It’s time to plan for a unique, exhilarating camping experience at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park…and we’re here to make it easy! With our Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park camping guide, you have all the info you need to prepare for your adventure. Let’s take a look at what’s in store!
What to Expect At Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
You’ll experience the best of rustic wilderness camping in Black Canyon of the Gunnison! Home to sprawling acreage that boasts some of North America’s most stunning cliffs, bare rock, and spire crags, this park is truly set apart. Campsites here offer a spectacular natural feel and a variety of challenges for both newer and more seasoned campers. You’ll want to come prepared to enjoy the very best of the Colorado wilderness as you camp along the canyon rim!
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Camping
Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, Black Canyon of the Gunnison requires no entry reservation. You’ll find vehicle entrance along South Rim Road from early April to mid-November, and in winter, this road is open to Gunnison Point. The remainder of the road is open for cross country skiing and snowshoeing, but closed to vehicles. Camping in Black Canyon of the Gunnison is allowed only in the designated campgrounds—one on each canyon rim—and in a third campground at the canyon base, which is part of the Curecanti National Recreation Area accessed through the park.
Best Camping Spots
There are three developed campgrounds either in, or accessible through, Black Canyon of the Gunnison—South Rim, North Rim, and East Portal.
South Rim is located 1 mile from the South Rim Visitor Center and contains 88 total sites, 23 of which offer electric hookups (Note: only Loop B offers 20- and 30-amp electric hookups.). These sites are clustered and partially shaded; amenities include potable water, food storage lockers, a seasonal amphitheater, and vault toilets. (Note: Water is shut off during the cold months.)
North Rim provides 13 remote sites with limited service including potable water, vault toilets, and food storage, and are available on a first-come, first-served basis year-round. These sites are on the spacious side and tend to be particularly popular in the summer months on weekends. (Note: The last 7 miles of the North Rim Road and the campground road are unpaved.)
East Portal’s 15 sites are located inside the Curecanti National Recreation Area, but they are adjacent to and only accessible from Black Canyon. This small campground is located at the bottom of the canyon, along the Gunnison River, and is shut down in the winter when the East Portal Road is also closed.
South Rim site reservations can be made online by visiting this website and are bookable for mid-May to mid-September; after that, sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. North Rim and the East Portal are also first-come, first-served.
Things To Do At The Park
Black Canyon is a particularly popular hiking location, with a variety of trails on both the South and North Rims ranging from easy to extremely rugged. These loops and trails offer breathtaking views and plenty of opportunity to witness the nature and beauty of Black Canyon! Note: Due to steep dropoffs and wildlife activity including bears, hikers should always be aware of their surroundings.
In addition to hiking, Black Canyon also offers permits from both Rims for hikers to adventure down into the inner canyon—a wild, rocky trek for prepared explorers. These permits can be obtained day-of (no reservations offered) and allow access down to the canyon floor, where you can explore the river, rock climb, and more!
For those camping in Black Canyon of the Gunnison who are interested in astronomy, Black Canyon is also a certified International Dark Sky Park, making it a perfect place for both budding and seasoned astronomers to observe the beauty of the night sky! And for the intrepid fisherman, the park provides angling opportunities in the Gunnison River, with both catch-and-release (rainbow trout) and bagging (up to 4 daily bag and 8 possession of brown trout) available.
There is an abundance of wildlife you can spot during your Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park camping trip, all of which should be treated with respect and appropriate caution. Rabbits, weasels, deer, sheep, and other flighty mammals share this scenic space with bears, mountain lions, bobcats, and more. There are a myriad of native birds and reptiles in this area as well, so keep an eye out as you hike!
Though many of these creatures are more active in the early morning and evening hours, it’s important to be prepared at all times to encounter them. Read ahead on bear and other animal safety (the park provides some excellent safety tips on their website), and give all wildlife a respectful distance. Do not disturb, approach, or try to feed any animals you may encounter while camping in Black Canyon of the Gunnison; while hiking, make noise frequently to avoid startling animals. Keep your backpack within arm’s reach at all times, particularly when you’re carrying snacks!
Vegetation / Geography
From pinyon and juniper trees to oak flats, from boulders to crags, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison boasts a truly unparalleled picturesque nature, attracting campers from all over to view its majesty. The canyon itself, carved by the Gunnison River, is dotted with hardy brush and wildflowers, and the scenic views are an absolutely breathtaking sight to behold. No matter which rim you camp on, and whether you venture into the canyon itself or not, you’ll be treated to some of the most beautiful sights in Colorado!
Make Sure To Bring
When planning your Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park camping excursion, you’ll want to be exceedingly careful to pack the proper gear and come prepared. Ensure that all camping equipment including your tent, first aid kits, ponchos, food storage, etc. are up to date and in good repair. You will also want to bring appropriate clothing, including layered options and sturdy footwear; fishermen should ensure they have a valid Colorado fishing license and artificial flies or lures (no live bait is allowed).
If you’re planning to venture into the inner canyon, please bring water and food (in a sturdy backpack to prevent tempting bears), layered clothing and rain gear, a map and compass, a first aid kit, sun protection, and a flashlight or headlamp.
Standard park fees apply at Black Canyon of the Gunnison and are as follows:
· 7 Day Vehicle Pass – $30.00
· 7 Day Motorcycle Pass – $25.00
· 7 Day Individual Pass – $15.00 (pedestrian or bicycle)
· Black Canyon Annual Pass – $55.00
Entrance fees cover all persons in a single, private, noncommercial vehicle. Passes can be purchased at the park entrance from April through October or online here.
Boasting a solid 5 out of 5 stars, Black Canyon is praised in particular among campers for its ease of access, welcoming environment, accessibility for campers of all ages (particularly at the South Rim), and its glorious views every step of the way. Considered by most to be a hidden gem of Colorado, camping in Black Canyon of the Gunnison will surely make this a spot you’re practically guaranteed to love!
Wrapping Up Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Camping
Excited for your upcoming camping adventure? We hope you found this Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park camping guide helpful in planning your trip! Let us know what you’re most excited to see and do at this incredible national park!
Check out more places to camp in Colorado here:
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Renee Dugan is a lifelong writer, professional editor, and lover of the great outdoors.
A Midwest girl born and raised, Renee has always enjoyed the deep, life-giving inspiration that connection with nature brings.
In addition to channeling the awe of outdoor life into her prolific novel-writing career, she currently enjoys sharing it with her son and spreading knowledge of safe, fun outdoor life with Beyond the Tent readers and anyone she can help face-to-face.
Renee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org