November 15, 2017
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is one of Colorado's lesser known National Parks. In 2016 it received 238,000 visitors, compared to 4.5 million visitors at it's more famous big brother, Rocky Mountain National Park.
Don't let the numbers fool you, just because it has fewer visitors does not mean it lacks in activities.
One of the more adventurous and rewarding things to do in the park is to hike or backpack down into the canyon itself. There are several routes, also known as draws, that will take you down the canyon to the Gunnison River, which formed the impressive rock formation over the course of millions of years. These routes are not for the faint of heart. They seem to go almost straight down and are unmarked and unmaintained. The vertical nature of these routes make them extremely strenuous and requires excellent physical condition along with experience. The canyon also contains high populations of poison ivy, make sure to be aware of what you are walking through and grabbing onto. Long sleeves and pants are highly recommended.
If these warnings don't scare you off the payoff is well worth the effort. Being in the bottom of the immense and beautiful canyon can be overwhelmingly beautiful. Looking up at the top of the canyon while you catch your breath gives a great feeling of accomplishment, along with some fear of the hike back up. You will enjoy a serene campsite, hearing only the river running next to your tent as you fall asleep. The Black Canyon also offers hiking, camping, rafting, kayaking, fishing, cross-country skiing, rock climbing, and scenic drives with spectacular pull-offs. The park is a certified International Dark Sky Park so make sure to take in the brilliant night sky. It is an amazing challenge that will lead to an unforgettable trip.
To attempt one of these inner canyon hikes you must first obtain a free wilderness use permit from the visitor center. The permits are issued on a first come first serve basis and are limited to maintain sustainable usage. To learn more about the inner canyon routes, the regulations, and other information; visit: //www.nps.gov/blca/planyourvisit/hikinginnercanyon.htm
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