East Portal Campground

Curecanti National Recreation Area

Sawatch Range + Elk Mountains, Colorado

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East Portal Campground


  • East Portal Campground's basin sites are well shaded.- East Portal Campground
  • The best spots are nestled at the eastern corner of the basin, away from the restrooms.- East Portal Campground
  • Sites are well shaded and open in between.- East Portal Campground
  • Typical campsite among the box elder.- East Portal Campground
  • The nearby Gunnison River.- East Portal Campground
  • Box elder looming over the campsites at the East Portal Campground.- East Portal Campground
  • Typical campsite at East Portal Campground.- East Portal Campground
  • The Crystal Dam near East Portal Campground.- East Portal Campground
  • East Portal Campground features flat tent pads.- East Portal Campground
  • Accessing East Portal Campground is a challenge given the grade of East Portal Road.- East Portal Campground
  • - East Portal Campground
Overview + Weather
Secluded. Shaded campsites. Deep canyon.
Small. Steep access road.
Sawatch Range + Elk Mountains, CO
Managed by: 
National Park Service
Pets allowed: 
Yes, with restrictions
Parking Pass: 
National Park Pass
Preferable Season(s):
Spring, Summer, Fall
Reservations possible: 
Current Local Weather:
Campground Description

Campground Description


Nestled on the canyon floor of one of the deepest canyons in America, the East Portal Campground should be the first option for tent campers who visit the Curecanti National Recreation Area and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

There are two main problems confronting campers at the East Portal: size and access. There are just 15 sites at East Portal, and the secret is out—on holiday weekends, don’t expect to find a place to pitch your tent at this first-come, first-served campground. Additionally, the East Portal Road and its 16% grade, which leads to the canyon floor, is too steep for towing or RVs as it winds down several thousand feet over its 5-mile span. Vehicles longer than 22 feet are prohibited. Be sure to stock up on supplies beforehand.

In all other respects, the campground is the finest that the park has to offer. Intimate and well-shaded, the campsites are divided between an upper tier closest to the entrance station, where rangers offer seasonal tours, and a lower tier, situated in a basin among the box elder that cover nearly every site. The lower basin is where you want to be. The box elder murmur in gentle breezes, and while the campsites themselves offer little privacy between them, there is a cloistered intimacy that seems to draw campers together.

Sites are equipped with picnic tables, level tent pads, and barbecues. The campground’s relatively remote location encourages animal visitation—otters, ground critters, the occasional bear—and bear boxes are shared between campsites. Be wary about storing food in cars, as small critters will have an easy time infiltrating your supplies.

The campground is open between May and mid-October. The nearby Gunnison River offers abundant fishing in its waters. The Crystal Dam is just east of the campground and offers a day use area for picnicking. The Gunnison River Diversion Tunnel is also nearby, an important piece of the canyon’s early history and the source of water for nearby communities like Montrose.

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Updates, Tips + Comments

Field Guide

Field Guide

Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(4 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(10 within a 30 mile radius)

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