Peer into the Black

The Uncompahgre Valley is surrounded by millions of acres of public land, but for sheer dramatic spectacle, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is hard to beat.


Photo by Nick Dunlap

On the smaller side when it comes to national parks at a modest 30,779 acres, it could fit into Rocky Mountain National Park more than 8.5 times, but size isn’t everything.


Essentially an enormous fissure in the earth, the dizzyingly steep cliffs the canyon is named for - or more accurately the darkness at the bottom thanks to the cliffs - were crafted over two million years by a combination of the Gunnison River and the weather.


As for what to do, there are hiking options for everyone, from the scenic and easy Oak Flat Loop trail to extremely difficult trails that will take you down into the depths of the canyon which is as rewarding as it is treacherous. There are also options for road cyclists, birders, anglers, amateur herpetologists, and more.


There are campsites on both the north and south rims (the north rim is a slightly longer drive via the town of Crawford) as well as opportunities for rafting, kayaking, and rock climbing, but the Black Canyon is not for beginners, so if you have any doubts, you’re probably not experienced enough.


The Black Canyon is an incredible place that brings in visitors from around the world. It is ludicrously convenient for the people of Montrose and visitors to the city being just a 20-minute drive from downtown.


nps.gov/blca