Updated: 2/17/2015

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It’s just been since 1999 that the dramatic landscape of Black Canyon of the Gunnison has held national park status, but the Gunnison River’s carving of the canyon began millions of years ago. The Black Canyon, so named because the walls are often shrouded in shadows making them appear black, has some of the world’s oldest exposed rock — Precambrian or “basement” rock that is nearly 2 billion years old.

This is the perfect spot for scenic drives where can you peer 2,000 feet below the often guardrail-less edge to see the Gunnison River that descends in elevation at one of the fastest rates of any North American river. Experienced rock climbers find a playground here, but the majority of visitors enjoy hikes, nature trails, drives, Gold Medal fishing and generally admiring natural wonders while in the park.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park near Montrose, CO
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park near Montrose, CO

Near Montrose, the park’s South Rim Visitors Center is open year-round and is command central for any visit to the park. Collect maps, make campground reservations and get weather updates before you explore, as the weather shifts dramatically here.

Magic Moment:

Pack a picnic and lunch at Gunnison Point to refuel for your afternoon adventures. Spot the fastest bird in the world, the Peregrine falcon, as it jets across the canyon exceeding speeds of 200 miles per hour, all while a mule deer mother and her fawn munch on wildflowers. And visitors that won’t be making an appearance? Venomous snakes — the canyon’s night temps are too cold for them.

Extend Your Trip To:

Ute Indian MuseumCurecanti National Recreational Area, Blue Mesa Reservoir, Montrose Historical MuseumMuseum of the Mountain West

Nearby Towns:

MontroseGrand JunctionDeltaGunnison

Want More?

See our 3 Days in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Country article.

Photo: Courtesy of the National Park Service.