September 14, 2017 Slideshows » Columns

Share on Facebook
Tweet
Submit to Reddit
Email

Black Canyon of the Gunnison 

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, located about 15 miles from the town of Montrose, Colorado, has great views, camping, hiking on the canyon rim and, if you're more adventurous, into the canyon (with a permit).


Bob Falcone
The south entrance to the Park. Like the Grand Canyon, both the north and south rim are accessible to visitors. The south rim at Black Canyon is more popular due to being more easily accessible.
Bob Falcone
The campsites vary in size, with some being only big enough for tents, some for larger RVs and many like this one, designed for smaller campers.
Bob Falcone
The Rim Rock Trail starts near Loop C of the campground and runs just below the rim for about a mile before ending at the visitors center. It's an easy to moderate trail with great views.
Bob Falcone
There are a number of routes to the bottom of the canyon. This is the start of the Tomichi Route, beginning from the Rim Rock Trail. While a permit is not required to hike the rim trails, they are required for any excursion to the bottom of the canyon.
Bob Falcone
The visitors center is also the south rim ranger station. The National Park Service rangers and volunteers provided lots of information regarding hiking and wilderness excursions. A free permit is required for any trips into the wilderness areas, limited in numbers and only available on the day you want to hike. I took the Gunnison Route into the canyon, starting from the Oak Flat Loop Trail, next to the visitors center. Maps are available, though not very detailed, but there is a photo album at the ranger station with photos of the route to the bottom.
Bob Falcone
The Oak Flat Loop Trail starts on the left side of the visitors center. All distances are measured from the visitors center.
Bob Falcone
After about .15 miles the trail continues as a 2 mile loop. To get to the Gunnison Route, turn right at this trail marker.
Bob Falcone
The trail then drops down into a nice, shaded area. Due to the narrowness of the Canyon, the short periods of sunlight reflecting off the canyon walls cause the leaves to change earlier than on the rim, usually by early September.
Bob Falcone
At .35 miles, the Gunnison Route starts with a right turn off of the Oak Flat Loop trail. The difference between a "route" and a "trail" is that a "trail" is built and maintained to certain standards, while a "route" is not. Though it is rough and a little difficult, the route down is easy to follow.
Bob Falcone
At .60 miles the trail forks. A left turn takes you down a short but very steep and rocky section. Bearing right takes you around this steep section. At this point, you'll find an 80' chain wrapped around a tree, you'll need it to help you get down (and back up), the trail.
Bob Falcone
This part of the trail is VERY steep and rocky, so use the chain. The best method is to go backwards as though you're rappelling. Have one hand on the chain behind you, and your other hand on the chain in front of you.
Bob Falcone
The end of the chain isn't anchored to anything, so keep an eye on things and don't lose your balance and fall when the hand behind you runs out of chain.
Bob Falcone
Although I had no problem following the route, there are some cairns along the way. NPS Rangers warn against relying on them too much, however.
Bob Falcone
At just under a mile, the trail opens up with great views of the canyon, the canyon walls and the Gunnison River.
Bob Falcone
Approaching the Gunnison River. Some smoke from fires in the Pacific Northwest was still rising from the bottom of the canyon the day of my hike.
Bob Falcone
Arrive at the river after about 1.5 miles. The bottom of the canyon is very narrow, and the cliffs so steep that you can only walk a short distance along the river. You'll need the panorama feature on a cell phone to capture the river and tops of the cliffs in one picture.
Bob Falcone
Return on the route you took down. At the top of the chain turn immediately left and follow the trail around, instead of going up the steep, rocky section you'll see right in front of you.
Bob Falcone
Another hiker, coming up the chain section.
Bob Falcone
When you return to the Oak Flat Loop trail, turn left for the shortest route back to the visitors center.
Bob Falcone
Map of the Gunnison Route in the Black Canyon.
1/20
Bob Falcone
The south entrance to the Park. Like the Grand Canyon, both the north and south rim are accessible to visitors. The south rim at Black Canyon is more popular due to being more easily accessible.
Play Slideshow

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

All content © Copyright 2017, The Colorado Springs Independent

Website powered by Foundation