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17 Best Boondocking Spots Near the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Last updated on May 7th, 2022 at 10:57 pm

Gunnison 3

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is one of the best places I have ever had a chance to visit. It is big enough to make you feel overwhelmed but still very intimate that you will love and see time pass by your eyes. The black Canyon will expose you to different activities that anyone who loves the outdoors will adore. There are old rocks, steep hills, and some of the craggiest spires that you will love.

When I visited the Black Canyon, I loved everything about it. It was an adventure that was a long time coming. I loved the nature trails the most, and you can see rock formations known as dragon points and painted walls. I also got to see many birds among the fastest in the world, like the peregrine falcon. It is estimated that in an aerial dive, it can fly at a speed of 200mph. If you are a bird lover, this is the place to visit. Read on so that you can learn more about the adventures we had at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National park.

History of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National park, which is found in Western Colorado, is near the city of Montrose and was created in 1999. It encompasses approximately 30,750 acres, and the Gunnison River is about 48 miles long. However, only 14 miles of the river runs through the Gunnison national park. The park is well known because of its narrow canyons that have been carved through millions of years. The schist lines and foliated gneiss found on the lines of the canyon walls create a unique rock exposure that is very beautiful.

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The most famous outcrop is the painted wall with the tallest cliff in Colorado and 2247 feet high. The black Canyon of the Gunnison national park gets its name from the cliffs, darkened by shadows. The shadows make the walls appear like they are black hence its name. The steepest point at this Canyon is the chasm view, and the Canyon, in general, has several steepest mountain descents in the whole of North America.

17 Boondocking Spots With 20 Miles of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Anyone wishing to boondocking the Black Canyon  must remember that the mileage below is to the center of the park. All of them are within a few miles of the park itself and you can choose based on the area you are nearest.

1. Black Canyon Of the Gunnison National Park Free Campsites – BLM Land near Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Address
Montrose, Colorado
GPS: 38.53065, -107.720228
Elevation: 7890′

Management – Public – Bureau of Land Management (Unofficial)

The road in is Dirt. You may stay 14 days at BLM Land near Black Canyon of the Gunnison. BLM land just outside of Black Canyon on the Gunnison South Rim. It’s 1.7 miles south on CO-347 from the national park entrance, past 2 cattle guards. Turn right onto a dirt road just past the second cattle guard (coming from the national park).

2. Black Canyon Of the Gunnison National Park Free Boondocking Spots – Chukar Trailhead

Address
Montrose, Colorado
GPS: 38.613151, -107.835567
Elevation: 5979′

Management – Website

The road in is 4×4. There are 1-5 campsites at this location. You may stay 7 days at Chukar Trailhead. From Montrose (Jct. US 50 & US 550), take US 50 north 8.4 miles to Falcon Road. Turn right onto Falcon Road and go 3.6 miles. At that point, Falcon Road becomes the unpaved Peach Valley Road. Continue for 1.4 miles on Peach Valley Road to the sign on the right, “Chukar Trail 7 Mi.” Turn right onto Chukar Road, a rough 4WD road that is not suitable for RVs.

3. Black Canyon Of the Gunnison National Park Free Boondocking Locations – Flat Top OHV Area

Address
Flat Top Road
Montrose, Colorado
GPS: 38.52195, -107.859444
Elevation: 5888′

Management – Public – Bureau of Land Management (Official)

The road in is Dirt and 0.5 miles from a paved road. There are 1-5 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 40′. You may stay 6night /7days in 30 at Flat Top OHV Area.

4. Black Canyon Of the Gunnison National Park Free Campsites – Hwy. 50 east of Montrose/Black Cyn. Gunnison

Address
Montrose, Colorado
GPS: 38.47267, -107.69929
Elevation: 6972′

Management – Public – Bureau of Land Management (Unofficial)

The road in is Gravel and 1/8 miles from a paved road. Hwy. 50 east of Montrose/Black Cyn. Gunnison is open all year. There are 1-5 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 45 feet. You may stay 14 days at Hwy. 50 east of Montrose/Black Cyn. Gunnison.

