North Vista Trail leads to several viewpoints for the north rim of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. This trail has several destinations that require a three- to seven-mile hike as described below. The hike has very little shade, but a good opportunity to see wildlife. We hiked to Exclamation Point which was a beautiful viewpoint, and is a 3.0 mile hike.
The trailhead for North Vista Trail starts right at the north rim ranger station. If you are visiting the more popular south rim, you can’t really access this hike without a very long drive. When we visited, the ranger station on the north rim was closed and there were no rangers to be found. But the trailhead is located right next to the bathrooms (pit toilets).
There are two destinations for North Vista Trail. The first requires a 3 mile roundtrip hike, and arrives at a gorgeous overlook called Exclamation Point. If you are up for a longer hike, you can go all the way to Green Mountain, which is 7 miles roundtrip. We didn’t make it to Green Mountain, so this post will focus on Exclamation Point.
The North Vista Trail is relative flat with just a little elevation change (360 feet). It winds through a juniper forest with thick cover and a lot of wildlife, particularly birds. There is a little shade, but not much from the junipers on this hike. Along this trail we spotted a dozen hummingbirds, several hawks, a few spotted towhees, warblers, and many others. In addition, we spotted several lizards, both large and small, a snake, a cottontail rabbit, and a lot of chipmunks. They say there are bears and deer in this area, too, but we weren’t that lucky.
Around the hallway point to Exclamation Point (3/4 mile), the trail nears the canyon rim. There is a small sign that says “Overlook,” and a short hike takes you to the edge for your first look into Black Canyon. This is NOT Exclamation Point, but a different overlook. Luckily some other hikers let us know to keep going to get to the the really beautiful point. So we continued on.
The North Vista trail is easy to follow. At 1.5 miles, there is a small sign for Exclamation Point that leads you on a little loop out along the rim of the canyon. We took the counter-clockwise loop, and this is the way we recommend because you walk along the edge of the canyon to the point. This view is unique because it allows you to look right up the canyon along the river as it turns. You can look two different direction at the canyon and enjoy the steep, black walls. Pictures don’t really capture Black Canyon well, so you really have to see Exclamation Point for yourself.
Keep kids back from the edge as there are no railings anywhere on this trail. We constantly remind even our teenagers to stay back from the edge, so be extra careful with young kids.
After enjoying the views, we simply turned around and enjoyed the walk back to the trailhead. We saw one couple on the way out to the point, and one on the way back, so this is definitely a spot to find a little solitude in Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Check out our list of kid hikes for other family-friendly trail ideas in this National Park.