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13 of the Best Hikes in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

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(Last Updated On: March 21, 2022)

Are you planning a trip to Colorado and looking for the best hikes in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, one of the state’s hidden gems? If so, then you’re in the right place.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison is often overlooked by visitors who would instead go to Arches National Park or Rocky Mountain National Park, which are also in the area. However, this park is filled with epic viewpoints, hiking trails, and more. Plus, it’s never as crowded as other popular parks, which is crazy because it’s just as beautiful as the Grand Canyon.

Before you start going on hikes in national parks, make sure that you have the proper gear and follow all the best tips for first-time hikers. Get a sturdy pair of hiking boots, too; this is truly one of the best investments you can make!

Read on to learn more about the best hikes in Black Canyon!

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my links, at no extra cost to you. Please read full disclosure for more information.

black canyon of the gunnison national park entrance sign

Where to Stay Near Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Wondering where to stay during your trip to Black Canyon of the Gunnison? Check out the map below for hotels, vacation rentals, etc nearby.

Oak Flat Loop Trail

Length: 2 miles

Average Time: 2-3 hours

Starting Point: South Rim Visitor Center

Trail Level: Moderate/Hard

First up is the Oak Flat Loop Trail, one of the best Black Canyon of the Gunnison hikes! Even though it’s relatively short, at only two miles long, it can be pretty strenuous compared to other hikes that you can do within the park.

It’s a loop trail with only about 300 feet of elevation gain, and it is not very kid-friendly. Dogs are also not allowed on the trail because portions of it are pretty narrow and steep, so be careful hiking it.

This is the perfect trail if you want to see what it’s like right before the rim but don’t want to hike all the way down to the canyon’s bottom. It starts near the visitor center on the South Rim and offers impeccable views and the opportunity to see many of the different tree types that call the canyon home.

On this trail, be sure to post a picture with an awesome nature caption to remember the moment, because the view is beautiful!

rocky viewpoint in black canyon

Uplands Trail

Length: 2 miles

Average Time: 1-2 hours

Starting Point: South Rim Visitor Center

Trail Level: Easy

For some accessible Black Canyon of the Gunnison hiking, check out the Uplands Trail. This is one of the easier trails to hike in the park at only two miles but barely any elevation gain. It’s an out and back trail and is about one mile each way.

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This trail is kid-friendly and, overall, is more of a walk than a hike, which makes it such a great place to hike. It also links the Oak Flat Loop Trail to the Rim Rock Trail, so if you happen to be camping in Black Canyon of the Gunnison, this trail will be easily accessible to you.

Note that this trail also doesn’t allow pets.

The best time of the day to do this hike is either right in the morning or later at night because you may be able to witness wildlife during the trek. Plus, the colors in the sky are impeccable during this time.

Warner Point Nature Trail

Length: 1.5 miles

Average Time: 1 to 2 hours

Starting Point: South Rim Visitor Center or High Point Overlook

Trail Level: Moderate

Head to Warner Point Nature Trail for a great one of the moderate Black Canyon of the Gunnison hikes! The trail can be started near either the South Rim Visitor Center or the High Point Overlook.

The trail isn’t super difficult and offers some impeccable views of the Gunnison River, which is bright blue against the dark canyon walls.

The trail itself isn’t super difficult either, but be sure to grab a guide to the trail so that you can learn more about what you’re seeing along the way. That’s why it’s best to start right at the South Rim Visitor Center, where you can grab one.

river going through the rocks

Pulpit Rock Overlook

Length: 0.2 miles

Average Time: 15 minutes

Starting Point: Pulpit Rock (South Rim)

Trail Level: Easy

Pulpit Rock Overlook, while it’s not really that much of a trail, is one of the best spots to go for Black Canyon of the Gunnison hiking. It’s a super short walk out to this viewpoint which will really only take you fifteen to twenty minutes maximum.

The views from the Pulpit Rock Overlook are incredible because it’s about 8000 feet off. You’ll get an epic look out into the canyon, and because it’s such a short walk, there’s no point in driving by this when driving along the South Rim.

black canyon under a blue sky

Deadhorse Trail

Length: 5 miles

Average Time: 5 to 7 hours

Starting Point: Kneeling Camel Overlook (North Rim)

Trail Level: Moderate

This is one of the best hikes in Black Canyon of the Gunnison if you’re looking to get away from the crowds. Most people choose to visit the South Rim and completely overlook the North Rim. The main difference between the two rims is that the North Rim is a bit more rugged!

Deadhorse Trail is about five miles long and has an elevation gain of just under 600 feet. It’s a loop trail that’s not usually busy, and it offers great views of the canyon and nature. Like other trails, it’s not dog friendly, and there’s no shade along the way.

To start the trail, you’ll want to head over to the Kneeling Camel Overlook. Then, head back near one of the old stations for rangers and follow an old road until the trail starts and continues along the edge of the canyon.

painted wall in black canyon

Painted Wall View Trail

Length: 0.2 miles

Average Time: 15 minutes

Starting Point: Painted Wall (South Rim)

Trail Level: Easy

This is another trail that isn’t much of a trail compared to others on this list, but the view is one of the most iconic. It only takes a quick five-minute walk to get out of the viewpoint to look out at the epic Painted Wall.

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This part of the canyon got its name because it honestly does look like someone painted right on the canyon wall. As one of the most popular views in the park, this is one that you really can’t miss, even if you’re only visiting Black Canyon in a day.