5. Black Canyon Of the Gunnison National Park Free Boondocking Spots – Peach Valley OHV

Address
Peach Valley Road
Montrose, Colorado
GPS: 38.594925, -107.8896
Elevation: 5629′

Management – Public – Bureau of Land Management (Official)

The road in is Gravel. Peach Valley OHV is open year-round. There are 1-5 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is unlimited. You may stay one week (7 days) at Peach Valley OHV.

6. Black Canyon Of the Gunnison National Park Free Boondocking Locations – J82 Crystal Creek

Address
Gunnison, Colorado
GPS: 38.558292, -107.501972
Elevation: 8192′

Management – Public – Bureau of Land Management

The road in is Dirt and 5.8 miles from a paved road. There are 1-5 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 45 feet. You may stay 14 at J82 Crystal Creek. It is one of the best campsite I have been. There is a pathway towards a river where you can see a resident marmot and her niche of piled branches and fallen trees, very close to a hidden campsite which is 5.8 miles from Hwy 92 in Gunnison. I stayed for 2 weeks with no problem.

7. Black Canyon Of the Gunnison National Park Free Campsites – Mesa Creek Campground

Address
Crawford, Colorado
GPS: 38.475222, -107.523796
Elevation: 9005′

Management – Public – Forest Service

The coordinates take you past the entrance. As you are going toward Crawford, on 50, you will see an unmarked drive with a cattle guard before the coordinates, turn right! This spot does not have many flat spaces and does have a LOT of cow poop. Large pull behinds will not have a good time getting out. There was one other renter there with us, with room for at least one more on the grassy area, one on the dirt turn around. It’s nothing special but it works for a night.

8. Black Canyon Of the Gunnison National Park Free Boondocking Spots – Cottonwood Grove Campground

Address
Delta, Colorado
GPS: 38.77872, -107.85281
Elevation: 5093′

Management
Public – Bureau of Land Management (Official)

The road in is Dirt. There are 6-15 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 25 feet. You may stay one week (7 days) at Cottonwood Grove Campground. From Delta (Jct. US 50 & CO 92), go east on CO 92 for 5.5 miles to CR H75 Road on the right (south). Veer right onto H75 Road and continue for 4.3 miles, passing a parking area with toilet before coming to a junction with South River Road. Turn right onto South River Road and go 4.1 miles to the campground entrance on the left.

9. Black Canyon Of the Gunnison National Park Free Boondocking Locations – Scratch and Dent

Address
Rim Road
Olathe, Colorado
GPS: 38.502481, -108.034936
Elevation: 6099′

Management – Public – Bureau of Land Management (Official)

This is a BLM suggested camping area in rock crawling country. It is near the Scratch and Dent trail. OHVs and rock crawling monsters abound. No facilities or services. Just dirt, rocks, and bushes.

10. Black Canyon Of the Gunnison National Park Free Campsites – Temple Park Plateau

Address
Montrose, Colorado
GPS: 38.417899, -107.990879
Elevation: 6740′

Management – Public – Bureau of Land Management

Super easy access from Montrose. Just follow 90 out of town. Highway 90 is a good, wide road that appears to be oiled an graveled regularly. The whole plateau is covered in free, dispersed campsites. The first ones are along the cliff at the top of the S-bend on Hwy 90. These are the easiest to access. After that, they are all over. The landscape is dry and rocky with cliffs. The flora is Pinion, Juniper, cactus (feet beware) and sage. Other than skulls and carcasses, we saw no fauna.

11. Black Canyon Of the Gunnison National Park Free Boondocking Spots –  Rim Road Dispersed Camp

Rim Road
Olathe, Colorado
GPS: 38.485274, -108.043161
Elevation: 6374′

Management – Public – Bureau of Land Management (Official)

The road in is Gravel. A designated dispersed camping area. No facilities or services. Campers must stay within 300ft of the road. This is in an OHV and rock crawling area, but this spot is a trailhead for a foot, horse, bicycle and motorcycle trail

12. Black Canyon Of the Gunnison National Park Free Boondocking Locations – Dry Creek Ditch

Address
Highway 90
Montrose, Colorado
GPS: 38.389368, -108.015894
Elevation: 7339′

Management – Public – Bureau of Land Management (Official)

This is a designated dispersed camping area per the BLM. Camping must take place within 300ft of the road. The may be rough. Highway 90 is well maintained. No services or facilities here. Just rocks, dirt, and bushes. Don’t leave your trash or poo paper behind.

