Today I took the first side trip to a National Park, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. I hit the park pretty early in the day after doing a particularly nasty climb up to it. I ended up buying an annual pass to all the national parks, since I am planning on hitting quite a few of them over the next year or so.
The park itself was a lot smaller than I was expecting. I was comparing it to Letchworth State Park, in NY, which is roughly 20 miles long along a gorge. The National Park was only 5 or 6 miles going in one direction, and the other direction was at 16% grade, so I didn't want to hit that. The overlooks were also pretty short, averaging about 200 yards from the road to the overlook.
However, the really cool thing about the canyon was the extreme depth and steepness of the canyon. The Gunnison River drops quite a lot of elevation in a very short time, so the water is very fast moving, cutting away at the banks. Pretty much all of the overlooks would caused problems for anyone with a fear of heights, since they drop off more than a thousand feet.
I also got to see the Painted Wall, the largest cliff face in Colorado. Apparently rock climbers sometimes spend several days doing a single ascent. One particular route was Hallucinogen Route, which was climbed in the early 80's by the son of the owners of a store in Cimarron, CO. He spent 8 days on the face of the cliff working out the route, and named it for the fact that you would have to be hallucinating to see a way up the rock.