Two trails in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park can easily be combined into one beautiful loop. The Rim Rock Nature Trail and the Uplands Trail can be hiked separately as out and back trails, but the distance we combined is only a bit over 2 miles. This loop trail is perfect for families. There is very little elevation change, and the trail gives you a good opportunity to see wildlife. There are even some places to view Black Canyon.
We walked this loop counter-clockwise. It starts and ends at the South Rim Visitor Center. We chose to arrive early to avoid the summer heat, and doing this hike at 7 o’clock in the morning was definitely the right choice. It also gave us a greater chance of seeing wildlife, and we did spot some deer and wild turkeys.
We began this loop on the Uplands Trail, which starts near the Visitor Center. While facing the Visitor Center, walk to the left side and follow the patio around to the steps that lead to the Gunnison Point Overlook. Just past the bottom of the steps, turn left on Oak Flat Trail. There is a sign to help you, and we’ve written more about this trail here. From there, you’ll continue to stay left. After a few hundred yards, you’ll turn left again, this time onto the Uplands Trail (there is a sign). This trail walks away from the Canyon Rim. It climbs gently up and crosses the road.
The grass along the trail is fairly thick, but the trail is well-defined and leads through some pretty scrub oak and some small meadows. We saw a lot of birds, including three wild turkeys along the way. There were also a few deer and some chipmunks and squirrels. After walking through the meadow, you will come to another road crossing.
Rim Rock Nature Trail
Shortly after you cross the road, you come to a trail junction in the thick trees. This is the end of the Uplands Trail. The Rimrock Trail runs along the rim of the canyon. The campground is to the right, and the Visitor Center is to the left. Turn left and continue to the rim of the canyon. Eventually you come to Tomichi Point, which can be reached by the road, so you will hear cars rolling by in this area. Still, as you are a bit below the rim, you can enjoy the peace of Black Canyon on your right.
The trail walks along the rim, past some quartz bands in the rock, affording you beautiful views of the canyon below. It does walk near the edge, so keep your little ones nearby. The only drawback is that the canyon is pretty black at this time of the morning. The trail finally comes out in the parking lot back at the South Rim Visitor Center.
It’s really a great idea to get two trails for the price of one. In fact, we think they should just combine these trails. We recommend hiking the Rim Rock Nature Trail and Uplands Trail as a loop. It’s easy and beautiful! For other hikes in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, use our full list here.