Top Ten Offbeat Summer Parks

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
  |  Gorp.com
Island Peaks, Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park, Colorado
Island Peaks, Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park, Colorado (Lisa Lynch/NPS)

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

30,000 acres

174,000 annual visits

Attractions: If the sensation of the Grand Canyon is of space and time opening, the sensation of the Black is a fresh, raw cut—even though the Gunnison River has been cutting away at the gorge for some 30 million years. The canyon extends for 53 miles; the deepest 14 (up to 2,700 feet) lie within the park.

Redesignated from national monument status in the closing days of the Clinton administration, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a new, relatively unknown park. So it's not yet on anybody's standard itinerary of Great Places of the American West—though it should be.

Activities: The South Rim Drive is a stunner. This road travels for seven miles from Tomichi Point to High Point, with ten overlooks in between. Most are reached by walking a short trail. But hiking is really the way to experience this park. The North Rim trails are our favorites.

Finding Solitude: If you really want to get away from humanity and into the ages, hiking below the rim is a sure bet. Warning: there are no trails, just routes. This is not an excursion for the novice or ill-prepared. And really, don't do this by yourself. Take a buddy who has your back.


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