DIRECTIONS: From Crawford, CO, head south on Highway 92. Just south of Crawford State Park (3 miles south of Crawford), turn west on Black Canyon Road. Follow the road signs to the park. The last 7 miles are not paved but most vehicles should be able to make it in decent weather. The trail starts at the North Rim Ranger Station.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is one of the most magnificent places in the entire State of Colorado. It's one of those National Parks that makes your jaw drop time and time again. There is no better place to take in the grandeur of Black Canyon then from the North Rim.
The North Rim of the canyon is more primitive than the south rim. There is no visitor center, no paved roads, and far fewer people. In addition, the views from the rim are even more spectacular than from the South Rim. The North Vista Trail to Exclamation Point is a terrific way to experience the canyon from above.
The trail is relatively easy (my kids had no problem with the 3 mike hike) and visits numerous viewpoints in addition to Exclamation Point which is one of the best views in the park.
The trail stars at the North Rim Ranger's Station and travels across the juniper and sage brush landscape as it winds it's way slowly to the canyon rim. The views are not immediate on this trail, instead you get teased a bit with far off views of the canyon, building the anticipation for when you finally reach the edge of the canyon at the first viewpoint.
ote that many maps show two short side trails to viewpoints...we only found one viewpoint before Exclamation Point. The first viewpoint features a look across the canyon at an incredible sheer rock face plummeting 2,500 ft to the Gunnison River below. The view is amazing but hold onto your little ones...there are no guard rails here...
Back on the main trail the views improve on the second leg of this hike. The trail also snakes back into the forest for a short time before reaching the trail junction, turn left to reach Exclamation Point. As you hike along a side canyon the views immediately open up. A small loop trail gives you the tour of this point. I suggesting hiking in a counter clockwise direction. The views from Exclamation Point are tremendous and it's hard to describe it in words...just check out the photos in the gallery. My favorite views come from the eastern side of Exclamation Point where the Gunnison River can be seem breaking through the canyon. Absolutely breathtaking....
Your return trip follows the same trail back to the Ranger Station. If you want a longer hike, you can continue on the North Vista Trail for another 2.5 miles to the summit of Green Mountain, I'll surely return for that hike... This is one of the longer hikes in the park and possibly the most scenic, it's a hidden gem among National Park System hikes and won't disappoint.
Pro tip...stay at the North Rim Campground when visiting the park, the sites are first come first served but snag campsite #5 if you can. The view of the canyon and the Painted Wall from just behind the site is one of the best views in the park...here's a photo:
HIKES BY REGION
NATIONAL PARK HIKES
- BENT'S OLD FORT NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
- BLACK CANYON OF THE GUNNISON NATIONAL PARK
- COLORADO NATIONAL MONUMENT
- CURECANTI NATIONAL RECREATION AREA
- DINOSAUR NATIONAL MONUMENT
- FLORISSANT FOSSIL BEDS NATIONAL MONUMENT
- MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK
- ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
- GREAT SAND DUNES NATIONAL PARK
- HOVENWEEP NATIONAL MONUMENT
- SAND CREEK MASSACRE NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
- YUCCA HOUSE NATIONAL MONUMENT
- HIKES BY CATEGORY
- $UPPORT GHC
- INTERACTIVE MAP
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Date Hiked: June 19, 2020
Distance: 3 mi (RT);
Elevation Gain: 200 ft:
Elevation Min/Max: 7,606 7,698 ft
Trailhead Lat/Long: 38.58880, -107.70741
Managing Agency: National Park Service