Camping Near Crested Butte: A Camper’s Guide to the Best Spots

by | Sep 24, 2023 | Camping

Nestled in the heart of the Colorado Rockies, Crested Butte has been a cherished waypoint in our numerous camping adventures. From the rustling aspen groves of Kebler Pass to the serene banks of the Slate River, the region has consistently offered a blend of nature’s tranquility and the thrill of the wild. This is not just a list but a testament to the region’s unparalleled beauty.

Within an hour’s drive from Crested Butte, campers can find the pristine Oh Be Joyful Campground, the picturesque Lake Irwin Campground, and the serene Cement Creek Campground, among others. Dive deeper into this guide, and you’ll discover a curated selection of spots that have enriched my camping experiences, each promising its own unique allure.

Note: Most of the campgrounds near Crested Butte don’t have any hookups or electricity. They are “primitive sites” that have limited access to water, so you should come prepared to be self-sufficient during your stay. Most campgrounds are also cash only, so make sure you have plenty of cash and small bills on hand so you can pay the fee properly.

Established Campgrounds Near Crested Butte

These campgrounds are near Crested Butte and offer quick access to local trails and the town as well.

There are a few established campgrounds near Crested Butte, but most of the camping nearby is dispsersed camping. Some dispsersed areas are open to campers based on local regulations, while others may have established sites that you must stay at. Established Campgrounds near Crested Butte:

  • Oh By Joyful Campground
  • Lake Irwin Campground
  • Lost Lake Campground
  • Gothic Campground
  • Crested Butte RV Resort
  • Town Camping

Oh Be Joyful Recreation Area

Oh Be Joyful is a favorite among campers for its proximity to the Slate River and the renowned Oh Be Joyful Trail. The campground offers basic amenities, including pit toilets. While there’s no potable water source directly at the site, the Slate River runs adjacent, making it a convenient spot for those with water filtration systems. The trailhead for the Oh Be Joyful Trail is easily accessible from the campground, offering hikers a scenic route through wildflower meadows and alpine landscapes.

Pro tip: Once you drive past Oh Be Joyful Campground, there’s a limited number of designated dispersed campsites that don’t have any amenities. These are first-come first serve and are marked with numbers.

Gothic Campground

Located near the historic town of Gothic, the Gothic Campground is a serene retreat for nature lovers. While amenities are limited, the real draw is the surrounding beauty and the nearby trailheads. The proximity to the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory is an added bonus for those interested in local research and conservation efforts. Campers should come prepared, as there’s no potable water on-site. There are no reservations for this campground (first-come first-serve only) and there are only 5 sites, so get there early.

Pro tip: If you’re camping near Gothic, you can continue down this road to access the West Portal Trailhead (Four Pass Loop) and the Crystal Mill Trailhead, both of which are incredible hikes that we highly recommend.

Lake Irwin Campground

Overlooking the breathtaking Lake Irwin, this campground offers unparalleled views of Ruby Peak. Amenities include pit toilets and designated fire rings, and the lake itself is a popular spot for fishing and kayaking. Nearby, the Lake Irwin Trail provides hikers with a moderate trek around the lake, showcasing the area’s natural beauty. There’s no potable water, so campers should bring their own or be prepared to filter from the lake.

Lost Lake Campground

Situated at a higher elevation, Lost Lake Campground is surrounded by three pristine alpine lakes, making it a favorite for both anglers and nature enthusiasts. The campground offers basic amenities, including pit toilets and fire rings. While there’s no potable water source directly at the camp, the nearby lakes can be a source if you have a reliable water filter. The proximity to the Lost Lake Trailhead ensures that hikers have ample opportunities to explore the wilderness. This campground is located along Kebler Pass Road, so you can get a scenic drive on the way to camp.

Pro tip: After you turn off Kebler Pass, there is free dispsersed camping along the road to the official campground.

Crested Butte RV Resort (RV Only)

The Crested Butte RV Resort is located only 2 miles from downtown CB and it offers a perfect spot to park your RV and camper. They are big rig friendly, but do not have any pull through sites. Each site has 30/50amp hookups and water, as well as a nearby dump station. Reservations are required, so book well in advance as this popular RV resort sells out quickly!

Crested Butte Town Camping (Tent Only)

Memorial Day thourgh Labor Day, tent campers can take advantage of free town camping near the mountain resort. There are 26 walk-in sites that are first come, first served with a 14 day maximum stay. Camp in designated spots only and use the free port-a-john that’s onsite.

Dispersed Camping Near Crested Butte

These areas offer dispersed camping in non-established campgrounds. Try to camp in places that already have a stone fire ring so we can limit the effects of camping in this fragile alpine environment. As you can see above, there’s dispsersed camping near Oh Be Joyful and Lost Lake, but here are some other dispersed camping areas near Crested Butte:

  • Kebler Pass
  • Cement Creek
  • Brush Creek
  • Washington Gulch

Kebler Pass

kebler pass aspsens
Kebler Pass is home to one of the largest groves of aspens in the world (drone view overlooking the top of Kebler Pass)

Kebler Pass is not just a scenic drive; it’s a haven for campers seeking the tranquility of the vast aspen groves. Especially during the fall, the area is a spectacle of golden hues. Dispersed camping is the primary mode here, allowing campers to find their secluded spot amidst nature. While there aren’t designated amenities like restrooms or potable water, the raw beauty of the place compensates for it. For hikers, the pass serves as a gateway to the Dark Canyon and Dyke Creek trails, among others. Note that camping is allowed in designated spots only, all of which are clearly labeled and are first-come first-served.

