Camping In Colorado: 12 Ultimate Campgrounds Of 2023
Whenever someone talks about some of the best places to camp globally, Colorado is a state that is mentioned first. The famous state is known for its world-class skiing experience, mesmerizing scenic views, breathtaking outdoors, colorful festivals, and once in a lifetime camping experience for all tourists and outdoor enthusiasts. No matter if you want to do car camping or camp in the rocky mountain national park, Colorado offers great choices. In this guide, I will share the best camping in Colorado spots.
Sometimes traveling is staying in hotels gets boring. So if you are an adventurer who wishes to explore nature, then camping is your thing. Unsurprisingly, the camping experience that Colorado has to offer you is unmatched. From viewing a starry sky near Colorado Springs to cycling around Garden of the God’s or exploring San Juan national forest, you will never regret the phenomenal camping experience in Colorado.
Therefore, if you are planning a trip to the famous land of beautiful mountains, alpine lakes, plains, deserts, food, and culture, the following guide is just for you to not miss out on anything when you visit this beautiful region.
So before you plan your trip, read the following list of my favorite campsites around the region, write down your favorite camping sites, and get ready to explore the best camping in Colorado!
Points to Consider Before Selecting the Camping Site:
To select the perfect camping spot in the region, you need to take care of the following points:
A Safe Area
Your utmost priority should be picking a flat, safe ground area. Ensure that the spot you choose is not a low-lying area, away from lone trees. Also, do not camp in a region with shallow water and dead trees around. Dispersed camping in Colorado is legal and free on publicly owned land. However, in national parks and protected areas, you will have to camp in designated camping grounds.
There are a couple of advantages of that such as the infrastructure and the possibility to meet fellow campers. On the negative side, be aware that these camping grounds can get a bit crowded in high season. Also if you are camping in a tent, you want to be sure to have plenty of space in it.
There are various public water supplies around common campsite areas. However, camping requires lots of water for multiple purposes. You will need to cook, for hygienic purposes and much more. If you are camping with an RV camper, you will have your own water tank and you can refill it on designated campgrounds.
As a tent-camper, I recommend making great efforts to save water whenever possible. For dispersed camping in remote areas, you can also use a water purifier to make water from rivers drinkable. However, never drink such water without purifying it previously.
If you are unsure, whether the water is drinkable or not, often you can ask rangers at parks visitor center or fellow campers.
A Large Area
It would be best to go for a large area that enables you to set your camp properly with enough space to cook anything. Additionally, if you are a party with multiple members, pick the spot accordingly.
Flat ground with some shade of trees would be best to avoid waking you up early in the morning because of the blazing sun. Especially when camping in a tent, it can get uncomfortably hot, if you camp in the sun. Also consider, that during the summer months temperatures in Colorado can rise to unexpected temperatures.
On the other hand, please don’t camp near dead trees to minimize the risk of falling branches. When you are looking for camping with the maximum of comfort, an inverter generator for electrical power is a must.
Consider Your Privacy
Camping is super fun when you are somewhat away from other campers. Explore a new and better site for camping that does not let anyone invade your personal space. If you can, try to schedule your camping trip between Monday and Friday.
In my list, I have also included campgrounds with fewer people, but if you want to avoid other people as much as possible and see camp in untouched nature, dispersed camping is probably the better option for you. When you are tent camping, it can be worth the time to find a tent only campground.
Best Season For Camping In Colorado
The Continental Divide splits Colorado into the western and eastern parts, each with different sub-climatic zones. The Eastern Plains are semi-arid with clear skies and abundant sunshine. Day temperatures often range in the 90°F (32.2°C) to 100°F (37.8°C) range during the summer.
The hot and dry climate creates a vast difference between the daily high and low temperatures, often to the tune of 30°F (-1.1°C) or higher. The annual rainfall in the plains averages between 15″ (381mm) to 25″ (635mm).
