Saturday, July 03, 2010

Uraling to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

On the eve of our nation's birthday, I set out at 8:00 AM from my home with a vague plan to ride out to Gunnison, CO and from there see the sights of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.  Not much preparation on my part, I'd not even decided until I woke to do the ride!

A quick breakfast, some packing and a kiss from my loving wife and I was out the door.  I took US285 out of Denver and by 10:00 AM I'd reached and cruised past Kenosha Pass and had a clear view of the Colorado Plateau valley where the towns of Jefferson, Fairplay and South Park are located.

I stayed on US285 all the way past Fairplay and soon was where it junctions with US24 near Buena Vista.  As I was trying to make time, I didn't stop at the usual spots to get pictures of the imposing and beautiful Fourteeners that make up the Collegiate Peaks.  However, here's a link to previous rides with pictures of these majestic mountains:  LINK

Soon enough I was at the junction of US285 and US50 near Poncha Springs.  I took US50 westward and made my way up to the summit of Monarch Pass where one crosses the Continental Divide in this part of Colorado.  Natasha was laboring, as usual, on the uphill roadway leading to each pass, but she always reached the top!

Cruising down from Monarch Pass, it was light traffic and winding mountain road until I reached Gunnison at 12:30 PM.  I checked in with my loving wife and continued onwards.  Black Canyon was about 45 miles or so from Gunnison so it took me another hour or so before I was riding into the national park.  On the way, one travels through the Curecanti National Recreation Area.

Near the Dillon Pinnacles, just after crossing over Blue Mesa Reservoir

The entrance fee is $7 and luckily traffic continued light in terms of folks visiting the park.  My first stop was Tomichi Point where one can gaze into the depths of Black Canyon for the first time:

The view from Tomichi Point
Tomichi was the Native American name for the Gunnison River

I started my exploration of Black Canyon by riding along the South Rim Road, I hope you enjoy the pictures I took as I rode along, stopping where I could and where a view was to be enjoyed.

It's a long way down

Near the South Rim Rd Visitor Center

The Chasm View Overlook

A distant glimpse of the Gunnison River

The South Rim Road deadends with a turnaround parking lot.  I cruised on back towards the Visitor Center.  On the way, I stopped at one trail, Dragon Point, and walked in since it was only 100 yards to the overlook site.  The day was hot so I was not about to walk some of the other trails to other lookout points.
A view of the Gunnison River from Dragon Point

A view of "The Painted Wall"

I think this is a Joshua Tree, located near the Dragon Point Scenic Overlook

Mounting back onto Natasha, who's new Ducati ignition system was doing GREAT in the heat of the day and multiple stops and starts, I went back towards the Ranger station at the entrance to the park.  I then took the river access road which leads down into the canyon.

It was a slow going, use the brakes carefully but often, ride down a pave road with up to 16 degree grades slope.  I was glad once again that traffic was light and I didn't have some car behind me.  I made it down to the bottom of the canyon and rode towards Crystal Dam.  The way is barred to the actual dam so I turned around at that point for some pictures:

Near Crystal Dam

Riding along the bottom of Black Canyon, with the Gunnison River running alongside

Near the Gunnison Tunnel and Diversion Dam

Once I'd exhausted the picture sites down by the Gunnison River, I pointed Natasha back up the sometimes steep road back towards the top of Black Canyon.  Natasha never did struggle much on the way up, as I was taking it nice and slow, always searching for a safe spot to stop her at for one more picture:

Heading up from the bottom of Black Canyon

I left the park and wound my way back down to US50.  It was close to 5:00 PM at this point, I'd covered the South Rim Rd and River Access road in about two hours.  I recommend you budget more time if you're inclined to take the many short hikes to the many scenic overlooks.  There's also a North Rim Road but that will have to wait for another day.

About an hour later I was nearing the outskirts of Gunnison and stopped once again near the Dillon Pinnacles as the afternoon sun was illuminating them quite nicely:

 Panoramic view near Dillon Pinnacles, west of Gunnison, CO

Dillon Pinnacles

I arrive at Gunnison shortly after 6:00 PM and found a room on the east side of town at the Western Motel.  Nice old fashioned motel, with clean accommodations and a decent price.  Heck, the lady at the front desk even let me park Natasha under the overhand by the front office!  There was a power outlet right there and Natasha's batteries are charging even as I type this.

A pretty good day's worth of riding.  I figure I spent perhaps 9hrs in the saddle and covered 541 Km (324 miles) with Natasha performing very well.

Natasha rests after a long day on the road.


motoroz said...

Great pics, again. I love the BCG. I have been there once. It is so pretty. I have also ridden over Monarch Pass, that is a great area also. I have not been to down to Cystal Dam or now in the Canyon, looks great.
I will be in Colorado July 10th and start our ride to Yellowstone and back. I look forward to riding through Colorado again.

SonjaM said...

Wow! Breathtaking photos. Looking forward to part two of your journey.

Steve Williams said...

You just have some amazing rides. I look at the stuff you seem to routinely experience and bemoan the fact to myself that they would be once in a lifetime experiences for me.

Someday I am going to get out that way on two wheels.

Good luck and ride safe!

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

irondad said...

Like the last photo.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Sir:

I followed directions and posted my comments on the ""

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads