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

Henry David Thoreau

Stopping at Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Sunday September 7, 2014
South Rim Campground
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Montrose, Colorado






It’s 183 miles east from Portal RV Park in Moab Utah to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado.  Unfortunately it rains most of the way there but it stops by the time we arrive.   We’re going back over the Rockies sooner than we had hoped and I am again driving Ruby to give Winnona a break.

There are bright blue skies as we head over to the Visitor Center after getting set up in our nice pull through site with no water, no electric, no sewer.  Hooray for solar!!









Inside, the stone sculpture of the canyon is really wonderful.  It vividly points out just how deep and narrow the canyon. 

We learn that the Black Canyon has the greatest combination of depth, steepness and narrowness of any canyon in North America.  WOW! 

They show silhouettes of the canyons.   Black Canyon is in the upper left.  In the middle is Zion Canyon and on the right Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.   The second line is Hell’s Canyon of the Snake and at the bottom is Grand Canyon of the Colorado.   Pretty convincing.




The topo map is fabulous.  It also really shows how how deep and narrow the canyon is.




The blue dots are overlook spots on the North Rim where we are.  The red dots are overlooks on the South Rim.  Like the Grand Canyon it is a long way around from one rim to the other.




The most widespread rock in the canyon is gneiss noted for its dark colors and lighter stripes that are often folded into wave-like shapes.  It is metamorphic rock which means it was changed from an original rock by intense heat and pressure.

A steep drop in the Gunnison River’s elevation through the canyon has created the energy necessary to slice through the resistant cliff walls, creating the deep but narrow gorge.  The Colorado River flows through the Grand Canyon at an average drop of 7 feet per mile. Larger volume, several tributaries and much softer sedimentary rock in the grand canyon have created a different scenery.  The Mississippi River in contrast has a mere .58 feet drop per mile average descent.  Less energy and softer soils to erode have left the Mississippi with open valleys rather than dramatic canyons.

Of course like nearly all of our rivers, the Gunnison River no longer has the freedom or power to carve the Black Canyon as it once did.  It has 3 dams upstream which have changed the natural flow of the river which in turn has changed the natural character of the river and canyon bottoms.



We go outside to get a look at this canyon by taking the path from behind the visitor center down to the overlook.  WOW!  Just look at those fins.


The river is a long way down there.  The stone is gorgeous.








There is an upper and a lower overlook both accessible by stairs.  They are both built on the rocks themselves.  Especially on the upper on, you have to be careful.




Look at those colors.   Look for the river wayyyy down there on the lower left.









I had no idea this canyon was this striking.  I can hardly wait to get out and get a look at some of the overlooks on the drive and see about the hikes.   But first we have to have some dinner. 

When we came into the Visitor Center there was a sign telling about a Ranger Led full moon hike tonight.  The skies have been off and on blue and puffy clouds and gray and looking like rain all day.  I love full moon hikes so we decide to sign up.


The hike is 3 miles round trip and we meet in the parking lot at the end of the South Rim drive.  We are asked not to use our flashlights.  The moon is shining brightly as we set out.




The ranger stops along the way to talk to us about the park and the canyon.




Unfortunately for us all, by the time we get to the canyon overlook, the clouds return and the moon comes in and out from behind them.  We can’t see what we had hoped to see in the full moon light.




Still it’s been a very nice night to be out hiking under the moonlight and we really enjoyed ourselves.




  1. Wow, wow, wow - it makes me a little dizzy just looking at pics! Nature is so amazing! A moonlight hike sounds lovely too, even with the clouds... I must have missed that you were back in VA. Hope all is well and that you can make it to the market while you're here.

  2. Hey Sherry, you write exactly what you want when you want and we will read it :-). Loved Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

  3. What a spectacular place! We've never been to Black Canyon of the Gunnison, but it's for sure going on our list. Lucky you to be there for a full-moon hike, even if it was a bit cloudy. I'm glad you're taking your time to reflect on your travels -- don't feel like you have to hurry up and post. We do hope everything is going well for you both.

  4. LOVED the hiking by moonlight, even though it made picture taking virtually impossible. Again I was impressed by how much better our eyes can see than our camera's eye can. Amazing!

  5. It looks like a place I'd like to visit.

  6. Another place I've heard of, and must see. It looks so wild and rugged in these shots.

  7. Love this hike. You do not need to worry about snakes....they are in bed!

  8. I really enjoyed the pictures in this post. Never seen anything like it! Also appreciated the profile pics of the canyons, as I didn't realize the actual size of Hell's Canyon. Great post!

  9. Haven't been able to stop there yet. A breakdown stopped my plans the last time. Maybe sometime? A short stop is better than nothing.

  10. Oh, such memories of this Black Canyon and it's gorgeous gneiss rock. Don't remember the VC. Love that relief map too. Can't wait to see where we're hiking to.

  11. Stopped there on a family vacation in '04 for a few hours, can't wait to see what else there is to do there.

  12. What a fantastic place. Looks different from the canyons we've been to.

  13. Gorgeous canyon! Those are beautiful rock walls and fins. It is kind of scary how deep it is!!

    We need to take a full moon hike one day. Sure looks neat:)

  14. I think my parents went there on vacation once. It looks like another lovely place!

  15. This is one of the places that got us thinking about an RV retirement almost 30 years ago:)

  16. A moonlight hike, how very cool! You always come up with the neatest activities! :c)

  17. We haven't been there for years, you brought back great memories. Guess we need to go back again, I dont remember there being access to the North Rim. Becki

  18. I told you that you'd love Black Canyon. It's one of our favorite memories quite possibly because it's so out of the way and so few people have ever heard of it, much less visited. I'd return in a heartbeat! So glad you went.

  19. thinking geological adventures my be the very best. . .loved this one!

  20. Lucky you to be there on a full moon and hike under it. That must be a cool experience walking/hiking on a moonlight night!

  21. Beautiful canyon and another very informative visitor center! Beautiful moon and cloud despite their covering your night views!

  22. Sounds like a beautiful hike. . . . . although I'm way too clumsy to hike in the moonlight. I need lots and LOTS of light to see where I'm going. :-(

  23. I got to see the Gunnison last year. Isn't it SO very grand!!!


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