13. Black Canyon Of the Gunnison National Park Free Campsites – Billy Creek SWA

Address
Montrose, Colorado
GPS: 38.29017, -107.733767
Elevation: 6888′

Management – Public – Fish and Wildlife Service (Official)

The road in is Dirt. There are 6-15 campsites at this location. You may stay 14 days at Billy Creek SWA. On the north end, there are three camping areas. The first is very exposed and not too inviting but closest to the road. The second is better and the third is OK. And sized rig should be able to fit in the first two. The third is a little smaller. Just at the 2nd, there was a sign “No camping beyond this point”. If you turn right at it, you’ll find the third camping area just on the right.

14. Black Canyon Of the Gunnison National Park Free Boondocking Spots – Dry Creek Dispersed Camping

Address
Montrose, Colorado
GPS: 38.435588, -108.065247
Elevation: 7158′

Management – Public – Bureau of Land Management

The maximum RV length at Dry Creek Dispersed Camping is 15 feet.

15. Black Canyon Of the Gunnison National Park Free Boondocking Locations – Transfer Road Dispersed Area

Address
Transfer Road
Olathe, Colorado
GPS: 38.506873, -108.111387
Elevation: 6648′

Management – Public – Bureau of Land Management (Official)

Area suggested by the BLM for wild camping in the on Transfer Road in the Dry Creek area. Free. No facilities or services. Camp within 300 feet of the road. The surrounding area is full of OHV and serious rock crawling trails. The closest trail to this spot is off limits to motorized travel.

16. Black Canyon Of the Gunnison National Park Free Campsites – Billy Creek SWA – Porter Tract

Address
County Road 4
Montrose, Colorado
GPS: 38.265732, -107.698383
Elevation: 8248′

Management – Public – State Park

This is a free dispersed campsite. This campsite does not use a reservation system. First come, first served. This is a high elevation location.

17. Black Canyon Of the Gunnison National Park Free Boondocking Spots – Commissary Trailhead

Address
FR 721
Gunnison, Colorado
GPS: 38.570388, -107.33229
Elevation: 7929′

Management – Public – Forest Service
There are 6-15 campsites at this location. This is a free dispersed campsite. This campsite does not use a reservation system. First come, first served. This is a high elevation location. Commissary Trailhead is a former campground area that provides parking for hikers and hunters during the summer and fall. 13 single site(s). Horse camping. OHV riding and camping. Vault toilet. No water or other services. Pack it in -> pack it out.

Top 10 Trails to Hike at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

When I visited the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National park, I hiked on different trails, enjoying the experience. The Canyon has 29 trails, but I didn’t get to hike on all of them. I will list the top 10 trails that I enjoyed the most to avoid missing them when you visit the park. Some of them are easy to hike, but others can be pretty tough. Check them out, and you will feel ready before you even start the hike.

1. Gunnison Route Trail

1. Gunnison Route Trail - Black Canyon Of the Gunnison National Park Free Campsites

This trail measures about 1.8 miles long and it is located near Cimarron, which is in Colorado. Don’t take this trail if you are not experienced. This trail is not a joke; Laurel and I got lost when we were on the way up, so make sure that you pay attention to the directions. One of us also got stung by a yellow jacket, so be careful of them. You will know that all the hike was worth it when you reach the bottom. At the bottom, the views were to die for, definitely worth the hike.

Length: 1.8 mi
Elevation gain: 1,781 ft
Route type: Out & back

Hiking, Forest, River, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife, Rocky, Scramble, Fee, No dogs

2. Warner Point Nature Trail

2. Warner Point Nature Trail - Black Canyon Of the Gunnison National Park Free Campsites

Warner point is also another trail that I got to enjoy a lot. It is near Montrose, and it also features a river. This trail is moderate so that anyone can try it out. You can use this trail for walking, hiking, nature trips, and even bird watching. The best month to visit this trail is from May to October. The hike was delightful, and I did not strain a lot. In just an hour, we had finished the trail. Also, don’t go when it is foggy as it will become harder to see. However, in the end, there are great views that will make it worth the hike.

