5 Ways to Experience the Black Canyon in Winter

Updated: Jan 29, 2019


Black Canyon of the Gunnison #NationalPark is truly amazing, but it doesn’t get nearly the number of visitors of some other parks, and winter is the slowest time of year. While there are plenty of opportunities to experience this beautiful park in #winter, we round up five of our favorites



1. On a ranger-led snowshoe tour

Ranger-guided programs are designed to help you get started when it comes to experiencing the snow. Snowshoe walks are scheduled for every Saturday until March 2 at 10 am and 1 pm. No special skills are needed to participate and snowshoes are available to use, free of charge, for these programs. Reservations are required and cabe made by calling (970) 249-1914, ext. 423. *Programs are dependent on snow conditions


2. At night

The Black Canyon is an International Dark Sky Park and winter is a great time to stargaze. The Winter Night Skies program has an event on March 2 at 7 pm, and rangers and astronomers with the Black Canyon Astronomical Society will be on hand to help you learn more about the night sky. The evening starts with a special program inside the visitor center followed by night sky viewing with telescopes. Call (970) 249-1914, ext. 423 to check if the program is running, particularly if the weather looks cloudy. And be prepared for cold weather!


3. On a groomed Nordic ski trail

South Rim Drive is not plowed during the winter months to offer visitors the opportunity to cross country ski along it. The six-mile (one way) trail offers access to the overlooks. Park at the South Rim Visitor Center located at Gunnison Point.



4. Explore the canyon rim

If snow is plentiful, snowshoers can trek on the upper part of Oak Flat Loop and Rim Rock Trail, both of which offer amazing views of the canyon. Trails can be slippery and drop-offs are steep, so be extremely careful. Snowshoeing is encouraged in any part of the canyon’s rim, but going into the inner canyon is not recommended. For beginner trails consider snowshoeing next to the groomed Nordic skiing trails on South Rim Drive.


5. Camping

If you decide to hunker down in the park for the evening you’re almost guaranteed to be completely alone. South Rim Campground Loop A is open throughout the winter, however there are no facilities are available, meaning you’ll have to carry in everything you need - including water. Generators are allowed in the campground during the winter months. If you dare (and several people do each winter), backcountry camping along the closed South Rim Drive is permitted beyond Pulpit Rock Overlook; a free wilderness permit* is required.


Insider info

  • Entrance to the park is free throughout winter, but East Portal access road and North Rim Road are both closed until snow clears in the spring.

  • Various ranger-led events happen throughout winter including snowshoe hikes*. Check the park website for full details.

  • The North Rim (accessed via the north entrance near Paonia) is far less visited in winter so solitude is nearly guaranteed. The road is closed so the only way to get in is to hike. Call the visitor center* to get tips on the best way to explore this part of the park in winter.

  • Camping is allowed in Loop A, but no facilities are open

  • Dogs are not permitted along South Rim Drive in winter.

  • No snowshoes? The visitor center has a limited supply that are free to use between 9 am and 4 pm*.

  • There are no water taps available during the colder months so come prepared with more water than you think you'll need


*DISCLAIMER: Be prepared for extreme winter weather and if in doubt, always play it safe. There is no cell phone service at the park.


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