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When Is The Best Time To Visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison?

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park can be enjoyed year-round. But with the high elevation and frequent snows, many areas of the park remain closed in winter.

In this article we’re going to outline the best time to visit Black Canyon in every season. Including the best time of year for hiking, camping, and viewing wildflowers.

Plus, we’ll cover all of the activities you can do in winter.

leopard lilies grow in the spring at black canyon of the gunnison
Leopard lilies grow in the spring at Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Spring in Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Spring is the best time of year to visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison if you want to enjoy cooler weather and see colorful wildflowers along the trails.

Late April and early May is when you will see the greatest diversity of color. You will see everything from leopard lilies, to bur buttercups, and fern-leaf desert parsley.

While many trails within the park are dotted with flowers, the Uplands Trail on the South Rim is particularly colorful.

summer on the Gunnison River in black canyon
Summer on the Gunnison River in Black Canyon

Summer in Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Black Canyon of the Gunnison is one of the best National Parks to visit in summer because it doesn’t get sweltering hot. Low humidity and high elevation keep it comfortable throughout the hottest months of the year.

Summer is the best time to visit if you want to do long hiking trails or spend a night at one of the campgrounds in Black Canyon.

This is also the best time of year for waking up early and getting some sunrise pictures of the Painted Wall.

views from the oak flat trail in fall black canyon of the gunnison
View from the Oak Flat Trail in Fall

Fall in Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Fall is your last opportunity to go for a scenic drive on the North Rim before the winter sets in and some of the roads start to close for the season.

Autumn is the best time of year to visit if you want to see the changing leaves and go for a short hike in the crispy weather.

The canyon gets ridiculously colorful between the aspen trees, gambel oak, and single-leaf ash. You’ll see every hue including yellow, orange, reds and purple during this time of year.

The trees typically begin to change color around late September.

visiting black canyon of the gunnison national park in winter
Winter in Black Canyon

Visiting Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Winter

Visiting the Black Canyon in winter does require some preparation, but it is worth it. Winter has minimal visitors so you won’t be fighting the crowds. And there are still plenty of activities to do throughout the day.

Snowshoe Walks

Several trails along the South Rim are open for snowshoe hikes. You can venture off on your own or join one of the ranger-led treks which occur every weekend. The treks are about 1-mile long and require reservations.

When you go on a ranger-led snowshoe tour you can get all of the equipment and the guide for free! There are also family-friendly walks available that are perfect for kids.

Top snowshoe walk trails in Black Canyon:

  • Rim Rock Trail
  • Uplands Trail
  • Oak Flat Loop Trail (upper section)
  • South Rim Road (beyond Gunnison Point)

Keep in mind, there is no drinking water available in the park during winter so be sure to pack plenty of your own!

black canyon of the gunnison south rim visitor center
Black Canyon Visitor Center at the start of winter

Cross Country Skiing

South Rim Road beyond Gunnison Point is groomed for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. That gives visitors 6-miles of scenic road to exercise on while visiting the overlooks.

All of the overlooks on the South Rim are accessible so it’s a great time to venture out and get the place to yourself!

Winter Road Closures In The Black Canyon

South Rim Road is typically open from late-April to mid-November. Once the heavy winter snows begin, the road is closed to vehicles beyond Gunnison Point.

North Rim Road and the ranger station are closed in winter between late November and mid-April. There is no reason to visit the North Rim during winter since all points of entry are closed.

East Portal Road is closed in winter from late-April to mid-November.

gunnison point overlook in black canyon during winter
Overlooks are still accessible during winter

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Weather By Month

High up in the mountains, the weather in Black Canyon National Park changes dramatically throughout the year. The average temperatures by month in Black Canyon are:

MonthAverage HighAverage Low
January38°F17°F
February45°F23°F
March55°F30°F
April64°F37°F
May73°F45°F
June84°F53°F
July88°F59°F
August85°F57°F
September77°F49°F
October65°F38°F
November50°F27°F
December39°F19°F

*Average temperatures are listed according to WeatherSpark.com

January: This is the coldest month of the year to visit Black Canyon National Park. Roads are icy and snow-covered. The temperatures range from a low of 17°F to a high of 38°F.

February: This month sees some of the lowest tourist numbers in the park. The weather is freezing and cloudy. Temperatures range from a low of 19°F to a high of 39°F.

March: The weather in March is still quite cold and most roads continue to be closed Temperatures range from a low of 30°F to a high of 55°F.

April: Towards mid to late April the snow begins to melt and the wildflowers start to bloom. Both the North Rim and the South Rim roads open again for tourists. Temperatures range from a low of 37°F to a high of 64°F.

May: Wildflowers are in full bloom for the first time. It’s the perfect weather for hiking. Temperatures range from a low of 45°F to a high of 73°F.

June: This time of year the warmer weather really starts to pick up. You’ll want to start hiking in the morning because the sun is intense during the day at high elevations. Temperatures range from a low of 53°F to a high of 84°F.

July: This is the hottest month of the year in Black Canyon of the Gunnison. The sun is intense starting in early afternoon so you should start the day’s activities in the morning. This is the perfect time of year to get up early and watch the sunrise. Temperatures range from a low of 59°F to a high of 88°F.

August: It is still warm and sunny during August. It’s a good time to plan a camping trip and enjoy the last of the warm weather. Temperatures range from a low of 57°F to a high of 85°F.

September: The weather starts to cool off towards the end of the month and you may start to see the first hint of color in the leaves as they begin to change. Temperatures range from a low of 38°F to a high of 65°F.

October: The air is crips and cool. Fall colors are in full-swing. It’s a great time to do a long hiking trail and visit when the crowds are low. Temperatures range from a low of 38°F to a high of 65°F.

November: The temperature drops dramatically and roads become slippery. Around mid to late-November snow begins to fall and you’ll see the first road closures. Plan your hikes for the beginning of the month because it’s your last chance before winter! Temperatures range from a low of 27°F to a high of 50°F.

December: The coolest time of year in Black Canyon of the Gunnison. North Rim Road is closed and South Rim is closed beyond Gunnison Point. It’s time for ski season! Pack up your cross country skies or snowshoes and hit the trails! Temperatures range from a low of 19°F to a high of 39°F.

Is visiting Black Canyon National Park in the winter worth it?

Winter gives visitors an opportunity to ski and snowshoe along the canyon rim. If you can handle the cold weather, the trip is worth it.

When is the best time to visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park?

Summer is the best time to go hiking and camping in the Black Canyon. Spring is the best time to see wildflowers. Fall is the best time to see the changing leaves. Winter is the worst time to visit because of the cold temperatures, but you can still go cross country skiing and snowshoeing along South Rim Road.

Kate And Ian Moore, Authors At Parked In Paradise

Kate is the lead content creator for ParkedInParadise.com and has spent over two years living in a camper van conversion. She has traveled through 48 US states and writes about van life, camping and RV living.