Offering gear rentals and local business referral service
By Kendra Walker
Camping in the Gunnison Valley just got even cooler. Forgot your tent? Need a rock climbing guide? No problem. The new campground startup, Campfire Ranch, is officially open for business and is taking the camping experience to the next level.
Founded by Western Colorado University alumnus Sam Degenhard, Campfire Ranch was chosen by the city of Gunnison to manage its Taylor Mountain Park campground, which includes 19 new walk-in tent sites by online reservation, trash, recycling and cleaning services.
But what sets the campground apart from other areas is Campfire Ranch’s camping concessionaire model. The campground offers new amenities for guests, including camping equipment rentals and demo gear, and a referral service to local recreation businesses’ guided trips and services.
Degenhard’s intention is to host authentic experiences and foster a community of adventurers. “I was seeing a lot of deficiencies in the options for camping, specifically to younger and newer campers,” said Degenhard. “When you look at the options out there, they’re typically the often pricey RV resorts catering to an older crowd. Then there’s the public campgrounds that book up months in advance and most of the time they’re full. And the last option is primitive camping—you’ve got to know where to go, have the equipment and feel comfortable off the grid,” he explained. “Our mission is to be an outdoor hub for the next generation that’s welcoming and a good melting pot for both experienced and new campers.”
Additionally, Campfire Ranch hopes to cater to the air travel crowd interested in camping in the valley during their visit, who might not have packing space or access to camping and recreational gear, said Degenhard. Partnering with local guides and outfitters, Campfire Ranch can provide demo camping gear for guests and refer them to adventure services in the area through its Adventure Demo and Adventure Concierge programs.
Partnering companies so far include The North Face, YETI, First Ascent Coffee Roasters, Buckel Family Wine, Gene Taylors Sporting Goods and the Taylor Park Marina.
Online reservations for the Taylor campground sites can be booked up to two weeks in advance to allow those impulse-trip planners more flexibility. While sites can only be booked by reservation with a 10-day limit, there are no changes or restrictions to public access for day use in the park.
The campground officially opened on June 19 and, depending on weather conditions, will remain open for the season until early November.
Degenhard came to Gunnison in 2009 to study at Western and “absolutely fell in love with the Gunnison Valley.” He then worked for Red Bull North America for 10 years before coming back to Western for its new Outdoor Industry Program, graduating for the second time in May. “That program really helped me get the skill set to go out on my own,” he said. He looks to eventually grow Campfire Ranch with multiple locations.
The Campfire Ranch team was hard at work this spring preparing the campground for guests and is following COVID-19 public health orders and protocols. Trash services are provided and the bathrooms are cleaned multiple times a day.
Degenhard anticipates camping will be very popular in the valley this summer in light of the pandemic. “It’s a good time to be camping. As restrictions have lifted it’s been pretty clear that camping and road tripping have been a huge draw for folks,” he said. “It can feel safer, there’s not a lot of high touch services, and you can be self-sufficient so it’s the perfect alternative.”
And with the expected increase in campers this summer, Campfire Ranch hopes to set a good example for those new to the experience. “As a new campground in the valley we’re not here to create more impact, we’re really here to reduce it,” said Degenhard. “The goal is to bring in those new campers coming into the Gunnison Valley for the first time and educate them to be good stewards. We hope they start those best practices with us.”
For more information and to book a campsite, visit www.campfireranch.co.