Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Doing the Drive Backwards

Monday Afternoon September 8, 2014
South Rim Campground
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Montrose, Colorado


This post begins at the end of yesterday’s hiking the Warner Trail hike at the end of the scenic drive..


The South Rim Drive runs 7 miles from Tomichi Point, between the campground and the visitor center, to High Point.  It has 12 overlooks; most are reached by walking a relatively short trail.  The Warner Trail parking where we are when we finish the trail is at High Point.   We will start back down the drive stopping at each overlook to see the canyon from every angle possible. 

Sure wish we had time to go over to the North Rim and do the same thing on the North Rim road although it is unpaved.  The drive from one rim to the other takes 1-1.5 hours.  Maybe next time we’ll stay in the campground there.


Before we get in the car to head back along the road we look around High point where Ruby is parked.  High Point is, along with Warner Point, where the canyon is deepest at 2660/2700 feet depending on who you ask.




It turns out that hiking opportunities in Black Canyon of the Gunnison are rather limited. We see numerous routes down into the canyon itself, but these are extremely strenuous routes that require special skills, equipment, and permits. Thus most hiking is limited to a few trails on the rims.  At least here on the South Rim.

If we were going to be here longer, we would certainly investigate the easiest and safest trail down into the canyon to see if we might be able to do it down and back in a day.

I have seen nothing about a path along this river so a loop hike is probably not possible.  You can get down to the river on the trails I mentioned and from East Portal Road just beyond the park entrance gate, but I don’t believe you can walk along the river.  It sure doesn’t look like it from here.  Maybe you could walk in the river when the dams have made the level so low.





After all the simply gorgeous things we have seen all over this country I don’t know what words to use to describe this amazing canyon, so steep, so deep, so different.   I hope the pictures will say what I cannot.

From High Point, we drive back one mile to MP 6.7 and stop at Sunset Point.  Not sure we would do 12 mile round trip drive from the campground for a sunset but I sure wish I’d looked more carefully at the map yesterday.  We could have stopped here on our way to the Full Moon hike.

As you can see, the views from here are stunning.














Our next stop 7/10th of a mile down the road at MP 6.0 is Dragon Point.  This is the first in a series of stops to experience what is known as the Painted Wall. You can sure see how it got its name.

At 2300 feet The Painted Wall is the highest cliff in Colorado. As you can imagine rock climbers are all over it though not today for some reason. Or I don’t see them.  If the Empire State Building stood on the canyon floor, it would reach slightly more than halfway to the top of the cliff.

The patterns that inspired the name Painted Wall were created more than a billion years ago when molten rock was squeezed (intruded) into fissures and joints in existing rock, then cooled and hardened. These patterns are 3 dimensional. If you were to slice off a section of the cliff, an entirely different pattern would be revealed.







I really can’t believe I’m here.  How did I get so lucky?










We take forever at each of these stops and we run out of time so our last stop for today is the Cedar Point trail.  It  is just over a half mile hike out to the second of 3 dramatic viewpoints for the Painted Wall. 





Along the way, there are trailside signs explaining various plant and animal life.  Luckily we are already familiar with nearly all of it.  You really do learn so much in national parks.  Just look at the color of this stone.





At the overlook which marks the end of the trail we again meet the painted wall.   It is all I can do to wrap my eyes around it.








It reminds me of marble.





Tomorrow we’ll take up where we left off today and finish the drive.  There are still 7 overlooks  some with short trails beginning at MP 5.3, the Painted Wall Overlook.  It’s a lot to take in and I’m actually glad we are splitting it into 2 days.  Even 3 days might have been better but we have other plans to go down to the river for our last day here.


  1. What gorgeous stone! Don'tcha just love God's handiwork?

  2. I almost get dizzy from the heights just looking at the photos. I am so glad you found that place!

  3. Yes, I agree, it does look like marble. The magnitude, colors and patterns do inspire awe. Great place to experience first hand. Amazing to think the Empire State building would only reach half-way up the cliff!

  4. Another beautiful area I knew nothing about. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Hard to really understand how deep the Canyons are!! The Empire State Building could stand on top of itself and just reach the top...AMAZING!!!

  6. The landscape is magnificent, particularly that Painted Wall!

  7. That Painted Wall is Outstanding! Got to love Mother Nature's art. The view down to the river reminds me a lot of the Toroweap view. If I didn't know you survived I'd be warning you to be very careful going down and up in a day. But I also understand the desire to.

  8. What a spectacular canyon -- unlike anything we've seen. The views from the top are just gorgeous -- and I love what you said about feeling so fortunate to be doing what you're doing. Eric and I turn to each other most every day and say the exact same thing.

  9. Wow, this park is much more impressive than I realized. Stunning beauty! I loved the Empire State trivia...that sure adds perspective!

  10. Gorgeous pictures - just like marble and so large. You have learned so mch on your travels and are so lucky to have seen so much!

  11. Your pictures are fantastic, the Painted Wall looks amazing! It sure is steep in places, basically looks like it just goes straight down.

  12. I had a chuckle imagining Ruby driving backwards down the road based on your title!

    Great shots giving perspective on how vast and DEEP this canyon is! It is too bad how few trails there are, but I imagine that building them would be quite difficult given the terrain.

  13. The photos definitely did the trick. Brought tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat. I'm sure a sunny day is great there, but I really liked the coolness of the cloudy skies. In some shots the rock and sky are nearly the same color, giving the feeling of being "inside" the view. I love it. Can you imagine the native people watching lightning in the sky for years and then one day coming across a wall of lightning "drawn" in the rock? What must they have thought about "who" could capture such power? Looking back up from the bottom must be incredible, but until there's an elevator......I'll have to look for pictures :-) So glad you got some time here, and that you're sharing so much of it - I'm loving every pic and every word!

  14. Incredible pictures! We only saw the North Rim, now maybe we need to see the South too!

  15. So did you wear your clothes backwards to match the direction of your travel?

    Those painted cliffs look like something I'd have done with my painting skills! ;c)

  16. Great hike, have to watch that footong:). seems I often do things backward:(

  17. Spectacular. I never knew the canyon existed, Id echo what you said just how fortunate you and David are for experiencing all these spectacular God's creation. Just amazing. I just wished we can experience it too someday, for now Im just satisfied with all your captures.

  18. The painted wall is amazing. Still trying to grasp its depth in comparison to the Empire State Building -- wow!

  19. Marbleized meat -- that's what that wall reminds me of.

  20. This is a fantastic canyon! And I love the Painted Wall. It is so cool. I love rocks of any kind!! That photo of the wall with the orange and green lichen is really nice. Looking forward to Day 2:)


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