Black Canyon of the Gunnison


Apr 8, 2008
Outside Magazine
Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado

Tomichi Point in Black Canyon    Photo: courtesy, NPS/Lisa Lynch

With gushing whitewater and plunging snaggletoothed cliffs, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison is remote and geologically dramatic. It's crowded only in June, during the salmon fly hatch, when fishermen grab all the backcountry permits.

Park Action
Scramble into the canyon. You won't find marked trails, but routes exist. "They're all steep, loose, and strenuous," says park ranger Heather Boothe. One of the easier is S.O.B. Draw, which begins just west of the north-rim campground; allow five hours for the almost-four-mile in-and-out. Wear long sleeves and pants; poison ivy along the river grows to a mutant five feet. Free backcountry permit required;

Where to Stay
Ninety miles and a quantum degree of refinement from the Black Canyon, the new, boutiquey Crested Butte Retreat offers suites with fireplaces, hot tubs on private balconies, a state-of-the-art entertainment center in the great room, and enormous views of Crested Butte Mountain (and, less stirringly, of the Crested Butte ski resort's parking lot). The entire lodge, with five rooms and five suites, can be rented for $1,750, breakfast included. Doubles and suites, $190–$495;

Where to Eat
Emulsions and demi-glazes on a sturdy base of game and beef make Timberline Restaurant, in downtown Crested Butte, as haute as central Colorado gets. The wine list is long, with plenty to like in the $30–$40 range, and a few to lust after for $300-plus.

Extra Credit
We cringe at the water usage, but the Devil's Thumb Golf Club, in Delta, has the prettiest godforsaken public course in the West. Tucked up against the massive Grand Mesa, 35 miles north of Black Canyon, the emerald course wanders through mud-gray high desert, with the blue peaks of the San Juans to the south. Green fees, $35–$42;

Filed To: Snow Sports