Complete Guide to South Rim Drive Road, Black Canyon of the Gunnison (2023)

Driving South Rim Drive Road is one of the best things to do in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Along its short distance, you can take your pick between 12 overlooks. This is the easiest and fastest way to get panoramic views of the canyon, see the unique, striated cliffs, and peer down to the Gunnison River.

In this post, get the full details on what to expect along the South Rim Drive Road.

Table of Contents

South Rim Drive Road, Black Canyon of the Gunnison

The South Rim Drive Road is 7 miles long. Stretching from Tomichi Point to High Point, you can visit all, or just a few, of the 12 viewpoints.

Some overlooks are located right next to the parking lot, so a few minutes is all you will need to visit them. Other overlooks can sit 1/3 of a mile from the road, so expect to do a little walking.

Below we list each overlook, with photos and information to help you plan your time. There is no reason to stop at all of them, because they get to be repetitive, so I’ll let you know our favorites at the end of this post.

These overlooks are listed in order, starting with Tomichi Point and ending at High Point. All distances are one-way.

How to Use This Map: Click the icons on the map to get more information about each point of interest. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.

Tomichi Point

Distance: 10 feet | Time: 5 – 10 minutes

Complete Guide to South Rim Drive Road, Black Canyon of the Gunnison (1)

This viewpoint is located right before you get to the visitor center. From here, you look east along the canyon. This overlook is located on the Rim Rock Trail, so if you have plans to hike this short trail, you’ll catch the view from Tomichi Point along the way. The nice thing about this viewpoint is that no walking is necessary. Simply step out of your car and walk a few steps to the viewpoint.

Gunnison Point

Distance: 100 yards | Time: 10 – 15 minutes

(Video) East Portal Road in Black Canyon of the Gunnison N.P.

Complete Guide to South Rim Drive Road, Black Canyon of the Gunnison (2)

This is one of the best overlooks in Black Canyon of the Gunnison. It is located right next to the Visitor Center. It’s a short, downhill walk to the viewpoint and the view is incredible. From here, you get panoramic views of the canyon and can look down into the far depths of the canyon.

Pulpit Rock Overlook

Distance: 134 yards | Time: 10 minutes

Complete Guide to South Rim Drive Road, Black Canyon of the Gunnison (3)

This is a popular overlook because it gives you a sweeping view of Black Canyon of the Gunnison. From here, you get to appreciate just how narrow and deep this canyon is.

Cross Fissures View

Distance: 357 yards | Time: 15 – 20 minutes

Complete Guide to South Rim Drive Road, Black Canyon of the Gunnison (4)

Complete Guide to South Rim Drive Road, Black Canyon of the Gunnison (5)

This viewpoint gives you up a close-up view of fissures of rock within the canyon. It lacks the big, sweeping views you get from other overlooks but we really liked this one. This is a unique viewpoint, with views of the jagged rocks, and it’s also less crowded than some of the other overlooks on this list. Plus, you can take some great photos here (the cover photo for this post was taken here).

Rock Point

Distance: 294 yards | Time: 15 minutes

Complete Guide to South Rim Drive Road, Black Canyon of the Gunnison (6)

Honestly, the view from Rock Point is nothing special. From the overlook, you get to see a massive chunk of rock creating a bend in the Gunnison River.

Devils Lookout

Distance: 607 yards | Time: 20 – 30 minutes

Complete Guide to South Rim Drive Road, Black Canyon of the Gunnison (7)

(Video) Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. South Rim Drive. Dragons Point. East Portal Drive.

Complete Guide to South Rim Drive Road, Black Canyon of the Gunnison (8)

It’s a long walk to this overlook, about a third of a mile one-way. You get nice views of the canyon but for the amount of walking that you do, I don’t think that this overlook is worth it.

While in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trails, pack out what you bring to the hiking trails, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.

Chasm View

Distance: 100 yards | Time: 10 minutes

Complete Guide to South Rim Drive Road, Black Canyon of the Gunnison (9)

From Chasm View, you get to see canyon at its narrowest point. Along this stretch of Black Canyon of the Gunnison, the rock walls plunge straight down to the Gunnison River.

Painted Wall

Distance: 200 yards | Time: 10 – 15 minutes

Complete Guide to South Rim Drive Road, Black Canyon of the Gunnison (10)

This overlook gives you the best view of the striated walls of the canyon. The Painted Wall is the tallest cliff in Colorado at 2,250 feet.

The light-colored bands are called pegmatite. Over a billion years ago, molten rock squeezed between fissures in the rock, forming these bands.

