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Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

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Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is located in the western part of the United States in the western part of the state of Colorado.  The national park boundaries encompass an area 48 square miles (124.4 sq km) and follow 12 miles of the Gunnison River.

The canyon extends beyond the park boundaries in both directions, but the steepest, deeper, and more stunning features of the canyon occur in the national park area.  There are parts of the canyon that only get 33 minutes of sunlight during the day, which is what led to the name of the park.

Author Duane Vandenbusche describes the canyon in this way, “Several canyons of the American West are longer, and some are deeper, but none combines the depth, sheerness, narrowness, darkness, and dread of the Black Canyon.”  The walls of the canyon are steep and narrow making it hard for sunlight to reach down into the canyon.

Plantlife that visitors can expect to see include aspen, desert mahogany, Ponderosa pine, sagebrush, single-leaf ash, and Utah juniper.  Predator wildlife includes black bear, bobcat, cougar, coyote, and then two species of eagles and eight species of hawks.

Other popular wildlife includes beaver, elk, mule deer, pronghorn, river otter, and raccoon.


There are scenic drives that follow along US Highway 50, Colorado Highway 92, and the south rim with lookouts along the way.  The incredibly steep, narrow, and daunting canyon walls are the pinnacle attraction of the national park.

There are several hiking opportunities that are not too long in the distance that afford spectacular views of Black Canyon and the Gunnison River below.  The Green Mountain trail is one of the most strenuous in the park, but it provides the most picturesque panoramic views of the canyon and Gunnison area.

The park is easily rated for the more adventurous and more athletic outdoorsmen.  Kayaking and rafting feature class III-V ratings and impassible places where challenging porting are expected.  Those who are skilled and confident with kayaking and rafting are the recommended participants.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Trails

The park is for the more adventurous and it is important to note that trails have access to the steep canyon walls.  It is important to pay attention to where you walk and pay close attention to children.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison Highlights

  • Scenic drive along the south rim
  • Gunnison River
  • Black Canyon
  • Painted Wal 



Park Map