The Front Range urban corridor lies on the leeward side of the Rocky Mountains. The high mountain range protects the region from the storms that blow from the Pacific Ocean.
Summer in the Front Range is hot with high temperatures regularly crossing 95°F (35°C), while winters in the plains are severely cold with low temperatures often in the -10°F (-23.3°C) to 25°F (-3.9°C) range.
The best time to visit Colorado is during the spring from March to May and autumn from September to November. Spring and autumn seasons are colder than the summer, which tends to be hot in many parts of the state.
Please check out the graphic of the annual average temperature in Colorado:
The highest chances for rainfall and thunderstorms are in Colorado are from April to August. However, thunderstorms can occur primarily in the mountains and are sometimes a welcome refreshment from the heat.
Camping in Colorado: Our 12 Favorite Camping Spots
Flat Tops Trail
The journey to the trail begins from Yampa and ends at Meeker. Throughout Colorados’ flat tops trail, you will witness some of the most beautiful scenes, including valleys, rivers, climbs, and flat tops. You have to start from the town of agriculture, lumbar, and coal, i.e., Yampa. The river that passes through the city is one of the longest free-flowing rivers in the state.
Gradually, following the byway, you will be taken towards the West. You may not find any difficulty in the first half of the byway as it’s a smooth road. However, the second half is a bumpy road made up of dirt. If you are a fan of lakes and mountains, then the Vaugn Lake, Flat Tops Mountains, and Trappers Lake are going to mesmerize you.
My favorite part is that these camping grounds are very likely not overcrowded, due to its remote location and the nature is breathtaking.
The route to get there is to head East on Hwy from Meeker and Co Rd 17 on the north end of Yampa, towards West to reach the Flat Tops from Yampa. You find various campgrounds along the byway.
Angel of Shavano Campground
Suppose you plan to camp with your family and friends in a peaceful and serene area surrounded by nature. In that case, you must consider Angel of Shavano Group Campground, which is known as a camping secret.
Although Shavano campground has only twenty campsites, it is best to camp and involve recreational activities, all at the same spot. If you are willing to set up a tent, then the location can accommodate a hundred people. Moreover, it facilitates the campers with proper tables, grills, campfire circles, toilets, and trash bins to offer ease.
The aspen and pine-covered site is famous for the angelic picture of the snowfall forms on the Shavano mountain. Nearby towns, including Poncha Springs, Buena Vista, and Salida, along with North Fork Reservoir, are a must-visit.
The sight can be viewed 9200 feet above the ground nearby North Fork South Arkansas River. The roads in the campground are extremely rocky. I personally also recommend taking the 50 minutes drive to San Isabele national forest to check out the hiking trails there.
Go towards West on Highway 50 from the junction of Hwys 50/285 in Poncha Springs for six miles. Look out for County Road 240 as you reach Maysville on your right. Turn onto CR 240 and travel for three miles to reach the campground that will be on your left side.
The Crags Campground
The Crags Campground, situated in the State Forest State Park, is the right spot for camping for the fans of greenery and wilderness around. The Nokia Crags around the campground allow the campers to experience world-class camping.
Moreover, American Lakes Trail will let you hike and fish like you never before. The campground offers a boat ramp, biking trails, and much more campground amenities. The campground doesn’t offer reservations and offers walk-in sites only. Pikes Peak and Mueller State Park are the attractions nearby the site. The seventeen campsites area offers picnic tables, fire rings, pit toilets, and a hand water pump.
Drive 4.3 miles on the CO Highway 67 towards the South of Divide. Then, take the left turn towards Forest Road 383 and move towards the East for another 3.5 miles.
If you wish to camp in a convenient camping site with a breathtaking view of some of the highest rocky peaks and a lake, then Maroon Bells offers great camping sites. Irrespective of what season you camp at the Maroon Bells, they are never going to disappoint you.
You can find three campsites around the region, including Silver Bar, Silver Bell, or Silver Queen. Maroon Lake and Maroon Snowmass Wilderness are famous hikes nearby the region. A great advantage is the close location to town, Aspen. You can easily access food, water, and humans in the region and a day trip to the Turquoise lake is well worth your time.
When traveling from Aspen, drive ten miles towards West from the town, and if coming from Snowmass up Maroon Creek Road, travel sixteen miles to Hwy. Eighty-two in a glacial valley to reach Maroon Bells.
Piñon Flats Campground
If you enjoy vast deserted areas with beautiful sunsets and sunrises along with a breezy and starry night, then this campground is going to be your favorite one. Piñon Flats campsite is in the Great Sand Dunes National Park that lies in Southern Colorado.
The campground is located one mile north of the Visitor Center, open April through October. There are numerous activities for you to do, including hiking, sand sledding (the area has some of the tallest sand dunes), and even snowboarding.
The site offers eighty-eight campsites for the campers with a remarkable view in the park surrounded by grasslands, coniferous trees, lakes, and wetlands. The campground facilitates the trailers with sinks, flush toilets, tables, moderate shade, fire grates, and dishwashing sink. The best part of the site is the campground store, local food market, and groceries around the area to make the camping a comfortable experience.
Assuming you are traveling on Highway 160, take a turn towards Highway 150 and travel for sixteen miles. Then you will see the entrance of the Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve. Keep traveling more than five miles to reach the opening of the campsite.
However, if you are traveling from Highway 285, travel towards CO-17 for thirty-six miles. Now travel towards Lane 6 and reach Highway 150 for sixteen miles. After traveling on Highway 150, continue for 2.6 miles. Once you see the Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve entrance, travel towards the North for another five miles to reach the campsites’ door.
When you love being surrounded by grass meadows in a region with a lake nearby and some beautiful rocky mountains around, you must try camping in the Buffalo Pass Campground. The famous campsite lies between Walden and Steamboat Springs on Forest Service road 60.
You have two campgrounds along with dispersed camping in the region. The highly elevated campground offers a scenic view of the Yampa River, Fish Creek Falls, alpine lakes, Summit Lake, Mount Zirkel Wilderness, and Whatnot.
Moreover, the campground allows you to enjoy various activities, including fishing, boating, biking, hiking, and skiing in winter. For the lovers of wilderness, the campground has a lot to offer, like some beautiful wildflowers. The campsite has toilets, a camping trailer, and tent camping amenities. Remember that the campground is at higher elevations. Therefore, roads may get rocky and rough, so be prepared for that.
To get to the Buffalo Pass, there are two routes. The first one is from Waldens’ State Highway towards the West of County Road to National Forest Road 60. For the second route, you should travel towards the West of the Steamboat Springs to County Road 36, reaching National Forest Road 60.
Elk Creek Campground
For all the people who seek spectacular scenes, with lots of trees around and multiple water-based activities when camping, Elf Creek Campsite is the right spot for you. Located on the North Shore of Colorado’s mesmerizing and largest water body, Blue Mesa Reservoir, Elf Creek has numerous fun activities, stunning scenes, and great amenities for you.
But, of course, the best time to camp here is during summers because of the famous canyons, reservoirs, and mesas. So, you can and your family can raft here, enjoy in hot springs, go for cave tours and even give tram rides a try.
You can take US 285 South from Antonito town of the state towards Hwy 17 and continue traveling straight on the highway for the next 22.6 miles till you spot the signboard of the campsite. Once you spot the sign, take the right turn towards the dirt road and travel the next 0.1 miles till you spot a “T” intersection. From the meeting, the bear left and travel 0.4 miles to another junction (Y). Finally, take the right turn to get into the campsites’ entrance.
Turquoise Lake Recreation Area
Given the name after the surrounding Turquoise mines, the campground is definitely going to be an adventure that you will always remember. The lake has some other captivating scenes with a beautiful view of turquoise waters, including the Holy Cross Wilderness, Mt. Massive Wilderness, Native Lake, and Windsor Lake.