Cedar Point Nature Trail

Distance: 303 yards | Time: 15 – 20 minutes

Complete Guide to South Rim Drive Road, Black Canyon of the Gunnison (11)

This is one of the best overlooks in Black Canyon of the Gunnison. You can look along the Gunnison River with the steep, canyon walls on either side. Plus, you get to see the amazing, striped walls of the North Rim of the canyon.

For more information about Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, read our Black Canyon of the Gunnison Travel Guide. Get important travel planning tips, sample itineraries, advice on when to go, where to stay, and more.

(Video) Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park - The Traveling Tacos - Driving The South Rim Road

Dragon Point

Distance: 100 yards | Time: 10 minutes

Complete Guide to South Rim Drive Road, Black Canyon of the Gunnison (12)

Complete Guide to South Rim Drive Road, Black Canyon of the Gunnison (13)

This is another great overlook in the park. However, the view is very similar to Cedar Point Nature Trail so I don’t think you need to visit both of them. It’s a shorter walk to get to Dragon Point, so if you only want to visit one of these two viewpoints, I recommend Dragon Point.

Sunset View

Distance: 10 feet | Time: 5 minutes

Complete Guide to South Rim Drive Road, Black Canyon of the Gunnison (14)

The nice thing about this overlook is that you don’t have to walk far from your car to see the view. However, it’s not the most thrilling view, so I think this viewpoint is worth skipping. There is a picnic area here, right next to the parking lot, so if you packed lunch, this is a nice place to enjoy your meal, and the view. It’s also a great place to watch the sunset.

High Point

Distance: 100 yards | Time: 10 minutes

Complete Guide to South Rim Drive Road, Black Canyon of the Gunnison (15)

The South Rim Road ends at the parking lot for High Point and Warner Point Nature Trail. From the parking lot, walk a short distance down the Warner Point Trail for the view. Now, you are looking south so you no longer have views of the canyon. Instead, you are looking out over Montrose and the Uncompahgre Valley. This viewpoint is only worth it if you have plans to hike the Warner Point Nature Trail.

Best Views on the South Rim Road

If you only have the time, or the energy, for a handful of viewpoints, here are our six favorites:

  • Gunnison Point
  • Pulpit Rock
  • Cross Fissures View
  • Chasm View
  • Painted Wall
  • Cedar Point Nature Trail or Dragon Point

Before You Go: Important Things to Know

Allow 2 to 3 hours to drive the South Rim Drive Road. With this amount of time, you can visit roughly half of the overlooks. If you want to see all of them, give yourself four hours.

(Video) Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park- Hikes, Drives and Roaring Rivers

The South Rim Road is closed beyond the Visitor Center in the winter months. Get updates on road conditions on the National Park Service website.

For a full list of things to do on the South Rim, read our post 6 Best Things to do on the South Rim of Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

If you have any questions about driving the South Rim Road in Black Canyon of the Gunnison, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information about Colorado

COLORADO: To read all of our articles about Colorado, check out our Colorado Travel Guide.

BLACK CANYON OF THE GUNNISON: On a visit to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, you can explore both the North Rim and the South Rim. Get the full details on how to plan your visit in our Guide to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

MESA VERDE: Learn about the best things to do and how to plan your visit in our Guide to Mesa Verde National Park.

ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK:Check out our Rocky Mountain National Park Travel Guide for important travel planning tips, sample itineraries, advice on when to go, where to stay, and more.

USA ROAD TRIPS: Planning your next big adventure in the USA? Check our our USA Road Trip Guide for travel ideas and sample itineraries.

If this is part of a bigger road trip through the USA, visit our United States Travel Guide for more inspiration and travel planning tips.

Complete Guide to South Rim Drive Road, Black Canyon of the Gunnison (16)

All rights reserved © Earth Trekkers. Republishing this articleand/orany of its contents (text, photography, etc.), in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited.

Related Posts

  • Best Things to do on the South Rim of Black Canyon of the Gunnison
  • 6 Things to do on the North Rim of Black Canyon of the Gunnison
  • How to Hike the Gunnison Route | Black Canyon of the Gunnison

FAQs

How long is South Rim Road in Black Canyon of the Gunnison? ›

South Rim Road

The South Rim Drive is 7 miles from Tomichi Point to High Point, and has 12 overlooks. Most are reached by walking a short trail. Allow 2-3 hours to view several overlooks. Those with limited time should consider stopping at Gunnison Point, Chasm View, Painted Wall and Sunset View.

How long does it take to drive through Black Canyon of the Gunnison? ›

You'll need to allow two to three hours' drive time from one rim to the other—but it's entirely worth it. Not only are there far fewer people, but the views from the North Rim are also more dramatic, if that's even possible.

