Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Top 5 Things to Do at the South Rim

Park Admission

The Black Canyon charges $25 per vehicle for a 7-day pass. See other options here. If you arrive before the gate is staffed, then you can drive right in.

PSA: If you’re entering the park early, watch out for bunnies! I probably saw 60 (not an exaggeration) and most seemed to have a death wish, sprinting across the road at the last minute. As a bunny owner, it was a stressful drive but they all survived!

Top 5 Things to Do

I scoped out everything the South Rim of the Black Canyon has to offer and here are my top 5 recommendations.

1. Painted Wall

This one is iconic for a reason. It’s absolutely breath-taking. You can see this well from both the Painted Wall View and Cedar Point. This site gets crowded during later hours, so I recommend to visit it early. It’s a great spot for sunrise if you’re an early bird. 

Make the short trek out to the overlook and safely peer over the rock edge into the canyon. It’s dizzying! From this height, you can hear the river flowing and see the white areas of rapids but you can’t really tell that the water is moving! Such a cool sight.

Cedar Point also offers two different lookouts with guard rails so you can capture photos at a couple different angles.

Here Comes the Sun_Dani's Drive_Adventure_Black Canyon of the Gunnison_National Park_Colorado_Hiking_United States_US_Travel Journal
Painted Wall at Sunrise
Black Canyon of the Gunnison - Top 5 Things to Do at the South Rim - Colorado - National Park - Dani's Drive - Seek Adventure. Find Simplicity - Gunnison River
Gunnison River
Sunrise Selfie
Here Comes the Sun - Dani's Drive - Adventure - Colorado - Black Canyon of the Gunninson - National Park - United States - US - Hiking - Outdoors - Outside - Seek Adventure. Find Simplicity.
Painted Wall

2. Warner Point Trail

After Painted Wall, continue to the farthest point of the park, High Point. From there, set off on the Warner Point Trail.

Dani’s Drive Tip: save the Warner Trail Guide to your phone to learn some interesting tidbits and some of the history of the park along the way!

This is a mildly hilly trail so there’s some uphill on both the way out and the way back. The trail offers great views into the canyon as well as out toward Montrose. You can even make out Uncompahgre Peak and Mt. Sneffels on a clear day!

While hiking, you may see some campers on their way back up from the canyon floor.

The campers I met reported the two hour hike out is brutal, but worth it! If you’re interested, you need to get a permit to either day hike or camp in the canyon.

Juniper Berries
Black Canyon of the Gunnison - Top 5 Things to Do at the South Rim - Colorado - National Park - Dani's Drive - Seek Adventure. Find Simplicity - Montrose
View Toward Montrose
Black Canyon
Top 5 Things to Do at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park - South Rim - Colorado - Adventure - Travel - Sight Seeing - Shopping - Gift Shop - Warner Point - Painted Wall - East Portal Dam - Oak Flat Loop | Dani's Drive | Seek Adventure. Find Simplicity.
View from Warner Point

3. Gunnison Point

After Warner Point Trail, make your way to the Visitor Center where you’ll find the short trail out to Gunnison Point. This is a cool overlook with some different rock lining the canyon and a good view of the river.

You can also use this opportunity to visit the park shop.

Note: During COVID, the shop had limited hours (10 am – 12:45 pm) and only one group was allowed in at a time so, if those rules are still in effect when you visit, there may be a bit of a wait but sometimes you just want a postcard, ya know!?

Black Canyon of the Gunnison - Top 5 Things to Do at the South Rim - Colorado - National Park - Dani's Drive - Seek Adventure. Find Simplicity - Gunnison Point
View from Gunnison Point

4. Oak Flat Trail

From Gunnison Point, you’re right next to the branch off for Oak Flat Trail. This trail, while not flat, offers a unique perspective as it dips below the rim without going all the way to the canyon floor. Enjoy seeing how much greenery is along the canyon wall and getting a closer view of the river.

With all the trees, the hike is pretty well shaded so it’s okay to do in the hot afternoon sun. 

Dani’s Drive Tip: If you want to prioritize the downhill to be easy on the knees, go clockwise. If you want to prioritize the uphill being more gradual, go counterclockwise.

Gunnison River from Oak Flat Trail

5. East Portal Road

Finally, take East Portal Road down to the bottom of the canyon. This road is paved but it’s lumpy and has some potholes. It is advertised as being very steep but it felt similar to a typical Colorado mountain pass. Use a low gear and go slow.

At the bottom, there is a nice shaded picnic area where you can eat your lunch. It will likely be very peaceful down there with only a couple other people.

Before leaving, drive to the end of the road where it’s gated. On your return, you’ll be treated to a stunning river view. Definition of picturesque! Consider taking up fly fishing just so you can be that guy wading in the water. 😉

Gunnison River from East Portal Road.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison - Top 5 Things to Do at the South Rim - Colorado - National Park - Dani's Drive - Seek Adventure. Find Simplicity - Park Sign
Always have to grab a photo with the sign!

Have More Time?

If you have more time and would like to include some additional views, here’s the order of what I most enjoyed of the remaining sights.

  1. Pulpit Rock
  2. Cross Fissures View
  3. Chasm View
  4. Rim Rock Trail
  5. Sunset View
  6. Dragon Point
  7. Uplands Trail
  8. Tomichi Point
  9. Rock Point
  10. Devils Lookout

Other Details

  • Day visited: Thursday
  • Arrival time: 6 am
  • Park got busy at: 8 am
  • Overall crowds: mild for a National Park. 2-3 cars parked at each site.
  • Shoe recommendation: tennis shoes with good non-cotton socks like this.
  • Download a map of the trails here
  • Restrooms: anywhere on this map with a picnic table icon has a restroom.
Love Dani - Dani's Signature - Dani's Drive

If you enjoy travel stories, you can read about my sunrise adventure at Painted Wall here. Looking for some other things to do in the area? Check out Blue Lakes, Mt. Sneffels, and Crested Butte!

What's your favorite National Park? Leave a comment below!

Pin this Post!



I invite you to join the adventure!
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments