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Hiking the North Vista Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is located near Crawford, Colorado for the North Rim, and near Montrose, Colorado for the South Rim. To drive from the South to North rim in one day is about a 2-3 hour drive. It’s best to pick one that you are more interested in seeing, so you have more time to explore that one area and fit in a hike. We chose the North Rim because it has the longest trail along the rim – the North Vista Trail. This trail follows the mesa as you get to peer down into the canyon, and also leads to Green Mountain (8,563 ft).

The North Vista Trail is 7 miles round trip, however if you are short on time and want the most bang for you buck, only hike to Exclamation Point, which offers some of the best views of the canyon below. From the summit of Green Mountain you can see the San Juans, the West Elks, Grand Mesa, the Uncompahgre Plateau, and an aerial view of the Black Canyon. Most of the trails in the park have steep drop offs with no railings, so keep an eye on kids. Dogs are not allowed on many of the trails, so it’s best to leave them home for this trip.

The best time of year to visit here is Spring and Fall, when the temperatures are cooler and the trails are dry.
 

From Grand Junction, CO head south on HWY 50. In Delta, UT turn East following HWY 92. In Hotchkiss, CO keep following HWY 92 towards Crawford, CO. Once in Crawford, turn right on Dogwood Ave, then immediate left on Fruitland Mesa Rd. Follow this for 3.2 miles. At the “Y” in the road, continue left on to 7745 Road for 1.2 miles, then turn right on Black Canyon Rd. Turn right again onto Black Canyon Road. By this point you will see the brown National Park signs, which you can follow. In 2 miles turn left onto Black Canyon Rd, then stay on here for another 5 miles until you reach the ranger station, where the North Vista Trail begins. Total driving time from Grand Junction to the North Rim is roughly 1.5-2 hours. The last best place for gas, food, and water is Hotchkiss, CO.

Here is a driving map.

 

Distance: 7 miles RT

Elevation gain: 954 ft

Time: 3-4 hours

Dog friendly? No, dogs are not allowed on this trail

Kid friendly? Yes

Fees/Permits? 

No permit is required to hike this trail but there are entrance fees:

$20 per car (which covers all people in a single, private, noncommercial car and is valid for 7 days)

$15 for motorcyclists

$10 for bicyclists

$80 for an annual National Park Pass (you can’t purchase them at this location but if you already have a pass then it’s free)

Hiking the North Vista Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Entering Black Canyon!

Hiking the North Vista Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

North Rim Ranger Station

Hiking the North Vista Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

 The North Vista Trail starts behind the port-a-potty to the left of the ranger station.

Hiking the North Vista Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

 The trail is very easy to follow. It’s one of the most popular trails in the park.

 

Hiking the North Vista Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

 Pass the official sign!

Hiking the North Vista Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

We got our first glimpse of the canyon only 5 minutes into the hike.

Hiking the North Vista Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

The first overlook is a worthy stop and only takes a few minutes. There’s no official name for it.

Hiking the North Vista Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

“Overlook” – I think they could have come up with a better name like The Deep Canyon Overlook or Question Mark Point haha (in reference to Exclamation Point).

Hiking the North Vista Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Keep hiking past the first overlook, and you’ll see the trail split for Exclamation Point. It takes about 10-15 minutes and is the highlight of the hike, and my favorite as well.

Hiking the North Vista Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Exclamation Point really does live up to it’s name – WOW!

Hiking the North Vista Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

This is definitely one of the best views in the park! Be careful with all the ledges and rocks!

Hiking the North Vista Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

 Eeek! Don’t look down!

Hiking the North Vista Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

 Back on the mail trail, headed for Green Mountain.

Hiking the North Vista Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

You can actually see the summit from Exclamation Point. The summit doesn’t really stand out, but is only another 2 miles from the point and worth the time. If you are super short on time I would only suggest doing the point, then turn around.

Hiking the North Vista Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Hiking up a few steps. Thankfully there was some shade – it was so hot!

Hiking the North Vista Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Working our way up really long switchbacks.

Hiking the North Vista Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Views from the summit.

Hiking the North Vista Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Yay, we made it to Green Mountain! We always have to bag a peak where we go.

Hiking the North Vista Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

It was so hot we took a break in the shade. I stuffed my face while Christa looked at the park brochure and map.

Hiking the North Vista Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

On the way back we stopped by Exclamation Point one more time!

 

Chasm Nature Trail

Miles: 1/2 mile RT

Elevation gain: flat

Time: 15 minutes

Hiking the North Vista Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Chasm Nature Trail

 This is a very short “hike” – dogs are allowed on this trail but must be leashed. Bring water as there is little shade on this walk. This would be a great walk for little kids as there are railings and the walk is very short.

Hiking the North Vista Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Chasm Nature Trail

 The main overlook into the canyon.

Hiking the North Vista Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Chasm Nature Trail

WOW! That is Exclamation Point on the other side, where we just were.

Hiking the North Vista Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Chasm Nature Trail

Dayum, Black Canyon, you surprised us with your beauty! We were really impressed by this national park!

Campground 

Hiking the North Vista Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, North Rim Campground

All sites are $16/night, and there are only 13 campsites. They are big enough for most RVs. Read more about camping on the North Rim here. Thanks random person for letting me take a photo of your tent!

 

Trail map

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Hiking the North Vista Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

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