Black Canyon of the Gunnison: have you ever heard of it? Neither had we. It’s one of the hidden gem national parks… it’s tucked away in the middle of nowhere and we hardly encountered any other people during our stay there. We didn’t research anything about it prior to going, which is the proper way to do it in my opinion, because the feeling you get when you drive up to it and get your first look is indescribable.
The canyon is out in the middle of desert/farmland in Colorado. You’ll encounter a whole lot of nothing on your drive there. And then out of nowhere, you come to this place where there is this giant, magnificent hole in the land. It contains the highest cliffs in Colorado. The walls of the canyon were carved by the river below and later widened through wind erosion. There are two separate entrances to the park, each about an hour and a half drive from each other and we did both… but I recommend doing the north rim if you only have time for one!
The campground at the north rim is literally right along the edge of the canyon. It’s inexpensive ($16 but the ranger let us pay $8) and the 13 sites there weren’t even all filled up. There’s a trail that goes around a section of the rim and you feel like you have the whole park to yourself. Gunnison is also supposed to have one of the darkest skies in the US! Unfortunately it began raining at night during our stay so we got all cozy inside the van instead of stargazing.
The south rim is a little more populated than the north. By that, I mean we encountered maybe 30 other people while there. The campgrounds aren’t as epic as the other but if you’re looking to go to the bottom of the canyon, there are a few campsites down by the river. We stayed a night down there and witnessed a gnarly storm where we really got to get a feel of how powerful the wind is. It was easier to believe the canyon was formed partially by the wind after that night. Fair warning though, the road into the bottom is very steep! We had to wake up before the sun to try to make it out because we knew our van would overheat otherwise. Plus side? We were treated to an amazing sunrise when we made it to the top.