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July 15, 2020 4 min read

Crested Butte thrives because people come to visit us. It’s people like you who make what we do possible. Our mountains, rivers, and trails are the common thread that ties us together; they’re precious places we all share and enjoy. But each summer as more and more weekend warriors come to recreate on these public spaces, the risk of losing them looms larger. What were once meadows filled with wildflowers are now eroded, dusty, illegally-made camping areas; trees are marked with hatchet scars and nails; and human and dog waste can be found all too close to our water sources. 

Here’s where you come in. 

We need your help in keeping Crested Butte beautiful. Below you’ll find seven ways to follow sustainable camping etiquette on your next visit. Read through, share with friends, and if you feel comfortable,  speak up when you see these guidelines being disrespected in the wild. We all need to step up to do our part to make sure we can enjoy Crested Butte for years to come.


1. Avoid Overcrowding

The biggest problem we see is that folks arrive on a Thursday or Friday evening, camp all weekend, and depart Sunday afternoon. Not only does this guarantee heinous traffic to and from the Front Range, but it puts a mega strain on our limited camping areas.  If at all possible, please consider shifting your travel plans to not overlap with this timeframe. This applies to trailheads, too. Instead of parking on the grass during peak trail hours because the trailhead is swamped, we suggest hiking or mountain biking a little later in the day when most people are wrapping things up. Staggering your own schedule when possible will have a big impact on reducing erosion and stress on our public lands!


Q: What if I can’t find a spot to camp?
A: Check out the hotel situation in town (, or keep moving. We advise that those traveling on holiday weekends make campground reservations in advance. Check for all local reservable sites. If you are dispersed camping, have a plan B, C, D, and so on.


Group Dispersed Camping, the Right Way

2. Follow Leave No Trace Principles

We encourage everyone who enjoys the outdoors to familiarize themselves with  Leave No Trace principles, which include not washing your dishes in the river, leaving wildflowers and other natural features where you find them, and not feeding the wildlife (which includes those cute little chipmunks and camp robbers). 


3. Don’t Camp Within 100 Feet of Water…

…Even if someone has done so before you. There are several sites along Slate River that appear to be legitimate campsites but are actually illegal. Why is this such a big deal? Erosion and waste, whether it’s human or food, destroy river ecosystems at a catastrophic rate. (Avoiding a ticket is another good reason.) Your presence has a huge impact downstream on species like trout, herons, moose, and more—so think before you pitch your tent! 

 Be a Conscious Camper

4. Do Not Create New Fire Rings

As of the 2020 camping season, our forest service officials have been working hard to cut down on detrimental dispersed camping. They have deconstructed a number of unsafe primitive campfire rings in overcrowded areas, still indicated by burn marks on the forest floor. Our public lands would sure appreciate the chance to heal. Please only camp and have campfires at legitimate fire rings.

Q: Where can I dump my trash?
A: Take it all the way home and recycle, compost, and trash appropriately. Public dumping (in dumpsters) is actually illegal and can impose large fines on local businesses.

5. Follow Proper Poo Guidelines

Need we say more? Check out @travelcrestedbutte’s  helpful guidelines for where and how to go responsibly when nature calls.

Responsible Camping in Crested Butte

6. Pack Out Your Trash—and Other’s

It goes without saying, pack out your trash! Every year, the Crested Butte Conservation Corps hauls 1,000 pounds of trash out of our backcountry. For those who hold our home dear it’s truly a sad situation. Always try to leave an area cleaner than when you found it. Consider packing a pair of gloves to safely remove trash that isn’t your own. 


Q: How can I tell if there’s a fire ban?
A: Great question! You’ll want to check this site for the most up to date campfire regulations in Gunnison County. Having a campfire when there’s a restriction or ban can be punishable by a $2,650 fine and one year in prison. Plus, it makes you a big a-hole.


7. Shop Local, Respect Local

During times of Covid it can be tempting to pack in groceries from home, camp out all weekend long, and return to the Front Range without having supported any local businesses. We encourage you to do the opposite. Come on down, enjoy our restaurants and retailers (while respecting Covid guidelines!) and have a wonderful visit in Crested Butte with good food, beer, and friendly faces. We sure appreciate your tourism and hope to see you soon! 

Thank you for your commitment to responsible and sustainable recreation in Gunnison Valley. For the month of August we will be donating 3% of all sales to Crested Butte Conservation Corps as a way of saying thank you. In addition, we are hosting a cleanup day later this year to help mitigate the impacts of overcrowding on our camping areas and trails. Stay tuned for more information and to sign up soon!