If you’re after scenic vistas, but you prefer to sleep without the buzz of generators, then welcome! There are plenty of sites to see in this beautiful state, so why not spend your time in the great outdoors? Cancel your hotel reservations, and bring your car glamping gear. And maybe a spare tire, too. High clearance is advised (don’t bring your Civic) for some of these off-the-grid destinations, where part of the adventure is getting there.
Rest assured, you can land softly in a few of these more rustic dwellings. So here it is: all the best camping spots in Colorado. Okay, okay. Maybe not all of them, but here a few of our favorites.
In recent years, Fruita has landed on the map as a camping destination for Front Rangers. What’s all the hype? Mild temperatures in the early months of spring and late into the fall make for perfect early- and late-season camping. And mountain biking, too! North of town, 18 Road hosts some of the tackiest and thrilling mountain bike laps in Colorado. Also there, 18 Road offers both established (paid) and free BLM (Bureau of Land Management) camping. For those of you who aren’t so stoked on two wheels, it’s also within a quick drive to Colorado National Monument, perfect for hikers and climbers alike, or just general ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’-ers.
To say that there are a few camping options around Salida might be a slight understatement. There are A LOT of great camping options in this valley that host all different kinds of thrill-seekers, from mountain bikers to climbers to rafters. Pick your poison, and dwell accordingly. BUT, if you’re on the fence, let us point you in the right direction: Angel of Shavano Campground. And in particular, dispersed camping along Forest Road 250 and 252 at the base of the signature peak, Mt. Shavano. If it’s solitude that you’re after, and you’re itching to bag a 14er, then this camping area should surely tick both of those boxes (and more!).
First and foremost, mind the bears. Yes, this scenery is a host for black bears who enjoy truly the breathtaking views. If you’re lucky enough to land a spot at this campground (one that is VERY popular during peak summer season), sunsets and sunrise on the rim of the canyon are a must. Black Canyon of the Gunnison has gained quite the reputation for gnarly climbing — it’s sure to make you an honest climber. And for those of you who prefer to enjoy the scenes from a safe distance, there are plenty of short hikes that skirt the rim, and even some that descend into the canyon. Fitt Tip: wear sturdy boots — this is a steep hike with sometimes-questionable footing.
Looking for a beach getaway? While it might be missing the ocean, this vast pile of sediment just at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Range is pretty spectacular, even without the swell. This is your best option for off-the-grid dispersed camping with access to the Sand Dunes, as well as some hikes that offer mountainous vistas for a wider scope of the park. The best news? There are no fees associated with this more primitive style of camping. So, pack up your (retired) snowboard and head up to Medano Pass for some epic sandboarding. That is, IF, and only if, you have 4WD and clearance.
What brings people in their masses to Telluride in the summer months? Music festivals, mountain biking, Via Ferrata (famous rock climbing route), and hiking in one of the most scenic places in the country — not to boast! When Town Park camping gets too crowded, consider taking the road less traveled. We advise high clearance for this particular campground, which is only 10 miles outside of town but with a bit more solitude. Did we mention you can fish? But swimming? It’ll surely take your breath away if the views don’t!
Oh Be Joyful is seriously the name, and it’s fitting — there’s little to fuss about when you’re posted up by the edge of the Slate River, just north of town. Getting there? The road is pretty well-maintained but offers a bit of adventure for non-mandatory river crossings. The cooling effect of the river and plenty of shade from neighboring trees are a welcome escape from the heat in the summer months. And the aspen trees, well… they’re not so bad to look at either. With this site, you can expect quick access to the Slate River (directly to your right!), hiking, and mountain biking. And we get this all for the price of keeping your site the way you found it! In other words, this place is free as long as we take care of it.
True, it may be a bit cushy in comparison to neighboring dispersed camping, but this established campground is worth the haul from the Front Range. Just a short drive north of Durango, Haviland Lake is a welcome oasis in the hot summer months. Most of the sites are shaded and provide a picnic table and level platform for those of you with mobile camping rigs. Plus, kayaking and fishing are encouraged in this neck of the woods, with close proximity to hiking and mountain biking. Get your feet wet. Relax. Stay a while!
Headed up to the park to… dick around for the weekend? Consider Camp Dick then — a soft place to land after a full day of climbing. Skirting Allenspark and just beyond Estes Park limits, it’s not too far from home on the range, but a quick retreat from the city (and escape from the EOD traffic). Perks of this home-away-from-home? While most campgrounds in the park don’t allow dogs, your fur babies are welcome in this area. Just keep in mind, this is a paid site with limited amenities.
We’ll leave this one here since it’s oh-so-good! And it’s still relatively undiscovered. Oil Well Flats is the new hot spot for mountain bikers (and trail runners) who are looking for a weekend getaway, with mild temperatures for year-round ventures. It’s also a stone’s throw away from Shelf Road, a popular climbing area, and close to Royal Gorge. Need more firewood? Oil Well Flats is a quick drive north of Cañon City. Signage makes for an easy discovery and campsites are free, dispersed, and first-come, first served.
Option #1: Rabbit Ears Pass. Option #2: Dry Lake Campground. While option #1 is a bit more removed, we recommend option #2. And here’s why: Strawberry Hot Springs. Just eight miles northeast of town, Dry Lake Campground still offers a remote feel, while also being in close proximity to the resort and hot springs. Enjoy the perks of a paid site, with tables and firepit grates for grilling up some dogs after a long day on the mountain. Low clearance on your vehicle? No problem.
This mountainscape is worth the last leg of the trip to Mineral Creek. You may catch wind of the areas established neighbor, South Mineral Campground, just a few miles northeast of town. And if it’s solitude that you’re after (with a carload or caravan of your best camping buds), then this dispersed area should fuel your tribe with some of the best adventure-inspired views. Exploration is encouraged, and be sure to bring your swimsuit. Really, drive on by South Mineral Creek, and head up to the high(er) country.
Trying to get out of town for the weekend without joining the I-70 bustle? Consider heading west of Colorado Springs. Just north of Pikes Peak in Divide, Colorado, The Crags offers a jagged, scenic campground with both established and backcountry access. While this is a popular spot, don’t sweat it. It’s not overrun by RVs and you’re likely to land a spot on a Friday or Saturday night. Things to do in the area? Get an early start up Pikes Peak or an afternoon jaunt up The Crags Trail. Just don’t overthink it — it’s the weekend!