Summer Road Trip 2018, Part 2: Black Canyons of the Gunnison National Park
I pushed through to Montrose the night before so I could use the morning to explore my first National Park of 2018. Somehow, I'm just learning of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
Colorado has four National Parks in total. Rocky Mountain and Mesa Verde National Parks are the big ones. Great Sand Dunes National Park is still on my to-do list and Gunnison was on tap for today.
The Park is separated into the North and South Rim. Driving up to the North Rim takes 90 minutes, one way. There was no time for the North Rim, so I spent the morning exploring the South Rim.
From US-50, I took the Park's South Rim Road up a steep hill to the Entrance Station and into the park.
My first stop was the South Rim Visitor's Center. I wanted to get the National Park Passport cancelation for the South Rim and then read a little info on The Park.
I followed the trail directly behind the Visitor's Center to Gunnison Point, an overlook set on a stoney outcropping.
Heading down to the point was a meandering stone path with a wood post guard rail on the right and a series of large boulders forming a natural barrier on the left.
Gunnison Point is a dramatic, panoramic view of the Black Canyon from 2,200 feet above the river that carved it. The precipitous drop off might make someone with a fear of heights queasy.
On the walk back out the parking lot, I scrambled up onto the boulders that formed the natural guard rail. From the boulders, a more dramatic perspective came into view and that extra bit of exposure made me feel like I was doing something.
I noticed a lady notice me scrambling along the boulders. She edged out onto a section of a boulder that was almost level with the stone path. She cautiously continued out for a few steps and a better view.
I said, "it feels good out here, doesn't it?"
"It does!," she said. "But I really wanna get up there." She stopped and stared at a small boulder just beyond where she stood.
I could see she was mustering the resolve to conquer her fear. She wanted to step up on that rock.
In a low voice, I chanted, "Do it. Do it. Do it,".
A girl walked up asking if I was going to get her friend hurt. We both looked at her friend, victoriously perched up atop her summit.
"That's living," I said.
Eventually, the friend was inspired to climb up on her own boulder and the original daredevil was looking for her next dose.
With my work there done, it was time to move on. I continued my drive up the South Rim Road.
The road had several pullouts with great vistas for peering into the canyon below.
I parked at Pulpit Point and made the short hike out to the overlook.
There was a large open area to scramble around on as I made my way out to the point. Pulpit Point was another striking view from atop a craggy stone buttress. It projects out from the canyon wall to give an impressive 360-degree view.
I admired the view for a few minutes, then moved around to take some photos.
I returned to the car and continued driving up the South Rim. There are ten more overlooks above Pulpit Point. I only had time to hike a few of them.
There's definitely more to see on future visits, even along the South Rim. And of course, the North Rim, with its three-hour round trip, will have to wait until next time. It was already past noon and time to get back on the road to Boise.