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Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park - a Colorado Camping Destination for the Active Camper
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is a spectacular park located in Colorado. Although the park only includes 14 miles of the 53-mile long canyon, they are the deepest and most striking areas are within the Park. Named a National Monument in 1933, it was upgraded to a National Park in 1999.
The Gunnison River drops at an average of 95 feet per mile, making it one of the steepest mountain drops in North America. At its steepest spot, Chasm View, the river drops at an incredible 240 feet per mile. In contrast, the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon drops an average of only 7.5 miles per mile. The depth of the canyon makes it difficult for light to penetrate down to the bottom giving the mountain walls a shadowy, black appearance, and its name: Black Canyon. Because of its structure, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park has become a center for advanced rock climbing. Its steep walls are a challenge for even the most advanced climbers and is definitely not for beginners.
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The weather in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park varies greatly from the canyon rim to the floor. Temperatures on a summer day range anywhere between 60 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and decline the further into the canyon you go. Winter day temperatures range between 20 and 40, while night temps can drop as low as -10 to -20 degrees.
There are two entrances into the park, the south rim and the north rim. The north rim is often closed in winter due to snow while the south rim is open year round. There is a $15 entrance fee which is valid for 7 days. An annual Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park pass is $30. An interagency annual pass that grants access into most national parks is $80. Free permits are required for rock climbing, all river uses, backpacking and hiking the inner canyon or off established trails. Permits are first come first served. No permits are needed for hiking established trails.
For the adventurous and experienced rock climbers, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park offers some very challenging climbs. The climbing at this Park is often described as traditional. The majority of climbing is done on the North and South Chasm walls, where the depth of the canyon reaches 1,820 ft. The Park has around 145 climbs, all of which are multi-pitch traditional climbs and range 5.8 or higher in difficulty. Peak climbing season is mid-April through early June.
For the less extreme campers, there are many beautiful hikes ranging from an easy 2/3-mile round trip hike along Cedar Point to a strenuous 2-mile round trip hike on Pak Flat Loop Trail. An easy to moderate 5-mile round trip hike along Deadhorse Trail offers wonderful views of Deadhorse Gulch and the Gunnison River. It is also perfect for bird watching. For more adventurous and prepared hikers, an off-trail quest into the inner canyon rewards beautiful and unique up close and personal views of the canyon. Hikers should be in excellent condition, obtain the proper free permits, and be prepared with basic necessities, such as at least 4 quarts of water, sturdy hiking boots, and rain gear as afternoon thunder storms are possible. Wild life such as elk, coyotes, badgers and long tail weasels call the park home, along with many other animals, birds and plant life. Many water activities such as kayaking water rafting are doable, as is cross country skiing in winter. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park has plenty to offer everyone, but is certainly a great treat for those looking for Colorado camping in a more physical environment.
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