Wilderness Regulations

To protect the inner canyon wilderness and your experience therein, please familiarize yourself with these important regulations and guidelines before you go.

Basic Regulations

  • Valid Wilderness Use Permits are required. Must follow all conditions listed on the back.
  • Fires are prohibited. Use camp stoves only.
  • No pets.
  • No glass containers.
  • No hunting or collecting (wood, flowers, plants, animals, rocks, etc).
  • Pack out all trash, including toilet paper.
  • Use pit toilets where available, or use portable waste bags. Otherwise, bury all human waste in at least 6” deep holes at least 100 feet from the river.
  • Valid Colorado fishing license is required and Colorado Gold Medal Water regulations apply.
  • Follow Leave No Trace principles; continue to steward and protect the wilderness.

Wilderness Safety

  • The wilderness routes into the canyon are not maintained or marked. Continually look behind you for recognizable landmarks. It is easy to get off-route, particularly during the ascent.
  • Signals are rare. Do not expect cell phone, GPS, or satellite devices to work in the wilderness.
  • Keep your group together and don't be afraid to TURN BACK. Keep an eye on changing weather, signs of physical stress, and heat illness.
  • Watch your footing. Yell "ROCK" to warn others if you knock or drop anything downhill.
  • Avoid hiking in the hot midday sun.
  • Be cautious around steep cliffs and the extremely cold and swift river water. Do not wade or swim.
  • If you encounter a black bear, back away slowly, and never run. Keep scented items, including food and trash, properly stored and secure. Never leave packs or food unattended. Hang scented items, or use bear canisters.
A hiker stands by the Gunnison River, admiring the jagged walls of the Black Canyon.


Leave No Trace Ethics

  • Avoid creating trails and campsites.
  • Observe wildlife from a distance and never feed them.
  • To wash yourself or dishes, carry water 200 feet away from the river and use small amounts of biodegradable soap.
  • Pick up all spilled food.
  • Pack in and pack out everything.
  • Protect wildlife by storing food and trash securely.
  • Do not collect anything.

Why can't I have a campfire?

Dams upstream prevent a natural flow and cycle of driftwood entering the lower canyon. What little organic debris makes its way through the canyon is a vital resource for the recycling of nutrients back into the riverbank and the earth. If you see an old fire ring, please don't be tempted to use it. Bring a small gas stove for cooking in the inner canyon.

A hiker uses chains to descend a very steep and rocky portion of an inner canyon route.


Wilderness Use Permits

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.
Warning: inner canyon users without a permit may be cited and/or fined.

North Rim Permits:

  • Free
  • Must be obtained on the day of your hike (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.
  • Distributed on a first-come, first-served basis
  • Limited numbers of permits per day

South Rim Permits:

  • Free
  • Distributed on a first-come, first-served basis
  • Limited in numbers of permits per day
  • Available during the off-season for hikers on Tomichi, Gunnison, and Warner routes at the South Rim Visitor Center the day of their 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 - in the ballpark of mid-October to mid-May.
  • Available during the busy season for hikers on Tomichi, Gunnison, and Warner routes at the South Rim Visitor Center 1.5 hours before closing the day before the trip or during visitor center hours on the day of the hike. There is no self-registration permitted on these routes during the busy season.
  • Climbers and kayakers must obtain their permit on the day of their adventure. There are permit self-registration kiosks with instructions when the visitor center is closed. Be sure to thoroughly complete the permit with accurate and legible information.

Why do we require permits?

Permits help us monitor use of the wilderness, and to keep tabs on this great resource. They also help us identify potential emergencies by letting us know your expected itinerary.

What trails don’t need a permit?

  • Established hiking trails, including Rim Rock Nature Trail, Oak Flat Loop Trail, Cedar Point Nature Trail, Warner Point Nature Trail, Uplands Trail, Chasm View Nature Trail, North Vista Trail, Deadhorse Trail
  • Day use anglers and hikers entering the national park from East Portal (all boaters and overnight backpackers do require a permit)

Last updated: February 12, 2024

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

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

Gunnison, CO 81230



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