Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

So-called because the sunlight only touches the depths of the Black Canyon for a few minutes each day, the great gorge that lies at the heart of this park is something you’ll want to have the camera handy for. There are a few simply outrageously stunning viewpoints to make for, like the Devils Lookout and the sheer-cut Pulpit Rock Overlook. Intrepid types can also plan hikes into the Inner Canyon of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, where the terrain gets truly off-piste.

Black Canyon of The Gunnison National Park features steep cliffs and naturally sculpted rock formations. One of the most visually and environmentally distinct national parks in the nation, Black Canyon of The Gunnison National Park provides rocky trails and breathtaking views.

Camping, hiking, ranger lectures, river

Colorado’s least-known and least-travelled national park is a favorite among locals, not just because it’s hidden, but because it’s an absolute gem. It deserves a spot on this list—and yours— if you’re a hiker and if you like incredible views that are sure to instill a sense of the sublime.  To get to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, which lies in the heart of Southwestern Colorado’s Gunnison Basin, you’ll pass through the Curecanti National Recreation Area (well-worth its own visit) and through the sleepy, hilly towns of Montrose or Hotchkiss. You’ll have to wind around the mesa on top of the canyon where you can stop off for scenic overlooks every few miles or so. You don’t even have to hike to make a stop in the park worth your while; taking in the unbelievable views of the Gunnison River cutting through the gorge 2,000 feet below on your way to the trailhead should be enough to fill up any nature-lover’s cup (or freak anyone out).  If you are interested in a hike, you’ve come to the right place. If you’re interested in crazy-hard hikes, well, you’ve come to the right place, too. Two trails in the park offer inner-canyon excursions for the ultra-experienced and extra-cautious. (Park Rangers suggest getting a guide for the Inner Canyon Trail and the North Rim routes.) For those of us less inclined to break a leg trying to make it to the bottom of the canyon (personally I’ve only heard the views there are breathtaking), several trails will take you to the summit overlooking this massive geological fissure on one side and rolling red mesas on the other. Along the way, you’ll stop at rocky outcrops overlooking the deepest parts of the Canyon, marveling at how tiny the river looks from such a great height. The Black Canyon is Colorado’s best kept secret, probably because its scale is nearly impossible to capture in photos and even difficult to fathom in person. 

So-called because the sunlight only touches the depths of the Black Canyon for a few minutes each day, the great gorge that lies at the heart of this park is something you’ll want to have the camera handy for. There are a few simply outrageously stunning viewpoints to make for, like the Devils Lookout and the sheer-cut Pulpit Rock Overlook. Intrepid types can also plan hikes into the Inner Canyon of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, where the terrain gets truly off-piste.

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