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

Black Canyon from the Chasm View Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Black Canyon from the Chasm View Trail

When I first visited Black Canyon of the Gunnison in 2005, it had only been a national park for a few years.  In fact, it was so new that some of the rangers still called it a national monument.  I’ve been back twice (but never again to the south rim) and despite the very few real trails within the park, there are a number that are worth hiking.

 



 

Like Grand Canyon National Park, Black Canyon has a North Rim and a South Rim, both with hiking opportunities.  However, unlike the Grand Canyon, many people agree that the North Rim has better views.  The South Rim of Black Canyon is much easier to access, has the most visitor services, and is the most crowded.  In fact, if you do go to the North Rim, you might not even find the visitor center open.  But the views make up for the inconvenience, so the choice is yours which rim you want to visit.

 

Best Hikes in Black Canyon National Park

Views from Exclamation Point, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Views from Exclamation Point

  1. North Vista Trail to Exclamation Point (North Rim). 3.0 miles RT. While Exclamation Point is not for those with a fear of heights or for small children, it offers one of the best views of Black Canyon I’ve ever seen.  It’s located on a turn in the canyon, so you get to see both directions, up and down the canyon.  Wow!
At the bottom of Long Draw, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

At the bottom of Long Draw

  1. Long Draw (North Rim). 1.8 miles RT. One of the best things about Long Draw is that you don’t hit poison ivy until the river, which makes it easier to avoid the unwanted plants.  One of the not-so-great things about Long Draw is that you have no trail, so it’s a scramble down loose scree the entire length of the draw.  But the views at the bottom are great!
Views from Warner Point, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Views from Warner Point.  PC David Fulmer

  1. Warner Point Nature Trail (South Rim). 1.6 miles RT. Probably some of the best views on the South Rim are to be had from Warner Point.  It’s also a nature trail, so you can pick up a guidebook to learn about the canyon and its natural and historical environment.
The Gunnison River from the Chasm View Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

The Gunnison River from the Chasm View Trail

  1. Chasm View Trail (North Rim). 0.5 miles RT. If short & sweet and sheer drops are your thing, you’ll love the Chasm View Trail, which begins from the North Rim Campground.  There are railings in most places, so it’s only pleasantly terrifying.
Painted Wall Overlook, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Painted Wall. PC David Fulmer

  1. Painted Wall View Trail (South Rim). 0.25 miles RT. If you’re on the South Rim and want a good view of the Painted Wall, this trail has you covered.  The famous wall isn’t actually painted, but it may look so because of the different colors of rocks in the sheer canyon wall.  It’s right across the canyon from Exclamation Point, so you might see intrepid hikers out on the railing-less overlook.
Hiking the Gunnison Route, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Hiking the Gunnison Route. PC Sebastian Herold

  1. Gunnison Route (South Rim). 1.8 miles RT. While many prefer the Red Rock Canyon Route, the Gunnison Route has two advantages: 1) there’s no permit system limiting who can and cannot use the route (you still need a free permit, though; available at the visitor center) and 2) it’s a whole lot shorter than the Red Rock Canyon Route.  It’s one of the best rim-to-river routes on the South Rim.  But do beware of poison ivy.
Black Canyon from Green Mountain, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Black Canyon from Green Mountain

  1. North Vista Trail to Green Mountain (North Rim). 8.0 miles RT. If you really want a long hike, but not a terribly difficult one, Green Mountain is a good trail to check out.  For one thing, you can easily see Exclamation Point along the way.  For another, you get to look down on Black Canyon from above.

 

What are your favorite trails in Black Canyon of the Gunnison?  Did I miss any epic hikes?


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Looking to explore more of Black Canyon?  This guide covers the history, geology, and recreational opportunities currently available – including hiking and whitewater rafting.