Flickr album link: Rim Drive ~ Black Canyon
Touring Rim Drive in Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park is an easy going experience, that is unless acrophobia is something to contend with. The fear of heights is no joke at Black Canyon and there is no relief to be found anywhere in this park due to the nature of the unforgiving terrain. Mentioning this disclaimer first is best to do and this park is also not a good place for risk takers either. The rim of Black Canyon can be dangerous, especially when high winds are forecasted, so it is best to be cautious when touring this unique destination. Nowhere else can such a big collection of sheer vertical cliffs be found and the deep river gorge is mesmerizing to see. Basically anywhere along Rim Drive that a visitor steps out of a car there will be captivating views of this rugged landscape that are well worth taking some extra time to absorb.
Doing the entire Rim Drive tour does require some patience, since the parking areas tend to fill up and there will be some backtracking to do. This is especially true on holiday weekends, since Highway 50 is a summer season tourism corridor through the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Fortunately most of the foot paths to the scenic overlooks are only a few dozen yards long, so the turnover time is short in the parking areas.
Any place a visitor stops to take a look there will be an eagle eye view, because the road follows the rim along a relatively narrow chunk of high ground. The views extend to the horizon along Rim Drive and an endless maze of deep gorges lies in between. The Black Canyon Landscape is a dream come true for landscape artists and for those who take a closer look, a lot can be learned. There are dozens upon dozens of dramatic pinnacles and rock formations rising from the canyon walls and each one has a name. There are also towering wide marbled rock walls that have patterns that resemble animate objects. Some of the hoodoos are shrouded and they impart an ominous look. As can be imagined, this is a great spot to use a zoom lens to capture unique images.
The Gunnison River can be seen way down below and the powerful updrafts in the dark canyons are a real joy ride for raptors and vultures. These big birds can soar by at over 60 mph with a tail wind, so those who are into birding will need to be quick with the panning technique. It is possible to obtain permits to climb and rappel into the deep abyss, so this is a place for extreme adventurists too. For those who prefer a tamer approach, East Portal Road descends to picnic areas by the river banks and there are moderately easy foot trails to the river along the North Rim, which is an all day touring affair of its own. If time is limited, the Rim Drive tour through the main section of the park offers the most bang for the buck, so be sure to just plan on chalking up a visit on the calendar!
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