Cement Creek Campground

Situated along the tranquil Cement Creek, this campground is perfect for those seeking a peaceful escape. Pit toilets are available but there’s no water and all sites are first-come first-served. The creek is a favorite for anglers, and the nearby Cement Creek Trail offers an adventurous route for hikers and mountain bikers. As with many remote sites, there’s no direct source of potable water, so campers should come prepared.

Brush Creek Dispersed Camping

Located southeast of Crested Butte, Brush Creek Dispersed Camping is a treasure for those who prefer a more rugged camping experience. The area doesn’t offer designated amenities, so campers should be self-sufficient. However, the proximity to the Brush Creek Trailhead is a significant draw, providing access to a variety of trails that meander through the picturesque landscape. Ensure you pack in and pack out, maintaining the area’s natural beauty. You may need a 4×4 vehicle with clearance to reach this location.

Washington Gulch

Nestled in a beautiful valley, Washington Gulch is a camper’s delight. The dispersed camping spots here are set against a backdrop of majestic mountains and wildflower meadows. While the area lacks specific amenities like potable water or restrooms, its scenic beauty and tranquility more than make up for it. For hiking enthusiasts, the nearby Washington Gulch Trailhead offers a moderately challenging trek with panoramic views of the surrounding peaks.

Farther From Crested Butte

These campgrounds are farther away from Crested Butte, but still offer access to this incredible town within an hour drive.

Almont Campground

Almont Campground is located in the nearby town of Almond, Colorado, which is just south of the town of Crested Butte. There are 10 sites, all of which are first-come, first-serve camping. There’s water available at the hand pump, and there are two vault toilets on site.

Hartman Rocks Recreation Area

Hartman Rocks Recreation Area is located just south of the town of Gunnison. It’s an awesome place to go mountain biking, rock climbing, and hiking. Throughout this recreation area, there are 50 primitive sites that are first come first, serve. There are no water and no hookups, so prepare accordingly!

Gunnison KOA Journey

If you want luxurious camping but can’t get a spot at the Crested Butte RV Park, this KOA campground may be your next best option. It’s less than an hour from Crested Butte, but it also offers close proximity to nearby Blue Mesa Reservoir, which is the largest body of water in Colorado. All the sites are 100% grass covered, which offers a different experience from normal concrete and gravel RV parks.

One Mile Campground

Situated along the mesmerizing Taylor River, One Mile Campground is a paradise for fishing enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. The river’s clear waters are teeming with trout, making it a popular spot for fly fishing. Campers can enjoy the basic amenities like fire pits and picnic areas. The nearby Doctor Park Trail is a must-visit for hikers, offering a blend of forested paths and open meadows. While there’s no direct potable water source at the campground, the river provides an option for those equipped with water purification methods.

Rosy Lane Campground

Another gem along the Taylor River, Rosy Lane Campground is renowned for its scenic beauty and serene ambiance. The rhythmic sound of the river provides a calming backdrop for campers. Amenities include well-maintained restrooms, fire rings, and picnic tables. The adjacent Hartman Rocks area offers a plethora of trails for both hiking and mountain biking. As with most campgrounds in the region, it’s essential to come prepared with your own drinking water or a water filtration system.

Lottis Creek Campground

Nestled in the expansive Gunnison National Forest, Lottis Creek Campground offers a newly renovated, peaceful retreat for outdoor enthusiasts. The campground is surrounded by dense pine forests, providing ample shade and a sense of seclusion. Amenities include potable water, restrooms, and designated fire pits. The nearby Fossil Ridge Trail is a highlight, leading hikers through diverse landscapes and offering glimpses of the region’s rich geological history.

Spring Creek Campground

Spring Creek Campground offers a less frequented camping experience, making it an ideal choice for those seeking solitude. The area is surrounded by dense forests and meandering streams, providing a serene backdrop for campers. While there aren’t established amenities like restrooms or potable water, the untouched nature of this location is its main allure. Nearby, the Spring Creek Trailhead provides access to a variety of hiking trails, suitable for both beginners and seasoned hikers. Campers should come prepared with their own water and be ready to practice Leave No Trace principles.

Gold Creek Campground

Situated near the quaint town of Almont, Gold Creek Campground is a quiet retreat for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle. The campground offers basic amenities, including pit toilets and fire rings. While there isn’t a direct source of potable water, the nearby Gold Creek provides opportunities for fishing and the soothing sounds of flowing water. The area is also a gateway to several hiking trails, making it a favorite among outdoor enthusiasts.


To see a a map of these different camp spots, check out Travel Crested Butte’s interactive map.

*all photos (besides the drone shot) are from the campground’s website* While we have camped at several of these campgrounds, I don’t have great pictures of them.


Know Nothing Nomads

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