If you want to go Camping in Colorado, you’re in luck. There are four National Parks in Colorado, and hundreds of private campgrounds. But some of the best camping in Colorado is outside the National Parks. It all depends on what you want your Colorado camping experience to be.
Colorado is possibly the best state in America for camping. It has more Fourteeners (mountains 14,000 feet high and higher), than any other state. It’s nice to visit the home of Coors Beer in Golden Colorado, but don’t limit yourself. There are more microbreweries per capita in Colorado than any other state in the country.
If you like high places, well, there’s the Royal Gorge Bridge, the highest suspension bridge in the world. It doesn’t go anywhere – it’s just a bridge that crosses the Royal Gorge Canyon, but it’s a fun thing to do if you’re sightseeing. Best of all, there’s a campground only minutes away.
Echo Canyon Campground
Echo Canyon is located in the heart of Royal Gorge Country, 8 miles west of Canon City, Colorado. Just one hour from Colorado Springs, your stay at Echo Canyon Campground is in close proximity to a variety of popular Colorado vacation activities like white water rafting, Pikes Peak, Royal Gorge camping, Royal Gorge Bridge and Park, historic train rides, fishing and much more.
Glenwood Springs Hot Springs
Colorado also boasts Glenwood Springs Hot springs, the world’s largest natural hot springs pool, and the tallest sand dunes in the United States. It also has the largest city park system in the country. So yes, there’s camping for everyone somewhere in Colorado. Even the best camping in Colorado won’t break your budget. With more than 4,000 campsites scattered throughout the 41 state campgrounds in Colorado anyone can afford to pitch a tent or park their RV or trailer somewhere in the state – in fact, many of the campgrounds throughout Colorado are free.
How to Find the Best Camping in Colorado
With so many campgrounds to choose from, how do you find the best one? Start by deciding what you want to do, what you want to see, and what you plan to experience while you’re camping. Do you want to go zip-lining, hiking, rafting or horseback riding? Fish? Do you want to bring the family along? Do you want to bring the family dogs? Or cats? Maybe you’re looking for a solo experience and a chance to contemplate the universe and what’s next in your life. Maybe you’re a birder and are on the hunt for that all-elusive species you have yet to spot. You might be a UFO buff, or an amateur archaeologist or geologist, a rock climber, rafter, or have another hobby you want to include. Whatever your passion or hobby, chances are very good you can find it in Colorado, and usually within minutes of a campground.
Pet Friendly Camping in Colorado
If you love to camp with your dog, cat, or other pets, Colorado is the place to go. There are literally hundreds of campgrounds who welcome you and your pet. Visit the website or call the campground you want to stay at to confirm their policies as they can and do change. Some campgrounds only take small dogs (ask about the weight and breed limit). Some only take dogs up to a certain weight, regardless of the size. Others are breed restricted, some will allow breeds like Pit Bulls and Rottweilers if you show proof of insurance for the animal, or keep it in your RV and not on a chain outside.
A few campgrounds charge an extra fee for each pet, others don’t. Almost all campgrounds require your dog be on a leash no longer than six-feet when out of your camper or RV. Some restrict animals to the campsite, while others encourage dogs on the trails or in any bodies of water on the grounds. Some of the more popular Fido Friendly campgrounds:
Frisco Bay Marina
Frisco Bay Marina is located on the shores of scenic Dillon Reservoir in the heart of Summit County, Colorado. The lake spans 3,300 acres and boasts 25 miles of scenic shoreline with a Rocky Mountain backdrop. Dillon Reservoir is in a world class for sailing and regattas are held regularly. They are a full service marina with slips, moorings, racks, and dry storage options, an Evinrude/Johnson outboard motor service dealership, canoe and kayak rentals, powerboat rentals, sailboat lessons, rentals, tours and paddle boat rentals, and much more.
