In all honesty, we really didn’t know anything about Black Canyon. The only feature of the Black Canyon I had ever heard of was the “Painted Wall”. I had seen a few pictures of the epic cliff face, but never really dove into any other info about the area. We just kind of showed up without really having expectations one way or the other.
The few days before we got there had been super rainy, causing the snow to be a funky mix of slush. It was kind of tricky to walk around in – especially when you are strapped into a pair of 25-cent-garage-sale snowshoes! Madison is a trooper.
We joined our good friends Jen and Brady Groves at the visitor’s center and jumped on a ranger-led hike as soon as we got there. We scored the sickest ranger in the whole park system! Seriously, Nick was the man and had a serious passion for protecting our public lands.
As you can see from the photos, there was a pretty intense inversion going on in the canyon! With the clouds down in the valley, we couldn’t see the river from the rim. At first we were kind of sad about it, but then Nick, being the hard-core hero that he is, suggested we take the Oak Flat nature trail that would get us a little lower to try and see into the actual canyon itself.
We got down to the lower level and were blessed with a gap in the fog! We stood at the overlook for almost half an hour, and we just watched the fog roll out and the roll right back in. It was almost as if someone told mother nature that we had arrived and were waiting for a sneak peak of the canyon. It was incredible – it felt like the canyon was aware of us.
What was cool to me though, even though we couldn’t see the river from up above, we knew it was raging below us because of the sound! I can’t imagine how loud the river would be inside the canyon. It has to be deafening.
In the winter, it is pretty difficult to hike down to the river. The trail apparently gets pretty treacherous. But, it is apparently very doable in the summer! I think that means we will have to come back some day when The Bean has grown a bit!
We had three days scheduled for Black Canyon, and on our second day we got completely fogged out. There was absolutely zero chance to be able to see the other side of the canyon that day – I mean, we could barely see the kitty three feet away from the RV. We spent a lot of time inside the RV, goofing off with the kitty and playing National Park themed Yahtzee.
That night we the rains came – which was a blessing because it cleared out a lot of the fog. We went into town to try a Nepalese places that came highly recommended. It was delicious, and like usual, we ate way too much!
Our last day in the park was sunny and nice! We woke up so excited to get out and get to the Painted Wall overlook. Since the park road was closed for the winter, we set off on the packed snow to hike the four miles out to the point. We didn’t even need snowshoes to get out there! The snow was pretty packed and froze pretty stiff the night before. So the hiking was very easy on the way out.
We stopped at a handful of canyon overlooks on our way out to the Painted Wall. Some of them gave us a great view of the river below! The day before we watched the park history film that highlighted the first two explorers to successfully raft down through the whole canyon. As we hiked that day and I thought of those guys being the FIRST to set off on that kind of adventure, and I found myself getting a little jealous! I felt a little ripped off that I wasn’t born in that era! I mentioned this to Madison and she reassured me that there was still adventure to be had! Just because I am not the first one to see or experience these places, it doesn’t mean there is any less value in going. I think that is a valuable lesson to internalize. There is so much to be learned in these places!
We made it in time for lunch at the tallest cliff face in Colorado! Look that the beauty of this thing! Aren’t those pegmatitic intrusions so incredible?
We ate and Jen Groves had dance party on the edge.
Its hard to get over the bands of pink pegmatite, isn’t it?
The hike back was much different than the hike in. The sun had come out and melted the nice firm layer we were taking advantage of earlier. We were slipping and sliding all over the place in the slush fest. With a little bit of single-file team work, we made it out just fine.
Black Canyon of the Gunnisson was full of friends, fog, and good food. We had a blast getting to explore this lesser-known park. Even though we were not the first ones, and we weren’t the only ones (there were only a few other visitors though) we still found great amounts of adventure. BCOTGNP hasn’t seen the last of us!
Thanks Jen and Brady for showing us such a good time! Everyone go check out their rad National Parks adventures on their blog! These guys are serious road trippers.