Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park

Outdoor Photography

The South Rim of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is located about 7 miles north on Colorado State Highway 347 from the intersection with U.S. Route 50 east of Montrose. The North Rim has a separate entrance, located approximately 11 miles southwest of Crawford. Allow two to three hours to drive from one rim to the other. The South Rim overlooks are the most accessible and include Painted Wall View, which is best photographed at sunrise or sunset, when softer light defines the wall’s unique textures and patterns. This is a great time to photograph here, especially when clouds or a colorful sky complement the views.

Weather At Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park’s North Rim and East Portal is typically open from mid April until mid or late November. The South Rim is open every day; however, the entire South Rim Road is usually open to vehicles from late-April to mid-November. In winter, the South Rim Road remains open to the visitor center at Gunnison Point. The remainder of the road is closed to vehicles but open to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing when conditions permit. Average summer temperatures reach into the high 80s on the rim, with thunderstorms common this time of year.

Photo Experience

Judging by visitation, Black Canyon of the Gunnison is one of the most underrated parks in the National Parks system. Painted Wall is one of 12 overlooks along the South Rim of Black Canyon, and this is the overlook I was most excited to photograph from. I arrived a few hours before sunset knowing that I’d need time to explore the area around the main overlook and find the exact composition I wanted. After I carefully scouted the terrain around the edge of the overlook, I found this foreground of rocks, which I felt added both interest and balance to the scene. All that was left was to wait for the setting sun to be positioned just above the distant cliff, which would produce the desired lighting I had envisioned for my image. 

Best Times To Visit

With easy access to most of the overlooks when South Rim Road is open to vehicles, anytime from late-April to mid-November can be a great time to visit the park. Personally, I prefer spring and fall, when temperatures are usually the most comfortable to hit the park’s trails. Next to winter, these are also the seasons when visitation is at its lowest, and the park can feel almost empty. Spring is an ideal time for bird watching here, but the canyon is a great place to observe wildlife during most of the year, especially larger mammals, including elk, coyotes and the park’s most elegant and visible animal, the mule deer. When accessible, the park’s East Portal is a popular place for fishing on the Gunnison River and to also experience a completely different perspective of the canyon from within its depths.

Contact: National Park Service, nps.gov/blca/index.htm.


See more of David Shield’s work at davidshieldphotography.com.

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