We left Moab, heading north to intersect I-70 before turning east and crossing into Colorado. Shortly thereafter we turned south off the interstate for an hour’s drive to the South Rim entry road for Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Never heard of it, you say? You and most people not from Colorado. Until we started route planning we hadn’t either, but it is another jewel that truly deserves national park status and your consideration for a visit if you are anywhere near the area.
Black Canyon is like a half sized Grand Canyon, but with completely different geological development and thus a very different look to it. Whereas much of the Grand Canyon’s depth is the result of the Colorado River eroding through sandstone and limestone, the Black Canyon developed through a much more turbulent river cutting through much harder rock. The result is a very steep, very deep canyon with some of the gorge receiving only 33 minutes of sunlight a day. The park area is covered with a much greater amount of trees and foliage than the Grand Canyon, adding to the distinct appearance.
What Black Canyon of the Gunnison does not have is crowds. Little known and less attended, we took a two mile hike on one of the most popular trails and encountered one other pair the entire time. Wildlife was plentiful, we spotted rabbits, two snakes, several mule deer, and of course, plenty of squirrels and chipmunks. Back in the campground, as evening approached, the mule deer were everywhere, with two does and three fawns a near constant presence in our loop.
The campground area contains three loops, only one of which has electrical hook ups, and none have water hookups, though a bottle fill station is available. We were unable to secure reservations at the place, but could tell from the online system that several first come, first serve sites were available, and our worst case would entail drycamping during our two day stay. We were fortunate enough to grab one of the last electrical spots our first day, though we would have to vacate it the next. An early morning stroll before moving to the drycamping loop revealed a no show at one of the other electrical spots, so we snagged that for night two.
The sites were relatively level and spacious with plenty of foliage, though the trees are all short so while shade for siting is available, very few sites will provide shade for an RV except during the morning and evening. All sites had a fire pit and a picnic table, and we took advantage of both during our evenings.
Like most of the other national parks that lack a shuttle system, a tow vehicle would have allowed a much greater amount of exploration, and might have convinced us to stay longer, but we have no regrets about coming.