Salida is one of the most popular mountain towns in Colorado, thanks to its scenic location on the Arkansas River and proximity to the front range. At nearly three hours drive from Denver, it’s quite manageable, but yet far enough to keep out the hoards of day trippers. For RV and tent campers this historic town at 7,083′ makes a great base for exploring Chaffee County.
There are both campgrounds and dispersed camping found in the region near Salida, Poncha Spring, Monarch and the Arkansas River. Surrounding Salida is easy access to the San Isabel National Forest in all directions. There is camping for everyone, from private campgrounds suitable for bigger RVs that prefer easy road access, to campsites nestled deep in the mountain forest. Both paid and free options are available.
List of campgrounds by Salida and Poncha Springs, CO, in order of proximity:
Campgrounds by Arkansas River near Salida
Salida’s large historic district is nestled along the banks of the Arkansas River. The eastbound river begins to the north in Leadville, flowing south paste Buena Vista to Salida, and then east onto Canon City and the great plains. The banks along the river are rich with campgrounds, with a slew of them east of town toward Howard. There’s also a few in town and another one not far north of town on Highway 285.
If you want to be close to everything that Salida has to offer without trekking into the wilderness, Wilderness Expeditions RV Park is a great jumping-off point. With a host of summer and winter activities available via shuttle to campers and visitors as well as fully-stocked trout ponds and a climbing wall onsite, you’ll never be bored in centrally-located RV park.
- Closest Town: Salida (2mi)
- Specs: 42 total RV and tent camping sites, along with 3 group campsites, 2 bunkhouses, cabins, and motel rooms
- Amenities: Restrooms, showers, fire pits, picnic tables
- Recreation: Fishing in 2 stocked trout ponds, climbing wall, pavilions for group gatherings, summer and winter activities hosted by Wilderness Expeditions
- Reservations: Yes, at Reserve3
- Address: 7580 Co Rd 111, Salida, CO, 81201 (Map)
- Directions: From Hwy 50 in Salida, turn south onto Co Rd 111. You will see Wilderness Expeditions RV Park on your left.
For those who want to be right on the Arkansas River, Four Seasons RV Park is the spot to pull your RV. Its convenient location is perfect for fishing, rafting, and other river adventures in Salida.
- Closest Town: Salida (3mi)
- Specs: 51 full-hookup RV sites, many right on the Arkansas River, as well as full-service cottages
- Amenities: Restrooms and showers
- Recreation: Boating, fishing, rafting, wildlife viewing, close to other Salida attractions
- Reservations: Yes, call 719-539-3084
- Address: 4305 US-50, Salida, CO, 81201 (Map)
- Directions: From Salida, head east on Hwy 50. Continue for around 3 miles, then make a left just past Swissvale Rd. Turn left again, and Four Season’s RV Park will be on your left.
- Closest Town: Salida (4mi)
- Specs: 25 primitive camping and pull-thru sites right off of US-50
- Amenities: Vault toilet, picnic tables, gravel campsites
- Recreation: Boating, fishing, rafting, hiking, close to more Salida recreation
- Reservations: Yes, at CPWShop.com
- Address: 4303 US-50, Salida, CO 81201 (Map)
- Directions: From Salida, head east on Hwy 50 for about 3 miles. Once past the Four Season’s RV Park, turn left to arrive at the Salida East Campground and Boat Ramp.
Looking for a riverside escape? Hecla Junction is a haven for whitewater rafters and fly fishers due to its close proximity to the Arkansas River. Although this campground has limited amenities, it makes up for it with gorgeous 360 views of Browns Canyon, comfortable campsites, and beautiful starry night skies.
- Closest Town: Salida (12mi)
- Specs: 20 tent and RV campsites, some on steep incline
- Amenities: Gravel tent pads, fire pits, picnic tables, bathrooms
- Recreation: Whitewater rafting, fishing, hiking, off-roading and 4×4 trails
- Reservations: Yes, at CPWShop.com
- Address: 10142 Co Rd 194, Salida, CO, 81201 (Map)
- Directions: From Salida, head north on CO-291. Continue for about 7 miles, then turn right onto Hwy 285. Almost 2 miles later, make a right onto Co Rd 194. This dirt road continues for about 3 miles and then you will arrive at Hecla Junction.
Point Barr Campground was recently given a facelift and unveiled just in time for the summer recreation and camping season. A popular spot for gold-panners, Point Barr is likely to become just as well-known as the other campgrounds in the Arkansas Headwater Recreation Area.
