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CAMPING

Sleep Under The Colorado Stars

Gunnison Crested Butte is a wild and scenic destination for your Colorado camping trip. You’ll likely be able to find a spot close to your favorite hiking or mountain biking trails in spring, summer or fall. Whether you are car camping, tent camping or staying in an RV, there are many campsite options in the Gunnison Valley. Most car-accessible camping in Crested Butte and Gunnison is in designated sites, meaning that camping is only allowed in sites marked by signs. While camping in the Gunnison Valley, please take good care of our beautiful public lands so everyone can continue to enjoy them in the future. Follow the principles of Leave No Trace and be courteous to other campers.

CAMPING IN CRESTED BUTTE AND GUNNISON

There are many places to camp in the Gunnison Valley. Some sites are for tent camping; others can accommodate RVs and fifth-wheel trailers. It’s important to research camping spots before your trip to avoid surprises (for example, expecting a toilet at camp but finding out that there are none when you arrive). We’ve put together this handy guide to help you learn about the different camping options in Gunnison Valley. Once you know what type of camping you want to do use the contact information and websites we’ve collected to learn more about specific camping areas and campgrounds.

Find a Campsite in Crested Butte

This guide from the U.S. Forest Service provides detailed information about designated camping in Crested Butte. Learn about responsible camping practices, minimizing your impact on the environment, and the differences between designated and dispersed camping. The guide also has a list of designated campsites in Crested Butte. Please consider consulting this guide when selecting a campsite to ensure compliance with all regulations.

TYPES OF CAMPING IN THE GUNNISON VALLEY

There are four different types of camping areas in Gunnison Crested Butte — dispersed, designated, developed and private. Discover which type is the best fit for you.

WHAT IS DISPERSED CAMPING?

Dispersed camping is camping outside of a designated campground. This type of camping is available on public lands, such as National Forest or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. Dispersed campsites have no amenities. This type of camping is sometimes referred to as “boondocking.” Dispersed camping is first-come, first-served, and is almost always free. To abide by the principles of Leave No Trace, dispersed camping should take place only in sites where people have camped before. See the Leave No Trace section below for tips on how to camp responsibly.

WHAT IS DESIGNATED CAMPING?

Designated dispersed camping, usually referred to simply as designated camping, is dispersed camping in sites that have been marked by land managers. Much of the camping in the Gunnison Valley is designated. As camping here increases in popularity, more and more dispersed camping zones will move to designated camping only. In designated camping zones, people who camp outside of marked sites can be ticketed (or worse). Having designated sites isolates wear and tear on the land in accord with the principles of Leave No Trace.

WHAT IS A DEVELOPED CAMPGROUND?

A developed campground is a campground managed by an entity that provides amenities. Most developed campgrounds in the Gunnison Valley are managed by the Forest Service. Amenities at developed campgrounds may include toilets, tent platforms, metal fire rings, picnic tables, running water, electric hookups, showers and more. There is usually a fee to camp in developed campgrounds. It’s important to research developed campgrounds before you arrive so you know what amenities to expect. Some developed campgrounds allow reservations; others operate on a first-come, first-served basis.

WHAT IS A PRIVATE CAMPGROUND?

A private campground is a developed campground managed by a private company, rather than a government entity such as the Forest Service. 

CHANGES TO CRESTED BUTTE CAMPING

Nearly all vehicle-access campsites in the north valley have transitioned from dispersed to designated. This means that in most public lands around Crested Butte, you may only camp in sites marked by a sign like the one in this photo. Visit Crested Butte Mountain Biking Association’s website for a map and more information.

WHERE TO CAMP NEAR CRESTED BUTTE

Most of the non-private camping near Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte is managed by the Forest Service. For more information on campground locations and amenities, check out the Forest Service’s Gunnison Basin Camping Guide. Certain developed campgrounds in this area, including the Lake Irwin and Lost Lake campgrounds, require reservations. Visit recreation.gov to learn more and reserve your spot.

 
AREA CAMPING TYPE AMENITIES
Gothic/Schofield Pass Road Designated and developed Amenities vary
Upper East River/Poverty Gulch Designated Fire rings
Kebler Pass Designated and developed Amenities vary
Lake Irwin Designated and developed Amenities vary
Washington Gulch Road Designated and developed Amenities vary
Slate River Road Designated and developed Amenities vary
Brush Creek Road Designated Fire rings
Cement Creek Road Designated and developed Amenities vary

WHERE TO CAMP NEAR ALMONT

The Forest Service manages all the non-private campgrounds in Almont, Taylor Canyon, and Taylor Park. For more information, view the Forest Service’s Gunnison Basin Camping Guide. Some campgrounds in Taylor Canyon, including Rosy Lane and One Mile, require reservations. Reserve your site and learn more at recreation.gov.

