Dispersed Camping to be Limited in Crested Butte Starting This Summer

The Washington Gulch area. Photo: Matt Miller.

Van-lifers and car campers heading to Crested Butte this summer may find some of their favorite camping spots and pull-offs are no longer available for use. The US Forest Service (USFS), working with the Crested Butte Conservation Corps (CBCC) has established a new management plan that establishes designated camping zones in areas that were previously open to dispersed camping. The move is being supported by the Gunnison Valley’s Sustainable Tourism and Outdoor Recreation (STOR) Committee.

According to a press release, “Over the years Crested Butte has gained significant popularity as an outdoor recreation destination, and unfortunately the impacts from unregulated dispersed camping have led to extensive resource damage across the Gunnison National Forest surrounding Crested Butte. The switch to designated camping is the successful culmination of partnership efforts focused on improving Crested Butte’s backcountry by adopting a plan that will preserve the landscape while simultaneously improving user experience.”

Under the new plan, designated campsites are being established with official signage and fire pits, and roadside camping will no longer be allowed. The first areas to see the change are the Washington Gulch and Slate River areas where 48 and 43 designated sites, respectively, have been established for spring 2021. Later this year, beginning in September, the Brush Creek and Kebler Pass areas will be converted to designated camping, and by Spring 2022 the Gothic and Cement Creek areas will follow suit.

Ultimately 211 designated sites will be available in the Crested Butte area once the conversion is complete. Also, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) currently offers designated camping spots in the Slate River area.

Designated camp sites will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis with no fee or reservation required. Each site is limited to two vehicles, and fires must be contained to the provided metal fire ring. Stays are limited to 14 days and all trash and human waste must be packed out.

“Campers can expect to see new signage along the roadside directing them toward camping areas, camping information, and notifying them when no camping areas lie ahead. The shift to designated camping might mean that the ability to find a place to camp will be more limited than it has been in the past. If you are coming to Crested Butte for the weekend during peak summer season or for any holiday over the summer be sure that you have a backup plan in the event that all the designated sites are full.”