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5 Best Places To Photograph The Painted Wall In Black Canyon

The most iconic feature in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is the Painted Wall. It towers 2,250 feet above the Gunnison River and has unique “stripes” that criss cross its surface.

The Painted Wall is the most photographed feature in the park, and it has an interesting history.

In this article we’re going to list the top 5 places to take a picture of the Painted Wall and give you some facts about how it was formed.

taking pictures at the painted wall overlook black canyon of the gunnison
Photographer at the Painted Wall Overlook

Painted Wall View

The Painted Wall Viewpoint is the closest you’re gonna get to the rock–unless you plan on climbing it! This is the perfect place to see every feature along the 2,250 foot surface.

The walk to the overlook is only about 200 yards so you’ll be able to haul all of your camera equipment. And although there are some barriers to keep you from falling over the edge, there are still plenty of spots to take a picture without the safety fences in the way.

view from the cedar point hiking trail in black canyon of the gunnison
View of the Painted Wall from the Cedar Point Nature Trail

Cedar Point Nature Trail

One of the best hiking trails in Black Canyon is the Cedar Point Nature Trail. Not only will you get to learn about the local plants on this hike, but you’ll also get a picture-perfect view of the entire landscape including the Painted Wall dropping all the way to the Gunnison River.

The entire trail is only about 300 yards and includes multiple locations where you can snap a photo of the painted wall from different angles.

sunset on the painted wall in black canyon of the gunnison national park
Sunset from Dragon Point

Dragon Point

If you want to photograph the Painted Wall during sunset, then Dragon Point is our favorite spot. This overlook is only 100 yards from South Rim Road and allows you to see the full hight of the Painted Wall plus the Gunnison River below in one fantastic landscape.

The Dragon Point overlook is less popular than the Cedar Point Nature Trail so it’s a good place to go if you’re trying to avoid tourists.

sunrise on the painted wall in black canyon of the gunnison
Sunrise over the Painted Wall at Chasm View

North Chasm View Overlook

Seeing the Painted Wall from the North Rim gives you an entirely new perspective of the canyon. Our favorite view on the North Rim can be found along the Chasm View Nature Trail. This is an easy destination to get to because it’s only a 15 minute walk from the North Rim Campground.

Painted Wall is particularly dazzling in the mornings, and Chasm View is the best place in the park to watch a sunrise across the landscape. Summer is a great time to visit because the mornings are warm and comfortable.

From here, photographers get to witness the brilliant pink and red light as it colors the famous striations.

Exclamation Point

One of our favorite views in the park can be found at Exclamation Point. This is an overlook that you cannot miss. From this angle, you’ll get a direct shot of the Gunnison River with both canyon walls rising straight towards the sky.

To get there, walk about 1.5 miles down the North Vista Trail. The hike is mostly flat and easy. When you see the signs for Exclamation Point, make a quick left and you’ll be standing in awe of the unbelievable feature.

Facts About The Painted Wall

What type of rock is the Painted Wall made of?

The Painted Wall has an interesting geology. The light bands across the Painted Wall are made of pegmatite. This was originally molton rock which squeezed into the crevices of already hardened precambrian gneiss and schist rock during volcanic eruptions.

How high is the Painted Wall?

The Painted Wall is 2,250 feet tall which is the highest cliff in Colorado.

Can you climb the Painted Wall?

Yes, rock climbing is permitted on the Painted Wall, but it should only be attempted by the most advanced climbers. The canyon is known for its sharp and loose rocks. There are several routes you can take to the top.

landscape photo of painted wall in black canyon of the gunnison

Photography Tips For The Painted Wall

One of the most noticeable traits of the Black Canyon is the high contrast in colors. During most of the day, the upper part of the walls are brightened with sunlight while the lower portions are covered in a dark shadow.

The early morning hours are a good time to get pictures because the contrast between the upper and lower half of the canyon isn’t as extreme.

Use a wide angle lens so that you can fully capture the canyon.

Pack a tripod to create bracketed shots. HDR will be critical for capturing both the light and dark portions of the image.

Check the weather and shoot on a day when there are clouds. There is already a lot of contrast in the canyon so you don’t want to add more with a sunny blue sky floating above.

If possible, use a graduated neutral density filter to further limit the contrast.

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