Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in western Colorado is not particularly well-known, but the spectacular cliffs of this deep gorge are not to be missed.  Zosia Zgolak and I arrived at the north rim of the park on the evening of 4 July 2019, but we only had enough daylight to visit some car-accessible viewpoints.  Since the North Rim Campground was already full, we had to exit the park to camp for the night on BLM land (there are lots of great dispersed camping spots north of the park boundary).
The photo doesn't do justice for the sheer drop down into the canyon. The late day sun illuminates the upper cliffs of the canyon near a viewpoint known as Balanced Rock View.
Early next morning on 5 July 2019, we re-entered the park and hiked the North Vista Trail which begins near the North Rim Ranger Station (potable water and an outhouse are available here).  The well-maintained trail follows the contours of the canyon rim and visits a viewpoint called Exclamation Point before climbing up a low forested ridge known as Green Mountain.  Hoping to avoid warm temperatures later in the day, we started quite early and arrived at Exclamation Point at a time when the light was perhaps not the best for photography.  The views there are not that much different than what we saw from the various car-accessible viewpoints we had visited the previous evening, and as such, we did not linger too long at Exclamation Point.

The rest of the hike to the top of Green Mountain was only slightly more strenuous, and the only trouble we had was trying to figure out the exact location of the highest point among the bushes and trees.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the views from the top are disappointing if not non-existent.  It is a bit of a mystery why the National Park Service even bothered to build a trail going up there.  Crappy views notwithstanding, we still ran into a steady stream of hikers on our way back, and I wondered if they would all feel gypped like I did upon reaching the summit.

Fortunately, this excursion is fairly short, and we did not feel like we invested too much time and energy into climbing Green Mountain.  Besides, the real attraction of this park is the Black Canyon itself which probably warrants a return trip to the south rim the next time we come through here.
How can you tell that it's still quite chilly in the morning? Sonny starts out along North Vista Trail early in the morning.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

It's kind of interesting that this plant's main stalk grows perpendicular to the ground and not necessarily straight up. Soapweed yucca plants are common in this park.
Not a good place for those prone to vertigo! Zosia peers into the canyon near a cliff edge.
Yep, that's one big hole in the ground! Here is a view of the canyon from a viewpoint known as Exclamation Point.
Doesn't look that interesting to visit... Green Mountain is visible behind Zosia from this small clearing near Exclamation Point.
That's a long way down to fetch water! Gunnison River can be seen at the bottom of the canyon.
Gobble, gobble! A wild turkey lurks in the grass beside the trail.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Not much to see along the way...quite boring, really! The trail to Green Mountain makes a few switchbacks going up the south slope.
Meh. Zosia has to go off-trail to find this cairn which supposedly marks the summit of Green Mountain (2602 metres).

They really need to clear-cut all the trees on top of Green Mountain!

A rare break in the trees near the top of Green Mountain grants this somewhat comprehensive view of Black Canyon Of The Gunnison.


Oh well, it's better than seeing only tree trunks! Sonny and Zosia sit down briefly to enjoy a small glimpse of the canyon from Green Mountain.
And I think you can even see the outhouse too! In this view from Green Mountain, the ranger station and trailhead are visible at far left.
Apparently, some parts of the canyon bottom receive only about half an hour of direct sunlight per day! The canyon walls do not look so black in the midday sun.
The canyon is more memorable than the peak! Total Distance:  11.0 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  4 hours 26 minutes
Cumulative Elevation Gain:  377 metres

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