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Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park - BEST Places to Picnic

102 Elk Creek
Gunnison, Colorado 81230

Park Headquarters
(970) 641-2337

Welcome to Black Canyon!

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison's unique and spectacular landscape was formed slowly by the action of water and rock scouring down through hard Proterozoic crystalline rock.

No other canyon in North America combines the narrow opening, sheer walls, and startling depths offered by the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

Picnic Area:

  • East Portal
  • High Point
  • Sunset View


The main attraction of the park is the scenic drive along the south rim. There is a campground and several miles of hiking and nature trails. The north rim is accessible by automobile, though it is quite remote, and has a small, primitive campground. The river can be accessed by a steep, un-maintained trail that takes about four hours to hike down and six to hike back up.

The Black Canyon is a center for rock climbing, in a style known as traditional climbing. Most of the climbs are difficult and are only done by advanced climbers.

Rafting opportunities exist in the region, but the run through the park itself is a difficult technical run for only the best kayakers. There are several impassible stretches of water requiring long, sometimes dangerous portages to get around. 

The remaining rapids are class III - V, and are for expert river runners only. Downstream, in the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area, the river is somewhat easier, though still very remote and for experienced runners only, with rapids that are Class III - IV.


The Ute Indians had known the canyon to exist for a long time before the first Europeans saw it. By the time the United States gained independence in 1776, two Spanish expeditions had passed by the canyons. In the 1800s, the numerous fur trappers searching for beaver pelts would have known of the canyon's existence but they left no written record. By the late 1800s and into the early 1900s, the canyon had been thoroughly explored and while the first explorers came for commercial success and wealth, the later visitors came to see the canyon as an opportunity for recreation and personal enjoyment. The area was established as a U.S. National Monument on March 2, 1933 and made into a National Park on October 21, 1999.

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