Glacier Basin Campground
Glacier Basin campground is 6 miles south of the Beaver Meadows Entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park on Bear Lake Road at 8,160 ft elevation. There are 150 sites will fill quickly, usually by early afternoon every day in July and August, and weekends in June and September. There is water at the campground, but there are no electric, water or sewer hookups at any camp sites. Firewood and ice are for sale. The free Shuttles stop here to provide access to trailheads along Bear Lake Road and shops & restaurants in Estes Park.
Dakota Ridge RV Park
Do you like camping, but hate to be away from the night life of the city? Dakota Ridge RV Resort features spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains and the Denver skyline – so you can easily blend outdoor adventure and big city culture. Within minutes of Dakota Ridge RV Resort, you’ll find world-class shopping, dining, professional and collegiate sporting events, gambling, sightseeing, cultural activities, and outdoor recreation – everything you need to experience Colorado camping and city life all in one. For a complete list of dog friendly campgrounds in Colorado, visit https://www.bringfido.com
UFOs and Camping in Colorado
If you’re an X-Files fan, or simply love watching the night sky hoping to catch a glimpse of extraterrestrial life, you’re in luck. Hooper Colorado, is considered the ‘UFO Hotspot’ of the nation. To get there, take a drive on Highway 17, or “the Cosmic Highway,” as it’s called by locals. The Cosmic Highway stretches through the San Luis Valley, and leads straight to a hotbed of extraterrestrial activity at a 600-acre area that’s both a popular attraction and a campground.
According to paranormal experts, there are more UFO sightings in San Luis valley than anywhere else in America. And even better, there’s a special campground just for those with a passion for UFOs. The campground is open year-round and is only $10/vehicle. You’ll need to bring your own water, firewood, and trash bags. There are 22 sites, and “lots of open space” for overflow camping.
The unexplained is so popular in the valley, in addition to the campground, Messoline created a website, gift shop, and an observation tower known as the UFO Watch Tower. It’s a place for people to share their experiences, and for non-believers to hopefully have their own encounter. There have been 154 sightings from the campground since 2000. Like many UFO hotspots, the valley is home to hundreds, if not thousands of “hot water wells”, so bring a bathing suit and ask about where the natural hot springs are.
The most active time to witness a phenomena is between 11p.m. and 3a.m., however sightings have happened in both the day and nighttime. To make arrangements call 719-378-2296, and don’t forget to visit the quirky, alien-themed gift shop while you’re there to pick up a souvenir of your visit. The UFO Watchtower is located at 2502 County Road 61 in Hooper.
Trains and Camping in Colorado
Many hikers want to start their hikes deeper in the San Juan National forest than they can access on foot. So, they utilize the Durango & Silverton Railroad to access the San Juan National Forest and Weminuche Wilderness. Backpacking, day hikes and river access is available for casual hikers and fishermen as well as those who simply want to take the train through the wilderness on a sightseeing trip. Get dropped off, hike and camp, then go back to get picked up for a ride back to civilization.
Native American Roots
Whether you’re aware of the significance of the Native American in American history, you will be after you visit Mesa Verde National Park. Due to the archaeological-artifact-rich nature of Mesa Verde National Park, backpacking is not allowed. There is, however, Morefield campground – a 267-site campground with room for RVs, and plenty of attractions, museums and exhibits to keep any camper busy. The campground rarely fills up, making it a good site to keep on your last minute list. Each site has a table, bench, and grill. Camping is open to tents, trailers and RVs, including 15 full hookup RV sites that do require reservations.
Morefield’s campsites are situated on loop roads that extend through a high grassy canyon filled with Gambel Oak scrub, native flowers, deer, and wild turkeys. Several of the park’s best hikes leave from Morefield and climb to spectacular views of surrounding valleys and mountains. Wake to an all-you-can eat pancake breakfast at the café in Morefield’s full-service village. There’s also a gas station, RV dumping station, coin-operated laundry, complimentary showers, a gift shop and grocery store.
