• Activities:

    Photography, Hiking, Rock Climbing

  • Skill Level:

    Advanced

  • Season:

    Year Round

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    2 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    1800 Feet

Forest
River
Romantic
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife
Swimming Hole

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.

Pack List

  • Hiking boots
  • Water
  • Sun protection
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Reviews

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...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.

5 months ago
5 months ago

The beauty of the inner canyon is absolutely worth the 1800 ft. of struggle! There are some excellent campsites by the Gunnison River if you are willing to haul a backpack down, just be mindful to watch for poison ivy at the bottom. One of the highlights of the route for me is an 80 ft. chain which helps with passing through a steep section halfway down. Not to be missed!

12 months ago
12 months ago

Tobin Akehurst Explorer

I am from the Pacific Northwest, where the mountains meet the sea. When I eschew the trappings of the modern world and venture into the mountains I feel as though I am revived by simplicity, renewed by the power of violent geography.

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