COLORADO 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 Colorado 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.
TYPES OF COLORADO 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 DISPERSED 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.
WHERE TO CAMP NEAR CRESTED BUTTE AND MT. CRESTED BUTTE
Most of the non-private camping near Crested Butte and Mt. CB 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.
CHANGES TO CRESTED BUTTE, COLORADO CAMPING
Starting summer 2021, camping in the north valley will start to move from dispersed to designated. Visit Crested Butte Mountain Biking Association’s (CBMBA) website or click on the buttons below for more information.
CBMBA WEBSITE FACT SHEET MAP
|Gothic/Schofield Pass Road||Dispersed and developed||Amenities vary|
|Upper East River/Poverty Gulch||Dispersed||No amenities|
|Kebler Pass||Dispersed and developed||Amenities vary|
|Lake Irwin||Dispersed and developed||Amenities vary|
|Washington Gulch Road||Designated and developed||Amenities vary|
|Slate River Road||Designated and developed||Amenities vary|
|Brush Creek Road||Designated||No amenities|
|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.
|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.
Blue Mesa Reservoir/Curecanti National Recreation Area
LEAVE NO TRACE CAMPING
Leave No Trace is a set of guiding principles for behavior in the outdoors. These principles minimize human impacts on the natural world. Abiding by the principles of Leave No Trace will preserve the land in its untarnished state for future generations to enjoy. Below, we’ve customized the seven principles of LNT for our little corner of Colorado camping.
PRINCIPLES OF LEAVE NO TRACE: GUNNISON VALLEY EDITION
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
ACTIVITIES IN GUNNISON-CRESTED BUTTE
Be sure to check out the other fall and summer activities Crested Butte and Gunnison have to offer. We have stellar mountain biking trails and an abundance of hiking trails, rivers to raft and fish, rocks to climb, good food to eat, and cool towns to see. Check out our activities page to learn more!