- Closest Town: Wellsville (3mi), Salida (10mi)
- Specs: 12 basic campsites–road is unfit for large RVs and campers
- Amenities: Tent pads, fire pits, picnic tables
- Recreation: Gold-panning, rafting, fishing, hiking, wildlife viewing
- Reservations: Yes, at CPWShop.com
- Address: Co Rd 45, Salida, CO, 81201 (Map)
- Directions: From Salida, take US-50 east for about 6 miles. Turn left onto Co Rd 7 and cross over the river. Continue for about a mile, then the road will become Co Rd 45. Drive for about 2 miles and you will see Point Bar on your right.
Another gem located in the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area is RinCon Campground, populated typically with RVers during the busier summer season. If you’re looking for a spot with some incredible fishing, RinCon is the place.
- Closest Town: Howard (3mi), Salida (11mi)
- Specs: 8 basic pull-thru campsites
- Amenities: Gravel tent pads, fire pit, picnic tables, changing rooms
- Recreation: Fishing, rafting, boating on the Arkansas River
- Reservations: Yes, at CPWShop.com
- Address: 5004-6310, US-50, Howard, CO, 81233 (Map)
- Directions: From Salida, head east on Hwy 50 for about 10 miles. Follow signs for Rincon Campground on your left.
A campground with as much personality as its name invokes, Sugarbush Campground is a quirky spot that’s perfect for tent campers and RV travelers alike.
- Closest Town: Howard (2mi), Salida (14mi)
- Specs: Full-hookup RV sites, electric and primitive camping
- Amenities: Restrooms, showers, laundry, fire rings, picnic tables, WiFi
- Recreation: Close to rafting, fishing, and hiking
- Reservations: Yes, call 719-942-3363
- Address: 9229 US-50, Howard, CO, 81233 (Map)
- Directions: From Salida, take Hwy 50 east for about 14 miles. Sugarbush Campground will be on your left.
Who wouldn’t want to spend a cozy night by the river, listening to the water flow? At Pleasant Valley RV Park, you can experience the wonders of nature in a more controlled environment, complete with all of the comforts of home.
- Closest Town: Howard (3mi), Salida (16mi)
- Specs: 56 full hookup pull-thru RV sites, tent camping, and cabins available
- Amenities: Restrooms, showers, laundry, fire pit, WiFi
- Recreation: Rec room, putting green, horseshoes, hiking, fishing, and boating
- Reservations: Yes, call 719-942-3484
- Address: 18 Co Rd 47, Howard, CO, 81233 (Map)
- Directions: From Salida, head east on Hwy 50 towards Howard. After around 14 miles, turn left onto Co Rd 47 and the RV park will be on your right.
Camping by Monarch Pass near Poncha Springs
Located at the junction of Hwy 50 and 285, heading east and west, and north and south, respectively, Poncha Springs is a town at a convenient crossroads. While there’s no walkable downtown, there are ample restaurants, lodging and campsites to serve travelers. Plus Salida is only 5 miles east. Heading west from Poncha Springs on Hwy 50 quickly begins to ascend Monarch Pass. There are a couple of campgrounds directly off the highway, as well as one tucked away in the woods north of Maysville.
KOA members will love the Salida/Mt. Shavano KOA location, jam-packed with amenities and recreation options for those who want to have a bit of fun at the campsite. Check out their different accommodation options–there is everything from cabins to full-hookup RV sites.
- Closest Town: Maysville (1mi), Salida (11mi)
- Specs: 45 pull-through RV sites with electrical hookups, 5 tent camping sites with electrical hookups, 15 primitive campsites, 1 group campsite, and 3 cabins
- Amenities: Restrooms, showers, laundry, dump station, WiFi
- Recreation: Playground, game room, ATV trails, dog park, horseshoe pit, volleyball court
- Reservations: Yes, at KOA.com
- Address: 16105 W Hwy 50, Salida, CO, 81201 (Map)
- Directions: Follow US-50 west out of Salida and past Poncha Springs for roughly 9 miles. The KOA will be on your right directly off US-50 before Maysville.
Colorado travelers looking to trek up Mt. Shavano will find a simple and accessible campground at Angel of Shavano. Although it’s located quite far from Salida, the mountain views make it worth the trek.
