With fewer than 180,000 visitors every year, the Gunnison National Park in Colorado is one of the National Park System's least visited parks. This is surprising because the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, with its combination of sheer walls, narrow openings, and extreme depths, is one of the most unique canyons in North American.
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park was created when water and rock continuously flowed through crystalline rock. Its narrowest point is a mere 40 feet. The total length of the canyon, however, is 48 miles - but only 14 miles of the canyon is inside the boundaries of the Gunnison National Park.
The deepest point of the 27,705-acre Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is 2,722 feet. By comparison, the deepest point of the Grand Canyon is Arizona is about 6,000 feet.
A visitor to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park has many recreational activities available. Scenic drives, for example, are a popular tourist choice. One such scenic drive is the South Rim Drive. This drive runs from High Point to Tomichi Point, is 7 miles long. It contains 10 overlooks, most of which can are accessed by a short walking trail. To completely appreciate the South Rim Drive, the visitor should allow 2-3 hours of time.
Another scenic drive at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is the North Rim Drive. A gravel road on the east side of the Crawford Lake State Recreation Area accesses this drive. This drive has a total of 6 overlooks, and contains some of the most exceptional views in the park. This drive will also take 2-3 hours to complete.
The East Portal Road is an extremely steep road containing hairpin curves. Therefore, vehicles larger than 22 feet long should not drive this road. The Curecanti National Recreation Area can be reached by East Portal Road. Here, the visitor can access picnicking, camping, and fishing opportunities.
For the visitor who wants to get out and stretch his legs, hiking opportunities also abound at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Hiking trails at the park fall into one of two categories. They are either inner-canyon routes or rim trails.
Rim trails are trails that run along the rim of the Black Canyon. These trails range in difficulty from easy to strenuous and are well marked. It is not necessary to obtain a permit to hike rim trails at the Gunnison National Park.
One popular rim trail is the Rim Rock Nature Trail. This moderate trail is a round trip of one mile. This trail offers views of sheer canyon walls and of the Gunnison River. It also offers opportunities to see pinyon pine, Utah juniper, Gambel oak, and sagebrush.
The Cedar Point Nature Trail is another rim trail at the Gunnison National Park. This easy trail is a mere 2/3 mile round trip. It contains amazing views from 2,000 feet above the Gunnison River. At 2,250 feet, the Painted wall, which is the tallest of Colorado's cliffs, is also visible from this trail. This trail also provides several guideposts along the way that describe the diverse plant life found in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
Inner-canyon routes run along the bottom of the Black Canyon. These trails are extremely difficult and they are not marked. For this reason, visitors must obtain a permit before exploring these routes.
While exploring trails at the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park, a visitor might encounter a wide variety of animals and birds. Some animals that may be spotted include: elk, bobcat, and deer.
The Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park is a national treasure to be cherished.