This lovely loop is pleasant and accessible for runners of all abilities, and offers both varied terrain and views along the way.
This area is quite dry, and you'll want to bring water and sun protection with you.
This loop travels through some of the varied terrain that makes Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park unique, both highlighting the dramatic canyon and resilient forests in the area. While some of the running routes in the park can be strenuous and feature somewhat extreme terrain, this route is a pleasant escape for all.
Start out at the visitor center, where you'll find ample parking and the start of the Rim Rock Nature Trail
. This trail leads out on a gentle tour of the plateau rimming the canyon. From this vantage point, you'll have plenty of views down to the Gunnison River below. In addition to the river, take time to admire the stratigraphy of the canyon below you and across the water. There is spectacular geology to be seen, much of which provides a historical record for the past of the American west. This portion of the trail can be a bit exposed, so be sure to bring a hat.
At just about 3/4 of a mile, runners will come to an intersection with the Uplands Trail
. You'll depart from the canyon rim and begin making your way through the pinyon/juniper forest. This section of trail is particularly pleasant, and can be enlightening. Most of the vegetation along the way has specially adapted to cope with the extreme environment in the area. Juniper and pinyon trees, while generally low growing, can live for hundreds of years and withstand both drought and extremely cold temperatures. Take your time meandering among the forest, enjoying the fragrant run. You'll cross Rim Drive twice along the way before this trail ends at an intersection with the Oak Flat Trail
Take a right on the Oak Flat Trail
to enjoy the rest of the way back to the visitor center. You'll have made your way back to the rim, where beautiful views of the canyon and river will again open up beneath you. From here, either head back to your car or get one last view of the canyon up close by taking the Gunnison Point Overlook Trail
and South Rim to Visitors Center
spurs in conjunction. The views from here are amazing!
This last short portion is easy to navigate, and will allow you to admire the scenery.