Just a few miles east of Montrose, Colorado, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park features dramatic canyon walls, Colorado's tallest sheer rock face, and small crowds, especially in winter. Only the south rim is accessible, and the road is plowed only to the visitor center. Past that, the road is frequently groomed for cross-country skiing. On the day we visited, my best friend and I saw only seven other people skiing or snowshoeing the road, and new snow on the trees and canyon walls made the scenery absolutely spell-binding.
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison River is spectacularly beautiful any time of year, but winter may be the best time to explore it. This and other viewpoints along the south rim are accessible in winter by skiing or snowshoeing the road. In this image, several inches of new snow round off the jagged edges of Black Canyon's Precambrian rocks. . Photo © copyright by Greg Owens.
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison River narrows to its smallest width near Chasm View, a spectacular vantage point for getting a sense of the canyon's depth and severity. Photo © copyright by Greg Owens.
Heavy snow in early February blanketed these trees and everything else at Black Canyon. The view at Cross Fissures usually shows rather well some of the geologic violence responsible for forming the Colorado Plateau. Photo © copyright by Greg Owens.
With a height of 2250 feet, the painted wall is the tallest sheer wall not only in Black Canyon but also in the state of Colorado. The name comes from the lighter granite dikes streaking through the dark metamorphic rock. It looks to me as though a dragon raked its claws across the rock face. Maybe it was Smaug. Photo © copyright by Greg Owens.
Burnt-orange leaves cling to these scrub oaks under new snow at Devil's Lookout. Photo © copyright by Greg Owens.
Muted sunlight passing through thin clouds rakes across the north wall of Black Canyon after new snow. Photo © copyright by Greg Owens.
Similar to the vertical composition elsewhere in this gallery, this horizontal photograph made after lots of new snow shows the Black Canyon as a world of contrast: smooth and jagged, dark and light. Photo © copyright by Greg Owens.