North Rim quieter, more ‘primitive’ than South Rim

The Gunnison River continues to carve its way through the 1,800-foot deep Black Canyon in this view from Exclamation Point on the North Rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Historic flows might have reached 12,000 cubic feet per second or greater, twice the high flows expected later this spring.

Guide books describe the North Rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park as “quiet, undeveloped and primitive.”

Thank goodness for that, since it means you can hike the trails, ponder for hours at the breath-catching overlooks and spend a few minutes talking to the hospitable rangers with no fear of holding up some windshield tourist hurrying to bag another national park.

The turnoff to the North Rim, just east of Crawford Reservoir State Park on Colorado Highway 92, takes you along an 11-mile road, the last half of which is unpaved.

Roads along the North Rim also are unpaved but well-maintained.

Entrance fees are $15 per vehicle, valid for seven days. Visitors 62 and older can purchase a lifetime pass for $10 that allows access to all federal lands charging an entry fee.

In the spirit of remaining “primitive,” a campground and picnic area are available along the North Rim but few other visitor services are available.

The North Rim offers several trails and overlooks with excellent views of the river 1,800 feet below.

One of the better views is from the Chasm View overlook, where you can see the river during its stretch of greatest descent in the Black Canyon.

Here, the river drops 240 feet per mile compared to its average drop of 43 feet per mile through its entire 48-mile canyon, 14 miles of which are inside the park.

In comparison, the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon drops an average of 7.5 feet per mile.

Certain areas along the North and South rims are closed each year from March 15 through July 15 to protect nesting peregrine falcons.

Closure information is available on the park’s website and at the visitor stations on each rim.

For information go to


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