Painted Wall Lookout Trail

Difficulty
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Very Easy
Duration
This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
0.5h
Distance
This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
0.3 km
Elevation
This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
2 m
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Directions to Trailhead
Painted Wall Lookout Trail

The Painted Wall Lookout Trail leads to an impressive panoramic viewpoint of the natural wonder. The Painted Wall is so grand and inciting that it will impress visitors of any age. From river to rim the gneiss cliff is woven with white ribbons of pegmatite marbling. Some might even say it resembles a tasty, marbled steak. But that is the beauty of this wall, people interpret the marbling in various ways, from steak, to paint brush strokes or dragons.

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Route Description for Painted Wall Lookout Trail

Topped by lush Colorado forests, the rocky gorge is an awe-inspiring sight. The Painted Wall Lookout Trail is one of many viewpoints that lookout over the phenomenal, marbled cliff in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Ensure you stay on the path and behind the fence at all times. Situated on the side of one of the steepest cliffs, you do not want to mess around with improper footing or fragile ledges.

The expanse views of the dramatic gorge and surrounding cliffs at the Painted Wall Lookout are second to none. The earth is split in two and below flows a picturesque canyon river flanked by marbled cliffs. This is a vista you are going to want to see. We love this view because you can imagine and dissect different images from the marbling in the rockface, it’s a fun game for anyone!

Begin your short walk to the lookout from the Painted Wall Parking Lot. Hook onto the Painted Wall View Trail and head east. You will walk through a bit of sagebrush before arriving at the lookout. Visitors of all ages will be overwhelmed by the grandeur of the cliff and ravine below. Don’t be surprised if you hear “That took one big scaffold!” as visitors joke about the possibility of someone painting the cliff with the white veins.

The viewpoint is the perfect location for a photo-op, so make sure you bring your camera or charge your phone! Enjoy the views of the Painted Wall and look out for the dragons. Some people believe that there are two dragons to be seen within marbling. Bask in this natural phenomenon before retracing your steps back to the car!

Trail Highlights

The Painted Wall

The Painted Wall is one of the most well-known and most photographed cliffs in the Black Canyon of Gunnison. The composite of the cliff is gneiss metamorphic rock and it is painted with white ribbons of pegmatite marbling. Surprisingly, the impressive marbling isn’t the only notable feature about the cliff. Sitting approximately 2,250 ft tall, the Painted Wall is the tallest sheer cliff in Colorado. To put this in perspective, the Empire State Building is 1,250 ft tall, wow!

Frequently Asked Questions

How was the Painted Wall and Black Canyon of Gunnison Created?

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison, which includes the Painted Wall, is a product of the Gunnison River cutting through the Precambrian rock over millions of years. The erosion from the running river slowly carved out the narrow canyon now known as the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

How narrow is the Black Canyon of Gunnison?

The most narrow sections of the Black Canyon of Gunnison measures at about 40 ft wide at the river and 1,100 ft at the rim.

Getting to the Painted Wall Lookout Trail Trailhead

The Painted Wall Lookout is off of the South Rim Road in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Passes are required and can be purchased at the park gateways. Note the South Rim Road closes seasonally from November through April.

Route Information

  • Backcountry Campground

    No

  • When to do

    March-October

  • Pets allowed

    Yes - On Leash

  • Family friendly

    Yes

  • Route Signage

    Good

  • Crowd Levels

    High

  • Route Type

    Out and back

Painted Wall Lookout Trail Elevation Graph

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