South Rim Road

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Sawatch Range + Elk Mountains, Colorado

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South Rim Road

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  • The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is composed of quartz monzonite, with streaks of pink pegmatite.- South Rim Road
  • The Black Canyon of the Gunnison, seen from the Painted Wall Overlook.- South Rim Road
  • Long shadows encompass much of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison for almost the entire day.- South Rim Road
  • The depths of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison as seen from Sunset View.- South Rim Road
  • A rocky prominence at Sunset View in Black Canyon of the Gunnison.- South Rim Road
  • A picnic area at Sunset View at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.- South Rim Road
  • The Gunnison River at the base of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, viewed from the Painted Wall Overlook.- South Rim Road
  • Cliffs of quartz monzonite at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, viewed from the Painted Wall Overlook.- South Rim Road
  • The overlook at Chasm View on the south rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.- South Rim Road
  • The Black Canyon of the Gunnison as seen from Chasm View on the south rim.- South Rim Road
  • A prominence near the Rock Point Overlook in Black Canyon of the Gunnison.- South Rim Road
  • Overlooking the vertiginous depths of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison at Rock Point Overlook.- South Rim Road
  • Picnic tables on the edge of a cliff at Pulpit Rock in Black Canyon of the Gunnison.- South Rim Road
  • The Pulpit Rock Overlook at Black Canyon of the Gunnison, a peninsula of solid ground that lends the overlook its name.- South Rim Road
  • The Black Canyon of the Gunnison as seen from the Pulpit Rock Overlook.- South Rim Road
  • A short trail on a knife's edge, leading to the Pulpit Rock Overlook at Black Canyon of the Gunnison.- South Rim Road
  • Looking west from the Painted Wall Overlook at Black Canyon of the Gunnison.- South Rim Road
  • A short trail to the Pulpit Rock Overlook at Black Canyon of the Gunnison.- South Rim Road
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Canyon views. Well developed. Interesting geology.
Cons: 
None.
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Region:
Sawatch Range + Elk Mountains, CO
Congestion: 
High
Pets allowed: 
Yes, with restrictions
Parking Pass: 
National Park Pass
Preferable Season(s):
Summer
Current Local Weather:
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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

Contributor

Like the Grand Canyon, the south rim of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is better developed and more accessible to visitors than the north rim. Its roads are paved, it features several more overlooks, trails, and interpretive trails, a full-service visitor center and an expansive campground. In addition, parts of the park that are generally off-limits to travelers on the north rim—Red Rock Canyon in particular—can be accessed from the south rim via backcountry access trails.

There are a total of 12 viewpoints accessible from South Rim Road, including Sunset View, Dragon Point, Cedar Point, Painted Wall and Chasm views, Devils Lookout, Rock Point, Cross Fissures View, Pulpit Rock Overlook, Gunnison Point, Tomichi Point, and two viewpoints along Oak Flat Trail near the visitor center. Much longer than the North Rim Road, the South Rim Road and its overlooks offer views that penetrate the canyon farther east and west than those along the north rim, and because of its northerly orientation, the picturesque quartz monzonite and its pink striations will be fully illuminated during the day.

Geologically, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison offers an interesting counterpart to the Grand Canyon. In places just a thousand feet wide and still as much as 2,700 feet deep, the hardness of quartz monzonite prevents the canyon walls of the Black Canyon from crumbling. In addition, the Gunnison River has a steep gradient, falling an average of 95 feet per mile within the park, cutting the canyon ever deeper, as it has for two million years, and creating a cacophony in the process. Campers who brave the short, steep trails to the canyon floor should carry earplugs, which will ease the roar of the river at night.

The South Rim Road also features the Warner Point Nature Trail, an interpretive trail that describes the flora of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and allows access to the Warner Route to the canyon floor. Other canyon floor routes include the Tomichi Route and the Gunnison Route, near the visitor center and the most popular of the access routes. A triad of short trails circumnavigate the visitor center as well, including Oak Flat Trail and Rim Rock Trail, which connects the visitor center to the sprawling South Rim Campground.

Note: In Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, pets on leash may be walked on roads, in campgrounds, to the overlooks, and are allowed on the Rim Rock Trail, Cedar Point Nature Trail, and North Rim Chasm View Nature Trail. Pets are not allowed on any other hiking trails, inner canyon routes or in the wilderness area.

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Nearby Camping + Lodging

(5 within a 30 mile radius)

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(9 within a 30 mile radius)

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