Length: 1.5 mi
Elevation gain: 406 ft
Route type: Out & back

Kid friendly, Hiking, Nature trips, Walking, Bird watching, Forest, River, Views, Wildlife, Fee, No dogs

3. Oak Flat Loop Trail

3. Oak Flat Loop Trail - Black Canyon Of the Gunnison National Park Free Campsites

The Oak flat loop is a moderate trail that is 1.3 miles long and is found near Cimarron in Colorado. It features lovely wildflowers, and you can use it for bird watching, hiking, and even running. Make sure to go counterclockwise, and we made a mistake and went clockwise, and the last miles were tough. If you are not experienced, be ready to sweat and pant a lot as we did. You can take this trail if you are preparing for a more strenuous hike.

Length: 1.3 mi
Elevation gain: 311 ft
Route type: Loop

Bird watching, Running, Forest, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife, Rocky, Fee

4. Painted Wall View Trail

4. Painted Wall View Trail - Black Canyon Of the Gunnison National Park Free Boondocking Locations

This trail is 0.2 miles long, and it is a moderate trail. It is near Montrose, and it also has gorgeous wildflowers. According to me, this is where I had the best views in the whole of the park. Cliffs and the painted walls surround the river. If you can start the hike early and make sunrise, you will love the views. The views were breathtaking, and I loved them.

Length: 0.2 mi
Elevation gain: 6 ft
Route type: Out & back

Kid friendly, Nature trips, Walking, Bird watching, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife, Fee, No dogs

5. Exclamation Point

5. Exclamation Point - Black Canyon Of the Gunnison National Park Free Boondocking Locations

The Exclamation point, which is at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison Nation Park, is 2.9 miles long and one of the best trails in the park. We enjoyed different activities like walking, running, hiking and also bird watching. This trail has excellent views, and it is definitely worth your time. It was easy to hike, and the views are fantastic; and anyone can hike it, watch out for hobbits at the edge.

Length: 2.9 mi
Elevation gain: 364 ft
Route type: Out & back

Kid friendly, Hiking, Walking, Bird watching, Running, Forest, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife, Fee, No dogs

6. Green Mountain Summit via North Vista Trail

6. Green Mountain Summit via North Vista Trail - Black Canyon Of the Gunnison National Park Free Boondocking Locations

This is a 7.8 mile long trail, and it is a moderate trail in terms of hardness. It is in Crawford, and it also has a river that you will enjoy. It was a nice leisurely walk, and we walked up to the Green Mountain. As you go up, the view becomes even more attractive. Don’t forget to take pauses and look back as you will enjoy the view. If you get tired, there are different shades to rest under so that you can re-energize.

Length: 6.8 mi
Elevation gain: 1,230 ft
Route type: Out & back

Hiking, Walking, Bird watching, Running, Forest, River, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife, Fee, No dogs

7. Gunnison Point Overlook

7. Gunnison Point Overlook - Black Canyon Of the Gunnison National Park Free Boondocking Locations

The Gunnison point overlook is one of the shortest hikes in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National park. I enjoyed this trail a lot because you don’t have to walk far to enjoy the fantastic views. It is a moderate trail, and you have to go through lots of trees and shade. The view is fantastic, and I got to stop severally to enjoy the views. It can also be very muddy so don’t wear nice shoes.

Length: 0.1 mi
Elevation gain: 39 ft
Route type: Out & back

Kid friendly, Walking, Bird watching, Views, Wildlife, Fee, No dogs

8. Rim Rock Nature Trail

8. Rim Rock Nature Trail - Black Canyon Of the Gunnison National Park Free Boondocking Spots

This nature trail measures 1.5 miles long, and it is lightly trafficked. It also has beautiful wildflowers, and I enjoyed bird watching, walking, and other activities on this trail. I was able to complete the hike before the sun went down, and the view was beautiful. The Canyon looked deep, and the river flow sound was great to hear.

