Today we visited one of the nation's 20 least visited National Parks. (Actually, we've stopped by a few of those this year.) Named a National Park in 1999, Black Canyon of the Gunnison is also one of our newest. We planned this day trip for our visit from Paul's sister Susan and her husband Doug. Our exploration of this not-so-popular but oh-so-beautiful spot began 15 miles west of Gunnison at a trailhead in Curecanti National Recreation Area. The first 232 steps of our journey were down steep steps into the upper Black Canyon along the Pine Creek Trail. As we made our descent we kept reminding ourselves that we'd be soon be making this trek in reverse!
The trail led us along an old narrow gauge rail bed to the Pine Creek boat dock where we met Curecata Two, our 42-person tour boat.
Our 90-minute tour was narrated by a National Park Service ranger who obviously enjoys her job. She talked about the history, geology and flora and fauna of the canyon and pointed out many interesting sights along the way.
The leisurely tour of Morrow Point Reservoir at the base of the canyon featured Chipeta Falls at Corral Creek...
...and breathtaking views of the Black Canyon and Morrow Point Reservoir. What a wonderful way to spend a morning!
With our exploration of the canyon base behind us, it was time to see things from the top. First, we had to climb those 232 steps!
The park features two scenic drives. Today we opted to cruise the South Rim in hopes of catching this eye-popping canyon in the best light. The route offers 12 spectacular viewpoints, like this one at Gunnison Point.
At Gunnison Point, Doug took a moment to take it all in. The Black Canyon is quite a sight.
From this viewpoint, we got a good look at the Gunnison River. We all agreed that the Black Canyon is far more grand than the Grand Canyon. No other canyon in America combines the narrow openings, sheer walls and startling depths of this spectacular landscape.
The greatest descent of the Gunnison River occurs here at Chasm View, where the river drops 240 feet per mile. This is also the narrowest part of the canyon. Here it's a mere 1100 feet rim to rim.
After exploring this canyon from river to rim, it was unanimous. This not-so-popular National Park is one of our favorites!