Red Rock Canyon Info & Reservations

Red Rock Canyon
Gunnison River at Red Rock Canyon.

Lisa Lynch/NPS


Permits are required for Red Rock Canyon (including day users) and are only available through the reservation lottery system.

Why have a lottery?
The Red Rock Canyon area, on the western end of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, is accessed via an easement across private property. Future access to the canyon depends on visitors respect and responsibility while traveling on private land and within the canyon. Camping, parking, and leave no trace regulations apply to all areas, whether public or private.

Red Rock Canyon is especially popular with anglers during the salmonfly and stonefly hatches in mid-June. Later in the season, hikers enjoy this route, which is significantly less steep than other routes into the narrow gorge.

About Red Rock Canyon
Take Bostwick Park Road to the parking area. All vehicles park there. The first mile of the hike is private property, and all hikers must stay on the double track road. At the end of the road is the trailhead, where hikers sign the register and pay the entrance fee.

The beginning of the route into Red Rock Canyon is relatively clear to follow. Mid-way down the route, numerous stream crossings can make route finding challenging. From mid-way to the bottom, poison ivy is prolific.

Distance: 3.4 miles (5.4 km) one way
Vertical Drop: 1330 feet (405 m)

2017 Reservation Lottery System
Applications must be received to the Elk Creek Visitor Center, Curecanti NRA, 102 Elk Creek, Gunnison, CO 81230 between January 3, 2017 and March 8, 2017. Applications can be sent by mail, fax, or hand-delivered; applications sent by email will not be accepted. Mailed applications must be postmarked on or before March 8, 2017 and arrive to our offices no later than 4:00 p.m. on March 13, 2017. Hand-delivered or faxed applications will be accepted until 4:00 p.m. March 8, 2017. Applications received outside of these dates will not be considered for the lottery.

All sections of the reservation form must be filled out unless labeled optional. Failure to fill out any section of the application or providing inaccurate information on the application may result in the disqualification of your reservation request. Illegible applications may be disqualified.The group leader's full name and address must be submitted. Duplicate requests will not be included in the lottery, and will disqualify all of the lottery submissions from that individual. Please use one of the application forms below to submit your reservation request:

Please use one of the application forms below to submit your reservation request:

Red Rock Reservation Lottery Form 2017 (.doc) »

Red Rock Reservation Lottery Form 2017 (.pdf) »

If you have questions about the lottery process, you may call us at (970) 641-2337 ext. 205, or email us

Permit Limitations

  • The 2017 Red Rock season runs from May 20, 2017 to October 1, 2017.
  • Lottery winners are required to activate their permit 7-14 days before their trip by calling (970) 641-2337 ext. 205. Failure to activate the permit will result in the permit being offered to another group on a first-come first-served basis.
  • All applicants must be 18 years of age or older at the time of submitting the application.
  • Trip leader (lottery winner) must be present during trip.
  • Each group is limited to a maximum of 4 people.
  • Each group is limited to 3 consecutive user days (2 nights).
  • There is a limit of 8 people per day in the canyon, or 3 groups, whichever fills first.
  • A group is limited to 1 vehicleparked at the trailhead per permit.
  • An entrance fee of $15.00 per vehicle must be submitted by envelope at the trailhead. Interagency passes (Interagency Annual, Senior, Military, and Access passes are accepted in lieu of the entrance fee as stipulated on the pass). One $15.00 entrance fee or pass will cover the entire group's entry into Red Rock Canyon.
  • All Black Canyon wilderness regulations apply.
  • Part of the road and parking lot for the trailhead is located on private land. A right of access on the private land has been negotiated with the landowner. While on private property, please be respectful. No smoking is allowed while on the private road. There is no overnight camping permitted at the parking area or on private land.
  • Gold Metal Water fishing regulations apply.
  • Permitees are responsible for knowing park rules and regulations.

Obtaining Cancelled Permits
Cancelled or unactivated permits may be available. More information »

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. If a party enters Red Rock Canyon to go either up or down stream to exit by another route, would that count towards the 8 users that day?
A. YES, even though they may only be in the Red Rock Canyon for a short time that will still constitute use and will be counted towards the daily total.

