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Camping In And Around Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

There are three incredible campgrounds located within Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park that are perfect for tent and RV campers. Tourists can also go backpacking and dispersed camping in the Black Canyon Wilderness Area.

In this article, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about camping in and around Black Canyon National Park. That includes RV campgrounds, free campsites, private campgrounds, and cabin rentals nearby.

north rim campground in black canyon of the gunnison national park
Campsite at the Black Canyon North Rim Campground

Campgrounds In Black Canyon

FeatureSouth Rim CampNorth Rim CampEast Portal Camp
# of Sites881315
ElectricityYesNoNo
WaterSeasonalSeasonalSeasonal
Max RV<55ft<22ft<22ft
Reservations Required?Some sitesFirst-comeFirst-come

If you want to spend the night under some of the darkest skies in the US than there is no better place than Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Three developed campgrounds are located within the park and accessible by vehicle.

The South Rim Campground is the largest and has electric hookups. Some campsites can be reserved ahead of time during the peak season but the rest are first-come, first-served only.

The North Rim Campground is much smaller and more secluded. It only has 13 dispersed camping sites that fill up quickly. The north rim sites can accommodate vehicles up to 22 feet.

The East Portal Campground is located within the Curecanti National Recreation Area but is only accessible through Black Canyon National Park. There are 15 dispersed camping sites which are first-come, first-served only. Vehicles up to 22 feet are permitted.

All of the campgrounds within Black Canyon have vault toilets and seasonal water. But you won’t find any showers within the park. There is also limited cell phone reception so don’t plan to make any phone calls!

tent in south rim campground black canyon of the gunnison national park
South Rim Campground

South Rim Campground

If you’re traveling in an RV up to 55 feet or with a travel trailer, then the South Rim Campground is the best place to stay. The campsite is walking distance from the Rim Rock Trail and the Uplands Trail which are our favorite hiking trails for seeing wildflowers and the canyon rim. It’s also only 1-mile from the park Visitor Center.

Campsites on the South Rim are partially shaded with Gambel Oak and Serviceberry bushes. And although the sites are fairly close together, the foliage makes them feel private. If you stay at the South Rim Campground chances are good that you’re going to see some mule deer!

The campsites are clean and well-maintained, plus you’ll get to witness some of the best stargazing in Colorado.

Quick facts:

  • The south rim campground has 3 loops including 88 campsites.
  • Loops A and B can be reserved during the summer months.
  • Loop C is for first-come, first-serve campers only.
  • 23 of the sites have electric hookups and all of them are located on loop B.
  • Water is seasonal and there are no showers.
  • Vault toilets only.
tent in north rim campground black canyon of the gunnison national park
North Rim Campground

North Rim Campground

The North Rim Campground is the best place in the park for convenient tent camping. It has a much more private and secluded feel than the south rim because there are only 13 sites. The best part about the North Rim Campground is it’s location right next to the Chasm View Nature Trail.

Chasm View is the best place to get a sunrise picture of the Painted Wall so it’s a great place to spend the night if you’re into photography.

Although the campsites are small, the Pinon and Juniper trees keep the areas separated so you won’t feel like you’re sleeping on top of other campers. There is also plenty of shade on the north rim!

The worst part about this campground is that it’s hard to get a spot. There are only a few sites and they’re highly coveted. All of them are first-come, first-served so it’s best to arrive early or plan to camp during the off-season.

Quick facts:

  • The North Rim Campground has 13 first-come, first-served campsites.
  • Vehicles up to 22-feet only.
  • Water is seasonal and there are no showers.
  • No electric hookups on the North Rim.
  • Vault toilets only.
summer on the Gunnison River in black canyon
Gunnison River in summer

East Portal Campground

The East Portal Campground is unlike any other in Black Canyon of the Gunnison. For one, it’s a challenge to get there. The campground itself is actually located in the Curecanti National Recreation Area but the only way to get there is by driving down East Portal Road in Black Canyon.

East Portal Road is an adventure in itself. The road stems from South Rim Road and continues 5-miles down and unpaved, gravel path. The road is steep and twisty with some sections up to 16% grade. It’s not recommended that you take anything longer than a small van or Class C RV. Vehicles up to 22 feet are prohibited.

Even though the road is only 5 miles long, you should plan for at least 45 minutes to drive to the base of the canyon. But the trip is worth it. Campsites in the East Portal campground are cool and highly shaded with box elder trees. There is good river access and plenty of chances to see wildlife including bears!

10 of the sites are walk-in from the parking area so you won’t want to pack too much gear. And the amenities are minimal. You can expect vault toilets and seasonal water availability. The best season for camping in Black Canyon is during the summer months. East portal road is closed in winter.

Before you go remember that sites are $16 each. And if you want to pay with a credit card, do it at the park visitor center before driving down East Portal Road. The other option is to pay with cash at the campground using the metal vault box.

Quick Facts:

  • The East Portal Campground has 15 first-come, first-served campsites.
  • Vehicles up to 22-feet only.
  • Water is seasonal and there are no showers.
  • No electric hookups.
  • Vault toilets only.
tent camping in the north rim campground
North Rim Campground

Black Canyon of the Gunnison Camping Tips

Before heading out on a camping trip in the Black Canyon, there are a few important things you should know:

Pack your own firewood: Firewood cannot be purchased at the visitor center or anywhere else within the park.

