Black Canyon of The Gunnison Nat’l Park: Boondocking with Parky

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During our recent trip to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado, we made this video for Winnebagolife’s blog:


While the video shows highlights of Black Canyon of the Gunnison park throughout, it’s really more about how the van functions during a 3-day boondocking trip. We checked in on the tank levels and battery status each day… so, if you’re curious how Parky performed OR about seeing the park, give it a look.


Our Experiences At Black Canyon of the Gunnison:

For my fellow parks trivia lovers: The “Black” in the park’s name comes from its near-perpetual state of darkness. Parts of the canyon floor only receive 33 minutes per day of direct sunlight at most.



This was our first time actually IN the park, but it’s not our first time seeing this magnificent canyon. We’ve bicycled Highway 92 before, which is a less-traveled road that meanders along the ridge of the canyon on its east side. With its incredible scenery of the canyon below and the fun twisty turny nature of the road itself, Highway 92 was one of the most breathtaking bike rides we’ve ever done.


There were some parts of the road with some pretty terrifying drop-offs; but as always, take that with a grain of salt and remember who’s writing this (me, a self-declared heights fearing chicken). The drop-offs didn’t phase James a bit.

That trip, we camped at the lovely Blue Mesa Reservoir, which was the perfect base camp for biking highway 92. Highly recommend this ride and camping destination!


Isn’t Lucy a beauty?!? Oh and the canyon back there isn’t too shabby either.


THIS trip, however, there was no biking. In fact, biking isn’t allowed on any of the trails within Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. That’s okay though, it made things simpler.


YAYYY for simple!!!


We started our time at the park in the more popular south rim section. We did two short and intense hikes: Warner Point and Oak Flat.

We were only on each trail just short of an hour, but as challenging as they were it made them extra fun with lots of cardio-testing steep climbs and switchbacks that reward you with the most stunning views. The trails were a great way to see the dramatic depth of the sheer cliff walls, in places the walls dive more than 2,000 vertical feet almost straight down to the river below.


I had tried to reserve a campsite over a month in advance for two nights at the south rim campground, and could only get a site for the first night. We hoped to get a spot at the first-come first-served north rim campground on the second night, but no luck.

We were bummed, especially since it’s a two hour drive from south rim to north, but I’m still so glad we made the trek. Gang, the north rim is AMAZING!!! The scenic drive along the north rim is a real gem. The roads are gravel, there’s hardly anyone else around, and you pretty much can pull off right at the cliff’s edge!!!


So even though we didn’t get to camp on the north rim, we were enchanted by that whole area and grateful for the experience.

We left the north rim and drove 30 minutes to Crawford State Park with our fingers crossed… luckily we got the last site left. One look at our spot and suddenly we weren’t feeling so bummed about no Black Canyon sites.


Plus we scored showers!!! (The things that make RVers happy, lol…)

After our night at Crawford, we headed to Paonia to bust out the mountain bikes on their lovely trail system. While I mostly took my bike for a walk (as always), I didn’t mind one bit:


So! Another incredible national park experience and adventures beyond: CHECK!!! I will say this; when visiting these parks I’m so thankful we’re rolling in a compact coach! Oftentimes there’s very little parking and since we can fit into any regular parking spot, we’ve been parking problem-free.

Happy RVing, all! Go give your parks some love!

After 15 years as an educator in both the public K-12 setting and the University level in Special Physical Education, Stef made the leap to her true passion… the fitness world. She’s currently a personal trainer and wellness coach specializing in seniors, medical conditions, and injuries. Stef loves running, cycling, and being “Mugga” to her two favorite mini-humans — Punky and Marshmallow. ❤️

    30 thoughts on “Black Canyon of The Gunnison Nat’l Park: Boondocking with Parky

    1. Rich Duran

      Now that you have had a chance to boondock/ live in both a GL and KL model Winnebago Travato are you still more enamored to the GL and why? I’m torn between the two myself and have not yet purchased but I do enjoy your reviews. One other question is I have noticed some other owners seem to get off the grid with the Pure 3 system with only 200 watts of solar panels, are the extra 100-200 watts really needed , and what do you consider the best all around watts for both the panels and the inverter? I hope one day to meet you both when I finally get out on the road. Safe travels.

