By Denise Krenning
The secret is out (if it ever was a secret) about Colorado Camping. Thousands of campsites in Colorado exist and with so many campground locations, it should be easy to find a tranquil spot to setup a tent or RV and get relax into the simplicity of nature but where to start? It’s a big state with 54 14,000-foot mountains, over 1,000 12,000-foot mountains, and more 10,000-foot mountains than we can count. In fact, there are so many mountains in Colorado entire libraries of books have been written on them, insuring you can find a spot to explore and see the stars without city lights.
Pick an area of Colorado to visit or roadtrip plan
As mentioned, there are literally thousands of campsites in the Colorado’s state park and public land systems and hundreds of more private sites. First, find the part of the state you want to visit and choose a site with the amenities you need. Colorado is divided by the I-25 highway. If you go west of the highway, you’ll be hitting mountains so while the map says you are 40 miles from your destination, remember you’re going through mountain passes so add a few extra hours to your trip. East of I-25 is mostly flat so while not as breathtaking as the west, the miles will fly by.
Our pick for the best book for finding the right campground for you is Colorado Campgrounds by Robyn Brewer. It’s our bible for the entire state! We’ve gone through two books over the years and still prefer it to any app out there. Camping reservations are a must for high traveled areas and unfortunately, most weekends have already been snagged but Colorado offers many parks and public land for boondocking so you can still find nature instead of peeps.
Colorado State Parks Camping
Colorado has forty-two parks all over the state, administered by the Colorado State Parks. The system boasts more than 4,000 campsites. Amenities at many parks include restrooms, full electrical hookups and shower facilities, and some even have laundry facilities and playgrounds. Yurts and cabins available for rent offer comfortable, year-round alternatives to traditional camping.
One of our favorite state parks is Mueller State Park, located south of Divide Co and set in Pike Forest. This park is a 10 in our book but reservations are tough to get for weekends. If you can, try doing Sun – Tues camping and you’ll have better luck staying here. Miles of trails to explore and top amenities for all types of camping.
Federal Lands – BLM Camping
The US Forest Service manages 14 million acres of land in the state’s 11 National Forests and two National Grasslands, while the Bureau of Land Management oversees an additional 8.4 million acres. Both agencies have campsites that range from developed areas with restrooms, fire rings, water and other amenities to remote areas, with no amenities, that are reached only by horse, mountain bike or backpacking. Reservations can be made at recreation.gov. There are several options for staying overnight on public lands managed by BLM Colorado. You can camp within a vehicle, trailer, tent, under the stars, enjoy a developed campground or any number of dispersed (undeveloped) sites. Visitors can camp on a remote trail or boat to a dispersed site along the river. All over the state campers have found and claimed these spots year after year so again, going up on a Thursday or Sunday is your best bet for finding these hidden gems.
There are many privately owned campsites in Colorado which often have perks you may not find on public lands, including playgrounds, hot tubs, laundry facilities and Wi-Fi. These are great for families, group camping and reunions. Up and down the entire state, you should be able to find the right camping site for your needs. COLORADO.com has campgrounds listings, the Colorado Campground and Lodging Owners Association and Colorado KOA Owners Association are just a few places to make reservations and locate campgrounds. Finding the area you want to visit is key and the Colorado Campground Book will give you the details for which campgrounds have the amenities you’ll looking for.
Colorado National Parks
Colorado has four National Parks — Rocky Mountain, Mesa Verde, Great Sand Dunes and Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Each park offers amazing and diverse scenery and with the National Park Service celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, there’s no better time to experience all there is to see and do. For spring and early summer visits, the Great Sand Dunes and Mesa Verde will be cooler and less crowded. The Great Sand Dunes and Mesa Verde each have 1 campground, Pinon Flats and Morefield respectively. The Black Canyon is our newest National Park (1999) and less known so exploring and finding quiet at one of the four campgrounds will be possible. The best time to visit Rocky Mountain Park is late summer and early fall. There are 5 campgrounds and reservations are a must. Timber Creek is the only campground that is first come first serve. Our favorite campground is Aspenglen and comes with the roaring Fall River however it is a smaller and a very popular campground so getting a site here may be a challenge.
Need to Know for Colorado Camping
The weather can change quickly, even in the summer months. It can go from 80 to 50 degrees in minutes. To stay comfortable, it’s best to wear layered clothing. Always watch for early thunderstorms if you’re hiking and get off the top of the mountain by noon. Lighting is a major factor in Colorado with the third-most lightning-strike fatalities of any state.
Depending on location, you may be required to purchase a pass or permit in addition to nightly camping fees. Plan ahead by reviewing the Colorado websites.
Be aware of your location and obey all posted signs and notices at campgrounds and trail entrances. If venturing onto private property, be sure to first get the owner’s permission.
Remember the golden rule of camping: Leave no trace. Visit lnt.org for tips on how to ensure your outdoor adventure keeps the land protected for generations to come.
Black bears are common in Colorado though not always seen. They know where food can be found in campsites and picnic areas especially in the mountain areas. Always use the bear food containers at the campsites and if camping on BLM or public lands, keep your coolers and food packed in your car away from your site.
Happy camping everyone!