Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

I returned to Denver in late September 2018 to visit my friends Elizabeth and Lauren. We decided to go to the Great American Beer Festival again. We had attended in 2016 and had a great time. So I drove out to Denver a day early and spent the night with them. We did the member session from 12-4 at the convention center and stayed downtown for the night. After all our day-drinking, we returned to Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs. I “discovered” this on my own when I was staying in downtown Denver in 2016. Lauren and Elizabeth, despite living there, hadn’t tried it, so we all went together after the festival. Get the cherry and habanero infused Jack-a-lope dog with the Biker Jim’s classic topping. Delicious!

Great American Beer Festival
Elizabeth, Lauren and me at the GABF
Elizabeth, Lauren and me, GABF
Jack-a-lope dog, from Biker Jim’s

In 2016, I had spent 4 days in Rocky Mountain National Park and this year I decided to take some additional time to drive down to Black Canyon of the Gunnison. It is about a 5-hour drive from Denver.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a fairly new addition to the National Parks list. It’s been a monument since 1933 but only became a park in 1999.

I spent 4 nights at a motel in Montrose, on the south rim of the canyon. Like the Grand Canyon, there are sites and campgrounds on both the north and south rims and long drives to get to both.

I arrived late afternoon and had dinner at Horsefly Brewing up the street from my motel. It’s a nice place to sit outside with your dog, so Boo joined me. I had a flight of several of their beers with dinner. I spent all day Monday and Wednesday in the park on the south rim. I did the Rim Rock Nature Trail, Cedar Point Nature Trail, and Warner Point Nature Trail over those two days. I attended several ranger talks, Geology in the Park at the Rim Rock trail and the Chasm View Ranger Talk. This is a daily talk at 1030 and the topics vary. The day I was there it was about coyotes and other predators in the park.

I drove the entire South Rim road and stopped at Gunnison Point, Chasm View, Painted Wall and Sunset View.

On Tuesday I drove to the North Rim and did the Chasm View Nature Trail (there is a Chasm view overlook on the south rim where the ranger talks take place) and the North Vista Trail out to Exclamation Point. The walls on the north rim are almost vertical compared to the south and the viewpoints along the drive are gorgeous. Get out at all of them to enjoy the beautiful views. I drove to the north rim from the west but took the scenic route east through the Gunnison National Forest and Curecanti National Recreation Area to return to Montrose. I was there late September, so the fall colors were impressive. Birch trees were deep yellow gold and there was lots of red against the dark green of the pines and junipers. It made for a beautiful drive back to Montrose.

I went to the south rim again to attend another Ranger talk with Ranger Paul on soundscapes. He talked about all the natural sounds we may hear in the park, the animals, birds and other sounds. We discussed noise pollution and why silence is truly golden. Turn off the music, stop talking and listen to the wind and water.

That night I stopped in Colorado Boy for a mini chicken-chili pizza and a flight of their beers. The Irish Red and Black Canyon Dark Ale were both particularly good.

Wednesday morning I drove the East Portal Road. This is steep with hairpin turns but takes you to the canyon floor. It is not recommended for trailers or RVs. You can see the dam and there are historical markers about the Gunnison Tunnel that was built from 1905 to 1909.

That afternoon I spent some time in Montrose and went to the Ute Indian Museum. This was a wonderful small museum, and I spent several hours learning about the history of the Ute tribe and their history in the area.

Gunnison is part of the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA). I attended the Astronomy talk with Ranger Laura Wednesday night at 1830 then followed that up with the Night Sky Viewing & Constellation Tour with Ranger Ted, one of the many volunteers who help maintain our parks. We took turns with his telescope and viewed Mars, Saturn, its rings and moon of Titan. We saw Jupiter, its rings and moons of Io, Europa and Calisto. Then we got to view the Hercules cluster of stars. It was quite impressive; we had a beautiful clear sky. Earlier in the day I had earned my Junior Ranger Night Explorer patch, with glow in the dark stars!

Boo was able to join me on most of the walks and viewpoints. There was one trail off the East Portal Road that he wasn’t allowed on.

I highly recommend this beautiful park. Other parks in Colorado are the Rocky Mountain National Park, just NW of Denver, and easy to visit in combination with the city. Mesa Verde, in the extreme southwest corner of Colorado is a great historical park with ancient Puebloan cliff dwellings. My daughter and I visited when returning home from visiting the national parks in southern Utah. The Great Sand Dunes NP is also a newer park, like the Black Canyon. It has been a monument since 1932 but just became a park in 2004. I’ve not yet visited this park.

At the park entrance
North Rim
Black Canyon
North Rim looking to the painted wall
East Portal Road, South Rim
Chasm view on the North Rim
Boo enjoying the hikes
North Rim
North Rim
North Rim, Boo didn’t want to pose for the camera but also I needed to keep him away from the edges
North Rim, handsome Boo
North Rim
Ranger badges and patches

 

** All photos property of Lisa, not to be copied or reproduced **

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