Wandering The Black Canyon of the Gunnison’s North Rim


What is it about an off-the-beaten-path location that is so appealing? Alan and I treasure the lack of crowds and the chance to discover something that not too many people know about. The north rim of The Black Canyon of the Gunnison fits all of those parameters.

Since I’m not the camping type, we choose Leroux Creek Inn & Vineyards in Hotchkiss, Colorado, for our headquarters. Our room in the southwestern style adobe bed and breakfast has views of the vineyard and the West Elk Mountains. Flowers are everywhere including hanging baskets of cascading blooms swinging in the summer breeze.

Our breakfast of stuffed french toast is served at a table on the arbor-covered deck overlooking the vineyard. Are we in Provence, France or Hotchkiss, Colorado? With hummingbirds darting among the flowers, it seems a heady mix of both.

It’s a short drive to Fruitland Mesa and the road leading to The Black Canyon of the Gunnison’s North Rim. Although the last six miles are gravel, it’s an easy route. After consulting with a ranger, we determine our plan for the day.

At the parking area for Kneeling Camel View, Alan parks the jeep. We jump out of the car for our first view of the steep, deep canyon with sides of solid rock.

Dead Horse Trail, our excursion for the day, is located across the road. It’s a moderately easy hike with not too many changes in elevation. Instead of our expected walk through scrubby high-desert vegetation, we’re rewarded with purple fields of lupines plus the yellow, white and red of numerous wildflowers.

Rather than hiking to the end, we take a side trail that loops back to the main as it passes overlooks without any guardrails. While Alan peers over the side, I sit down on a large rock to take in the impressive view without shaky knees. The Gunnison River roars as it rushes through the gorge far below our perch.

Ominous clouds hang over the canyon at the end our four-mile hike. Returning to the jeep, we stop at the overlooks we passed by earlier in the morning. Unfortunately, the light is all wrong for capturing any impressive photography.

We hurry to a nature trail at the other end of the drive. Although rain is imminent, Alan and I quickly walk the trail to more overlooks. This time, they’re fenced for my protection. As lightning starts to pop around us, we shoot a few pictures then run back to the car with fat raindrops plopping on our heads.

By the time we return to Hotchkiss, the rain is over. After a quick dinner in town, Alan and I return to Leroux Creek Inn to sit on the deck and sip a glass of their Chambourcin as night settles on a beautiful scene. A little bit of adventure combined with a little bit of luxury - my idea of a perfect day.

Additional photos below
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29th August 2009

Black Canyon of the Gunnison
My husband and I will be touring in Colorado in the middle of September and we have scheduled a stop at both the North Rim and the South Rim of the Canyon. We enjoy visiting touristy places but try to do it without too many tourists!! Can't wait to see the Black Canyon and am so glad you stated that the road on the north side is good. Thanks!

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