GMUG Continues Implementation of Crested Butte Camping Management

Local News

GUNNISON, Colo. — The Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forests’ Gunnison Ranger District will continue implementation of its camping management strategy in the Crested Butte area by shifting to a designated camping system in the following drainages: Kebler Pass, Lake Irwin, Splains Gulch, Upper East River, Brush Creek and Cement Creek. The Slate River and Washington Gulch areas were partially completed in the fall of 2020.

In recent years, the rising popularity of dispersed camping on National Forest System lands surrounding Crested Butte has led to a marked increase in undesirable and unsustainable impacts. Rising levels of E. coli in streams, creation of unauthorized routes, social conflicts due to congestion and issues involving trespassing on neighboring private lands were indications that a management change was needed.

The move to designated camping will require people to stay only in pre-established sites in the affected drainages. These campsites will be primarily located in the hardened areas that already exist, unsustainable sites on steep slopes or fragile soils and those established too close to water will be decommissioned. This strategy will mirror other public lands that require camping in designated sites with the best example locally being the BLM managed Hartman Rocks.

The Gunnison Ranger District partnered with the Crested Butte Conservation Corps to help with the installation of the infrastructure for the designated sites and with the Gunnison County Stewardship Fund to help fund the project.

“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,” said Gunnison District Ranger Matt McCombs. “By designating sites, it allows the district to isolate the impacts from camping to specific, sustainable locations, while still providing users with the remote and isolated feel of backcountry dispersed camping.” McCombs continued, “our goal is to maximize recreation opportunities while minimizing unwanted impacts moving us to a sustainable path going forward.”

Visitors should expect to see implementation in the remaining areas during the summer and fall of 2021 and the spring and summer of 2022. With these changes, visitors need to plan for reduced capacity as sites fill up quickly. Visitors should also be prepared with a backup plan if their first choice is unavailable. For a detailed fact sheet and approximate timeline on the new changes visit For further information, contact Gunnison Ranger District at (970) 641-0471 or email

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