This Mountain West Town Is Considered One Of The Top Camping Destinations In America

Crested Butte is also known as "the last great Colorado ski town" for good reason, with cheaper accommodations than nearby tourist destinations (like Vale and Aspen) and a laid-back, welcoming atmosphere. Crested Butte isn't just known for its skiing, though. With the scenic National Forests on every border and its abundance of activities, Crested Butte is considered one of the top camping destinations in America.

Situated at an elevation of nearly 8,900 feet, the town is surrounded by four of Colorado's National Forests — The Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests to the south, the White River National Forest to the northeast, and Grand Mesa to the northwest. Camping in Crested Butte is a unique experience, with endless opportunities to explore the outdoors. In the open season, campers can take on challenging trails in the Elk Mountain Range of the Rocky Mountains or relax by one of the many alpine lakes. Mountain bikers can ride over 700 miles of scenic trails, while anglers can fish for trout in the Gunnison River's gold-metal waters.

Campgrounds in Crested Butte are typically open from late spring through October, giving options to those seeking a secluded camping getaway in the fall. Despite the months-long open season, many campgrounds see reserved spots fill up very quickly. Without reservations ahead of time, many campers are left with the remaining first-come, first-serve spots. If you don't have reservations, arrive early if you plan on staying overnight.

RV park and campground options

For campers traveling with fifth-wheel trailers or motorhomes, Crested Butte RV Resort is open from mid-May until mid-October. The small, 19-spot RV park is located just 3 miles from Crested Butte and provides room for large RVs and trailers, a trait that many of the national forest campgrounds lack. The park has water and electric connections but doesn't provide sewer hookups or a dump station, so plan accordingly. Guest reviews on RV Life Campgrounds praise the park's location, cleanliness, and Wi-Fi access but have noted the park's higher pricing and need to be more pet-friendly.

In the White River National Forest, Little Maud Campground offers a more rustic and secluded camping experience. Little Maud is open from May to October for camping, but the campground has a 40-foot RV maximum and no RV hookups. The campground is right on the Ruedi Reservoir and has 21 tent and RV sites, access to trails, and plenty of water activities on the nearby creek and reservoir. 

For a cost-effective camping option in Crested Butte, Oh Be Joyful Campground is situated along the Slate River, offering seclusion and prices starting at just $10 for a designated spot. Access to the site is available on the access road BLM Rd 3220, 6 miles from Crested Butte, and with 14 RV spots, 15 tent sites, and one group campsite, it has room for all types of campers. The campground has no RV hookups, but amenities like bear-safe food lockers, tent pads, and restrooms are provided.

Backcountry camping in Crested Butte

For experienced campers who crave an immersive and rugged experience, Crested Butte offers some of the finest backcountry camping opportunities. A 7.8-mile hike from Crested Butte's Schofield Park, the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness area is a backpacker's paradise. Hiking the trail is challenging, with an over 2,000-foot elevation gain, but the area's multiple designated campsites at Conundrum Hot Springs, Capitol Lake, Crater, and Geneva Lake make for a secluded, peaceful camping trip.

The area is open year-round but requires permits and campsite reservations. It is best to plan your trip ahead of time using the wilderness zone map to decide on the campground reservations, hiking routes, and supplies needed. Bear spray is required for camping in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness area, and Crested Butte provides an additional set of suggestions and requirements in their camping guide.

Tucked away in the Gunnison National Forest, Gothic Campground is a 10-mile drive from Crested Butte. Surrounded by aspen and spruce trees, it's perfect for those seeking solitude. However, it is only open from mid-June to the end of September. The campground has designated sites that are first-come, first-served, with day-use and overnight fees. Reviews of the camp note the narrow roads and compact sites. Whether you're a wilderness pro or a first-timer, Crested Butte offers a variety of options. From full-service RV spots to backcountry tent sites, this active outdoor community is a must-visit for camping enthusiasts.