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A popular and challenging scramble to the river bottom far below.

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Point to Point

7,906' 2,410 m


6,329' 1,929 m


0' 0 m


1,577' 481 m



Avg Grade (25°)


Max Grade (36°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Fall Colors · River/Creek · Views

  • Wilderness permits are required to enter this route. They can be obtained at the visitor center.
  • Campfires are not permitted.
  • Poison ivy is present here. Wear long pants!


This canyon scramble is the "easiest" and most popular of the Inner Canyon routes. The NPS even recommends it to visitors for their first inner-canyon hike. Despite this, the unmaintained trail can be a formidable descent on a steep drainage that's covered in loose and shifting rocks and scree. At the bottom, there's an outhouse and spot for three campsites if you're inclined to stay overnight.

If the challenges of this hike sound like an agreeable adventure, get your Wilderness Use Permit from the visitor center and make your way down the east side of the Oak Flat Trail loop. Look for the "River Access. Permit Required" sign to hone in on the start.

The Gunnison Route begins with a series of user-built braids that eventually all funnel down to a long chain about a third of the way down the descent. Take your time navigating the steep sections and be wary of the possible people below (calling out "rock" is a good idea if you send one hurtling downhill).

An 80-foot length of chain is anchored to a tree and provides a welcome aide through a particularly rough section. Continuing on, the tread alternates between loose talus rocks and gritty sand as the shifting scramble continues.

Once at the bottom, hikers are welcomed by a narrow length of rocky shoreline perched on the edge of the rushing water. All around are dramatic cliffs and craggy outcroppings that are a salute to the 1,800 feet of tough descending it took to get here and a reminder that the only way back is the way you came.

Flora & Fauna

The waters of the Gunnison River are especially fine for fishing. A valid Colorado fishing license is required and there are specific regulations to fishing in the area. Find out more by visiting the NPS's fishing page.


Shared By:

Eric Ashley

Trail Ratings

  4.5 from 16 votes


in South Rim


  4.5 from 16 votes
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in South Rim


in Colorado


7 Views Last Month
2,940 Since Dec 16, 2016
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Gunnison Route Trail
Sep 13, 2023 near Montrose, CO
Gunnison Route Trail
Sep 13, 2023 near Montrose, CO
Gunnison Route Trail
Sep 13, 2023 near Montrose, CO
Oak Flat trail.
Feb 18, 2016 near Montrose, CO


Current Trail Conditions

Add Your Check-In


Sep 13, 2023
Stewart Carnes
Aug 15, 2023
Seth Stogner
Jun 11, 2023
Ben Bierdeman
A challenging hike, with possible slips if not careful. I'd suggest wearing a pair of gloves to make the scrambles easier. 0.6mi — 8h 15m
Aug 11, 2021
Matt Hage
Hiked down and spent two nights at Gunnison River. 3mi — 72h 00m
May 25, 2021
Tessa Vande Velden
Started at 9:10am, done around 2 - full sun - with ray
Sep 28, 2020
Shawn B.
Sep 6, 2020
Linda Roldan
Great hike! Beautiful view at the bottom of the canyon. Take note of trail on the way down, so it's easier to find on the way up. Maybe try camping…
Aug 5, 2019
Jim Franecki

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