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The North Rim of the Black Canyon

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.

Black Canyon of The Gunnison National Park

Diane ahead of me riding the gravel North Rim Road.

Gravel Road Riding

Diane at the Island Peaks View overlook.

Island Peaks View

Looking down on the Gunnison River from Big Island View.

Big Island View

Headed back to camp after visiting the overlooks along the road.

North Rim 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.

North Rim Campsite

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.

View Behind Camp

Looking straight down to the Gunnison River below.

The Gunnison River

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.

Into The Wild

There were plenty of Mules Ears mixed in with the sagebrush along the trail.

Centered Flower

Our first view from Exclamation Point.

Exclamation Point

Nice warm light on the rim of the canyon shortly before sunset.

Black Canyon Evening

A look into the deep chasm below.

Deep Chasm

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!

Black Canyon Rainbow

The colors at sunset were short-lived, but they were pretty spectacular when they occurred.

Black Canyon Sunset

The last light of the day over the Black Canyon.

Last Light Over the 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.

The Painted Wall

I think this photo really shows just how deep this canyon really is!

The Depths

Looking into the canyon from the Chasm View overlook just after sunrise.

Chasm View

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.

The Black Canyon

Thankfully there were plenty of wildflowers along the trail, because there wasn’t much else to see along the way, aside from sagebrush.

Yellow Wildflowers

Here’s a view from the Deadhorse Trail Overlook at the end of the trail.

Deadhorse Trail Overlook

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

Eagle Rock Shelter

Some of the better petroglyphs found at the Eagle Rock Shelter.

Eagle Rock Shelter Petroglyphs

>> The North Rim of the Black Canyon Photo Gallery


  1. Dianne
    Dianne May 22, 2018

    Growing up on the southern coastal plain of Alabama, I cherished every single rock I found when prowling around plowed fields and river banks. A few had fossils and
    the rest were pretty nondescript. There just weren’t very many anywhere. Even the sandy fields were comprised of eroded Appalachian mountains. We swam in the Gulf of Mexico and emerged on to sandy beaches of eroded quartz.
    I guess that is one reason I love the Southwest.
    However, this posting shows extremely rugged territory, and the rocks appear
    very sharp and weathered. That is, except for the Eagle Rock area. Amazing gorges
    and chasms. You two just take it all on! Amazing areas. Thanks for posting. You
    show us areas I probably will never attempt to see.
    I love me some rocks!!!

  2. Roger Gamble
    Roger Gamble May 22, 2018

    Where are the pictures from the bottom looking up?!! Beautiful pics!!

  3. Patricia Bufkin
    Patricia Bufkin February 7, 2022

    Mr Langstraat,
    May I please have your permission to paint this beautiful captured piece of black canyon that you photographed? Best regards, Patricia Artist1 studios.

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat February 7, 2022

      Patricia, yes you have my permission to paint my photos of the Black Canyon. Thanks for asking!

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