Colorado is a camper’s dream, full of cool places to camp, both in campgrounds and dispersed campsites. Some sites are free, some charge a fee. Some fit RV’s, others only tents. Free campsites are always first-come, first-serve, while paid campgrounds can sometimes be reserved.
Tent and RV Camping in Colorado
Thanks to more than a third of Colorado’s land being public, federally-owned land, it’s easy to find camping throughout the state. Some of the best campsites are hidden, while some are just overlooked. Camp in state and national parks.
Camping in Colorado City Parks
Most local city parks do not offer campgrounds, however, some do. They offer guests a chance to spend the night at wonderful locations around the state. Most campgrounds in city and county parks charge a fee, as there’s usually no free, dispersed camping there.
Camping in Colorado National Grasslands
There are two national grasslands located on the eastern plains: Pawnee in the northeast, and Comanche in the southeast. Both offer developed campgrounds as well as dispersed camping. In the summer, expect high temps, a lot of wind, and occasional thunderstorms.
Camping in Colorado National Forests
Since they cover so much space, most folks will end up camping in one of eleven national forests. They are spread through the Colorado Rockies, encompassing a myriad of landscapes and elevations. Both paid and free camping exists here.
Camping in Colorado National Monuments
Five of the national monuments permit camping within their stunning settings. You can find a mix of amenity-rich campgrounds, as well as free, primitive campsites. Unlike national parks, which ban dogs on most trails, regulations in national monuments are more pet-friendly.
Camping in Colorado National Parks
Each of the four national parks in the Centennial State provides campgrounds for their guests. Dogs are permitted in all the camping areas and paved walkways, however, because of high regulations at national parks, they are often not allowed on established trails.
Camping in Colorado National Recreation Areas
Both of the national recreation areas here are havens for water sports. Curecanti features the longest reservoir in Colorado and Arapaho has five lakes to choose from. And there are numerous paid campgrounds at each of them.
Camping in Colorado State Parks
Thirty-three of forty-two state parks provides camping opportunities. Some even rent yurts and cabins if glamping is more your style. You can even stay in a teepee at Yampa River in the northwest part of the state. The majority of campsites charge per night, on top of the park fee.
Camping in Colorado State Wildlife Areas
Camping at a state wildlife area (SWA) is permitted with a valid hunting or fishing license. It’s generally free to camp there. Also, there are more than 300 SWA’s in Colorado. Campsites are usually primitive, however, there’s usually at least a vault toilet around.
Featured Colorado Campgrounds
These are some of the featured campgrounds around Colorado. Most require a fee and they range in their amenities. Some will be very basic with a tent pad and a fire ring, others will have a table, possible electric, water, and full hookups.
Guide to Camping in Colorado
Thanks to more than a third of the land in Colorado being public and surrounded by recreation, good camping is easy to come by. Remember to leave no trace when camping and always use pre-existing sites.
The main season is primarily late April through October, although it depends on location. Many higher campgrounds do no open until Memorial Day. For RV’s and winter enthusiasts, many campgrounds remain open all year.
Some campgrounds are reservable, while others are first-come, first-serve. It’s wise to bring cash in a number of denominations so you can be ready to pay exactly for a campsite. Popular campgrounds get filled up fast, so book online early if you’re able.
Camping fees vary, but are generally around twenty bucks, give or take. Parks often charge admission on top of this. State Parks require a daily rate and the national parks’ entrance pass is good for seven days.
Camping Near Me in Colorado
Luckily, there is enough camping for everyone in Colorado. Sometimes you want to stay close to a fun home base like Aspen, other times you want to go remote, to less crowded campsites. Many towns, show nearby camping both dispersed and campgrounds.
