A Day at the Black Canyon of Gunnison

We discovered the Black Canyon of Gunnison on a whim.

Our travel style when we are on the road is nomadic. For some reason, we prefer spending short periods of time in a place. We attempt to discover the “best” hikes or activities from the local residents in the area we visit. Also, we like using the All Trails app and key in on the highest rated and most commented hikes on an area. After a day or two we think have a flavor of what the location has to offer and we tend get itchy and move on to the next place.

How We Started Our Day

The day we discovered the Black Canyon of Gunnison, we awoke in our campground near Buena Vista, Colorado. We had spent 2 nights exploring the Collegiate Peaks and wanted to visit Gunnison and Crested Butte.

On travel days, we are slow to get on the road. I like to brew my pot of coffee and Gail gets her exercise in and sometimes reads a book or works on the blog for a while.

I think we left our camp site about 9:00 am to drive a couple hours west to Gunnison. The only thing we knew when we left; we had never hiked in the Gunnison Wilderness or Snowmass Wilderness near Crested Butte.

Shortly before noon we rolled into Gunnison, Colorado and we wanted to find the perfect place to eat lunch. We decided to go to the Blue Mesa Reservoir and eat overlooking the lake. We poured over an area map at lunch and decided to see what the Black Canyon of Gunnison was about.

Are we glad we did!

The Curecanti Creek Trail

In our search, we discovered information on the Curecanti Creek Trail. It is described in the All Trails app as ” a 3.7 mile (one way) lightly trafficked out and back trail located on the north rim of the canyon”.

The Curecanti Creek Trail is rated moderate, includes a waterfall and is 5-star rated.

This description was right up our alley!

We also liked the north rim option because it is further away from the main highway. Most visitors of the canyon travel the south rim making the points of interest busier with tourists. We are not anti-social people generally, but we do prefer hiking trails that have fewer people.

The Top of the North Ridge

What can we say, the top of the rim is amazing with gorgeous views!

We spent about an hour driving the winding road and soaking in the beauty at every turn. Each time we rounded a corner, I wanted to stop the van (Alice) and take another picture.

Hiking the Canyon

There was rain in the forecast and we were a little worried we would hike to the water and get caught in a thunderstorm. Before leaving, we determined it was a 7 mile round trip and a 1,000 foot drop to the water.

At the trailhead, there were many cars in the parking lot. No one was hiking the trail. This was good new for us!

The sightseers were generally going to the overlooks. They spent 10-15 minutes looking down at the canyon then jumping in their cars and moving to the next location.

The other people passed on the best aspects of the canyon!

We entered the quiet trail talking about how beautiful the area was. The first 1/2 mile was a gradual downhill path, joking that this hike was not our favorite type of hike.

We don’t like to start our hikes going downhill. It’s better for us to climb uphill in the beginning when our bodies are fresh and strong. Never the less, we were committed and walked at a brisk pace.

About halfway down, the path begins to follow the creek. The water flows through large boulders and rock formations which provided us with the consistent sound of moving water and multiple opportunities for pictures.

The deeper we hiked into the canyon the more colorful the vegetation and wild flowers.


After about an hour of downhill hiking we reached the base of the canyon. The river began to open up and we realized we had reached the gorgeous calm waters of the canyon.

When we arrived at the calm waters we stood in awe.

It was a quiet and truly beautiful place and we had it to ourselves.

The Beach

One of the things that made this hike so special was we saw no one on the trail or on the beach. We had the place to ourselves and it was the perfect swimming hole! Our only option was to skinny dip or swim in our skivvies as didn’t have the foresight to bring swimming suits.

We opted not to swim even though Gail did get her feet wet. This decision is my big regret. It was perfect. We had the place to ourselves and opted not to jump in because the storm clouds were rolling in.

We highly recommend this hike to others. The Curecanti Creek Trail is lightly traveled and offers interesting features along the way. The beach area was extraordinary.

On the way back up the canyon, we did encounter a group of four hikers going down. They were the only other hikers we saw the entire time. If you’re in the area, do not pass on the Back Canyon of Gunnison!

For other hikes we have done in Colorado, see blog posts:

The Stanley Mountain Trail

Arapaho National Forest

3 thoughts on “A Day at the Black Canyon of Gunnison

  1. Oh that looks like a stunning part of the world.
    I used to live in the blue mountains and most walks also started going down hill so you had stunning views before you had achieved anything. I prefer to earn my views.

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