5 Secret Colorado Camping Spots

To say Colorado is a popular RV and camping destination is quite an understatement.  There are 4 National Parks and 41 State Parks in Colorado. Last year, 86 million people visited this beautiful state with 3 million of them packed in Rocky Mountain National Park! FYI, there is a new reservation system in place so be sure and look into that before your visit.  

Silver Jack Colorado

Right after New Years each year, we pull out our map and determine which camping spots of Colorado we want to stay at so we can start making our reservations.  Unfortunately, the days of pulling up on a Friday night in your truck and trailer and setting up camp are long gone so advanced planning is needed.   Even as I write this I’m gritting my teeth knowing I’m shooting myself in the foot by sharing these parks but really, is anything a secret anymore? 

TIPS FOR BOOKING RESERVATIONS 

www.recreation.gov

www.reserveamerica.com

  1. Chose “flexible” so you can plan around available dates. Getting your site in the park you want is how you chose your vacation days off these days. Kinda backwards but sitting by the lake is a priority and that’s what camping life is about.
  2. The booking window opens EXACTLY 6 months from the date. So, if you want to camp on July 4th, you need to be finger trigger ready at 11:59pm on Feb 3th. After midnight, it’s a refresh screen lottery at this point so have your site numbers (and backup sites) ready. If you have multiple families camping together, get everyone on board and hit those sites. It’s that crazy. No lie.

If you missed your window for your site, keep trying throughout the months. Cancellations do happen. Life happens and plans change. I like calling the parks directly to check on openings. Sometimes you get lucky. 

 Colorado's Mueller State Park

Muller State Park 

Muller State Park is open year-round with limited sites and is located in Divide CO. From Denver, go south on I 25 to US 24 to Hwy 67. It’s 5 miles to the park entrance. 

This is a beautiful park perfect for Rving and camping.  There are 132 campsites located in with a lush forest with panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains. 17 campsites are open for winter camping and 20  sites are walk-in/tent only. The sites are overall private a spaced out nicely. There are also 2 equestrian campsites, RV group camping and 3 tents available for rent. Each site (except the walk-in tent campsites) has electric hookups (20 and 30 amp) and your standard picnic table, fire ring and outdoor grill. Showers, laundry and flush restrooms plus a playground for the kiddos can be found in the main section of the campground. They also have cabins you can book. This park really meets all the Rv'ing and camping needs. It’s a 10 in my book. Fall is stunning! 

There are over 50 miles of hiking trails throughout the park however dogs are not allowed on the trails.  Lots of wildlife including black bear, elk, deer, fox, coyotes, bobcats, hawks and many other bird species.

 Turquoise Lake Baby Doe Campground CO

Turquoise  Lake  

From Denver, take I-70 W to CO-91 S towards Leadville.There are 8 campgrounds at Turquoise Lake so you have loads of choices if your favorite site is booked.  Open starting in June, closing in September.

Baby Doe Camping Loop, Turquoise Lake CO

At 10,000 feet, the camping season is very short but it's an incredible place to camp so we always make it a long weekend priority each year.  Snow is common in late May, early June and starts again in late September so keep that in mind. If you want to get away from the summer heat, the temperatures here definitely meet that goal. By July, Denver is in the high 90's so camping in 70's and 80's is a delight!  The nights are chilly in the 50's, perfect for that campfire.  

All campgrounds are in high demand but our favorite is Baby Doe. It’s right on the lake and STUNNING!  We fight the reservation system every year and it’s worth it.  These are basic sites with little to no cell service. Truly a “get away, unplug” camping area. My kind of camping and so magical! All total, there are 300 campsites, but they vary in size so it’s very important to look at the maps for rig size. 

Turquoise Lake Bike Trail Colorado

An 11 mile moderate bike and hiking trail surrounds the lake. Take it from me, a newbie to trail biking, it was very doable. I only crashed once which I call  a success. The lake is stocked with rainbow trout and kokanee and contains brown, cutthroat, and brook trout as well. On a summer day, grab you camping chair, a few beverages and relax watching people canoe, kayak and paddle board. I'm telling you, it’s a nature paradise. I want to jump into the car now I love this park that much. A quick 6 miles away, Leadville is a great little mountain town for a day visit or supply pickup. It's full of mining history, historical buildings, victorian homes and great food choices. One of our favorites is High Mountain Pies. We always pickup one up heading into the campground. 

Hermit Park Open Space Colorado

Hermit Park 

Hermit Park is open starting in March through mid December. From Denver, take I 25 to Hwy 34 towards Estes Park. It's about a 2 hour drive.  Yes, this is a GREAT alternative to camping at Rocky Mountain National Park and visiting Estes Park. I cry knowing I’m giving up this secret.  