Which RIM is best Black Canyon of the Gunnison? ›

1. Drive South Rim Road. Without a doubt, this is the best thing to do on the South Rim of Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Along this relatively short drive, you are treated to spectacular views of the canyon.

How many days do you need at Black Canyon of the Gunnison? ›

2 Days in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

How many days do you need at the South Rim? ›

For most South Rim visitors, one day is enough to take pictures, walk around the rim and even take a Grand Canyon helicopter tour or vehicle tour.

Which is better north or South Rim Black Canyon of the Gunnison? ›

What is the difference between the South Rim and North Rim? The South Rim has more services, facilities and overlooks, and provides better views of the Painted Wall. The North Rim is accessed via a gravel road, has no visitor center, but does provide better views into the narrowest part of the canyon.

Is South Rim better than West? ›

The activities offered at each location vary; the South Rim is best for sightseeing and hiking, while the West Rim is best for helicopter rides and walking on the Skywalk.

Which is better the North Rim or South Rim? ›

The North Rim stays pleasantly cool, even during the summer. Since it's covered in trees, the North Rim has a natural shade while the South Rim heats up drastically during the summer months. The atmosphere at the North Rim is much more relaxing because so few people visit.

Is Black Canyon of the Gunnison worth it? ›

Black Canyon of the Gunnison was impressive, and it's definitely worth a stop if you are traveling on Highway 50 through Colorado. You can hit the highlights of this park in as little as 1-2 hours, or stay longer and dig deep. It's uncrowded and low-stress. Stay in Montrose or Gunnison nearby.

Do you need a reservation to get into the Black Canyon of the Gunnison? ›

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park | Gunnison, Colorado. According to mycoloradoparks.com, visitors do not need reservations to visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park; however, reservations for the South Rim area are "strongly recommended." An annual pass to the park costs $55.

What city is closest to Black Canyon of the Gunnison? ›

What town is closest to Black Canyon of the Gunnison? Montrose is the city closest to Black Canyon of the Gunnison South Rim. The town is located 13 miles (21 km) from the Black Canyon South Rim Entrance Station. Crawford is also just 13 miles (21 km) away but from the more remote Black Canyon North Rim Ranger Station.

Are there bears in Black Canyon of the Gunnison? ›

Black Bear (21) are common on the Gunnison National Forest, but a chance encounter is unlikely since bears are also secretive animals.

Can you drive to the bottom of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison? ›

The East Portal Road travels five steep miles to the bottom of the canyon. You'll find a small campground, picnic area, and primitive trail when you reach the end of the road.

What does the W in Gunnison stand for? ›

Gunnison is the county seat of beautiful Gunnison County in western central Colorado. It is home to Western State College of Colorado, hence the giant W mountain letter. Done. Show your appreciation with the gift of Flickr Pro.

How deep is the water in Black Canyon? ›

Black Canyon Lake has 78 acres (32 ha), with a maximum depth of 60 feet (18 m) and an average depth of 35 feet (11 m). Like other Rim lakes, Black Canyon is deep, and historically has been low in nutrients.

Is the South Rim Trail difficult? ›

The South Rim Trail hike is challenging, covering 12.7 miles and 2700 feet of elevation gain. While the trail is never too steep, the elevation gain is fairly consistent all the way to the South Rim.

What is the best time of day to visit Grand Canyon South Rim? ›

The parking lots around the Visitor Center usually fill by 12 noon. It's a good idea to arrive early (before 9:30 am) to find a parking spot and be able to make the most of your time here. The best way to tour the village is to park your vehicle once, then ride the Village (Blue) Route Shuttle around the South Rim.

Do you need a reservation to go to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon? ›

Grand Canyon National Park does not have timed entry, or reservations to enter the park. Whether you're planning a single visit or coming back multiple times a year, enjoy the convenience of purchasing a Grand Canyon National Park site-specific digital pass on Recreation.gov before you arrive.

What is the most scenic rim of the Grand Canyon? ›

Grand Canyon South Rim is most frequently chosen by first-time visitors to the area not only for its beautiful views, but for its abundance of visitor services and family-oriented activities. The South Rim is open year-round.

Why is the South Rim more popular than the North Rim? ›

There is a good reason people flock to the South Rim; it's the more popular part of Grand Canyon National Park; it's stunningly beautiful; it's more developed by way of visitors centers and services; there's more lodging nearby; you can hike, backpack and camp; it's easier to access and is more centrally located for ...

What city is closest to the South rim of the Grand Canyon? ›

Tusayan. Tusayan is the closest city to the Grand Canyon, located just 2 miles outside the park's south entrance station.

What city is closest to South rim? ›

Grand Canyon National Park's SOUTH RIM (open all year) is located 60 miles north of Williams, Arizona (via route 64 from Interstate 40) and 80 miles northwest of Flagstaff (via route 180).

How far is it from the south rim to the bottom of the Grand Canyon? ›

Q: How long will it take to get to the bottom from the South Rim? A: The South Kaibab Trail is 6.8 miles to Bright Angel Campground and the Bright Angel Trail is 9.3 miles. It will take most hikers between 4 and 5 hours to get to the campground on either trail.

Why is South Rim more popular? ›

There is a good reason people flock to the South Rim; it's part of Grand Canyon National Park; it's stunningly beautiful; it's more developed by way of visitors centers and services; there's more lodging nearby; you can hike, backpack and camp; it's easier to access; it's more centrally located for Arizona visitors; ...

What is the best month to go to the Grand Canyon? ›

Weather in the Grand Canyon is at its best between April and June, when rainfall averages are low and temperatures have not yet reached their scorching summer highs. The park becomes extremely crowded when school lets out in June, so plan your visit before then, if possible.

Is the Skywalk on the north or south rim? ›

A walk on the sky is only available at the Skywalk at the Grand Canyon West Rim. This 10-foot wide, horseshoe-shaped glass bridge extends 70 feet out over the rim of the Grand Canyon.

Is the drive to Black Canyon of the Gunnison scary? ›

Some of the deepest areas of this canyon get little more than 30 minutes of sunlight per day, yet visitors can discover an incredible feat of science and nature by exploring this canyon from top to bottom. Once you shake off the shadowy jitters, you'll find it's not scary at all.

Can you swim in Black Canyon of the Gunnison? ›

Other things to do near Black Canyon of the Gunnison

There's a large lake where you can boat, swim or just dip your feet in. It does require a $9.00 day pass per vehicle to enter.

What is special about Black Canyon of the Gunnison? ›

It has some of the world's oldest exposed rock.

That is exactly what you get at Black Canyon of the Gunnison: the rocks exposed at the bottom of the canyon are nearly 2 billion years old, dating from the Precambrian era.

Is the North Rim of Black Canyon worth it? ›

North Rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is well worth the effort. Sure, it is a little off the beaten path, so plan on another day. The North Rim campground is very well maintained. Hiking trails are convenient.

Do you have to pay to get into Black Canyon? ›

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park normally charges $20 per vehicle, $15 per motorcycle and $10 per pedestrian or bicycle. Entrance fees are good for seven days.

Is a reservation required for Dinosaur National Monument? ›

Visitors to the Dinosaur National Monument Quarry exhibit have been required to make advance reservations for the past year. This restriction has been lifted and travelers are no longer confined to a strict time frame for visiting.

Is Black Canyon deeper than Grand Canyon? ›

Depth (feet) of the Black Canyon at Warner Point. That's impressive, but not by comparison to the true monsters. Hells Canyon, the deepest canyon in North America, is 7,913 feet deep at Hedevil Point (on the Idaho side). The Grand Canyon averages about 5,000 feet deep.

What is Gunnison Colorado known for? ›

If you enjoy alpine skiing, ski mountaineering, or snowboarding, Gunnison is the place to be. Western has some of the best winter sport teams in the state.

Why do they call it Black Canyon? ›

The appearance of the canyon's walls is what gave this place its unusual name. The Black Canyon, so named because the walls are often shrouded in shadows making them appear black, has some of the world's oldest exposed rock — Precambrian or “basement” rock that is nearly 2 billion years old.

What time of day are black bears most active in spring? ›

Many wildlife studies have shown that in spring black bears move the most at twilight and before dawn, moderately during the day, and the least at night.

Are there mountain lions in Gunnison? ›

“That is not great lion habitat up there this time of year, with all the snow that tends to keep big game down lower,” said Lewandowski. “It's unusual that this would happen, but there are lions in the Gunnison Basin and all over Colorado.

Are there moose in Gunnison? ›

According to Diamond, moose have done fairly well across the Gunnison Basin over the last several years and the populations appear to be on the rise.

How long is the South Rim hike? ›

The Rim Trail stretches from the South Kaibab Trailhead west to Hermits Rest, a distance of approximately 13 miles (21 km). Most of the trail is paved.

How long is East Portal Road in Black Canyon? ›

A paved 5 mile road with the last 3 miles a steep 16% grade.

Can you drive the South Rim trail? ›

Grand Canyon South Rim Scenic Drive: Cameron to Grand Canyon Village. Discover this 55.0-mile point-to-point trail near Cameron, Arizona. Generally considered an easy route, it takes an average of 25 h 41 min to complete.

Is Black Canyon of the Gunnison worth it? ›

Black Canyon of the Gunnison was impressive, and it's definitely worth a stop if you are traveling on Highway 50 through Colorado. You can hit the highlights of this park in as little as 1-2 hours, or stay longer and dig deep. It's uncrowded and low-stress. Stay in Montrose or Gunnison nearby.

Is the South Rim Trail difficult? ›

The South Rim Trail hike is challenging, covering 12.7 miles and 2700 feet of elevation gain. While the trail is never too steep, the elevation gain is fairly consistent all the way to the South Rim.

How hard is the South Rim Trail? ›

South Rim at a Glance

The difficulty level is classified as strenuous. Depending on the routes chosen, it's 12-14.5 miles total and will take 7-8 hours. This is a loop trail. You can start your hike with the steep Pinnacles Hike or the more gradual Laguna Meadows.

Is one day enough for south rim Grand Canyon? ›

With just one day at the Grand Canyon South Rim, you can see several viewpoints and even hike into the canyon. Unless you want a super relaxed Grand Canyon vacation on the rim or an adventurous rafting trip down below, one to three days at the Grand Canyon is usually enough time for the highlights.

Is the drive to Black Canyon of the Gunnison scary? ›

Some of the deepest areas of this canyon get little more than 30 minutes of sunlight per day, yet visitors can discover an incredible feat of science and nature by exploring this canyon from top to bottom. Once you shake off the shadowy jitters, you'll find it's not scary at all.

Is Black Canyon deeper than Grand Canyon? ›

Depth (feet) of the Black Canyon at Warner Point. That's impressive, but not by comparison to the true monsters. Hells Canyon, the deepest canyon in North America, is 7,913 feet deep at Hedevil Point (on the Idaho side). The Grand Canyon averages about 5,000 feet deep.

Can you drive to the bottom of the Black Canyon? ›

The East Portal Road travels five steep miles to the bottom of the canyon. You'll find a small campground, picnic area, and primitive trail when you reach the end of the road.

How long is the South Rim Drive? ›

The South Rim Drive Road is 7 miles long. Stretching from Tomichi Point to High Point, you can visit all, or just a few, of the 12 viewpoints. Some overlooks are located right next to the parking lot, so a few minutes is all you will need to visit them.

Do you need a reservation to go to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon? ›

Grand Canyon National Park does not have timed entry, or reservations to enter the park. Whether you're planning a single visit or coming back multiple times a year, enjoy the convenience of purchasing a Grand Canyon National Park site-specific digital pass on Recreation.gov before you arrive.

Do you need a reservation to get into the Black Canyon of the Gunnison? ›

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park | Gunnison, Colorado. According to mycoloradoparks.com, visitors do not need reservations to visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park; however, reservations for the South Rim area are "strongly recommended." An annual pass to the park costs $55.

Are there bears in Black Canyon of the Gunnison? ›

Black Bear (21) are common on the Gunnison National Forest, but a chance encounter is unlikely since bears are also secretive animals.

What city is closest to Black Canyon of the Gunnison? ›

What town is closest to Black Canyon of the Gunnison? Montrose is the city closest to Black Canyon of the Gunnison South Rim. The town is located 13 miles (21 km) from the Black Canyon South Rim Entrance Station. Crawford is also just 13 miles (21 km) away but from the more remote Black Canyon North Rim Ranger Station.

Videos

1. South Rim Campground - Black Canyon National Park
(Campground Recon)
2. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Time Lapse South Rim Drive
(22 West Photography)
3. South Rim Campground Review - Black Canyon of the Gunnison by RV Adventures
(RV Adventures)
4. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. 4k scenic drive.
(110 West Overland)
5. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park - South Rim - Montrose/Black Canyon KOA, Colorado
(Elementary Explorers)
6. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park - South Rim Road Drive
(Peripatetic Wanderer)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Clemencia Bogisich Ret

Last Updated: 02/07/2023

Views: 6226

Rating: 5 / 5 (80 voted)

Reviews: 87% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Clemencia Bogisich Ret

Birthday: 2001-07-17

Address: Suite 794 53887 Geri Spring, West Cristentown, KY 54855

Phone: +5934435460663

Job: Central Hospitality Director

Hobby: Yoga, Electronics, Rafting, Lockpicking, Inline skating, Puzzles, scrapbook

Introduction: My name is Clemencia Bogisich Ret, I am a super, outstanding, graceful, friendly, vast, comfortable, agreeable person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.