- Alamosa, Antonito, Crestone, Saguache and South Fork
- Allenspark, Lyons and Longmont
- Aspen, Basalt, and Snowmass Village
- Aurora, Brighton, and Parker
- Bailey, Conifer, and Pine
- Buena Vista and Nathrop
- Breckenridge, Copper, Dillon, Frisco, Keystone, and Silverthorne
- Cañon City
- Castle Rock, Larkspur, and Monument
- Cedaredge, Collbran, and Mesa
- Colorado Springs
- Cortez, Dolores, and Mancos
- Craig and Hayden
- Crested Butte
- Cripple Creek, Divide, and Victor
- Deckers and Sedalia
- Dinosaur and Rangely
- Durango and Bayfield
- Eagle and Vail
- Fairplay, Hartsel, and Jefferson
- Fort Collins and Loveland
- Fort Morgan
- Georgetown, Empire, and Idaho Springs
- Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, and Rifle
- Golden, Black Hawk, and Central City
- Granby and Grand Lake
- Grand Junction, Fruita, and Palisade
- Greeley and Briggsdale
- Kremmling, Hot Sulphur Springs, and Parshall
- La Junta and Lamar
- Lake City
- Lake George
- Leadville and Twin Lakes
- Littleton, Lakewood, and Morrison
- Manitou Springs
- Montrose and Delta
- Naturita, Nucla, and Gateway
- Nederland, Rollinsville and Ward
- Ouray and Ridgway
- Pagosa Springs
- Paonia, Hotchkiss, and Crawford
- Red Feather Lakes
- Salida, Poncha Springs, and Monarch
- Steamboat Springs, Oak Creek, and Clark
- Telluride, Ophir, and Rico
- Trinidad, Walsenburg and La Veta
- Walden and Gould
- Westcliffe and Rye
- Winter Park and Fraser
- Woodland Park
Dispersed Camping vs Campgrounds
No matter what your budget, you’ll find camping that’s right. Free campsites exist, mostly dispersed camping in the national forests and BLM land. These pre-used campsites are marked by a ring fire (stone circle for fire pit).
If primitive campsites without amenities, like a toilet, aren’t your thing, then maybe managed campgrounds are. The most common luxuries include group vaulted toilets, a fire pit, a picnic table, and a tent pad (crushed rock area). Few have coin-operated showers and laundry.
Another choice you’ll commonly have are hook-ups, either full or partial. The latter includes only electric and water, while the former adds sewer. Hookup sites cost more than those without. Most of these campsites are designed to fit RV’s and travel trailers of great length.
The best option at campgrounds for tents are walk-in sites, although they’re not found too often. Maroon Bells is a good place for these. They require a usually, short trek from the parking area, but rewards you with more privacy and space between sites.
Camping on Federal Lands
Federally managed lands account for more than 1/3 of the terrain in Colorado. So there’s a lot of land to find a place to rest your head. Options range from free, dispersed campsites to modern, amenity-rich campgrounds. Federal lands include national forests, national wilderness areas, etc, as well as BLM land.
BLM Land: (Borough of Land Management) accounts for a vast area throughout Colorado. It features dispersed camping and managed campgrounds. It accounts for the federal land that’s not designated national forests, wilderness areas, wildlife areas, etc.
National Forests: (NF) Managed by the U.S. Forest Service, eleven national forests are spread across the Rocky Mountain Region. It comprises of millions of acres, housing gems of campsites, in both paid campgrounds and dispersed camping.
National Grasslands: (NG) Also managed by the U.S. Forest Service, two national grasslands are located on the eastern plains. Comanche is in the southeast around La Junta, and Pawnee is to the northeast outside of Greeley. Camping is permitted in parts.
Note: When reserving some of these campgrounds through recreationg.gov, note you’ll need to do it 4 days in advance. Call 877-444-6777 or visit recreation.gov and search for your campsite.
Camping Gear Checklist
People love car camping because people are habitual over-packers. It’s easy to pack just a few more items, and a giant cooler for of your favorite grilling meats, fresh veggies, and ice-cold beer. Plus you only have to walk a few feet to your campsite!
Everyone knows they need their tent and sleeping bag to rest comfortably at night. However, there are little things that can make your camping trip a success. Remember the hammer to pound in those stakes, and know the sun is too damn bright out here and you should bring some sunscreen. And duct tape is the Macgyver of camping tools. For a complete rundown of the best items to bring camping, check out car camping gear checklist.
Here are the basics to make your campout a success, bring this essential camping gear:
- Shelter – tent, rods, stakes; or RV
- Sleeping bag – at least a 40°F or warmer bag for the mountains in summer
- A tarp or footprint – for underneath the tent
- Sleeping pad – the air ones are nice
- Water and food
- Sun lotion, sunglasses, hat
- Warm clothes, rain gear, long underwear
- Flashlights and spare batteries – lanterns are nice.
- A knife, compass, cell phone, and camera
- Cooking supplies – camp stove, can opener, cooler, utensils, aluminum foil
- Fire supplies – firewood, firestarter, weatherproof matches
- First aid kit (affiliate link) – bandages, sterile gauze, antiseptic wipes, burn ointment, etc.
- Personal hygiene – toothbrush, paste, towel, soap, toilet paper, razor, nail clippers
- Cleaning supplies – dish detergent, sponge, paper towels, garbage bags
- Tools – screwdriver, ax, duct tape, water cleaner, whistle
- Cash – pay for the campground (variety of bills, quarters), firewood, etc.
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Pack your fishing rod. Chances are you’ll pass a spot to cast a line. And nearly every campsite is near some nice hikes.