The name says it all. This campground is in a splendid valley just a few miles outside of the ski town of Crested Butte along the Slate River. Summer is short here, but it’s an outdoor lover’s paradise while it lasts and this free campground is a great base camp for exploring the area. The Oh-Be-Joyful Trail starts here and enters the Raggeds Wilderness, passing too many waterfalls to count as it enters a stunning alpine basin. Adventurous hikers can continue on to Oh-Be-Joyful Pass. During high water, kayakers will find thrilling whitewater on the river. And for you cyclists, there’s a reason the Crested Butte area is considered the mountain-biking Mecca of Colorado. Check out the extensive trail network in the area or just bike into town for lunch and a beer. It’s hard not to be joyful in such a place.
When you’re unfamiliar with an area, it’s tempting to take a trail that seems to lead where you want to go. We had planned to bike into Crested Butte and there seemed to be a trail that would allow us to forego pedaling the steep driveway back to the road. Twenty minutes of pushing our bikes through mud and over fences later, we reached the road, exhausted before the ride had even begun. Moral of the story: There’s no shortcut into Crested Butte. Take the road.
- Got a high-clearance vehicle? After the early-summer melt-off you can drive across the Slate River and camp with more seclusion on the far side. The Oh-Be-Joyful Trail starts on the far side as well, so hikers with low-clearance vehicles will have to ford the river, which is not recommended during high water.
- Take it slow on the road into the campground. It’s rocky and rutted, but passenger cars can make it with careful tire placement.
- Though the campground was free in 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management was considering implementing a fee, so bring some cash or check ahead of time.
Recommended season(s): Mid-summer – Fall.
—R. Scott Rappold