Save your reservations: There is little to no phone service within the park so even if you reserve a site ahead of time, print a copy of your site umber and reservation number!

There are no toilets or showers: All of the bathrooms within the park have vault toilets including the visitor center! Fortunately, the park staff is really good about keeping the bathrooms clean.

No dump stations available: Plan to empty your RV waste tank in the city of Montrose or one of the other nearby campgrounds.

Campsites are in bear territory: Bear-proof storage boxes are provided but you should still take extra precautions while camping including cleaning up food immediately after eating, storing any scented products, and not leaving any food or trash unattended.

Bring a leash: Pets are allowed in all campgrounds, and on park roads. Plus they are permitted at several of the overlooks!

Black Canyon Camping Fees

In addition to the National Park Entrance fee, the campgrounds at Black Canyon are reasonably priced. These are the standard nightly campsite fees:

  • South Rim Campground – standard site $16
  • South Rim Campground – electric site $22
  • North Rim Campground $16
  • East Portal Campground: $16

The park also offers additional discounts for Senior or Access pass holders of up to $8 off per night.

entrance sign to black canyon of the gunnison national park

RV Campgrounds Near Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Even though there are only a handful of campsites within Black Canyon that are suitable to large RVs, there are still plenty of places to spend the night nearby.

All of these campsites will give you quick access to the park, accommodate large campers, and have the same starry skies that you would find within Black Canyon.

Black Canyon RV Park and Campground

Located only 30 minutes outside of the National Park, the Black Canyon RV Park and Campground offers luxury accommodations including laundry facilities, Wi-Fi, and year-round showers.

The campground has a variety of pull-through sites for the biggest campers, smaller tent sites, and even a number of cabins available for rent.

Montrose/Black Canyon KOA

The closest RV campground to the city of Montrose and the Black Canyon is the Montrose/Black Canyon National Park KOA. The KOA is open year-round and has pull-through sites for RVs up to 75 feet long.

This is the best place to stay if you want to enjoy both the city some main street tourism. The campground is one of the KOA Journey series which means you can book an RV site, cabin, or tent site year-round.

Cedar Creek RV Park

Another park near the city of Montrose is the Cedar Creek RV Park. Not only does this resort have 45 RV spots for large campers but you can also rent a variety of unique accomodations including cabins and even tiny homes!

The RV park features a bathhouse, Wi-Fi, laundry services, and community spaces. There are also full-service hookups available and it’s all located near downtown Montrose.

Dispersed Camping Near Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Tent campers, van lifers, and RV travelers willing to rough it should consider dispersed camping in one of the many forests surrounding Black Canyon of the Gunnison. There are plenty of places to go boondocking for free nearby the park that are worth checking out.

Make sure to follow all dispersed camping rules before planning your trip.

Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area Dispersed Camping

The Gunnison Gorge Wilderness is run by the Bureau of Land Management and gives you quick access to both the North and South Rims of Black Canyon. There are several developed campgrounds that you can spend the night at for a small fee. Peach Valley Road gives you access to all fours wilderness trailheads in the park including:

  • Chukar Trailhead
  • Ute Trailhead
  • Duncan Trailhead
  • Bobcat Trailhead
camping on the blue mesa reservoir
Blue Mesa Reservoir

Blue Mesa Reservoir Dispersed Camping

Managed by the National Park Service, the Blue Mesa Reservoir is located within the Curecanti National Recreation Area. There are several developed campgrounds within the park, but also plenty of places to find dispersed camping as well. Here are some of our recommended spots:

Backpacking and Wilderness Camping in Black Canyon National Park

There are established campgrounds at the bottom of each of the wilderness hiking routes that traverse from the rim of the canyon down the the Gunnison River. All of the campsites are first-come, first-serve and have no amenities.

This is a popular backpacking destination and starting point for climbers who want to tackle some of the most technical routes. Be aware that the river is slippery and dangerous. There is no trail maintenance so you should take extra precaution when exploring.

Wilderness Use Permits are required.

  • SOB Draw: 6 campsites are located downstream of the SOB draw inner canyon trail.
  • Long Draw: 1 campsite located at the base of the trail.
  • Slide Draw: 2 campsites at the base of the trail.
  • Gunnison Route: 3 campsites near the river with an outhouse.
  • Tomichi Route: 2 campsites at the base of the trail.
  • Warner Route: 5 campsites at the base of the trail.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you car camping in Black Canyon of the Gunnison?

There are 3 campgrounds that allow car camping in Black Canyon National Park: The South Rim Campground, North Rim Campground, and East Portal Campground.

Can you camp at the bottom of Black Canyon of the Gunnison?

Yes, there are multiple campsites at the bottom of Black Canyon of the Gunnison including the East Portal Campground and several wilderness camping sites.

Can you camp anywhere in Gunnison National Forest?

There are developed and dispersed camping sites within the Gunnison Gorge National Forest. Camping permits are required.

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.