Mesa Verde National Park
Inside Mesa Verde National Park is a national treasure – over 600 dwellings carved out of rock thousands of years ago by the area’s Ancestral Puebloans. They sit abandoned by their creators beneath protective cliffs. Visitors can climb ancient staircases, marvel at the sandstone masonry and peer through rock-carved windows into the past.
Ute Indian Museum
The Utes Indians are one of the indigenous inhabitants of western Colorado. They are also one of the few tribes to be commemorated in their own museum. Famous for their traditional bear dance, a social dance held in the spring when the first spring thunder is heard.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument (the Monument) encompasses 176,000 acres of federal land administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The Monument is located in the Four Corners region of southwestern Colorado, about 50 miles west of Durango, 10 miles west of Cortez and 12 miles west of Mesa Verde National Park. The Monument was designated on June 9, 2000 by Presidential Proclamation to protect cultural and natural resources on a landscape scale. The Canyons of the Ancients National Monument contains the highest known archaeological site density in the United States, with rich, well-preserved evidence of native cultures.
The Anasazi Heritage Center
The Anasazi Heritage Center is a museum focusing on Ancestral Puebloan, Native American, and historic cultures in the Four Corners region. It is southwest Colorado’s premier archaeological museum, operated by the Bureau of Land Management since 1988. All museum facilities are wheelchair-accessible.
The museum features:
● Permanent exhibits on archaeology, local history and Native American cultures
● Two 12th-century archaeological sites (Ask a volunteer about the visiting these sites just outside of the museum.)
● Special exhibits and events
● Educational resources for teachers
● Internships for enrolled and recently graduated college students
● Research library of archaeology and anthropology resources
● Research collection of more than 3 million artifacts and records from archaeological projects in Southwest Colorado
● Picnic area and half-mile nature trail
● Museum shop operated by the non-profit Canyonlands Natural History Association
Hovenweep National Monument
Near Canyons of the Ancients, Hovenweep’s six prehistoric, Puebloan-era villages are spread over a 20-mile expanse of mesa tops and canyons. Explore the Square Tower Group to get a first glimpse of the Puebloans’ expert masonry. You can find still-standing circular towers, walls with pictographs, kivas (ceremonial underground rooms), stone dams along several short hiking trails.
Camping at Hovenweep
A small campground near the visitor center is open year-round, first-come, first-served. Although a few sites will accommodate RVs up to 36 feet long, the 31-site campground is designed for tent camping. One campsite is wheelchair-accessible but is not designed for tent-camping. Groups are limited to eight people and two vehicles. Sites include tent pads, fire rings and picnic tables with shade structures; there are no hookups available.
Campground payments must be cash or check.
Sand Creek Massacre Site – Camping In Colorado
The Sand Creek Massacre site is the only Civil War site in Colorado. Also known as the Chivington Massacre, the Battle of Sand Creek or the Massacre of Cheyenne Indians, the story is still the same. In 1864, 675 U.S. volunteers led by Colonel John Chivington launched an attack on a peaceful village of Cheyenne and Arapaho who were camped under the protection of the American Flag. Nearly 200 Cheyenne and Arapaho were killed in the attack.
Wine, Beer, and Libation
Many campers believe there’s nothing better than sitting by a campfire with a cold beer, or a glass of wine to end the day. If you’re one of these campers you’ll be happy to know that Colorado is home to more than 300 breweries, 100 wineries and 54 distilleries and counting. You could honestly say Colorado is ground zero for locally produced libations. Tours and tastings at these great Colorado breweries, wineries and distilleries and many more across the state are generally free. Many of Colorado’s breweries and wineries are only minutes away from campgrounds – making them a great excursion or day trip for those who enjoy sampling some of the finest Colorado has to offer in terms of wine or beer.
