As with most national parks, hiking is the main draw, but it’s hardly the only one.
Stargazing: The Black Canyon Astronomical Society works with park rangers and volunteers to bring visitors weekly astronomy talks and night-sky-viewing programs (free with park entrance fee). The society also hosts a multi-day Astronomy Festival every June.
Fishing: In Colorado, streams with outstanding angling are designated as “Gold Medal Waters,” and the Gunnison River fits the bill. Fewer than one percent of rivers in the state have the designation, making the Gunny a bucket-list stop for avid anglers. Make sure you know the fishing regulations and have a valid fishing permit.
Scenic drives: There are three main drives: South Rim Road, North Rim Road, and East Portal Road. The South Rim Road is the only drive open year-round (though only plowed as far as the visitor center in winter) and has the most overlooks with a total of 12 along the seven-mile route, and the North Rim Road has some of the most impressive views of the near-vertical canyon walls. But the East Portal Road is for more adventurous visitors only, as the steep drive switchbacks down to the Gunnison River. Vehicles longer than 22 feet are not allowed on the East Portal Road and both it and the North Rim Road close in winter.
Wildlife watching: Colorado is known for its abundance of wildlife, and Black Canyon is home to the fastest bird in the world: the Peregrine falcon. While bird watching, also keep an eye out for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, elk, bobcats, and black bears. Remember to keep wildlife wild. Stay far away and don’t feed the animals. If they have to change their behavior because of you, you’re too close.
Rock climbing: Black Canyon’s steep, narrow cliffs offer intermediate and advanced climbers ample opportunities to send it across 145 routes. For those who like to tick the top spots off their list, this is the place to come as it’s home to Colorado’s tallest vertical wall: The Painted Wall. Information on the routes is tricky to come by, so visit either the South Rim Visitor Center or the North Rim Ranger Station for guidance. Note that there are no beginner routes in the canyon.
Kayaking and rafting: While the Gunnison River’s rapids may look enticing, and you can technically kayak along the river, it’s not recommended – even the most experienced kayakers should proceed with caution. If you do brave it, keep a few things in mind: the year-round water is cold at 50 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, swimming and wading are risky, and poison ivy is near impossible to avoid.
Cross-country skiing: While the South Rim Road is only plowed as far as the visitor center in winter, the rest of the road is groomed just for cross-country skiing. The run is six miles one way and offers access to the overlooks along the way.