      1. James

        I’ll leave the floor plan question for another day.
        But as far as the solar panels, I’d have to say that on a lithium-powered coach, they’re more “bling” than “bang”. They simply don’t quickly enough that you notice on such a large battery. On this trip, for example, the solar panels might have blown off going down the highway, and we wouldn’t have noticed. A 100 watt panel on a lithium rig would be completely sufficient for us, and even then, we’d likely only need it when storing the rig and not using it.

        1. Richard Duran

          Thank you for not letting me waste money on solar panels that are not necessary … maybe a Sumo spring kit instead.

    2. Tim Armour

      I know that you two are Winnebago Black Belts. I am deciding between the Boldt BL and the Travato GL National Park Foundation edition. Driver seat comfort and ergonomics are important to me as is storage. Any insights on this decision you would provide me?

      1. Stefany - Post author

        Oh wow, so many variables to consider!!! Both are rock solid and we’d happily own either ourselves. Drivers seat comfort is so subjective, we find both super comfortable but have seen the forums where others feel differently on both the Sprinter and the RAM.

        So much comes down to how you’re going to use it. Are you going to winter camp? The Boldt is a 4-season and the Travato is not. You mentioned storage a big deal, WHAT are the things you’ll be storing… will they fit in cabinets? Because the Boldt has much more storage in that capacity. But the GL has that nice garage area under the bed for bigger things. Will you be towing? The Boldt’s gonna win there, plus has more all around power.

        There’s an awesome exercise in James’ 8-step Program to Choosing First RV; see step 4 in this article: It requires you to list out your most important features in a Paired Comparison Tool, then using the tool it’ll have you compare only 2 of the features you want at a time ranking which of the 2 is most important. At the end of the exercise, each of the features will have a score and you’ll know what’s the order of importance of features and will make the decision way easier for you. Best of luck and may the best RV (for you!) win!!! xo

    3. Ken

      James- I have been looking at your recent blogs for an update on the Coleman Mach 10 NDQ. I have heard that some people are installing them, but I can not find one anywhere. Do you have any new information?

    4. Robert Amoruso

      Hi James,

      Thanks for all the great info on your site and YouTube. Question about Parky. What size are the BFG KO2 tires on Parky and what wheels are installed? I am pulling the trigger on a 2020 Travato 59KL and want to upgrade the tires/wheels. Does Parky have SumoSprings installed? Front/rear? Thanks for the help. Looking forward to meeting you and Stef next year at Tampa RV Show in January.

      1. James

        The tires are the stock size, and the wheels were “Moto Metal.” Parky does have front an rear Sumo Springs – all of the aforementioned items are part of the National Park Foundation package.

    5. Michael Yates

      It seems that with Parky and the Boldt, Winnebago is really “getting it” with their designs. The trip you documented is exactly what we are doing with our summer, we are retired and are doing 2-3 night trips around Minnesota and our only limit is our batteries (and we have two 100 amp hour AGMs on our 2019 ERA 70B). Our perfect RV would have the Pure3 system and be 4 season since we live in Minnesota and do not want to park it just because it snows.

      We’ve owned our 70B Era for a little over a year and we’ve put on over 26,000 miles. It’s gotten us to five national parks, too many state parks to count, national forests, KOAs in at least 10 states and most important many friends and family members driveways. What the B van gives you is exactly what you are describing, freedom to explore. We always have our hiking shoes and e-bikes with us so the world we’ve always wanted to experience is waiting just outside our sliding door. It’s nice to see Winnebago continuing to evolve their products that really make the B van an awesome experience.

      As always great videos, articles and posts! And thank you for helping us realize the perfect way to explore this great country of ours.

      1. Stefany - Post author

        Wow! Sounds like you’re getting a ton of use out of your Era and seeing some incredible places, that’s fantastic! I can certainly understand how important 4 season is to you living up in MN (ps I’m from southeastern MN!), and it’s great WGO now has a couple 4 season capable coaches in the Revel and the Boldt. As for Pure3 and other advanced battery systems, we’re thrilled to see this option now available across the RV industry! I expect we’ll continue to see them grow in popularity and availability.

      2. Doug Adamson

        I also have an ERA 70B. I always had battery anxiety with the AGM batteries, so I switched them out for Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries from Battle Born. Still 100Ah batteries, but you can drain them completely without damage. I also added another 100W solar panel (Renogy, $150) for a total of 300W on the roof. Batteries charge super fast. I get almost 2x the battery life compared to the stock AGMs.

        I live in SLC, UT so just parked in the driveway ,they charge in a few hours. Yes, the Lithium batteries are pricey ($975 each), but they are well worth it. Thinking about swapping-out the PWM charge controller for MPPT ($230) for even faster and more efficient charging. Really like the Era platform with these mods.

    6. Brian McCarty

      Did you use the restrooms or get any water in the campground? Seems that would be a way to extend your tanks.

      1. James

        We did not get water. We didn’t use the restrooms at Black Canyon, but I think we did at the state park.
        Yes, consistent use of campground facilities will conserve your water and tank space. But at what cost?
        For us, the convenience of the on-board restroom is a key feature. We’re not too likely to exit the van and tromp across the campground just to save a flush.
        Others, with a different personal preference for comfort vs. convenience, may do things differently and get more savings.

    7. Other Steph

      If one were interested in four season camping and in the market for a Winnebago… Boldt or Parky?

      1. James

        Since you said four season, I’d say Boldt.
        While the Travato is rather capable, it’s not a true four season rig.

    8. Ted

      Maybe you could write something on “Forest Bathing, the Japanese concept of Shinrin-yoku”. (It’s no where near being “naughty” the way it sounds)

    9. Joseph Goodgame

      I have a question on Parky’s tires. I really like the tire and wheel combo and am thinking of upgrading my current travato nexens. How do the tire and wheel combo compare. Great video by the way.

      1. James

        I can’t say how they compare to Nexens because we haven’t been using the Nexens for a couple of years now. On our own rig, we have the Michelins, and are very happy with that choice.
        Having said that, the K02s are much quieter on the road than you would expect, given their aggressive tread design. I was pleasantly surprised by that.
        This wheel and tire combo can rub on the mud flap brackets. Winnebago deals with that on their rigs, but if you were to install these yourself, you would need to come up with something.

      1. James

        Hi Paul –
        Nope – same cameras we’ve been using for a while now (we use two main ones).
        Maybe I just finally got it right? Lol!
        Glad you liked the vid. Cheers!

    10. Steve

      James – do you plan to share with us your manufacturing of the added Lagun Table you added to Parky? Hoping so and thanks for sharing the latest video!

      1. James

        Hadn’t really planned to share anything about the table because I more or less just bought a rectangular piece of wood for the top and followed the instructions that came with the table for mounting. It wasn’t terribly difficult.
        I did it during my “24 hour non-stop mod-fest”, so there wasn’t any time to take pictures or make a video.
        You can do it, trust me. Go for it!

    11. Nathan P Anton

      We were at the South Rim in 2016 and the North Rim last year. The park is amazing. I hope you took the drive to the bottom on the south rim, it is a neat drive. Not much to see down there, except the view looking up.
      We got the very last site (at 9pm no less) on the North Rim. There was an ambulance tearing out of the campground when we came in and a car fast on it’s tail. So we got lucky someone else didn’t… I love to tell everyone about the hidden gem that is the black canyon, but I also want to keep the secret all to myself.

    12. Danielle

      Thanks for that helpful review!! While watching, the issue of drinking water came to mind. Are you using your Berkey in Parky and if so, where do house the Berkey in the K model.


      1. James

        We don’t have a Berkey water filter. And in Parky, since he’s just a loaner, we haven’t looked at custom storage areas or gone crazy with mods. This is temporary for us.

        In Lance, we got an improved filter cartridge for the under sink filter and we just drink the water from the tap. In Parky, we have been bringing a large jug, that we fill with “good” water whenever we find it. Sometimes we buy it, sometimes the campgrounds have awesome water.


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