Know Before You Go

Gunnison Crested Butte

Camping is the quintessential Colorado activity. In Gunnison and Crested Butte, camping is plentiful. 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-accessed camping in Crested Butte and Gunnison is in designated dispersed sites, meaning that camping is only allowed in sites marked by signs. While camping in the Gunnison Valley, please take good care of our precious 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 and recreationists.

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Camping is a classic summer activity, an ideal way to experience Gunnison-Crested Butte, and the go-to lodging choice of many visitors.

WHERE TO CAMP

New Camping Regulations Begin Spring 2021 for Slate River and Washington Gulch Drainages

Camping is classic summer activity, an ideal way to experience Gunnison Crested Butte, and the go-to lodging choice of many visitors.

You may have noticed, however, that it has gotten crowded—really crowdedout there. The explosion in camping has led to resource damage, escaped campfires, spiderwebs of  “social” routes and roads, and sanitation issues. Starting in 2021, the Slate River Road #734 and Washington Gulch Road #811 drainages will require that all van, RV, trailer, and tent camping occurs in designated sites only. Dispersed camping, which means camping anywhere, is no longer permitted in those areas. The newly-designated sites where you CAN camp are labeled with a camping symbol, site number, and contain a metal fire ring.

This does not mean that camping has been eliminated! It means that the Gunnison National Forest is working to manage camping to keep impacts within specific and sustainable locations. Slate River Road offers 43 designated campsites, and Washington Gulch offers 48. Read on for more information about where and how to camp in the Gunnison Valley.

Crested Butte Camping Regulations

Dispersed Designated Camping at Hartman Rocks

Hartman Rocks Recreation Area includes over 14,000 acres of public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management and 160 acres (The Base Area) owned and managed by The City of Gunnison, and Gunnison County.

Hartman Rocks has 45 miles of single track trail, 45 miles of roads, 50 designated dispersed campsites, and countless climbing crags. Single track trails are perfect for mountain biking, dirt biking, hiking, and trail running. Roads are often traveled by 4×4 trucks, ROVs and ATVs. In the winter months 16 miles of roads are groomed as cross country ski trails for classic and skate skiing; and some single track trails are groomed as winter single track for fat biking. For more information, please contact the Gunnison Field Office.

Hartman Rocks Camping Map

Hartman Rocks Camping Pro Tips

Dispersed Camping

The traditional form of car camping, where you head out to public lands and find yourself a nice spot to spend the night! Over the next two years, campers should expect to see many of the traditional dispersed camping areas around Crested Butte switch to designated camping.

2021 Dispersed Camping Areas:

  • Brush Creek Road #738
  • Kebler Pass Road #12
  • Lake Irwin Road #826
  • Cement Creek Road #740
  • Gothic Road #317 (Not permitted June 15 – August 15)
 
Reminders:
 
Be aware of private or conserved land, pack out all food and waste, only camp/park on durable surfaces, and camp 100ft from water. If you find yourself camped or parked in the middle of a beautiful meadow filled with wildflowers, you are doing it wrong, regardless of how cool it looks on Instagram!

Designated Camping

Camp in sites that have a post with a campsite number, metal fire ring, and parking spot.

2021 Designated Camping Areas:

  • Slate River Road #734
  • Washington Gulch Road #811
  • Hartman Rocks Recreation Area (Gunnison)

 

Regulations:

  • Camp only at signed sites
  • All sites are first come first serve, with a 14-day maximum stay
  • Fires are only permitted in the established metal fire rings
  • Sites are limited to two vehicles only per site
  • No site saving- it is illegal to leave property unattended for more than 24 hours

Established Campgrounds

Several established campgrounds exist that are managed by federal entities or privately owned and offer significantly more amenities. They require a nightly fee, and some can be reserved in advance. Many of these campgrounds offer water, toilets, showers, tent pads, picnic tables, RV hookups, and other amenities.

Campground Locations:

  • Lake Irwin
  • Cement Creek Road 
  • Gothic
  • Slate River
  • Taylor Canyon
  • Gunnison
  • Curecanti NRA
  • White Pine
  • Pitkin
 
 
For a complete list of campgrounds, amenities, and locations, click the button below.

camping Ethics

LNT Principles

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.

Poor planning often results in unhappy campers driving around for hours searching for an open campsite, which sometimes results in illegal camping. This can lead to resource damage, a possible ticket and fine, and a huge bummer for your trip. As more camping areas around Crested Butte switch to designated camping, planning ahead will become essential. 

This is especially important if you are not camping at an established campsite! Vehicles should always be kept to designated routes, and tents should only be placed in areas where they will not damage vegetation. If there are rock barriers, fences, and signs, please understand that they were placed for a reason, and do not go around them. Manage your campsite to avoid any unnecessary impacts to the landscape and always camp a minimum of 100 feet from any water source.

 

This includes the waste that comes from you! And yes, we mean poop. The presence of human waste has become a huge issue in many of the camping areas around Crested Butte. Frankly, it is disgusting, and it also has created health risks to people using the rivers for recreation. Please, if you do not like finding poop in your camping area then do not leave any for the next person to find. We ask that you dispose of human waste AND TOILET PAPER in one of three ways:

  • Use a vault toilet – If there is an established toilet near where you are camping, please make a point to use it. This is the most sanitary and easy way to dispose human waste.
  • Use a self-contained toilet or bag system – If your RV or trailer has a toilet, use it! If you are tent or van camping, we ask you bring a bag system with you. These bags are easy to use and contain the chemicals that neutralize odor and turn solids into gels for easier transportation. Most importantly, these bags allow you to pack out your waste, and this is the preferred method over digging a cat hole. Bring your own Wag Bag or purchase one at an outdoor retailer in Crested Butte or Gunnison.
  • Dig a cat hole – The last resort! If you find yourself far from a toilet and without a wag bag, please bury your poo in a hole that is at least 6-8 inches deep. This means planning ahead and bringing a shovel or heavy duty trowel. The ground around here can be pretty rocky!

Along with human waste, please be sure to pack out everything you brought with you. This includes all trash, food waste, and dog waste. Please refrain from burning trash.

 

Please leave any natural or cultural objects where you found them. Do not carve anything on trees and please do not alter any campsite amenities.

 

Wildfires pose a serious threat to the forests surrounding Gunnison-Crested Butte, so be aware of any fire restrictions that are in place. When at a designated site use the permanent metal fire rings, and if dispersed camping use established rock rings instead of making a new one. Keep fires small and have ample water nearby to put out any escaped flames. Never leave a campfire unattended, and make sure the coals are cold to the touch before leaving the area. Buy firewood locally and avoid harvesting firewood from your camping area.

 

Crested Butte is home to lots of creatures, including black bears who would love to eat your snacks, and can smell them from far away. It is important that you store all food securely never leave any food or trash unattended or out in the open. Birds and chipmunks swoop in quickly to grab your snacks and trash, too. Campers should consider storing food in bear-proof canisters, as bears have broken into several cars in the past to get to food. Never feed any wildlife, no matter how cute it is!

 

Most people go camping to relax in the peace and quiet of the Great Outdoors. Generators, car alarms, and obnoxious drunks really ruin the experience. No matter how cool you think your music is, other people probably don’t want to hear it. Respect the land, respect your neighbors, and leave your site clean for the next person. Respect that if a site is taken, then no, you probably cannot squeeze in there, too.

 

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