Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a national park located in the beautiful state of Colorado. This national park isn’t very well known, making it one of Colorado’s best kept secrets. With a great backcountry campsite, amazing trekking, and little to no tourist, you won’t want to miss Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park!
After Mesa Verde NP, we went back into the little town that we topped off our fluids at and found a Walmart to sleep for the night. We were able to FaceTime the Green house for quite a while, then were disconnected so we decided to head to bed. Night two of sleeping in Zippy was much better than night one. We figured out that we could move the boxes around in the back seat to make room for us to recline the front seats. This was like a queen size bed… We were in paradise!! We covered all the windows with blankets, cracked the windows a bit so the car wouldn’t have so much condensation in it, put on our eye masks, and were out for the night!
Walmart parking lot camping was so fun! There were tons of people around us doing the same exact thing, some people were even playing cards and watching movies in their cars.. yes, call us creepers if you want, but we had to learn the ways of camping in a Walmart parking lot. This would be the first of many Walmart parking lot camping experiences in our future!
Once we were up and moving, we got on the road to head to Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP. We pulled into the park and stopped at an overlook to make some lunch. Both of us left our cameras in the car, and were way too lazy to get them, so no pictures of this spot. Sorry about that! After lunch, we got back on the drive up to the visitor’s center.
At the visitor’s center, the ranger nearly scared us out of backpacking down the canyon to camp at the river. He told us if we are not extremely aware of our surroundings we wouldn’t be able to make it back up the canyon walls. He informed us of the sections where you have to repel down a rope because it is so steep, and recommended that we wear hiking boots and pants to do this trek.
We decided to take the hour long scenic drive down the canyon and back to think about if we wanted to do this trek or not. As we had no hiking boots, didn’t really feel like getting lost in the canyon, and weren’t too sure about repelling with our packs on. Our minds were quickly made up after driving down the canyon and seeing all the gorgeous views. We were going to hike the 2,000 foot descent to the river and back.
Hiking Down Black Canyon of the Gunnison:
To give you an idea of how steep this hike was think about this.. one mile is 5,280 feet, and we were traveling one mile while descending 2,000 feet. This means that every two feet we travel in distance we were descending roughly one foot. And we did this for a mile straight. (That would be a lot of steps!!!!)
We got back to the visitors center, packed up our packs and eagerly jumped on the trail. Holy smokes.. getting on the trail we both stopped and thought.. what were we thinking??!! This is crazy! We were using our hands and our feet to safely get down the mountain, uhh.. what about getting back up.. that was going to be.. umm.. not so easy. The whole time we were going down we were thinking, “We have to do this to get to a shower in the river!! This is really hard, but actually really fun.. We can do it.. oh shoot.. we really should have boots on not just tennis shoes.” We repelled down the chain safely, both fell only twice on the entire descent, and made sure there were stacks of rocks marking the trail for our ascent back up the canyon.
Once reaching the bottom, we set out our tent to dry from three nights previous getting wet from camping at Arches NP. First things first… after reaching the bottom of the canyon, we immediately prepped for a nice river shower. We were the only ones down at the river, and from what it looked like nobody could see where we bathing at so we thought it would be okay to bathe like hippies. After bathing ourselves, washing our laundry, and setting up camp, we were ready for some diner!
We had an awesome freeze dried dinner and freeze dried apple crisp dessert. After dinner, we cleaned up everything, gathered our hanging clothes, got all ready for bed, then grabbed our packs and hung them in the trees so the bears wouldn’t get them. We then got in the tent and called it a night.
In the morning, we had breakfast, broke down camp and began our treacherous climb to the top of the canyon. We were expecting this to be quite the hike, with the elevation gain that was before us and all the rocks that we had to scramble up with our packs on. To our surprise, it actually ended up being a lot easier going up than it was going down. We didn’t fall at all, and we only took one 15-minute break at a really cool over look, along with a few short breaks to get water and catch our breath.
Once we got to the top of the canyon, we decided to go to the Black Canyon overlook at the visitor center. We got to the overlook and started busting up laughing.. Uhh… that spot we showered that we thought nobody could see.. yeah, definitely perfectly visible from the overlook. We can pretty much guarantee that anyone that went to the overlook while we were bathing saw some full moons!! YOLO right?? After composing ourselves we went into the visitor center to tell the rangers we made it up safely. The ranger said, “Oh, there they are!!” with a huge smirk on his face the totally said, “I know you showered naked right down there”. hmm.. apparently people really could see us!
We totally had to walk around owning what we did, and acting like it was no big deal. Starving, we had a quick lunch at the picnic tables, and took off to The Great Sand Dunes National Park.