There are various trouts for you to fish. Other famous recreational activities include biking, birding, horseback riding, swimming, hunting, boating, and hiking. Turquoise lake recreation area has also a multiple boat ramp and outdoor adventure.
You can easily travel towards the campsite by following the signboards displayed from Leadville town. You can even go for the easy twelve-mile bike trail from Leadville and passes through the Mineral Belt towards the recreation area.
Oh Be Joyful Campground
If the colors and wilderness of nature fascinate you, then you must try camping at the Oh Be Joyful Campsite located only five miles from Crested Butte. Just like the name suggests, the campground has got all the scenes that are going to make you joyous like never before, for instance, the huge waterfalls, flowers of different hues, towering mountains, scenic rivers, and a bright sky, especially during summers.
The Campground got the name from the Oh Be Joyful Creek. The campground has got spectacular views of towering mountains that one will cherish forever. In addition, the Raggeds Wilderness region of the area will offer you a chance to explore the forest uniquely.
Furthermore, you can even fish, bike, stargaze, hunt, and hike. The nearby situated Crested Butte offers you easy access to food, groceries, and other necessities. Note that the road is bumpy, so prepare you and your vehicle beforehand.
Travel towards the North onto the Gothic Road from Crested Butte on the Mount Crested Butte. Once you pass through the Slate River, take the left turn towards County Road 374 for five miles. Next, take the left turn towards BLM Road 3220. Travel for the next 0.3 miles to reach the campsite.
Pearl Lake Campgrounds
Looking for some peace amidst the chaos of the world and wishing to escape in a dreamy land? The Pearl Lake Campgrounds situated at the foot of Farewell Mountain is where you should go camping then. With a mesmerizing view of the lake and snowcapped mountains of Colorado, you can involve yourself in some fun activities like fishing and hiking.
Moreover, you get tables, toilets, laundry, and a clean water facility at the campsite to offer you peace and comfort altogether. From this campsite, the colorado national monument and the Roosevelt national forest are great attractions to explore within a day.
Travel from Steamboat Springs towards the West for two miles to County Road 129 from the U.S. 40. Then, take the right turn and travel North for the next twenty-three miles. Finally, reach Pearl Lake Road, turn to East, and drive for the next two miles to reach your destination.
If you want to witness a magical scene of mountains and tall trees altogether, then the Cottonwood Pass is the camping site you have been looking for.
Situated in the Inyo National Forest at the end of the Horseshoe Meadow Road, the campground has many amenities like storage boxes, tent pads, tables, grates, piped water, and toilets for the campers. Additionally, the nearby town Buena Vista has some enjoyable spots like St Elmo, Winfield, Cottonwood, Mount Princeton, and Arkansas River.
You can drive twenty-four miles Southwest to Lone Pine. Now travel west from the middle of Lone Pine at the stoplight and get on the Whitney Portal Road. After raveling for three miles, take the South turn on the Horseshoe Meadow Road and drive till the end.
Dowdy Lake Campground:
If you are looking to camp at a spot with a wonderful lake view with your family, then camp at Dowdy Lake Campground. You get to witness the beautiful shores of the Dowdy Lake of the Red Feather Lakes, surrounded by trees with chirping birds and beautiful sun sight.
The campsite offers facilities like tables, electricity, pits, grills, restrooms, drinking water, etc. The list of activities you can become part of at the campground will amaze you, for instance, biking, canoeing, kayaking, wildlife viewing, boating, and much more.
Travel twenty-one miles North of Fort Collins on the U.S. Highway 287. Turn towards the West onto the County Road 74E and travel for the next twenty-two miles. Then, travel another mile to reach the entrance of the Dowdy Lake Campground on your right.
A Final Word
Now that you have many options to consider choosing the best camping site, keep in mind your safety, parking, the number of days you want to spend, and your budget.
However, please make the most out of camping as it is an experience like never before. Hopefully, your next campsite is going to be more joyful because of the article.