Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

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Where in the West Should I Go? • 52 Places to Visit in 2022

Like the more well-known Grand Canyon, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park has a North and South Rim with lots of different viewpoints and hiking options. Located in southwestern Colorado, the area is truly stunning.

All three of the main roads in the park offer an incredible introduction to your trip there. A first timer may want to start on South Rim Road, where there are 12 overlooks on the 7-mile drive between Tomichi Point and High Point (partially closed during winter).

For a more adventurous drive, head to the North Rim, which is accessed by taking a gravel road from the east end of Crawford State Park. The North Rim is widely recognized for having some of the most impressive views at Black Canyon with its near vertical cliffs – reaching up more than 2,000 feet from the rim to the river. 

Speaking of the river, East Portal Road is the best way to get there, though allow some time for the drive. Steep grades and tight curves make it so that vehicles longer than 22 feet are prohibited.

If you’re looking to get into the canyon, you’re in luck. Wilderness use permits are free, though served on a first-come, first-served basis and limited daily. But be prepared. There are no maintained trails into the inner canyon – only routes. 

Back up at the rims, there’s plenty of hiking for those looking for some beauty and exercise. Take the Cedar Point Nature Trail (South Rim) for an easy jaunt with a view of the famous Painted Wall.

For a moderate hike, enjoy Chasm View Nature Trail, where you’ll also be able to see Painted Wall. Head down to the river via the strenuous Oak Flat Loop Trail, which was built by Student Conservation Association volunteers. 

As always, visit the NPS website for more details: