If you’re planning on early season camping, want to extend the camping season later, or perhaps camp overnight in winter, consider renting a travel trailer near Denver. There are a wide range of options from RVS to camper vans, and even small lightweight teardrops that your Subaru can tow.
- Central – Evergreen, Idaho Springs, Summit County, Vail Valley, Buena Vista, Salida
- Denver area – Boulder, Denver metro, Golden, Castle Rock
- East – Sterling, La Junta
- North-Central – Estes Park, Fort Collins, Walden, Winter Park, Grand Lake
- Northwest – Kremmling, Steamboat, Craig, Dinosaur
- South-Central – CO Springs, Cañon City, Pueblo, Alamosa
- Southwest – Lake City, Ouray, Telluride, Cortez, Durango, Pagosa Springs
- West-Central – Glenwood Springs, Aspen, Crested Butte, Rifle, Grand Junction
Campgrounds, Campsites and Dispersed Camping in Colorado
There are generally two types of campsites: dispersed and campground. One is free is sparse with amenities and the other hooks up it, often literally (electric).
They range from $0 (off-season sometimes) to the mid-$20’s. They normally provide at least a table (with seating), fire pit (with grate or separate charcoal grill) and tent pad (place to put tent). Some are basic, some have electric, and some are full hookups for RVs. They always have restrooms and sometimes showers, laundry and a playground for the kids.
Both options can be found across the state. The following guide aims to point out what’s available in different regions of Colorado. There are many campsites not on here.
Tip – It’s always good to show up early and claim your spot, or reserve well in advance for popular spots like state and national parks.
It’s free and mostly found in national forests and B.L.M. lands. These federally owned public lands are open to the public year round. Usually unless otherwise noted, camping is permitted, however, it’s preferred you use existing campsites. There are more than enough of these to go around, if you know where to look.
These primitive sites are generally marked by a fire ring and don’t provide amenities, like restrooms or tables. If you’re lucky there will be a vault toilet at a nearby trailhead. Most sites are located next to the road for easy car camping.
READ: Free camping in Colorado for tips on how to find dispersed camping on your own. It shows you where to look, how to know if its okay and Motor Vehicle Use Maps, which often mark roads where its permitted. Otherwise read on below for specific dispersed campsites below.
Camping in Central Colorado
Mt. Evans – Drive up to over 14,000 on this byway.
Echo Lake Park CG – beside Echo Lake Lodge, 18 sites, basic, Reservations
West Chicago Creek CG – 9 miles from lake, near Idaho Springs, 16 sites, basic, Reservations
Dispersed camping – can be found on Hefferman Gulch Rd and West Chicago Creek Rd, both located north on CO 103 toward Idaho Springs. Each has about a half dozen or so spots.
Guanella Pass – Another scenic byway with ample camping, connects Georgetown with Grant. Take Guanella Pass Rd from downtown Georgetown.
Clear Lake CG – 8 basic sites, non-reservable
Guanella Pass CG – 18 basic sites, Reservations
Geneva Park CG – 26 basic sites, Reservations
Burning Bear CG – 13 basic sites, Reservations
Dispersed camping is easy to find just out of Georgetown and Grant, on the byway.
Lake Dillon – A large reservoir between Dillon and Frisco, at 9,000 feet.
Heaton Bay CG – 67 sites, electric & basic, Reservations
Peak One CG – 113 sites, basic, Reservations
Prospector CG – 105 sites, basic, Reservations
Lowry CG – 23 sites, electric & basic, Reservations
Windy Point Group CG – 1 group campground, Reservations
Green Mountain Reservoir (shown) – A beautiful and often overlooked reservoir on US 9 between Silverthorne and Kremmling.
Cataract Creek CG – 5 sites, non-reservable
Prairie Point CG – 33 sites, non-reservable
McDonald Flats CG – 13 sites, non-reservable
Cow Creek North CG – 15 sites, non-reservable
Cow Creek South CG – 40 sites, basic, Reservations
Elliot Creek CG – 15 sites, non-reservable
Willows CG – 35 sites, non-reservable
Dispersed camping can be found in the White River National Forest, west of the lake. From the north end of the reservoir, go about 3 miles north on US 9 to Spring Creek Rd. Take a left and follow for 7 miles or so until you reach the national forest and camping is allowed.
Dispersed camping is available south of the lake on Brush Creek Rd. Follow past lake to a fork in the road with Powerline Rd. Either road has some camping along it.
Red Cliff – A tiny mountain town just pass Minturn on US 24 from Vail to Leadville. There’s numerous camping options in the surrounding White River N.F.
Halfmoon CG – between Minturn and Red Cliff, take Notch Mountain Rd approx. 8 miles to CG. 7 sites, basic, non-reservable
Hornsilver CG – on Hwy 24 south of Red Cliff. 7 sites, basic, non-reservable
Gold Park CG – after Hornsilver, take a right on Homestake Rd and follow to this CG. 11 sites, basic, non-reservable
Camp Hale Memorial CG – furthest south on Hwy 24 before Tennessee pass. 21 sites, basic, Reservations
Dispersed camping can be found on Notch Mountain Road, between Minturn and Red Cliff on Hwy 24. It can also be found on Homestake Rd near Gold Park Campground and Yoder Gulch Rd, both past Hornsilver on Hwy 24.
Twin Lakes – Mount Elbert hovers behind these magnificent lakes. Twin Lakes is located at the start of Independence Pass, a summer short cut to Aspen.
White Star CG – near the lake, 66 sites, basic, Reservations
Lakeview CG – near the lake, 35 sites, basic, Reservations
Difficult CG – west side of pass, closer to Apsen, 47 sites, basic, Reservations
Cottonwood Pass – The pass connects Buena Vista with Almont on the other side of the Divide. Dispersed camping can be found near Buena Vista. There is 1 campground near Buena Vista and the rest are near Taylor Park Reservoir on the west side. Take Co Rd 306 west out of town.
Collegiate Peaks CG – close to BV, 56 sites, basic, Reservations
Lakeview Gunnison CG – next to reservoir, 65 sites, basic & electric, Reservations
Dinner Station CG – north of lake, 22 sites, basic, Reservations
Lodgepole CG – near reservoir, 22 sites, basic, Reservations
Rosy Lane CG – near Almont, 22 sites, basic & electric, Reservations
One Mile CG – near Almont, 28 sites, basic & electric, Reservations
Dispersed camping can be found minutes out of Buena Vista on CR 306 (the pass). There are several creek-side spots, and plenty of camping on the other side of the pass too.
Clear Creek Reservoir – Intersection of Hwy 24 and County Rd 390 (b/w Leadville and BV). The lake and campground are located at the start of the drive, and then it’s dispsersed camping with a few ghost towns.
Campground – 1 big campground next to the lake, RV/tent, basic, first-come, first-serve
Dispersed camping is the draw here. There is a bit of private property at first, but then a few miles back there are loads of spots nearly the rest of the way to Winfield (a cool ghost town – 12 miles back).
Chalk Creek Canyon – Numerous attractions, like Mt Princeton Hot Springs, Agnes Veil Falls, and St. Elmo Ghost Town lie in this canyon. All 3 campgrounds are next to each other, about 10 miles down Chalk Creek Rd. Take 285 south of BV for 8 miles to Nathrop, and take Co Rd 162/Chalk Creek Rd.
Mount Princeton CG – 19 sites, basic, Reservations
Chalk Lake CG – 19 sites, basic, Reservations
Cascade CG – 21 sites, basic, Reservations
Arkansas Headwaters State Park – The Arkansas River journeys 150 miles from Leadville to Cañon City. The state park has lots of river access sites on the whole way.
Campgrounds – 6, 94 sites, basic, year round, Reservations
Dispersed camping is available at many spots between Leadville and Cañon City: Twin Lakes, Clear Creek Res, Cottonwood Pass, and other sites in the San Isabel N.F.
Monarch Pass – The main route from Salida to Gunnison, Highway 50, takes you up Monarch Pass over the Continental Divide.
Monarch Park CG – wooded area at the base of Monarch Ridge, 37 sites, basic, Reservations
Dispersed camping is available on some of the dirt roads on either side of the pass. My choice would be Old Monarch Pass, which is another route over the Divide. It’s about half way up Monarch Pass on the Salida side, before you a make a right. Campsites are easy to find on this 2WD-friendly road.
Camping in Denver area
Dispersed camping can be found near Eldora Resort. From the resort and Eldora Rd, take Forest Service Rd 505. It goes to Caribou, an old ghost town. There’s additional camping just southwest of Kelly Dahl. From campground, go south on 119 for 8 miles to Rollinsville. Make a right on Co Rd 16 and follow for a mile to East Portal Rd. There is some camping available on this road. 4×4 is best for exploring these forest service roads, and a map – Roosevelt Boulder District (PDF).
Bear Creek Lake Park – A Lakewood city park, centered around 3 distinct lakes near Red Rocks. Biking, fishing, swimming and water skiing are common.
Campgrounds – 47 sites, 2 yurts, 3 cabins, Reservations
Golden Gate Canyon State Park – Great camping and hiking in the beautiful Front Range.
Campgrounds – Heavily wooded, 2, 132 sites, Reservations
Cold Springs CG – national forest campground 5 miles west of the state park. 38 sites, basic, Reservations
Pickle Gulch CG – group campground, 2 miles west of Cold Springs. Reservations
Dispersed camping can be found near Pickle Gulch Campground. Take CO 46 west from the park for nearly 7 miles, before making a right on Missouri Gulch Rd. Follow that to campgrond. Forest Service Rd 718, next to the campground, permits camping.
Deckers – A good hour west of Castle Rock in the Pike National Forest. South Platte River runs through this small community, creating world class trout fishing. Dirt biking in the area is also popular. Campgrounds are scattered throughout the woods.
Buffalo CG – west on Deckers Rd to Redskin Creedk Rd, 37 sites, basic, Reservations
Devil’s Head CG – take Hwy 767 northeast from Deckers to Rampart Range Rd, 21 sites, basic, non-reservable
Flat Rocks CG – before Devil’s Head CG on Rampart Range Rd, 19 sites, basic, permits ATVs, non-reservable
Goose Creek CG – deep in woods SW of Deckers, 10 sites, basic, tent only, non-reservable
Green Mountain CG – near Buffalo CG, walk-in tent only, non-reservable
Jackson Creek CG – about 25 miles southwest of Sedalia, 9 sites, basic, non-reservable
Kelsey CG – on Deckers Rd, west of Lone Rock CG, 17 sites, basic, Reservations
Lone Rock CG – 1 mile west of Deckers Store on Deckers Rd, 19 sites, basic, Reservations
Molly Gulch – near Goose Creek CG, southwest of Deckers, 15 sites, basic, non-reservable
Platte River – 3.4 miles north of Deckers on Hwy 67, 10 sites, basic, tent only, non-reservable
Camping in East Colorado
Prewitt Reservoir SWA – A beautiful lake-centered state wildlife area.
No campgrounds, but dispersed camping is permitted around the lake with valid hunting or fishing license.
Pawnee National Grassland – One of the few places to see Colorado’s natural prairie landscape. It’s east of Fort Collins and like most of the plains, it gets windy.
Crow Valley CG – 15 sites in a wooded area with baseball diamond, Reservations
Dispersed camping – permitted in many of the roads, with the biggest concentration of sites near the Pawnee Buttes.
Comanche National Grassland – A 2nd national grassland in the Southeast near La Junta.
Dispersed camping is permitted in most parts of the grassland. Try around the Picket Wire Corrals Interpretive Site. Take Hwy 109 south from LaJunta for 13 miles, turn west on CR 802/David Canyon Rd, and go for 8 miles. Turn left (south) on CR 25 and go for 6 miles to reach the site.
Camping in North Central Colorado
Rocky Mountain National Park – One of Colorado’s most popular attractions, with 5 campgrounds and 1 group campground. A national scenic byway, Trail Ridge Road, connects Estes Park (east) and Grand Lake (west), peaking at 12,183 feet. Longs Peak is visible from most of the park.
Moraine Park CG – by Estes Park, 245 sites, Reservations
Aspenglen CG – near the Fall River Entrance Station in Estes Park, 54 sites, Reservations
Glacier Basin CG – south of Estes Park on Bear Lake Rd, 150 sites, Reservations
Longs Peak CG – 9 miles south of downtown EP on CO 7, left on Longs Peak Rd, 26 tent sites, non-reservable
Timber Creek CG – 10 miles north of Grand Lake on Hwy 34, 98 sites, non-reservable
Horsetooth Reservoir – A beautiful reservoir in the foothills west of Fort Collins. At it’s fullest, it’s 6.5 miles long. The Inlet Bay Marina rents boats. To the west of the lake is Lory State Park, a great place to hike or bike.
Campgrounds – by the lake, 155 sites, 15 are boat-in, basic and electric, Reservations
Cache La Poudre-North Park Scenic Byway – Camping can be found the whole way from Fort Collins to Walden.
Chambers Lake CG – midway to Walden, 51 sites, basic, Reservations
Aspen Glen CG – close to Walden, 9 site, non-reservable
Big South CG – next to Aspen Glen, 4 sites, non-reservable
Sleeping Elephant CG – closer to Walden, 15 sites, non-reservable
Big Bend CG – closer to Walden, 8 sites, non-reservable
Kelly Flats CG – closer to Walden, 29 sites, non-reservable
Bellaire Lake CG – off the byway closer to FC, 26 sites, basic & electric, Reservations
West Lake CG – near Bellaire Lake, 35 sites, basic & electric, Reservations
Mountain Park CG – 56 sites, basic & electric, Reservations
Dutch George Flats CG – 20 sites, non-reservable
Narrows CG – 15 sites, Reservations
Stove Prairie CG – 9 sites, Reservations
Ansel Watrous CG – closest to Fort Collins, 17 sites, basic, Reservations
Dispersed camping is available but not directly on the byway. Check out this Roosevelt Ranger District PDF map – Canyon Lakes North to identify more dispersed camping (see legend).
State Forest State Park – A rugged and remote state park, 19 miles southeast of Walden on Hwy 14. It’s the largest state park, with 71,000 acres and 1/3 of North Park’s moose population. ATV’s and other OHV’s have more than 50 miles of 4×4 roads to play on.
Campgrounds – 4 campgrounds, dispersed camping sites (for a fee) and backcountry camping, Reservations.
Dispersed camping can be found just south of State Forest State Park in the Roosevelt N.F. There are lots of free sites, minutes from the deserted town of Gould. Take CR 21 a mile or so back, from town, to the national forest.
Vasquez Ridge – A great place for free camping, hiking, biking, OHV in Winter Park.
Dispersed camping is all that’s available back at Vasquez Ridge. It’s everywhere once you reach the Arapaho N.F.
Idlewild CG – on Hwy 40 south of WP near Berthoud Pass , 23 sites, basic, non-reservable
Saint Louis Creek – Another place for hiking, biking, OHV riding in Fraser.
Saint Louis Creek CG – a few miles west of downtown Fraser, 16 sites, basic, first-serve, first-serve
Byers Creek CG – near Saint Louis Creek, 6 sites, basic, non-reservable
Dispersed camping – There are some sites but not as many as neighbor Vasquez Ridge.
Great Lakes of Colorado – Six great lakes, with the highlight Lake Granby.
Arapaho Bay CG – hidden away near Monarch Lake, 84 sites, basic, Reservations
Stillwater CG – lakeside, 107 sites, basic & electric, Reservations
Green Ridge CG – between Shadow Mountain Lake and Lake Granby, 75 sites, basic, Reservations
Willow Creek CG – secluded next to Willow Creek Reservoir, 35 sites, basic, non-reservable
Dispersed camping can be found near the south end of the Shadow Mountain Lake. Take County Road 4 (right after Grand Lake Tap House) a miles back to the Stillwater Pass area where sites are evident.
Hot Suphur Springs
Williams Fork Reservoir – Large lake only 8 miles south of Hot Sulphur Springs. Take US 40 west 4.6 miles to CR 3. Follow that to Co Rd 341 and then take that west to the lake.
Dispersed camping can be found on County Rd 340 near the lake. Instead of taking CR 341 west to the lake, take CR 340 southeast to the Arapaho National Forest. Within a few miles there will be campsites.
Camping in Northwest Colorado
Radium – A primitive hot springs on the banks of the Colorado River. It’s about a 20 minute hike to the springs, and camping is found at the parking lot and trailhead.
There are several free dispersed camping sites at the parking area. Take Hwy 9 south for 2 miles to Trough Springs Rd/CR 1. Follow for 13 miles to Co Rd 11, and a sign for Radium. Make a right and follow for a mile or so to parking.
Rabbit Ears Pass – This high mountain pass runs for miles on Highway 40, 20 minutes east of Steamboat. There are a number of scenic hiking and OHV trails, and fishing in Dumont Lake.
Meadows CG – 6 miles west of Dumont Lake on Hwy 40, 30 sites, basic, non-reservable
Dumont Lake CG – walking distance to lake, near trailhead and 4×4 road to the Rabbit Ears, 14 sites, basic, Reservations
Dispersed camping – is easy to find on the forest service roads off the highway.
Buffalo Pass – Free camping minutes from downtown Steamboat and hot springs.
Dry Lake CG – closest to town at the start of the pass, 8 sites, basic, non-reservable
Summit Lake CG – at the top of the pass next to an alpine lake, 15 sites, basic, non-reservable
Dispersed camping is available very shortly after the Dry Lake Campground, directly on the pass.
Dispersed camping can be found in the surrounding Routt National Forest. Both Forest Service Rd 486 and 488 near the lake have spots.
Flat Tops Trail – A national scenic byway connecting Yampa and Meeker.
Chapman Reservoir CG (shown) – closest to Yampa, 12 sites, basic, non-reservable
Vaughan Lake CG – another lake on the Yampa side, 6 sites, basic, non-reservable
Himes Peak CG – near Trappers Lake Rd on Meeker side, 11 campsites, basic, non-reservable
Trappers Lake Horse Thief CG – 7 sites, basic, livestock corrals, non-reservable
Trappers Lake Shepherds Rim CG – 15 sites, non-reservable
Trappers Lake Cutthroat CG – 14 sites, basic, non-reservable
Trappers Lake Trapline CG – 12 sites, basic, non-reservable
North Fork CG – closer to Meeker, 28 sites, basic, non-reservable, Reservations
East Marvin CG – near Meeker, 7 sites, basic, non-reservable
Marvine CG – near Meeker, 24 sites, 4 are horse camping sites, non-reservable
Dispersed camping is everywhere once you get going on the byway. Most dirt roads will yield a few campsites, with plenty right on the byway. The only exception is the Trappers Lake area.
Yampa River State Park – 3 sections of state park along a 134-mile stretch of Yampa River, from Hayden to Dinosaur. The headquarters is in Hayden, just west of Steamboat on Hwy 40, and features a large campground and river access.
Hayden Campground – 50 sites, basic and electric, 1 tipi, showers & laundry, Reservations
There are also 6 paid primitive camping areas along the 134 mile stretch of river. Each campground has 5-10 sites. And Elkhead Reservoir, located 11 miles west of Hayden, has camping.
Dinosaur National Monument – The dinosaur fossils are on the Utah side near Vernal, and the Colorado portion consists of a scenic auto tour (Harpers Corner Rd) to an overlook of the Yampa and Green Rivers. The biggest and easiest-to-access campground is Green River near the Utah Visitor Center. There’s also some camping southeast of Dinosaur in Rangely, CO. Dinosaur itself is a tiny town with a place or 2 to eat, and a gas station.
Green River CG – UT, by headquarters in Jensen, 81 sites, basic, Reservations
Split Mountain CG – UT, by Green River CG, 4 group sites, min. 8 people, Reservations
Rainbow Park CG – UT, more remote, but also in Jensen, 4 sites, basic, free, non-reservable
Echo Park – CO, accessible from Harpers Corner Rd, 22 sites, basic, need 4×4, non-reservable
Gates Of Lodore – CO, secluded campground on north tip of DNM, (closest to Craig), 17 sites, basic, non-reservable
Deerlodge Park – CO, eastern most site, remote, (closest to Craig), 7 sites, basic, non-reservable
Rangely – The largest CO town around Dinosaur, 18 miles southeast on Hwy 64. Rangely has a rich oil mining history, and the largest oil field in the Rockies is near town. There are several places to eat and shop in town.
Kenney Reservoir CG – 5 miles east of town on Hwy 64, primitive campsites, non-reservable
Rangely Camper Park – walking distance from main street with volleyball, horseshoes and fishing ponds. 24 sites, showers, non-reservable
Buck N’ Bull CG – on East Main St, a couples miles east of downtown, 17 sites, 13 are full hook-up, tent sites, showers
Camping in South Central Colorado
Cheyenne Mountain State Park – A beautiful state park at the base of Cheyenne Mountain, just south of the city. The walk-in tent sites are very nice, and add a bit of privacy.
Campgrounds – 51 full hookup sites, 10 walk-in tent sites, Reservations
Mueller State Park – This gorgeous state park, just west of Colorado Springs, has 19 miles of multi-use trails and 55 miles total of hiking trails. The campgrounds are laid out in an alpine forest. It’s a convenient place to camp too, with Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument to the west and Cripple Creek to the south. Divide is the closest town, 5 miles north on Hwy 67.
Campgrounds – 132 sites, 3 cabins, year round, basic & electric, walk-in tent sites, Reservations
Eleven Mile State Park – An 11 mile long lake, open to motor boats, sailboats, canoes, but no water/body contact sports like jet skiing skiing or swimming. All campsites are within walking distance to the lake. Boat rentals are available at the lake and also next door at Spinney Mountain Reservoir, another state park open for day use.
Campgrounds – 9, 349 sites, basic and electric, Reservations
Royal Gorge – This natural landmark is impressive, and so is the bridge across it. The Arkansas River created this canyon which is famous for its whitewater rafting and narrow gauge train. The park also features same amusement rides, like a Royal Rush Skycoaster and Soaring Eagle Zipline. There are a half dozen primitive campsites at the park, and a lot of private run campgrounds in the Cañon City area.
Campgrounds – 6 primitive sites, on the property near the Gorge. After entering the park, the sites are off one of the first dirt roads to the left. non-reservable.
See Arkansas Headwaters SP, further up this post, for several campgrounds on Hwy 50 west to Salida.
Lake Pueblo State Park – The Arkansas River flows into Lake Pueblo just west of the city. This 10,000-acre park makes a great base for exploring South-Central Colorado, including the Pueblo Zoo and Cañon City. Boat rentals are available at the 2 marinas.
Campgrounds – around the lake, 400 sites, basic & electric, year round, showers & laundry, Reservations
Pueblo Mountain Park – 25 miles southwest of Pueblo on Hwy 78, lies this 611-acre mountain park. Lake Isabel provides fishing opportunities.
Davenport CG – One of the first forest service campground rebuilt in 2010 to model the original 1920’s design. 12 sites, basic, tent only, Reservations
Mingus Ranch – 1 cabin for rent near park, built in 1908, electric, Reservations
Lake Isabel Cabin – 1 cabin for rent by lake, electric, Reservations
Southside CG – Lake Isabel, 8 sites, RV/tent, basic, Reservations
La Vista CG – Lake Isabel, 29 sites, basic & electric, Reservations
St. Charles CG – Lake Isabel, 15 sites, basic, Reservations
Spruce Group CG – Lake Isabel, 1 group site, basic, Reservations
Great Sand Dunes – The 150,000 acre national park is open year round for exploring this unique natural wonder. The Pinyon Flats Campground is within walking distance to the Sand Dunes.
Campgrounds – 88 sites, 44 are non-reservable, 3 group sites, Reservations
Medano Pass 4×4 Campsites – free, primitive sites on a high-clearance 4×4 road inside the park. non-reservable
Great Sand Dunes Oasis CG – private run campground just before the entrance of the park. 20 RV sites, tent site, group sites, Reservations
Zepata Falls (shown) – A cool little waterfall and campground located a few miles south of the Sand Dunes. The road up to Zepata Falls is a bit rough, but most 2WD cars with good clearnce should be fine.
Campgrounds – awesome campground overlooking the San Luis Valley, 20+ sites, group sites, basic, non-reservable
San Luis State Park – Centered around the 890-acre San Luis Lake, this is a wonderful state park to stay at if visiting the Sand Dunes. Campsites overlook the Dunes, and there’s fishing and boating the lake.
Campgrounds – lakeside, 51 sites, electric, Reservations
Lathrop State Park – Nearly 1600 acres make up this scenic state park, south of Pueblo on I-25. There are 2 lakes, Martin Lake and Horseshoe Lake. The first is open to power boats, jet skis, and water skiing, and the latter permits only wakeless boating.
Campgrounds – 103 sites, basic & electric, 3 group sites, year round, showers, Reservations
Trinidad Lake State Park – A 2700-acre state park, and water sports haven in southern Colorado. Trinidad Lake permits boating through November, with jet and water skiing allowed.
Campgrounds – 2, 73 sites, 1 group cg, basic & electric, Reservations
Camping in Southwest Colorado
Silver Tread Scenic Byway – A fantastic drive through the remote Rockies. This byway passes by waterfalls, lakes, mines and wilderness, on it’s way from Hwy 50 to Hwy 160.
Slumgullion CG – south of Lake City, 21 sites, basic, non-reservable
Silver Thread CG (shown) – within steps from S. Clear Creek Falls, 10 sites, non-reservable
Marshall Park CG – 6 miles from Creede, 15 sites, basic, Reservations
Thirty Mile CG – close to the Rio Grande Reservoir near Creede, 35 sites, basic, Reservations
Palisades CG – south of Creede along the Rio Grande River, 12 sites, non-reservable
Dispersed camping can be found in much of the national forest land around the byway. Just look for dirt roads and access signs. There are spots near Trappers Lake, the Alpine Loop and a ton around Creede.
Ridgway State Park – A large state park centered around the 5 mile long, Ridgway Reservoir. Ridgway has some of the best camping out of any state park, mostly due to it’s scenic location at the edge of the San Juan Mountains. There are over 200 modern lakeside sites, and 25 walk-in sites on a forest hillside.
Campgrounds – 3, 258 electric sites, +25 walk-in tent sites, year round, Reservations
National Forests – Campgrounds and dispersed camping can be found in the national forests around Ouray.
Amphitheatre CG – by Ouray, take Hwy 550 just south of downtown to Co Rd 16, follow that back, 35 sites, basic, Reservations
Angel Creek CG – by Ouray, need high-clearance 4×4, south on Hwy 550 from town, right atn Canyon Creek Rd/CR 361, right on Forest Rd 853.81, 8 sites, primitive, non-reservable
Thistledown CG – south on Hwy 550, right at end of town on Canyon Creek Rd/CR 361, 9 sites, basic, non-reservable
South Mineral CG – by Silverton, take Hwy 550 3 miles northwest of town to Forest Rd 585, 26 sites, basic, non-reservable
Telluride Town Park – Like its name implies, it’s a park at the end of town. It’s commonly used as setting for Telluride’s many festivals, and happens to have a campground.
Campground – east end of town, ~40 sites, RV/tent, non-reservable
National Forests – Telluride is surrounded by national forest land. There are numerous opportunities along the San Juan Skyway, which is a scenic byway (Hwy 145) around Southwest Colorado.
Alta Lakes CG (Dispersed) – 5 miles south on Hwy 145, right on Forest Road 623/Alta Lake Rd, 3 miles back past ghost town of Alta, lakeside, fishing, ~16 sites, primitive, non-reservable
Matterhorn CG – 8 miles south on Hwy 145, 28 sites, basic & electric, Reservations
Sunshine CG – 5 miles south on Hwy 145, 15 sites, basic, non-reservable
Woods Lake CG – 9.8 miles north on Hwy 145 to Fall Creek Rd, follow to campground to Woods Lake, 41 sites, basic, non-reservable
Cayton CG – South on Hwy 145 to Barlow Creek Rd/Forest Rd 578, 16 sites, basic & electric, Reservations
Priest Lake Dispersed Camping Area – about 8 miles south on Hwy 145, left on Forest Rd 628, before Matterhorn CG, free dispersed camping area
Mesa Verde National Park – World famous for its Cliff Dwellings, Mesa Verde is a must visit attraction in the Southwest. Take a guided tour and explore the Ancient Anasazi villages.
Moorefield CG – 4 miles inside park entrance, 267 sites, basic, open mid-April to mid-October, Reservations
Mancos State Park – A secluded state park, centered around Mancos Lake. It’s a great place to base when visiting the Southwest, including Mesa Verde and Durango. The picturesque, 217-acre lake is open to fishing and wakeless boating, with rentals available.
Campgrounds – 2 lakeside campgrounds, 32 sites, basic, Reservations
Hovenweep National Monument – Step back in town at another Ancient Puebloan archaeological site. The campground has a gorgeous view of Sleeping Ute Mountain. Part of this monument is in Utah and part is in Colorado. Many of the Colorado ruins are located around ruins from the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.
Campground by the HQ in UT, 31 sites, year round, non-reservable
Dispersed camping can be found on many of the dirt roads near the Canyons Of The Ancients ruins in Colorado. The land is managed by the BLM and permits camping as long as its more than 300 feet or so from ruins.
McPhee Reservoir – A large reservoir located north of Cortez in Dolores. It’s named after an old company town, McPhee, that’s now submerged under the lake.
Campground – overlooking lake, 76 sites, primitive, no services, non-reservable
San Juan National Forest – Durango is surrounded by the remote San Juan National Forest. Campgrounds listed below are in three main sections: one is by downtown, two are north near Haviland Lake, and three are west toward Mancos. Vallecito Lake, below, is also in the San Juan N.F.
Junction Creek CG – close to downtown, north from Main Ave, left on W 25th street, follow back. 31 sites, basic & electric, Reservations
Haviland Lake CG – 20 miles north on Hwy 550, right on Haviland Lake Rd, 26 sites, basic & electric, Reservations
Chris Park Group CG – north on Hwy 550, by Haviland Lake, 3 group campgrounds, basic & electric, Reservations
Snowslide CG – La Plata Canyon, 12 miles west on Hwy 160, north on Co Rd 124 at Hesperus, go 5 miles, 13 sites, RV/tent, basic, non-reservable
Kroeger CG – just north of Snowslide campground, 10 sites, basic, non-reservable
Target Tree CG – 7 miles east of Mancos on Hwy 160, 25 sites, basic, non-reservable
Vallecito Lake – In the San Juan National Forest, 20 miles northwest of town. The lake is surrounded by camping and recreation.
Miller Creek CG – by Lemon Rservoir near Vallecito Reservoir, 12 sites, basic, non-reservable
Florida Group CG – 1 group campground, basic, Reservations
Transfer Park CG – north of Florida campground, 25 sites, basic, non-reservable
Vallecito CG – north of lake by Vallecito Creek, from downtown take Co Rd 240/Florida Rd for 16.6 miles to Co Rd 501, make left and go 9.7 miles to end of reservoir and make a left on Co Rd 500, follow 2.5 miles to campground, 36 sites, 4 electric, 32 basic, Reservations
Middle Mountain CG – just before Pine Point CG, 24 sites, basic, non-reservable
Pine River CG – near Vallecito Lake, 6 sites, basic, non-reservable
Pine Point CG – lakeside, follow Vallecito CG directions but go 12.8 miles on Co Rd 501 instead of 9.7, the road wraps around lake, and goes slight right on Co Rd 501A to campground. 15 sites, basic, Reservations
North Canyon CG – next to reservoir, follow Pint Point CG directions above, 12 sites, basic, Reservations
Graham Creek CG – above Vallecito Lake, follow Pint Point CG directions above, 15 sites, basic, Reservations
Navajo State Park – This southwestern treasure holds the gigantic, 25-mile long Navajo Lake. It stretches south into New Mexico and features 15,000 surface acres of water. The park is located southeast of Durango. It’s about the same distance southwest of Pagosa Springs.
Campgrounds – 118 RV/tent sites, 3 full-service cabins, basic, electric & full hookup, year round, Reservations
William Creek Reservoir – A 25 mile jounrey frmo downtown. Drive west to Piedra Rd and follow north to lake.
Bridge CG – 19 miles from town on Piedra Road/Co Rd 600, 19 sites, basic, non-reservable
Williams Creek CG – by lake, 67 sites, basic, non-reservable
Teal CG – 1 north of Williams Creek CG, 16 sites, basic, non-reservable
Cimarrona CG – 2.3 miles north of Teal CG on Forest Rd 640, 21 sites, basic, non-reservable
Dispersed camping can be found on the way to Williams Creek Reservoir on Piedra Rd. Some of the closest dispersed sites are on Turkey Springs Rd, just north of Hatcher Reservoir.
Wolf Creek Pass – East of town on Hwy 160.
East Fork CG – 10 miles northeast on Hwy 160, 17 sites, basic, Reservations
West Fork CG – 14 miles northeast on Hwy 160 to Co Rd 648, left to campground. 15 sites, basic, Reservations
Big Meadows Del Norte CG – 30 miles northeast on Hwy 160 to Co Rd 410, left to campground. 47 sites, basic, 1 group site, Reservations
West Pagosa Springs – West of town on Hwy 160 toward Durango.
Ute CG – 17 miles west on Hwy 160, 26 sites, basic, non-reservable
Lower Piedra CG – 25 miles west on Hwy 160, fishing, 17 sites, basic, non-reservable
Camping in West Central Colorado
Redstone – Beautiful area near Carbondale and Penny Hot Springs. Take 82 south to Carbondale and follow 133 to Redstone
Redstone CG – wooded area, 35 sites, basic, Reservations
Bogan Flats CG – 37 sites near Crystal River, basic, 40 ft max RV, Reservations
McClure CG – on Hwy 133 near historic Marble (past Redstone) and Lee Creek, non-reservable.
Dispersed camping can be found just south from Redstone Campground. Going south on 133, take a right on Coal Creek Rd in Redstone. Camping is permitted on parts of this road. There is more camping west of Marble near Crystal in the White River N.F.
Maroon Bells – Two twin peaks and the beautiful Maroon Lake – minutes from downtown Aspen. Take CO 82 north of downtown to the circle and take Maroon Creek Rd back. Another road accessible from the circle, Castle Creek Rd, leads 12 miles back to Ashcroft, a cool ghost town.
Silver Bar CG – 4 tent only, walk-in sites, Reservations
Silver Bell CG – 14 sites, 2 RV/tent, 6 tent only, 6 walk-in tent, Reservations
Silver Queen CG – 6 sites, can accommodate RVs, Reservations
While there is no dispersed camping at Maroon Bells, there is some close to Aspen. From the circle, before Maroon Creek Rd, take CO 82 north for 7 miles to Woody Creek. Take a right on Woody Creek Rd. and follow 8 miles back to Lenado, a ghost town. Primitive sites can be found further on this road.
Ruedi Reservoir – Lake with four campgrounds located 14 miles east of Basalt on Frying Pan Road near Aspen.
Mollie B CG – 27 standard sites, basic, Reservations
Little Maud CG – 22 sites, basic, Reservations
Little Mattie B CG – 18 sites, basic, non-reservable
Dearhamer CG – 12 sites, basic, Reservations
Kebler Pass – County Road 12, a seasonal, 31 mile drive from Crested Butte to Hwy 133 near Paonia State Park.
Lake Irwin CG – go 6.3 miles from CB to CR 826, turn right, go 2 miles. 44 sites, basic, Reservations
Lost Lake CG – Lost Lake Slough. Go 15.9 miles from CB to CR 706, turn left and go 2.4 miles.
Gothic CG – not on the pass, but close to CB. Go 4.5 miles north from the mountain resort on Gothic Rd. 4 sites, basic, non-reservable.
Dispersed camping can be found directly on portions of the pass. Just go west on CR 12 from downtown CB. There’s additional free camping east of CB too. Go 2.4 miles south of town on Hwy 135, and make a left on Co Rd 738. Follow that back for 3.5 miles to the N.F. where camping is permitted. See Gunnison-North Map.
Almont – A tiny town just north of Gunnison toward CB. Taylor Park Reservoir lies to the northeast of town.
Almont CG – on main Hwy 135 south of town, walking distance to Almont Gorge, 10 sites, basic, non-reservable
Campgrounds – There are over a dozen campgrounds northwest of town. See “Cottonwood Pass“, near the top of this post under Buena Vista, for reservable spots near Taylor Park Reservoir.
Dispersed camping can be found just west of Almont Campground on Forest Service Rd 860. Or go east from Almont on CR 743 for a few minutes to camping. Or take CR 742 from town for about 20 miles to the Taylor Park Reservoir, where there’s lots of dispersed camping in the area.
Also see Cottonwood Pass, under Buena Vista for campsites on west side.
Pitkin – A semi ghost town, with a general store and lots of historic buildings. Pitkin is surrounded by the Gunnison National Forest, east of Gunnison. Area activities include ghost towns (Tincup, Hancock, Ohio City), and 4×4 roads, like Tincup Pass over to St Elmo. Take US 285 east of Gunnison for 11 miles, and make a left on Co Rd 76. Follow that 16 miles to town. Tincup, Taylor Park Reservoir and Cottonwood Pass are to the north of Pitkin.
Pitkin CG – take CR 765 1 mile from town toward Tincup. 22 sites, basic, non-reservable
Quartz CG – take Forest Service Rd 765 a few miles to CG. 10 sites, basic, non-reservable
Middle Quartz CG – take Forest Service Rd 767 4.5 miles to CG, 7 sites, basic, non-reservable
Gold Creek CG – 6 miles south of town on CR 76 to CR 771, turn right. Follow for 7 miles. 6 sites, basic, non-reservable
Dispersed camping is very easy to find around town. Take Waunita Pass from the south end of town. It’s a short pass that’s fine for most 2WD cars. There’s great camping at the top of the pass. Or camp along Co Rd 765 toward Tincup, a ghost town with 1 season restaurant, Frency’s Cafe. It’s all over the place.
Blue Mesa Reservoir – Part of the Curecanti National Recreation Area and the largest body of water entirely in Colorado.
Stevens Creek CG – Blue Mesa Res, 17 sites, basic, Reservations
Elk Creek CG – Blue Mesa Res, 75 sites, basic, Reservations
Lake Fork CG – Blue Mesa Res, 64 sites, basic, Reservations
There is some dispersed camping west of Blue Mesa, near the Morrow Point Reservoir (also part of Curecanti). Continue on CO 92 after the Blue Mesa Reservoir (not Hwy 50) heading towards Crawford. Go for 8.3 miles after the fork (50/92) and make a right on County Road 720. Camping is permitted once you hit the Gunnison N.F. in a few minutes. Another option is to drive 18.9 miles from the intersection (50/92) to Forest Service Rd 719. This accesses the n.f. in a couple minutes where camping is all over.
Rifle Gap State Park – A picturesque state park located just northeast of Rifle. Rifle Gap Reservoir welcomes boats, jet skis, water skis, from April through October. The fishing is great too.
Campgrounds – 5, 89 sites, basic, electric & full hookup, year round, Reservations
Rifle Falls State Park – This stunning waterfall is just up the road from Rifle Gap. Rifle Falls is a small, forested state park, with creek-side campgrounds. There is fishing here to in some ponds and at the Rifel Falls State Hatchery, a 1 mile hike from the falls.
Campground – 20 sites, 7 are walk-in tent sites, basic & electric, Reservations
Colorado National Monument – A stunning national monument in Grand Junction’s back yard. The 23-mile Rim Rock Drive connects Grand Junction and Fruita, and passes by the park’s many towering monoliths.
Saddlehorn CG – Fruita side, 80 sites, basic, year round, non-reservable
Colorado River State Park – There are 5 sections of this convenient state park located on the Colorado River. Camping is available in 2 of the sections.
Island Acres CG – 6 miles west of Palisade on I-70, if you don’t mind the highway, this is a centrally located around numerous attractions, including Grand Mesa, Rifle, Palisade and Grand Junction. 73 sites, basic, electric & full hookup, Reservations
Fruita CG – Located in the town of Fruita, minutes from the western entrance of CO Nat’l Monument. 57 sites, basic, electric & full hookup, year round, Reservations
Highline Lake State Park – An oasis in western Colorado’s high desert. Highline Lake permits boating, jet skiing, water skiing, and Mack Mesa Lake is open to hand/electric powered boats.
Campground – 31 sites, year round, basic, showers & laundry, Reservations
Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP – A mesmerizing canyon on Colorado’s Western Slope. The Black Canyon has a South Rim, near Montrose, and a North Rim, near Crawford. They are not connected by a bridge, so it’s about an hour and a half to reach the opposite rim. There are more campsites at the South Rim, but the tent camping on the North Rim can’t be beat. Artificial lure/fly-fishing can can be accessed from the South Rim, with a road down to the Gunnison River at the bottom of the canyon.
South Rim CG – oak brush forest, 88 sites, basic & electric, year round, Reservations
North Rim CG – heavy pinyon juniper forest on the edge of the canyon, 13 sites, basic, non-reservable
READ: 20 Car Camping Essentials for an equipment checklist.
Do you have any favorite campsites you care to share? Please comment below.