 
AREA CAMPING TYPE AMENITIES
Taylor Park Dispersed and developed Amenities vary
Taylor Canyon Road Developed Metal fire rings, picnic tables, pit toilets
Spring Creek Road Dispersed No amenities

WHERE TO CAMP NEAR GUNNISON

Public camping areas near Gunnison are managed by many different entities, including the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Forest Service and the National Park Service. To learn more about each campground or camping area, click its name in the chart below.

 
AREA CAMPING TYPE AMENITIES
Mill Creek Road Dispersed Pit toilet in main parking lot
Hartman Rocks Designated Metal fire rings, picnic tables, some pit toilets
Black Canyon National Park Developed Metal fire rings, picnic tables, toilets
Blue Mesa Reservoir/Curecanti National Recreation Area Developed Metal fire rings, picnic tables, toilets

Fire restrictions and travel information

Planning on having a campfire during your visit to Gunnison and Crested Butte? Check our Travel Alerts page first to learn about current fire restrictions and other important alerts. 

Camping Tips

Here are some tips on how to make your camping trip stress-free and low-impact.

PRINCIPLES OF LEAVE NO TRACE: GUNNISON VALLEY EDITION

  1. Plan ahead and prepare. Especially if you’re planning on dispersed camping, it’s best to research several different camping areas in advance. That way, if one area is full, you will have backup options. Informational charts on different camping areas can be found by scrolling up on this page.
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces. Drive only on established roads, and camp only in established campsites. Camp at least 200 feet away from water. Manage your camp in a way that minimizes impacts on the land, water, plants and animals. Check out this Car Camping 101 video to learn more about how to car camp in a way that minimizes impacts on the land.
  3. Dispose of waste properly. Before your trip, arm yourself with both the knowledge and the gear needed to pack out all your waste. Bring enough garbage bags to pack out all your trash (even fruit peels and cores!). Learn how to properly bury human waste in case a bathroom isn’t available. Portable camp toilets and WAG bags are sold at several outdoor gear shops in Gunnison and Crested Butte. We’ve collected some helpful videos so you can learn how to deal with some of the less glamorous aspects of camping.
  1. Leave what you find. Leave any natural or cultural objects where you found them. Never carve into the bark of Crested Butte’s famous aspen trees. Do not construct rock cairns.
  2. Minimize campfire impacts. Wildfires are a serious threat to the forests around the Gunnison Valley. Research and obey seasonal campfire restrictions. Use existing fire rings rather than creating new ones. Keep fires small. Always have water nearby while a fire is burning, and thoroughly extinguish fires. Several popular camping areas in the valley, including Hartman Rocks, do not have abundant firewood. If you’re not sure how plentiful wood will be in your desired camping area, purchase firewood locally to mitigate any risk of spreading parasites or non-native species. Before you camp in Crested Butte or Gunnison, be sure to check the Gunnison County fire restrictions webpage. Check out this helpful video about campfire etiquette in Colorado. Learn how to use a fire pan to limit your impact on our beautiful public lands. If campfires aren’t allowed, there are several campfire alternatives.
  3. Respect wildlife. Crested Butte and Gunnison are home to many different types of wildlife, including black bears. Never approach or feed animals. Store food securely. Use these three tips to respect wildlife. Learn more about hiking with moose and elk, both of which are a common sight in the Gunnison Valley. Respecting Colorado’s wildlife is important to keep our native animals and plants safe.
  4. Be considerate of other visitors. Everyone deserves a peaceful outdoor experience. Keep noise to a minimum and take good care of the land so future visitors can enjoy it. Follow leash laws and clean up after dogs. Learn more about how to Leave No Trace and be considerate of other visitors while doing your favorite outdoor activity, whether it’s mountain biking, hiking, fly fishing, or general trail etiquette in Colorado.

For more information on Leave No Trace ethics, visit the Center for Outdoor Ethics website.

Planning your Colorado camping trip

Be sure to check out the other spring, fall and summer activities Crested Butte and Gunnison have to offer. There are hundreds of miles of mountain biking and hiking trails, rivers to raft and fish, rocks to climb, good food to eat, and cool towns to see. Check out our trip planning page to learn more!

TRADITIONAL LODGING IN CRESTED BUTTE AND GUNNISON

If sleeping outside isn’t your thing, browse traditional lodging options in the Gunnison Valley.

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