Inner Canyon Wilderness Use

 
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Duration:
8 minutes, 22 seconds

Learn what to expect and how to prepare for hiking an inner canyon Wilderness Route in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

 
A view of a river between two narrow steep canyons
A view downstream from the bottom of Long Draw.

NPS/Ethan Crump

Exploring the inner canyon requires skill, experience, and preparation to be successful. Routes are not recommended for visitors with health conditions, such as heart or lung issues. Wilderness routes are not trails; they are unmarked, very steep with loose rock, and physically demanding.

The inner canyon is a designated wilderness area and requires a permit to enter. Inner canyon travel in winter is not recommended. The information collection notices for wilderness permits, under OMB Control No. 1024-0022, can be viewed here.

Please take a few minutes to watch the general orientation video for hiking the wilderness routes, located at the top of this page.

Be Prepared

Inner canyon activities are located in remote portions of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison Wilderness Area. Any rescue operation within the park is difficult and requires extended periods of time. Park visitors should be aware of the challenging nature of the terrain and carry the equipment necessary to endure an unexpected night in the wilderness. Each activity will require different essentials, but a good list to keep in mind in any wilderness area is:

  • Valid Wilderness Use Permit
  • 4 quarts of water per person per day, or a water filter if filling up at the river (From late fall through mid-spring, drinking water is NOT available in the park.)
  • High-energy food, enough for the planned trip plus an extra day
  • "WAG Bag" or commercial landfill safe human waste bag
  • Layers and rain gear
  • Sturdy hiking boots or shoes
  • Map, compass (GPS devices often don’t work in the canyon)
  • First aid kit; you must be prepared for self-rescue for at least 24 hours
  • Sun protection
  • Flashlight or headlamp with extra batteries

How to Get a Wilderness Use Permit

Permits are required for all inner canyon wilderness use - both day and overnight trips. Permits are available at the South Rim Visitor Center and North Rim Ranger Station.

North Rim Permits

  • Free: distributed on a first-come, first-served basis
  • Limited number of permits per day
  • Limited number of people allowed on each route
    • Pinyon Draw (SOB Route): 23 people
    • Long Draw: 8 people
    • Slide Draw: 11 people
  • Must be obtained on the day of your activity (no reservations)
  • There is a permit self-registration kiosk with instructions when the ranger station is closed. Be sure to thoroughly complete the permit with accurate and legible information.
  • When you have finished your trip, check out with a ranger or, if the building is closed, place your permit in the self-registration box to “check out” of the inner canyon. Warning: inner canyon users without a permit may be cited and/or fined.

South Rim Permits

  • Free: distributed on a first-come, first-served basis
  • Limited number of permits per day
  • Limited number of people allowed on each route
    • Gunnison Route: 15
    • Tomichi Route: 9
    • Warner Route: 23

Busy Season Permit Process (approximately mid-May to mid-September)
Available during the busy season for hikers on Tomichi, Gunnison, and Warner routes at the South Rim Visitor Center at 3:30 pm the day before the trip, or during visitor center hours on the day of the hike (if any spaces remain). There is no self-registration permitted on these routes during the busy season. (Check the Alerts section at the top of the page for updates on busy season dates.) Permits for South Rim routes are first-come, first-served during visitor center hours. Please have all group members present for the 3:30 pm orientation at the South Rim Visitor Center, the day before your hike.

Off Season Permit Process (approximately mid-September to mid-May)
Permits are available during the off-season for hikers on Tomichi, Gunnison, and Warner routes at the South Rim Visitor Center the day of the trip, either from a ranger during visitor center hours, or by self-registration. Dates of the off-season are dependent on weather, staffing and visitor numbers - approximately mid-September to mid-May. (Check the Alerts section at the top of the page for updates on off-season dates.) Permits are first-come, first-served during visitor center hours.

Climbers and Kayakers
Climbers and kayakers must obtain their permit on the day of their adventure. There are self-registration kiosks with instructions when the visitor center is closed. Be sure to thoroughly complete the permit with accurate and legible information.

Red Rock Canyon
Permits are available only through Recreation.gov.

For questions about permits please email us. Refer back to this website if planning a future trip -- the permit process may change in in future years.

When you have finished your trip, check out is no longer required.

 

Wilderness Regulations

Safety and preparation are key when entering the inner canyon.

Know Before You Go
 

Route Information

 

Other Access to the Inner Canyon

  • a kayaker on calm river water with dark canyon walls on either side
    Kayaking & Rafting

    Expert paddlers can whitewater kayak through the canyon.

  • a rock climber clinging to a gray rock wall under a large overhang
    Rock Climbing

    Experienced climbers can explore the canyon up close and personal. Learn how to do it safely.

  • fisherman wading in the river in front of a short waterfall in the canyon
    East Portal

    Discover the history and recreation of East Portal. This is the only road access to the river level.

 
BLCA Wilderness Route Location Map

Wilderness Route Map

Basic map showing general locations of the wilderness routes. This is not a substitute for route knowledge or bringing a map/compass and GPS device.
 

Not interested in a route?

Curecanti National Recreation Area (east of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park) has maintained trails from the upper Black Canyon rim to the reservoir level. These trails are a great, less challenging option to the wilderness routes and do not require a permit.
 
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    Last updated: July 10, 2024

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    Contact Info

    Mailing Address:

    102 Elk Creek
    (GPS/physical address = 9800 Highway 347, Montrose, CO)

    Gunnison, CO 81230

    Phone:

    970-641-2337

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