This is another kid-friendly trail, but no dogs are allowed. It’s relatively flat most of the way with only five feet of elevation gain, and it’s an out and back trail.

black canyon in fall

Long Draw (aka Devil’s Slide)

Length: 2 miles

Average Time: 4 to 6 hours

Starting Point: Balanced Rock Overlook (North Rim)

Trail Level: Hard

Even though this may seem like an easy hike judging by its distance, it’s really not! This is one of the more arduous best hikes in Black Canyon of the Gunnison, with a vertical drop of 1800 feet that you have to descend and then ascend afterward.

It usually takes around one to two hours to descend down and then another three hours to make your way back up. This trail brings hikers right down to a super-narrow part of the canyon, and some of it is entirely vertical. It is not a trail that should be taken lightly.

The trail does have a lot of shade, though, which is a huge plus compared to other trails in Black Canyon. Recent hikers note that there is quite a bit of poison ivy down on the bottom of the canyon in this spot, so be careful!

river running through a black canyon

Red Rock Canyon Route

Length: 6.5 miles

Average Time: 6 to 8 hours

Starting Point: Parking lot off Bostwick Park Road

Trail Level: Hard

The Red Rock Canyon Route is one of the lesser-known trails in Black Canyon, but it allows visitors to get down into the canyon without scaling super steep sections like other trails feature.

However, to do this trail, you do need to get one of the few permits that are available for the Red Rock Canyon section of the park each day. The trail isn’t super well maintained, and the signs aren’t as easy to follow as other trails that you’ll find throughout the park, so this trail is best for experienced hikers.

The descent is a bit more gradual than you’ll get on other trails down to the bottom of the canyon, but it is a hike that will take all day. You’ll also be crossing the stream a lot along the way, which can prove to be difficult.

black canyon of the gunnison national park in fall

Chasm View Nature Trail

Length: 0.3 miles

Average Time: 30 minutes

Starting Point: Campground loop (North Rim)

Trail Level: Easy

One of the best Black Canyon of the Gunnison hikes is the Chasm View Nature Trail. At only a third of a mile long, this trail isn’t difficult at all, but the views are incredibly rewarding. Many people argue that this trail has the best views that you can get from the North Rim!

Along the way, you’ll reach not one, but two different overlooks, each with impeccable views. Because it’s also on the less busy side of the park, the North Rim, there are often aren’t even many people on this trail at all.

up close of the river in black canyon

Cedar Point Nature Trail

Length: 0.6 miles

Average Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour

Starting Point: Cedar Point parking area (South Rim)

Trail Level: Easy

Cedar Point Nature Trail is another of the easier trails that offer great views from the South Rim of Black Canyon. This trail is a lot different from other trails that you’ll come across, though, because there are signs along the trail that point out some interesting parts of the park.

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The trail also features great views of the Painted Wall and has not one, but two different overlooks along the way. What makes this trail so great, too, is that dogs are allowed on it as long as they are on a trail.

As one of the more kid-friendly trails featured in Black Canyon, you won’t want to miss out on this trail.

black rocks

Gunnison Route

Length: 1.5 miles

Average Time: 4 to 6 hours

Starting Point: South Rim Visitor Center

Trail Level: Hard

If you want to hike to the bottom of Black Canyon of the Gunnison, then Gunnison Route is the most popular option to do so. This trail may only be a mile and a half long, but there’s a vertical drop of 1800 feet, so it’s not easy at all.

On average, it takes just shy of two hours to get down to the bottom of the canyon and takes about two to two and a half hours to get back up. Once you’re at the bottom, though, you’ll be able to walk right along the river and get views that not many people have the opportunity to get.

You do have to get a Wilderness Use Permit to do this trail, and only a few of those are given out each day. The best way to get one is to get to the South Rim Visitor Center the day before and wait until around 3 pm when they give them out, first come, first serve.

North Vista Trail

Length: 3 miles

Average Time: 2 to 3 hours

Starting Point: North Rim Ranger Station

Trail Level: Moderate

The North Vista Trail is one of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison hikes that is moderate, but you can add on an extra four miles to make it a bit longer. The normal hike goes to Exclamation Point from the North Rim Ranger Station, but add on some extra mileage to Green Mountain for more great views. Adding the extra miles does make the trail hard!

There are tons of incredible viewpoints along the way of the inner canyon. As you might imagine, the best views are at Exclamation Point. It is called Exclamation Point for a reason, after all! If you choose to continue, the views are still just as great, and you’ll be able to see out to the Uncompaghre Plateau.

black canyon from the distance

Rim Rock Nature Trail

Length: 2 miles

Average Time: 1 hour

Starting Point: Campground Loop C entrance (South Rim)

Trail Level: Moderate

This simple trail is moderate and just goes right along the South Rim of the canyon. By looking out, you’ll get epic views of the Gunnison Views as well as the fantastic trees that the canyon is home to.

The trail is relatively flat, which is why it’s not super difficult. It’s an out and back trail, and dogs are allowed to use the trail if they’re on a leash. The best time to do the Rim Rock Nature Trail is right in the morning when you can catch the sun rising over the canyon!

This post was all about the best hikes in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Hopefully, you found a hike worth doing on your next trip!

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5 Comments

  1. These all sound fantastic! I really like the sound of the challenge of Long Draw (aka Devil’s Slide) – that must be steeeeep to take 4-6 hours for 2 miles! How much elevation do you lose/gain? The Red Rock Canyon trail sounds lovely for a longer day out too!

  2. So nice that you have mentioned kid friendly trails! It was the first thing I was wondering when I red your post, as I’m travel with my daughter. It looks amazing here? From what age would you recommend to go for a hike with a kid? Mine is 4 years now.

  3. This could not have come at a better time! I am literally just planning where to base myself for an 8 week work trip to the US and Colorado was where my mind was at! Pinned this so I can revesit when I’m planning what hiking routes I want to do and therefore where I should call home for those 8 weeks.

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