To say that the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is underrated is an understatement. I realized this as I stood in a hotel lobby in Gunnison Colorado, a mere 1 hour away from the national park. As I checked out the clerk asked me what I was going to do for the day. I told her I would be visiting the Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park. She responded “Oh I’ve never heard of that”. Wait, what? We will give her the benefit of the doubt that she was new to the area.
When I arrived to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park I was greeted by a friendly park ranger at the south rim fee station. She saw the two black and tan dogs who were traveling with me and stated “oh you’re in luck, our park is very dog friendly. Dogs are welcome on all of the pullouts along the scenic drive.” I smiled and nodded assuming these pullouts were just that, a pullout off the side of the road. I did not think it was a big deal as letting the dogs out of the car next to a busy road was not my idea of dog friendly.
Probably the most famous spot of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison is Tomichi Point. This spot is notated as having the only dog friendly trail, Rim Rock Trail, in the park. I harnessed up Boomer and Jovi and took them along the Rim Rock Trail heading towards the south rim campground. The trail traces the rim of the canyon, foreshadowing what we were about to see, as we progressed throughout the park.
The trail was dirt, narrow and rocky, which lent itself to some challenges of hanging on to two dogs as they towed me along the trail. The trail is fairly short, about a mile in length spanning from the campground to the south rim visitors center. Tomichi Point is about half way between the two ends of the trail. We arrived around late afternoon which gave us decent photos of the canyon, although earlier in the day probably would have been better as there would be less shadow casting.
After taking some photos of the canyon I loaded the dogs back up into the car and we proceeded down the south rim road. It was mid-afternoon and weather had been sketchy most of day. I did not want to loose the daylight or chance a rain shower. As we continued down the drive, pulling off at the different lookouts, I kept noticing dog friendly signs. The pullouts were not really pullouts, but parking lots with a short trail leading to the overlook. It suddenly clicked in my dim little head that the ranger was in fact right, the park was dog friendly and that my dogs were allowed to join me on the trails out to the overlooks.
We visited in late April so park traffic was fairly light. This made for a nice visit as we never had to squish our car into parking spots or stand in line waiting for “the shot”. At the Chasm Viewpoint I left the dogs in the car and walked down to the overlook. I took some photos without having to hold on to two dogs and steady a camera. I was so impressed by the view that I went back to get the dogs to let them have a look.
When I returned a solo traveler woman was at the overlook and stopped to pet the dogs. She chuckled at the absurdity as I had told her that I enjoyed the overlook so much that I went back to get my dogs so they could see the viewpoint too. She said with a chuckle “let me know what they think”. I shrugged off her mocking comment and walked the dogs to the best viewing spot for their short little legs. The dogs were clearly engaged in what they were looking at and the woman noticed in astonishment, even saying “wow, they really are looking at the canyon”. I nodded and smiled, as I knew before I had even brought the dogs to the viewpoint that they would in be interested.
Dogs may not be able to verbally communicate but they are usually curious about what they are looking at. I may sound like a crazy dog person, reading into the dogs thoughts, but you probably already knew that. Who in their right mind travels solo with two dogs anyway? A crazy dog person, that’s who.
The south rim road dead ends at High Point, at 8289 ft (2523 m). Although the scenic drive had ended the Warner Point trail carried on. This is a non-dog friendly trail however. Fortunately it was a cool day, so I parked in the shade, cracked the windows and gave the dogs a bowl of water. A sign at the trail head stated that the viewpoint was 1373 yards away.
All of the signs at the overlooks were in feet. That made sense as majority of the overlooks were a few hundred feet away from the road. I did find it strange that the hiking trail distance was in yards and not miles because really who knows how far 1373 yards is? It is about .75 of a mile or 1.2 km for any of you non-math wizards. The confusion about the distance of the trail was often validated by passing by hikers asking “how much further?” or “am I almost there?”
Speaking of the end of the trail, you should make every effort to walk that 1373 yards. The end of the trail gives you a panoramic view of the canyon along with the Gunnison River trailing through the gorge. Warner Point is jaw-dropping. Considering the sparseness of people throughout the park this trail was fairly populated, which I did not really mind. I prefer to hike on a trail with lots of people just in case something happens to me. Like twisting an ankle, then there are people around to help out.
After finishing the 1373 yards of Warner Point Trail I stopped at the south rim visitor center. I took the dogs out for the remainder of the rim rock trail from the visitor center back to Tomichi Point. We sat and soaked in the views while I tried to capture a photo of both Boomer and Jovi looking out over the canyon. You can assume this did not go well. Wrangling two dogs into a camera ready pose happens about as often as a blue moon.
This National Park is really stunning and I feel flies under the radar. This park may be overshadowed by the nearby fame stealers Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park in Utah. The Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park is located near the town of Montrose. We stayed at a KOA for the night while enjoying a pretty good beer scene. It’s Colorado so that was not really surprising as Colorado knows a thing or two about making great beer!
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