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Last year I went to Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado for the first time. I hadn’t even heard of it until last year and now I’ve made two trips to see the canyon. Last time it was cold and windy and we just drove on the South Rim Road. This year it was cold rainy, and foggy and we drove down to the river, which I would highly recommend.
When we got there it looked ready to rain, but it wasn’t yet. We went to the visitors center first, as always, and when we were leaving it was pouring out. Plus it was cold and at that point it was so foggy you wouldn’t think there was even a 2,300 foot deep canyon in front of you, but don’t be fooled. There is. With the weather the way it was, we decided to take the drive down to the river first.
When we asked about it at the visitors center they were almost trying to convince us not to do it. They make it sound really scary and extremely steep. It’s not. They will say, at least if it’s rainy, that there will be rocks in the road. There weren’t. Now, don’t take this as there will never be rocks in the road when it’s rainy, we just didn’t encounter any. They’ll tell you you won’t have brakes after you go down the hill. You will. It’s really not that bad. It’s actually super pretty as you get views over the river as you descend into the canyon.
We made it successfully unscathed to the bottom of the canyon and drove along the emerald water. The road ends at a fence, so we turned around and got out for a few quick pics. It was cold. It was sort of windy. But it wasn’t raining so we had that going for us. We went back towards the start back up the canyon and made a right at the housing to walk along the river for a bit. There was sort of a trail, but eventually it turned into a bit of a rock scramble. Nothing too scary. We went around a little bend, not too far, and turned around to venture back up to the top.
Once back up, we made a few stops at some overlooks. Thankfully at this point we could actually see. And as a little bonus, the light fog made some of the pictures a little cooler. plus, the pictures this trip turned out wayyyyy better than last year. Maybe I’m just getting a little better. Unless it’s extremely sunny and there are a lot of shadows, then ignore that last bit.
It was too cold for us always unprepared folks to really enjoy doing any hikes, so I guess it just means we’ll have to go back. I mean, it’s really not that far from where we are and we’ve already thought about it. It’s definitely somewhere I need to actually hike around at least a little bit. I’d love to visit the North Rim, too. Next time we just need to make it with warmer weather.
And, like hiking in most places, be cautious and careful. It doesn’t happen often, but people have died here from falling into the canyon and others have gotten lost. But these can happen anywhere, it just freaks me out more here for some reason. Just look two pictures down. I was SO nervous for that girl, you have no idea. She was literally right on the edge and it was rainy and wet. Oh man, I was nervous. I mean, nothing happened, but still. That’s a long fall.
Overall, I still highly recommend this park and will definitely be back. I think it’s definitely one of the more underrated parks that gets bypassed a lot on Southwest US Road Trips. It may be a little out of the way, but if you’re passing through Grand Junction on your way to Moab, it’s 100% worth the side trip. There aren’t tons of visitors (238,018 in 2016) and it’s just an awesome park.
Tips for visiting Black Canyon Of The Gunnison:
- Check the weather before you go and pack appropriately. I would definitely bring a rain jacket just in case.
- Don’t write off a trip there because the weather forecast is rainy. It might be cold, but it’s super cool to see with the fog. Just be prepared.
- Another note on weather, it can change very quickly, so again, be prepared. It was cloudy and rainy at the rim, but clear and dry down by the river. It was foggy when we got there, but cleared up enough to be ominous shortly after.
- Be careful at the edges of the canyon. Like I said, it’s a long ways down.
- Definitely go down into the canyon to the river. It’s nothing close to as treacherous as anyone will make it seem. Your brakes may be a little squeaky after because they got so much use, but they will still be there.
- Sunset is an awesome time to see the park, but there really isn’t a bad time. And cloudy days might be better than super sunny ones photograph wise.
Have you been to Black Canyon of the Gunnison? What did you think? Do you want to go? What’s your favorite underrated park?