Q. What about kayakers who begin their trip at East Portal and spend time or overnight in the Red Rock canyon area?
A. NO. Generally, kayakers seek more isolated sections of the canyon for campsites, and are less likely to choose the Red Rock Canyon sites for this reason. Since the use is infrequent (and difficult to control), the users will not be considered part of the reservation/permit process and their use will not be counted towards the daily totals. Kayakers are required to have a wilderness use permit, which they can obtain at East Portal or the South Rim Visitor Center.

Q. Will the visitors who enter the Red Rock Canyon area from the west side or other routes be expected to make a reservation?
A. YES. They will need a reservation and their numbers will count towards the 8 user per day totals. The west access crosses private land and NPS does not have an arrangement with the landowners. In addition to obtaining a reservation from the NPS, hikers must obtain permission from the landowners to use the west access.

Q. Can I hire someone or ask a friend to carry our gear down (they won't stay)?
A. NO. Commercial use is prohibited. Therefore you may not hire someone to carry your gear. However, if you ask for assistance from someone for no pay, they may carry your gear ONLY if they are part of your permit. For example, if there are 3 people on your permit, you may not have a fourth person pack equipment down, even if they do not stay the night.

Q. Can I use pack horses or other pack animals?
A. No, horses and other pack animals are not permitted in the inner canyon.

Q. How did the NPS establish a total of 8 users a day for Red Rock Canyon?
A. This is based on past usage, observed impact on park resources, accommodating usage patterns to maximize the number of people who can enjoy a wilderness experience, and an agreement to limit parking on private lands.

Q. Why were the usage limits changed in 2008?
A. The NPS made these changes to better accommodate patterns of demand, and increase the number of people who can enjoy the canyon each year without causing adverse impacts. Changes in 2008 include:

  • Decrease in group size from 5 to 4. Historic use was 3 or 4 people per group, and this will allow more groups in the canyon over the course of the season.
  • Increase in daily limit from 7 to 8. This will allow two maximum size groups to make a reservation on any given day. In the past, groups of 4 or 5 limited the size of any second group in the canyon on the same day
  • Decrease in number of nights from 3 to 2. Shorter trips mean more people can enjoy the canyon, though for less time. Under the older system, a maximum group size for maximum stay used nearly 30% of permits available in a month. Now they would take closer to 15%.
  • Monthly limit increase from 75 to 100 (125 in June). Last minute cancellations mean some user-days go unused. The increase in limit is in anticipation that some dates will be cancelled. This year these permits will not be refilled unless reserved days dip below 75 in one month. June has a higher limit to accommodate a few more people during the hatch.

Q. What about visitors who want to hike into Red Rock Canyon before May 23rd and after October 2nd? Do they have to make a reservation?
A. The reservation period was established per agreement with the landowner as to when public access would occur. Public access will not be permitted across the landowner's property outside of the reservation period.

Q. Where can additional cars park?
A. Leave extra vehicle(s) at the Gunnison Point parking lot on the South Rim of the Black Canyon National Park, or at the small park (Lions Park) at the junction of U.S. Highway 50 and CO Highway 347

Q. If users have previously paid the park entrance fee, do they have to pay again?
A. Entrance fees paid at either South or North Rims are valid at Red Rock Canyon for 7 calendar days.

Q. Why are lottery requests only accepted by mail, fax, and in person, but not by e-mail or phone?
A. A federal regulation restricts the National Park Service from accepting forms and collecting information by email or via the Internet. Phone requests do not allow for applicants to sign the acknowledgement of terms.

Q. Sometimes users are told that reservations are full and their group cannot add people or days, but when they get into the canyon they find themselves alone and no one else has been in the canyon for a week. Why is this?
A. In addition to daily limits, there is a monthly limit on user days. Once a monthly limit is reached, there are inevitably days with only one group using the canyon, and several days with no users.

Last updated: December 5, 2016

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

102 Elk Creek
Gunnison, CO 81230


(970) 641-2337 x205

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