur trail to Exclamation Point on your way up to Green Mountain, this is easily one of the best hikes in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National 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′ elevation gain
  • Strenuous
Warner Point Nature Trail
Warner Point Trail at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Photo by The Dye Clan

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′ elevation gain
  • Easy
Red Rock Canyon Route
South Rim, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado
South Rim, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Photo by Ken Lund

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′ elevation descent
  • Strenuous
Oak Flat Loop
Oak Flat Loop at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Photo by The Dye Clan

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 mile loop
  • 300′ elevation gain
  • Moderate
Rim Rock Nature Trail
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Along the Rim Rock Nature Trail, Photo by Jasperdo

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′ elevation gain
  • Easy
Gunnison Route
Summer Morning View on the Oak Flat Trail looking down canyon, Photo by TheFirstMotion

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′ elevation descent
  • Strenuous

Featured Image: Colorado – Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP, Photo by guido da rozze

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  1. Discover Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park | Yvonne's Travel Blog

    […] No better way to see the park than to hike a trail. You will find many trails that take you to spectacular overlooks. The South Rim has easier hikes, and the North Rim has longer and more strenuous hikes. Check the best hikes in Black Canyon here.  […]