For Groups visiting or meeting in Western Colorado, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is a sight not to miss. More steep and narrow (40 feet across at its most narrow) than the Grand Canyon, the Black Canyon, so named due to the lack of sunlight at its deepest dark depths, is an astonishing secret to many who are within a short drive of it. The canyon was carved out over millions of years by the Gunnison River flowing through the Proterozoic crystalline rock walls. The river, which drops an average of 43 feet per mile in elevation (240 feet per mile at Chasm View) has one of the steepest mountain descents in North America. The Canyon would make a memorable side trip for meeting participants or as a spouse program and is well suited to leisure group sightseeing plans.
The canyon would have been first discovered by the Ute Indians, and was later explored by Spanish expeditions, then fur trappers. Over 100 years ago the Denver and Rio Grande Railroads built a narrow gauge line through it, and miners and surveyors began to explore the area seeking a location for a tunnel as a means to bring water to the valley which. The train line was closed in 1955. And the studies by the surveyors team over the course of several years resulted in a road and the town of East Portal being created on the canyon floor. However, the project was eventually abandoned, as building infrastructure for a tunnel within these steep, deep canyons was just too difficult.
Named a National Monument in 1933 and a National Park in 1999, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison is an amazing natural wonder now known for its recreational opportunities more so than transportation or irrigation. The park is accessible along the southern and northern rims. The south rim entrance of the park is just outside of Montrose and an hour and a half from Telluride, or the north rim entrance, which is in Crawford within the North Fork Valley. The Park offers visitors gorgeous views with easy access, as many vantage points are visible from the rim road and guests do not have to leave their car. However, experiencing the Park on foot is encouraged and there are several miles of trails offering hikes of varying difficulties to do so. For more advanced hikers and climbers, descending the steep narrow walls is an adventurous right of passage. Other options include fishing, camping, wildlife watching, and ranger guided activities.
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is open year round, everyday at the south rim visitor center; the north rim is open during the summer and closed in winter.