South Rim Cross Country Ski Trail

South Rim Cross Country Ski Trail

Page Type Page Type: Route
Additional Information Route Type: Skiing
Seasons Season: Winter
Additional Information Time Required: Half a day
Sign the Climber's Log


Sunset in the Black Canyon
Black Canyon of the Gunnision

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison, which had been a national monument since 1933, became a national park on October 21, 1999. The canyon was avoided by early American Indians and later Utes and Anglo explorers, who believed that no human could survive a trip to its depths. The entire canyon measures 48 miles long, and the 14 miles that are included in the national park range in depth from 1,730 feet to 2,700 feet. Its width at the narrowest point is only 40 feet.
Most visitors view the canyon from the South Rim Road. Short paths branching off the road lead to splendid viewpoints.

The South Rim Road stays open during the winter time only for a short section and past the visitor center the road is closed. The road is used as a cross country and snow shoe trail. The length of the this trail is 6 miles one way (12 miles round trip). The access is 24 hrs, and you can even nordic ski here at moonlight (pretty popular with locals).
The South Rim Visitor Center is open daily year-round (winter hours 8:30 to 4). You are not required to pay an national park entry fee during the winter time.

Getting There

South Rim Road
South Rim Road

The park is located northeast of Montrose. To reach the south rim, head east on U.S. 50 for 8 miles to the well-marked turnoff for Black Canyon to the entrance, where you will turn north onto Colorado 347 for 6 miles. The road is snow plowed up to the visitor center, and any vehicle can reach it.
Distance from Denver is approximately 250 miles southwest.
Plane: Commercial airline service is available to Montrose, Gunnison, and Grand Junction.

Route Description

The South Rim Drive is not plowed during the winter months, allowing the road to become a ski trail. The road=ski trail is 6 miles (one way), and allows access to the overlooks. Park at the South Rim Visitor Center, located at Gunnison Point.
It is helpful to have a park map with you on this trail. It will help to guide you in your progress, e.g. I once turned around at Sunset Overlook and had no idea how far I went. It was just getting dark and late. I had less than mile to go to the end, and finished my skiing when it was very dark. There are several viewpoints along the road and you can easily access them with your skis on.
Dogs are not permitted on the road. The National Park service has on its website "For the sake of the wildlife surviving this cold season on the canyon rim, dogs are not permitted along the South Rim Drive in winter". I did see a few bunnies, which Duchess would enjoy chasing, and of course deer too.

Please be courteous to other trail users by not walking or snowshoeing in the ski tracks along the South Rim Drive.

Hello DeerDeer along the trail
Skiing along the edgeSkiing along the edge
View inside the canyonView inside the canyon
Endless roadEndless road
Nice view into the canyonSun on the cliffs
Upper part of Painted WallPainted Wall
View into the canyonLooking inside the canyon
Evening sprint backEvening sprint back
Good night BlackGood night, Black
Outing with my sonOuting with my son
Practicing skatingSkating is hard work
Chasm view overlookChasm view Overlook
My son just took off...Hey kid, wait for mama
Gunnison OverlookGunnison Overlook

Essential Gear

Cross country ski gear - skis, boots, poles.
Consider a thermos bottle with hot drink. Camera for scenic photos. Headlamp if starting late.
Warm clothes.

There are no national park entry fees in the winter, which typically would cost you about 15$ per vehicle to enter inside any national park in the USA. Also, you can bring money with you, the visitor center is open, and they do have a nice gift shop.

External Links

Winter Program schedule at Black canyon
The best coffee place in Montrose = Coffee Trader
My favorite restaurant in town - Guru's authentic Nepalese Ok, this place does not look like much when you enter, and sometimes it is nearly empty, but trust me - they serve a really good food, large portions, and friendly owner from Nepal Bishnu is always smiling.