- Closest Town: Maysville (4mi), Salida (15mi)
- Specs: 20 pull-thru trailer and tent campsites
- Amenities: Vault toilet, water, picnic tables
- Recreation: Hiking, mountain climbing, fishing
- Reservations: No, first come, first serve
- Address: Co Rd 240A, Salida, CO, 81201 (Map)
- Directions: From Salida, head west on Hwy 50 for about 10 miles. Then, take a right onto Co Rd 240 and continue for about 4 miles. The campground will be located in a cul-de-sac.
Camping by Marshall Pass near Poncha Springs
Five miles south of Poncha Springs on Highway 285 leads you to Mears Junction and a chance to fork off before into the San Isabel National Forest at Marshall Pass Road. This route leads you over Marshall Pass for a scenic backcountry drive over the continental divide to Sargents east of Gunnison. There are a slew of outdoor recreation and primitive camping opportunities. O’Haver Lake Campground is the closest to Poncha Springs, located only 2 miles down Marshall Pass Road, then 2 miles north.
A campsite on the lake cannot be beat, and O’Haver Lake Campground is no exception. This popular summertime campground offers incredible views of the lake, as well as amenities like drinking water and restrooms available for visitors.
- Closest Town: Mears Junction (4mi), Poncha Springs (9mi), Salida (13mi)
- Specs: 31 primitive camping sites on either side of scenic O’Haver Lake
- Amenities: Vault toilets, drinking water, and trash onsite
- Recreation: Fishing, non-motorized boating, hiking, ATV trails, mountain biking
- Reservations: Yes, call 877-444-6777 or visit Recreation.gov
- Address: County Rd 202A, Salida, CO, 81201 (Map)
- Directions: From Salida, take Hwy 50 west towards Poncha Springs. After about 9 miles, turn left onto Hwy 285. Continue for 5 miles, then turn right onto Marshall Pass Road. After about 2 miles, keep right at the fork. Continue straight for about 2mi, then you will arrive at the campground.
FREE – Dispersed Camping on Marshall Pass Road
Marshall Pass is an unpaved back-way to get over the divide from Highway 285 south at Mears Junction to Sargents at Highway 50. The 30-mile gravel drive is fine for most 2WD cars, though there are some rougher spots. Dispersed camping can be found directly off this road on both sides of the divide in the San Isabel and Gunnison national forests.
- Closest town: Poncha Springs (7mi+); (Salida(11mi+)
- Address: Marshall Pass Rd, Mears Junction, CO 81155
- Directions: Take Highway 285 5 miles south from Poncha Springs. Make right at Mears Junction, heading west on Marshall Pass Road. Look for preexisting campsites on this route once you enter the San Isabel National Forest.
Consider Buena Vista, Cañon City, Westcliffe or SLV
Only thirty minutes north of Salida on Hwy 285 lies Buena Vista, another fan favorite with camping on the Arkansas River. What “Bueny” and Nathrop offer over Salida are up-close views of the Collegiate Peaks, St Elmo ghost town and two awesome hot springs. Salida has one resort, which is mostly a large indoor swimming pool. Buena Vista has two hot springs resorts, with various smaller soaking pools. One even offers tent and RV camping on-site. Either town makes a great base for exploring all of Chaffee County.
East of Salida on Hwy 50 brings you to Cañon City in about an hour. Just before town you’ll pass by the Royal Gorge and a number of campgrounds, which put you in closer proximity to Salida. These make a fantastic base for exploring the Arkansas River, whether it’s for rafting, fishing or just riverside camping. You’ll also be closer to Interstate-25 for a speedy return to the metropolitan sprawl of Colorado’s largest cities.
Also east of Salida on Highway 50 leads you to Cotopaxi and the turnoff for County Road 1A, south to Westcliffe. The total trip takes an hour. At a similar distance to Denver as Salida (2.5+ hours), Westcliffe makes a great base if you only want to day trip into Salida once. There are a lot of campgrounds north of Westcliffe off CO-69 S, which put you closer to Salida. There are also several campgrounds along the Arkansas River in Cotopaxi and Coaldale, even closer to Salida.
Last but not least, continuing south on Highway 285 from Poncha Springs leads you over Poncha Pass down into the San Luis Valley. The first community you’ll come to in less than 30 minutes is Villa Grove, where the camping begins in the surrounding Rio Grande National Forest. Other northern SLV towns include Saguache by North Pass and Crestone at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Camping is easy to come by, there are even some hot springs resorts with on-site tent and RV campgrounds.
That’s a roundup of the best places to camp in Salida, Poncha Springs, Monarch and by the Arkansas River. Clean up after yourself and respect Colorado’s lands.