This used to be a private land with cabins and rustic camping, belonging to the company, Hewlett Packard and Agilent. It was land saved and used for the Colorado employees and their families to use and enjoy. They also held their annual picnic celebrations here. 

We both worked for HP so this was our private HEAVEN. It was never crowded, and we spent many many summer and fall weekends up here. It was hard to see it changed hands to Larimer County however they have done an amazing job keeping this land beautiful and true to the vision of Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett. 

Hermit Park Open Space overlooking Estes Park Colorado

There are 105 mixed use sites but no electric or sewer sites however there is a dump station. There are also 13 primitive cabins you can book and for family reunions or weddings, there is a catering area with a charcoal grill. The pavilion can accommodate up to 150 guests. During the pandemic, we witnessed a small very socially distance wedding. I thought it was perfect! The park is filled with hiking trails overlooking Estes Park and you might get luckily and see the resident Moose.      

Dillion Reservoir Colorado

Dillon Reservoir  

Heaton Bay Campground opens Memorial Day weekend through early September  and is located in Dillion CO, just outside of two major ski resorts, Keystone and Breckenridge. From Denver, head up I 70 W towards Keystone. It's about 1.5 hour drive IF the Denver traffic is light which isn't offen. If you leave early in the day and during the week, you can easily avoid the gridlock.  

There are 5 separate campgrounds around Dillon. Several years ago, Colorado experienced a terrible pine beetle infestation in our Lodgepole evergreen trees which unfortunately changed the landscape of these campgrounds dramatically.  Trees dried up and to avoid public danger, these campgrounds were cut down to the bone. I mean, parking lot clean. It was heart breaking. We had camped for YEARS in thick Aspen and Lodgepole forests.

The bright side is time does heal and the campgrounds have recovered beautifully. Having more space and light gave way to Aspen groves growing and thousands of wildflowers branching out.  Thousand more stars can be viewed now as well. Yes, it’s not the same but what in life doesn’t go through change and as well all know, change is always better. There’s my positive spin.

Between the 5 campgrounds, there are 324 sites, from tents to Class A with electric hookups. These sites go first of course so again, learn the tips of making reservations. There isn’t a dump station at any of these campgrounds however the town of Dillion does have a waste station found at their water treatment plant. It’s kinda out of the way but for a few bucks, you can dump and get on the road.   

Of the 5, Heaton Bay is our favorite. It has everything a mountain campground should have and more. There are sites that hug the lake allowing you to launch your kayak or paddle board. The paved bike trails around the damn are just  damn fun! Lots of rolling ups and downs and the scenery can’t be beat. This 18 mile trail does have one steep 1,100' climb which goes over Swan Mountain on the south side of the lake so be aware of the altitude. If you're looking for a family bike ride, Breckenridge has a seven-mile ride on the Blue River Recreation path that follows the Blue River through town limits. 

Dillion Reservoir shore length is approximately 26.8 miles across allowing for a variety of water crafts available to rent. From pontoon party boats to sail boats or kayaks, canoes and paddle boards, it's hard to choose which sport to indulge in for a day of water fun. This campground is a family activity mecca and deserves a longer stay than a weekend. I can’t say enough about it. Fall is also spectacular!   

Pearl Lake State Park 

So you wanta get out of town, leave the crowds and get off the grid? This is the campground for you. Another heavy sigh as I give this one up. Located in Northern Colorado, it’s past the ski town of Steamboat. It’s flat out GORGEOUS!  While this campground has also been affected by the beetle kill, most of it has slowly regrown. Again, not like it once was but more open and inviting.

From Denver, grab I 25 N to Steamboat Springs. This park is a gem however it is 3-4 hours from Denver. Once you get to Steamboat Springs, go west 2 miles on Hwy 40 to County Rd 129. Turn north and go 23 miles to Pearl Lake Rd. Go east 2 miles to park entrance.

It’s a smaller campground with only 36 sites, no electrical hookups. There are two Yurts you can reserve as well. It’s not as pretty as some of the other campgrounds I’ve mentioned and is limited in RV size (less than 30 feet) but Pearl Lake does offer more. It’s an off the beaten path place to totally unwind and truly smell the bacon and coffee.  An afternoon nap is mandatory.

Pearl lake is wakeless and flat as can be so paddle boarding and canoeing are the top activities along with fishing. If you've been looking for a weekend with a good summer book, some great hiking and serious relaxation, this is your campground.    

I have a few more secret camping spots in Colorado but hey, a girls gotta keep a few secrets to enjoy our Colorado trips as well. 

Happy Trails everyone!