Length: 1.5 mi
Elevation gain: 187 ft
Route type: Out & back

Dogs on leash, Hiking, Nature trips, Walking, Bird watching, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife, Snow, Fee

9. Chasm View Nature Trail

9. Chasm View Nature Trail - Black Canyon Of the Gunnison National Park Free Boondocking Spots

This was a one-kilometer trail and can be hiked by people of all skill levels. It has different activities that I got to enjoy, and you will also be able to hike with your dog on this trail. It was a short walk, but the views were very stunning. We chose to go with a guide on this trail, and he was very informative. There were fewer people, and the restroom was also near as compared to other trails.

Length: 0.6 mi
Elevation gain: 108 ft
Route type: Loop

Dogs on leash, Kid friendly, Camping, Hiking, Nature trips, Walking, Bird watching, Running, Forest, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife, Fee

10. Dragon Point Trail

This trail is also one of the shortest parks; it measures 0.6 km and has moderate traffic. You can decide to go on a walk, hike, or even take a nature trip. We enjoyed the view of the Canyon and the river, and the entire experience was excellent. There were some rocks, so make sure to wear the correct gear.

10. Dragon Point Trail - Black Canyon Of the Gunnison National Park Free Boondocking Spots

Length: 0.4 mi
Elevation gain: 59 ft
Route type: Out & back

Kid friendly, Hiking, Nature trips, Walking, Bird watching, Views, Wildlife, Fee, No dogs

Places and Things to Do and See in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

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At first, I was hesitant about visiting the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National park because I am not an outside person, but my mind changed after reaching there. There are many places to visit and activities to enjoy, and you will not regret going there. It has striking black colors, sheer cliffs, and according to me, it is the best Canyon. I will list some of the activities we participated in and the great places you can miss.

Drive Through a Time portal

We were able to drive down via the East portal into the Canyon. The road was very steep and also be ready for several switchbacks. Please don’t make the mistake of going with your RV, it may not come back or even make it to the bottom. Take your car and take a brochure with you to learn more about the fertile farmland of Montrose.

Camping in the Canyon

Another fun activity to do at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is camping. Laurel and I went camping at the east portal campground, which is next to the river. That way, we were also able to fish and hike at the same place. The views were incredible, and if you want a more intense adventure, you can hike starting from the river to the canyon rim. Don’t try this hike if you are faint-hearted because it can be steep and hazardous.

The Views

One of the best views I got to experience is at the Exclamation point at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. From this point, you will see the sheer black cliffs that are up to 2000 feet. Some other places included Pulpit rock, Chasm View, Painted Wall, and don’t miss the sunset views.

Go Fishing

Fishing is one of the activities I also enjoyed at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. The waters are known as gold medal waters because you have a very high chance of catching huge trout. Don’t forget to get a fishing license from Montrose. I discovered that you would have more luck if you fished at the east portal. I didn’t have much experience in fishing trout, but I visited a nearby Reservoir named Blue mesa and got all the experience I needed. They also provided Laurel and me some rental boats to enhance the whole fishing experience.

Sky Gazing

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is one of the best places to visit if you love stargazing. I got to enjoy a lot of the stargazing activities, and the park even had telescopes. The visitor area has up-to-date schedules. You can also choose to take an online course like I did, which helped sharpen my skills.

Boat Tours

When we found out that Black Canyon does not offer tours, I was a bit disappointed. However, Laurel and I managed to get tours from the Curecanti National Rec Center, it’s like a sister to the Black Canyon. They have boat tours that are led by rangers every day except om Tuesdays. We toured for almost two hours, and the ranger told us about the history and geology of the area. Make sure you make a reservation weeks before if you want to enjoy this activity.

Summary

The above activities are some of the best that I got to enjoy but there were many more. I didn’t have the chance to enjoy all of them as there are several, but I got to experience most of them. I can highly recommend the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National park as I enjoyed every day that I was there.

Conclusion

I fully enjoyed every activity on the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National park, and I would recommend it to everyone. Just remember to wear the correct attire and shoes and also carry the correct gear. If it is a long trail, carry plenty of water and enough food.


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