Rock Climbing and Camping in Colorado
Not every rock climber likes to rough it. Many enjoy a post climb camping experience in semi-luxury. Fortunately there are dozens of rock climbing friendly campgrounds across Colorado. Here are a couple of the most popular:
Best Après Climb North Rim Campground; Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado $12/night
The North Rim boasts gorgeous scenery, and usually only other climbers and fishermen in this climber focused campground. A three-minute walk takes you to the overlooks or to the ranger station to register for climbs. If you’re a climber you’ll appreciate the fact that the rangers are climbers too. They walk the loop of sites and share beta, suggest routes, and ask how your day was. Approaches to the Black’s all-day climbs also begin minutes from your campsite. Best of all, when you top out, there’s no descent to worry about. Hop over the lookout railing or saunter a few steps through the woods, and there you are: back at your campsite.
Shelf Road $4/night
Climbers flock to Shelf Road for hundreds of moderate, vertical limestone sport climbs, but the scenery and camping also are pretty spectacular. Shelf Road is home to many quality sport routes. A sport climber’s mecca with nearly 1000 routes on bombproof pocketed limestone, routes vary from 5.7- 5.13 mostly bolted routes.
There are two camping locations at Shelf Road. The lower area, Sand Gulch has 14 campsites and one group camping site. Sand Gulch is a little warmer and more sheltered from the wind than the Sands. All sites fills up on Friday night so arrive early, or make friends quickly.
The upper area at The Banks has 11 campsites and one group camping site. The Banks has better views and cliff-top sites, where you can see the snowy Sangre de Cristo Mountains and watch Shelf’s limestone walls glow fiery orange at sunset. Just before you arrive at Shelf Road, you will pass Sand Gulch campground on your left. This is quality, spacious camping and access to the Sand Gulch area, and only about a 15 minute walk from the campground. There is day use parking at the northwest end of the campground, and overflow parking at the north end, where the free form trail begins. Shelf Road also has ample-sized trailhead parking and corrals for horseback riders. Hiking and hunting are popular in the area and good spots for both are only a short drive on a 4X4 loop. Adventurous anglers can hike to Fourmile creek for fishing.
Campsites are roomy and level, and approaches to the crags from both campgrounds takes five to 20 minutes.
Fishing Destination Campgrounds
It’s hard not to find great fishing anywhere in Colorado, but Camp Dick seems to be one of the most popular campgrounds in the state. Camp Dick is the site of a Civilian Conservation Corps camp that was established in the 1930s just off the Peak-to-Peak Scenic Byway. The campground is situated on the banks of the Middle Saint Vrain Creek in a glacial valley surrounded by mixed conifer and aspen forests. The campground has vault toilets, campfire rings, firewood, drinking water and grills.
The Middle Saint Vrain Creek is a good fly-fishing stream where anglers cast for rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout. Many trails in the vicinity are open to hiking and biking, including Sourdough and Buchanan Pass trails. The Indian Peaks Wilderness boundary is four miles from the west end of the campground. Guided horseback riding is available at Peaceful Valley Lodge, which is just over a mile away.
Cold Springs Campground
The Bear River Recreation Area is best known for trout fishing in the Stillwater, Bear Lake and Yamcolo reservoirs, plus its immediate hiking access to the Flat Tops Wilderness. Cold Springs Campground, located at an elevation of 10,200 feet, toward the top of the valley, has only five first-come, first-served, campsites around a tiny loop. There are no hookups, only the basics: picnic tables, grills, fire rings, vault toilets and water. $10 per night.
There are 36 sites available, 31 are suitable for RV camping and five are more suitable for tents. Facilities provided include restrooms, water and a playground area. Each site contains a tent pad, fire grate, and picnic table. Some first come, first serve sites may be available. Sites may be available on a first come first served basis outside the reservation season. There are no electric/water/sewer site hook-ups at this campground. Firewood is for sale at the campground.
Trout Creek Dispersed Camping In Colorado
There are 10 or so private, primitive, dispersed campsites along Trout Creek as it climbs toward Sheriff Reservoir. True to the area’s name, which is in the Yampa District of Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests, there is excellent fishing in the lake, creeks and beaver ponds. The best sites are south of the bridge. Reservations not accepted.
For a more complete list of other state campgrounds, including dispersed camping, visit the state’s website: