Located just east of Montrose is the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, a 12 mile section of the one of the deepest canyons in North America. The Black Canyon National Park is just one of many in Colorado, others include Colorado National Monument, Mesa Verde National Park, the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Hovenweep National Monument, and the Great Sand Dunes National Monument. Each of these parks are located in the southern part of Colorado.
Location: 8 miles east of Montrose on Highway 50.
South Rim: open daily, with the South Rim Road being open from April to Mid November. During the winter the South Rim Road is open to Gunnison Point.
North Rim: the North Rim Road and ranger station are closed in the winter with the road closing from late November until mid-April.
Area: 48.05 Square Miles
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park showcases a 12 mile section of the Gunnison River gorge. The Gunnison River drops an average of 34 feet per mile, the fifth steepest descent of a river in North America. The Gunnison Survey of 1853 provides the first governmental account of the canyon. By 1882 the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad conquered the canyon to Cimarron with the three foot narrow gauge line of rail. There is a railroad exhibit at Cimarron several miles east of the park on Highway 50. There are 3 entrances to the Park, both north and south rims. The total length of the Black Canyon is 53 miles, upstream is the Curecanti National Recreation Area, and downstream is the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area.
There is camping on both the north and south rims: Camping
Location: near the City of Grand Junction in Mesa County.
Area: 20, 533 acres.
Driving: Westbound on Highway 70 towards Grand Junction, Exit 31 (Horizon Drive)
Eastbound on Highway 70, use Exit 19 (Fruita) turning south on Highway 340 to the West Entrance.
Highway 50 from Montrose follow Highway 50, which becomes 6 & 50 to 1st Street, going north on 1st Street to Highway 340 (which is Broadway) travel west until directed to the park entrance.
The National Monument is open daily all year around with the Saddlehorn Campground open year round.
The high desert of the Colorado Plateau is on full display within the park with sandstone canyons. Rimrock Drive skirts the many canyons within the Monument. A wide variety of wildlife can be seen in the Monument, including, red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, ravens, jays, desert bighorn sheep, and coyotes. Activities: camping, hiking, horseback riding, road biking on Rim Drive, scenic drives, the visitor center, spectacular views of the Grand Valley, the Book Cliffs, and the Grand Mesa to the east.
Mesa Verde National Park, Hovemweep National Monument, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument: Link
Great Sand Dunes National Park
Area: 132.4 sq. miles.
Located near Mosca, Colorado in the San Luis Valley of Central Colorado is the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. The park contains the tallest sand dunes in North America at 750 feet of elevation gain from the valley floor. The park also includes alpine lakes and six peaks over 13,000 feet in elevation, providing a diverse habitat for wildlife and plants, including: pikas, bighorn sheep, black bears, mountain lions, beavers, badgers, bison, pronghorn, ptarmigan, peregrine falcons, owls, eagles, and herons.
Camping at Pinon Flats (one mile north of the Visitor Center) is from spring through fall.