Oak Flat Loop
Oak Flat Loop
Trailhead: South Rim Visitor's Center (Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park)
Distance: 2 miles (moderate)
Planning hikes for Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park was a little difficult. I wanted one that would give us great views of the canyon itself, but we weren't going to go on anything longer than 6 miles (when you only have a day, you have to plan your time wisely). I eventually stumbled upon this gem - a 2 mile hike built by the Student Conservation Association that dips down below the rim without having to hike all the way down to the river.
It leaves from the South Rim Visitor's Center, and since that was our first stop of the day we got started on this hike pretty quickly!
It's hard to explain how big this canyon is, and consequentially, how small it made everything else seem. We got in right as the sun was setting on Friday, so we hadn't really gotten a view of the canyon until this morning. We kept stopping and staring, open-mouthed and in awe, because it was so incredible.
A few tenths of a mile in, you reach a junction - since this hike is a loop, you can go either direction. I suggest going down and to the right, if only because it's significantly easier that way (this way has the biggest hills and you'd be going down them this direction).
The good news, especially for summer visitors, is that this trail is mostly shaded. The beginning and end are exposed, but the middle you're mostly under the cover of trees (that miraculously don't block your view of the canyon and the river below!).
Overall, this is a fantastic hike. It was not crowded at all (despite being around 9:30 am on a weekend in June), offered excellent views of the canyon and the river, and was shaded enough to offer respite from that summer sun. I absolutely loved it and it was the perfect way to kick off our day.