5 Ways to Experience the Black Canyon in Winter

Spectacular year round, the park seems to come into its own in winter

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The Black Canyon is spectacular year round, but winter is arguably the best time of year to visit. Here are five of our favorite ways to experience it

1. On a Ranger-led Snowshoe Tour

Ranger-guided programs are designed to help you get started when it comes to experiencing the snow. Snowshoe walks are scheduled for Saturdays and Sundays at 11 am and last 90 minutes between January and March. No special skills are needed to participate and snowshoes are available to use, free of charge, for these programs. Reservations are recommended and can made by calling 970-641-2337.

2. At Night

The Black Canyon is an International Dark Sky Park and winter is a great time to stargaze. The Park often has winter night sky programs in conjunction with the Black Canyon Astronomical Society. Check the society’s event calendar for details of events this winter. If you want to go it alone, be sure to check the moon phase, moonrise, sunrise, and sunset times for Black Canyon as light from the moon means faint stars and the Milky Way are not visible.

3. On a Groomed Nordic Ski Trail

South Rim Drive is not plowed during the winter months to offer visitors the opportunity to cross country ski along it. The six-mile (one way) trail offers access to the overlooks. Park at the South Rim Visitor Center located at Gunnison Point.

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4. Explore the Canyon Rim

If snow is plentiful, snowshoers can trek on the upper part of Oak Flat Loop and Rim Rock Trail, both of which offer amazing views of the canyon. Trails can be slippery and drop-offs are steep, so be extremely careful. Snowshoeing is encouraged in any part of the canyon’s rim, but going into the inner canyon is not recommended. For beginner trails consider snowshoeing next to the groomed Nordic skiing trails on South Rim Drive.

Black Canyon from Pulpit Rock. Copyright NPS


U.S. National Park Service

5. Camping

If you decide to hunker down in the park for the evening you’re almost guaranteed to be completely alone. South Rim Campground Loop A is open throughout the winter, however there are no facilities available, meaning you’ll have to carry in everything you need - including water. Generators are allowed in the campground during the winter months. If you dare (and several people do each winter), camping along the closed South Rim Drive is permitted beyond Pulpit Rock Overlook. All wilderness regulations, including no wood fires, apply. A free wilderness use permit is required.

Insider info

  • Various ranger-led events happen throughout winter including snowshoe hikes. Check the park website for full details.

  • The North Rim (accessed via the north entrance near Paonia) is far less visited in winter so solitude is nearly guaranteed, but the road is closed and so the only way to get in is to hike. Call the visitor center to get tips on the best way to explore this part of the park in winter.

  • Drinking water is not available in the park during winter.

  • Dogs are not permitted along South Rim Drive when the road is groomed as a ski trail.

  • No snowshoes? The visitor center has a limited supply that are free to use.

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Special Holiday Offer

We recently launched a West of 105 online store where we will be adding new things every week, but primarily T-shirts with a few calendars and some other bits and pieces. The majority of things in the store will be our own unique designs, but we are partnering with a few people from around the state to offer various products. One of our first partnerships is with landscape photographer Julien Kibler.

His calendar of amazing images of Colorado is available now. Click here to see and order it. We also have a really fun calendar of “Angry Animals of Colorado,” which you can see here. Purchasing these calendars not only support the artist but also help us continue to create great content.  

You can always support West of 105 by becoming a valued Patreon.