National Parks,  North America,  Travel

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

While we spent most of our year pretty close to home. We did sneak in a few trips. One of those was to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado. It’s a place that, despite only being about 3 hours from us, I hadn’t heard of until this year. Also, to be completely candid, I saw it on TikTok so take that for what it’s worth. I saw it and put it in my memory bank and saved it for a week when we wanted to go camping. Although we did some local exploring this year, we really didn’t get much camping in. Our first trip of the season was a rough one and I think it took us a while to really want to go again. So back in September, right when Mauricio shifted to working weekends, we took advantage of his 4 days off and went camping. 

Oliver not thrilled about the drive

There is a campground in the National Park and I figured since we were showing up on a Tuesday getting a spot wouldn’t be too difficult. There are only certain spots that you can reserve in advance and they are RV spots which we don’t need. We loaded up and spent about 5 hours on what should have been a 3 hour drive. We hit road work and got stuck behind slow moving vehicles, then had to stop for food. By the time we got to the park there were only 3 camping spots left in the whole campground and those 3 were gone within an hour of us getting there. We got lucky basically. After we got set up we set off on a little hike that starts right in the campground. I kind of thought it was just a path to connect to the other trails in the park, but it was actually an amazing first look at the canyon. Black Canyon is carved by the Gunnison river and is just as amazing as the Grand Canyon in my opinion. We were amazed with our first glimpses of the canyon just a short walk from our campsite. 

Our first views of the canyon

The next day was our only full day in the park so we wanted to try and see as much as we could, which turned out to be pretty easy. There is a single road in and out of the park with plenty of overlooks/short hikes to the edge of the canyon. All but one of the trails we did had their distance measured in yards instead of miles, so it was the perfect place for Oliver to hike on his own. We set off in the morning to try and do all of the overlooks and we were mostly successful, even going at a 2 year olds pace. All the trails were very easy and each one was worth it for the view at the. We skipped a couple due to no parking spaces and/or they were very similar to another one nearby. Before lunchtime we had seen most of the park. 

The bottom of the canyon

After lunch, and an attempt at a nap, we decided to go down to the river. Just after the entrance to the park there is a steep winding road that leads down to the river and another campground. There are signs on the way down telling you to put your car in low gear, and they mean it! This road was so steep and had tons of switchbacks that will wear your brakes right down to nothing. Being at the bottom of the canyon was just as amazing as being at the top. We spent a while enjoying the bottom of the canyon before heading back up for dinner. 

The view back into the canyon from the end of the hike

The following morning after packing up our campsite we decided to try the longest hike at the very end of the canyon road before heading home. Even though it was the longest it’s only a little over a mile each way so we figured it wouldn’t be bad. However, the trail had quite a bit of elevation changes and Oliver and I got tired very fast. It took us about an hour and a half to get to the end of the trail. By that time we were very ready for lunch and Mauricio opted to carry Oliver back on his shoulders almost the whole way. It was much more fast paced and we made it back in about 30 minutes. 

Once we were back to the truck we were able to make some lunch before heading home. We enjoyed a nice final lunch in the park and got on our way. Black Canyon was an awesome place for Oliver at this age. He was able to do all of the hikes on his own and loved seeing the river at the bottom of the canyon. We were there in the middle of the week so I assume it was a little less busy than some other times, but it was still pretty busy. Many of our fellow guests were older people and I think it’s a great park for them as well with plenty of easy hikes to amazing views as well as awesome views just driving through. There were more advanced trails available that required permits that we obviously didn’t do, but I really think there is something for everyone at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

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