Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado

Trails through Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is a smaller unit of our national park system, but one worthy of exploration when your travels take you to southern Colorado between Montrose and Gunnison.

It is here over millions of years that the Gunnison River carved a deep gorge with sheer cliffs rising to heights over 2,000 feet. No other canyon in North America combines such a narrow opening, sheer walls and startling depths, and that’s why it became a National Park.

Some parts of the gorge receive as little as 35 minutes of direct sunlight each day. The similarity to the Grand Canyon is that funny vertigo feeling you get when you look into its depths.

This post contains affiliate links, which means we may receive a small commission if you make a purchase through a link. There is no additional cost to you.

History of Black Canyon of the Gunnison 

Ravines in Black Canyon of the Gunnison national Park in ColoradoThis part of Colorado is the native homeland of the Ute Indian Tribe. But they avoided the Black Canyon, one they called “much rocks, big water,” for superstitious reasons. Maybe they were freaked out by that weird vertigo feeling. I was.

The first white people to document the canyon’s sheer cliffs were led by Captain John William Gunnison, who eventually had the river named for him. The official record of that 1853 journey said the Black Canyon was inaccessible.

And for the most part, it is inaccessible, unless you are an experienced rock climber. Those folks love it! Just watching them gives you a new perspective on crazy. Bring some binoculars to watch as they progress slowly up the sheer walls of the canyon.

Exploring Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Images of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in southern ColoradoWe watched rock climbers, hiked a bit and explored the canyon as a day trip during our visit to Crested Butte and really wished we had had more time for the boat ride or lengthier hikes.

Unlike the Grand Canyon, you can’t take a mule ride to the bottom, but you can take a boat ride into the canyon from nearby Morrow Point. Looks like we’re going to have to make another trip back to Colorado this summer to check it out.

Are you coming with us? 

Get Your National Park Travel Gear