Saturday & Sunday, May 19-20, 2018
Since Diane and I went to a concert on Friday night and stayed out later than normal, we decided to stay closer to home this weekend and went on an easy and relaxing overnight camping trip to the North Rim of the Black Canyon of The Gunnison National Park. It has been a while since the last time I visited the North Rim and figured it was time to go back, especially since Diane had never been there before. It felt a little weird staying in Colorado for the weekend since I’m used to driving into Utah this time of the year, but with rising temperatures in the desert and the snow melting in the mountains, I’ll probably be staying in Colorado more often now until the fall.
We woke up late on Saturday morning, packed our camping gear into the Jeep and then headed out to the Black Canyon. When we arrived it was much busier on this side of the park than I was expecting, so we headed right to the campground to see if there were any available sites. Lucky for us, there were a couple of campsites still available, so we grabbed one and setup our tent. The campground was nice and shady in an old growth pinyon and juniper forest, although the sites were a little closer together than I would have liked. The temperature at this elevation was also very nice and there were no bugs around at all! It was nice just to sit and relax in camp for a change. After setting up camp we hopped on our bikes and rode the gravel North Rim Road so we could visit the overlooks located along it.
Welcome to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
Diane ahead of me riding the gravel North Rim Road.
Diane at the Island Peaks View overlook.
Looking down on the Gunnison River from Big Island View.
Headed back to camp after visiting the overlooks along the road.
After riding our bikes for a few hours with a few short hikes mixed in, we returned to camp for an early dinner and spent much of the rest of the afternoon just relaxing in camp. We did go for one short hike on the Chasm View Nature Trail which is located right next to the campground. While we were in camp there were storm clouds building around us and a few stronger gusts of wind here and there, but it never actually rained.
We spent a few hours of our afternoon just reading, resting and relaxing at our campsite in the pinyon and juniper forest of the North Rim Campground. It was pretty nice and a change of pace for us.
Here’s a view of the canyon from the overlook located right behind our campsite as darker storm clouds started to move into the area.
Looking straight down to the Gunnison River below.
A little while before sunset, I grabbed my camera and tripod and we hiked the North Vista Trail over to Exclamation Point so I could try to photograph sunset. With all the storm clouds around I was hoping for a colorful one!
Following the North Vista Trail into the Black Canyon of the Gunnison Wilderness.
There were plenty of Mules Ears mixed in with the sagebrush along the trail.
Our first view from Exclamation Point.
Nice warm light on the rim of the canyon shortly before sunset.
A look into the deep chasm below.
When is started to drizzle on and off a little, we made sure to keep our eyes open for a rainbow. Lucky for us, one appeared above Vernal Mesa on the South Rim of the canyon!
The colors at sunset were short-lived, but they were pretty spectacular when they occurred.
The last light of the day over the Black Canyon.
Once the colors of sunset faded it started to rain on us, so we quickly packed up our gear and hiked back to camp. The rain didn’t last long and we were dry by the time we got back. We went right to bed so I could wake up early the next morning to photograph the soft light of dawn from the overlook right behind our campsite.
I woke up early on Sunday as planned and was able to photograph the Painted Wall about twenty minutes before the sun came up and before there was too much contrast between the light and shadows of the canyon.
The Painted Wall at dawn on Sunday morning.
I think this photo really shows just how deep this canyon really is!
Looking into the canyon from the Chasm View overlook just after sunrise.
After the sun was up I returned to camp and we packed up our gear into my Jeep. Then we drove to the opposite end of the North Rim Road to the Kneeling Camel Viewpoint so we could hike the Deadhorse Trail before leaving the park.
Another view of the Gunnison River from the Kneeling Camel Viewpoint before we started our hike.
Thankfully there were plenty of wildflowers along the trail, because there wasn’t much else to see along the way, aside from sagebrush.
Here’s a view from the Deadhorse Trail Overlook at the end of the trail.
We returned to the trailhead after hiking about five miles and then left the park so we could start our drive back home. On the way we made one last stop to visit the Eagle Rock Shelter, which I had only been to once before during a float of the Gunnison River.
The Eagle Rock Shelter
Some of the better petroglyphs found at the Eagle Rock Shelter.