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Hike the Gunnison Route

Montrose, Colorado

based on 1 reviews



2 miles

Elevation Gain

1800 ft

Route Type



Added by Tobin Akehurst

The Gunnison Route is a unique and difficult route down to the Gunnison River showcasing incredible scenery of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. 

Immediately upon arriving, secure a permit to scramble down 1,800ft in one mile to the Gunnison River. There are no hiking trails below the rim of the canyon, and because of its relentless steepness and rock exposure, the only existing routes are incredibly steep and loose. To protect the delicate environment only 12 people are allowed per day.

The route down to the river is a steep, vegetated rock gully, littered with flecks of quartz, feldspar, mica and garnet that glitter in the light. At the base of the route there is an idyllic oasis along the river's edge. Vegetation competes for space below the naked towering walls of the canyon. The river, a surging torrent, rips down the canyon and disappears into a cataract as it makes its 240ft per mile drop. Oddly, somehow, the mighty river's roar is nearly drowned out by a cacophony of birdsong.

The legendary Painted Wall is also nearby. At 2,250ft tall, Painted Wall is the 3rd highest wall in all of America - only Yosemite's El Capitan and Notch Peak's North Face in Idaho are taller. The Forrest-Walker team established the 19 pitch, multi-day, Grade 5.10 A4 route from the ground up in 1972.

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Rock Climbing
Swimming Hole

Hike the Gunnison Route Reviews

...but also the most rewarding. When we were trying to figure out if we would be able to handle this route, the ranger asked, "Well, do you hike a lot, and are you in good shape?" Sure, we thought, no problem. This is not a route for the faint of heart. If you're looking to challenge yourself, slide down some rocks, get up close and personal with a gorgeous river, try to climb back up the rocks you slid down on, and give your quads the hardest workout they've ever gotten, this is the route for you.

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!


Hike the Oak Flat Loop

Drive the Scenic loop at Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park

Hike to the Painted Wall

Hike the Chasm View Nature Trail

Hike to Tomichi Point and Gunnison Point Overlooks

Camp at Black Canyon of the Gunnison's South Rim Campground