The 8 Best Campgrounds in Colorado

Psst: PLEASE don’t travel until it’s safe! Stay close to home, social distance, and wear a mask to keep yourself and others safe. Also: this post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through them, we may receive a small commission (for which we are deeply grateful) at no cost to you.

Grand mountains. Rustling plains. Towering sand dunes. Spectacular lakes. Nope, we’re not talking about the entire United States: you can find absolutely all of this stunning scenery right in Colorado! From the grandeur of Rocky Mountain National Park to the winding roads of the Million Dollar Highway and the breathtaking expanse of the Blue Mesa Reservoir, Colorado is a stunning outdoor playground. And the best way to get to know its vast expanses of wilderness is to go camping!

Whether you’re a casual camper or a seasoned backcountry lover, there are limitless opportunities for camping spots in Colorado. Which is, honestly, a little overwhelming.

So, we’ve teamed up with Lyndsie, a Colorado native who has lived and camped her whole life in this beautiful state, to create this list of the 8 best places to camp in Colorado, plus all the tips you need to plan a fun, safe camping trip! Because a safe camper is a happy camper, as I have never said before in my life but will definitely start saying now because I love me a terrible Dad joke.

Take it away, Lyndsie!

Table of Contents

Planning to go camping in Colorado? Take a look at some of our other posts to help you plan your trip:

View of Nymph Lake from a trail in Rocky Mountain National Park.
View of Nymph Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. Psst: see those dead trees? Those are wildfire kindling. Also, there are probably like 8 bears in this picture alone. Please don’t skip this section, it’s really important to keep you safe!

Tips for Camping in Colorado

When planning any camping trip – particularly in Colorado – there are a few things to keep in mind to keep you safe as well as to protect the local environment. To make the most of your trip, it’s important to pack appropriately, camp responsibly, and do your research – luckily, we’ve done. a bunch of research for you!

  • Budget-Friendly Tip: If you’re planning to visit multiple National Parks this year – and two of them are on our list below – we recommend picking up an America is Beautiful National Parks Pass! The pass is valid at over 2,000 National Parks and 10% of the sale proceeds are donated to the National Park Foundation, helping to keep our parks beautiful. The average cost of admission to a National Park is $35, which means that the pass quickly pays for itself after just a few visits. AND you are supporting the National Park Foundation. Win/win! You can pick up a pass online at REI or in person at any National Park.

To fully enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors in Colorado, taking proper precautions is a must. Here are a few things you should consider before you set off into the wilderness.

Altitude

Much of Colorado is located at high altitudes, which means the air is thinner. If you are not used to it, you may find yourself having trouble breathing or struggling to maintain your typical fitness level. You may even experience headaches, dizziness, or nausea. This is called altitude sickness, and it’s incredibly common – but left untreated, it can be dangerous, and even fatal.

To avoid altitude sickness ruining your vacation, make sure to take time to adjust to the altitude gradually: give yourself at least one or two nights to acclimate before hiking or other strenuous physical activity. If you do start feeling short of breath, nauseous, or exhausted, listen to your body – don’t push yourself!

Instead, take steps to treat your altitude sickness: stop, relax, drink a ton of water, eat something, and if you’re still not feeling better, descend to a lower elevation ASAP. Here’s a fantastic list of ways to help you prepare for and adjust to changes in altitude.

Also: if you are visiting from a lower-altitude and plan on going hiking, plan your first hike in a place with lots of shade to help keep you cool and avoid overheating. Make sure to rest frequently until you are used to the environment.

Fire

Colorado can be very dry, especially in mid-summer to early fall, and does experience an annual fire season. Always check the fire danger where you’re headed before your trip to determine whether you’ll be able to have a campfire and how alert you should be – but in general, take as much fire precaution as you can:

  • Never leave a fire unattended. Someone must be watching your campfire at ALL times. Don’t even leave it unattended for 5 minutes to use the bathroom! And especially don’t leave it burning as you go to sleep.
  • Never, ever turn your back on a burning fire. If the fire you’re putting out is still smoking, then it is still burning- do not turn your back on it until it is fully out!
  • Follow all local fire rules and regulations. What that means is: if you’re not allowed to have a campfire that day or in that area, you better bring along a camping stove. Those rules exist for a reason, and whether you understand them or like them or not, you need to follow them to prevent wildfires.
  • Always purchase firewood locally, as close to your campsite as possible. This helps prevent the spreading of invasive foreign insects, many of which are devastating our forests and turning trees into wildlife kindling.

Also, there is always a possibility there may be a forest fire in the area you’re going camping – check before you go. Keep in mind you may have to reschedule your trip, and note that even if the county deems your locale safe from the fire, it may still be uncomfortable for those with a sensitive respiratory system. REI has a fantastic Wildfire Safety Guide to help you prepare – read it before you go!

Big horn sheep in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.
Look, I’m a nature photographer! … although let’s be honest, everyone is a nature photographer in Rocky Mountain National Park. You’d have to TRY not to take pictures of majestic animals, like this big horn sheep.

Wild Animals

The mountains are teeming with life, from tiny voles to wary elk and predators such as bears and mountain lions. Part of the fun of escaping city life is being able to see (most of) these critters in their natural habitat. However, keep in mind, they are wild and thus should not be interacted with or fed.

While you hopefully won’t encounter a bear or mountain lion on your trip, it is still important to respect the rest of the wildlife. Raccoons are almost more notorious than bears for getting into your trash and your cooler, so packing up your food and waste properly is vital!

If you are heading to a more remote area where predators are likely to be, there are steps you can take to avoid crossing paths. Following proper wildlife safety is a must: 

  • Never interact with wildlife. Don’t touch or feed wild animals, and stay at least 2 bus-lengths away from them. Practice Leave No Trace principles to protect local flora and fauna.
  • Use sealable containers and never leave anything out overnight. First of all, it’s gross. But second of all, it will attract wildlife, and eating or touching human stuff can harm them.
  • Double-bag your trash. And make sure you’re throwing collecting all of it and throwing it away in the proper provided receptacles, which are typically designed to be wildlife-proof.
  • Store your food and other scented items outside of your tent. That includes all scented toiletries, even sunscreen and toothpaste You can put these items in the trunk of your car, or if you are in the backcountry, hang them from a tree.
  • Use bear-proof containers. If your campsite doesn’t include a bear locker, you may want to bring a bear canister. If you’re car camping, keep anything scented or brightly colored in your trunk. If it’s viewable through the window, bears will try to get in!
  • Follow the SMART rules during unexpected wildlife encounters. Sure, it’s designed for kids, but the rest of it is really important for anyone to remember! For specific tips for bears, mountain goats, and other animals that are common in Colorado, read REI’s wildlife safety guide.

For more tips on how to prevent altercations with wild animals, check out this post by Uncover Colorado.

Exploring the mountains above Boulder, Colorado.
It was hot and sunny just hours before this picture was taken in Boulder. Pack for all weather so you aren’t taken by surprise!

Weather

With over 300 sunny days per year and moderate summer temperatures in the mountains, it’s a safe bet that between May and September – Colorado’s annual camping season – you’ll probably experience decent weather.

However, Colorado has as varied a climate as it does scenery. From the scorching Great Sand Dunes to the cool high alpine lakes, it’s essential to prepare for all kinds of weather. Sometimes, particularly at higher altitudes or up in the mountains, you’ll even experience both hot and cold weather in the same day! And we’re not just talking like, “bring a jacket just in case” kinda cold – I remember one day in Boulder where the morning started out in the 70s and a blizzard had blown in by nightfall – and that’s pretty typical in the spring.

So, to best prepare, always pack the essentials for your camping or hiking excursion to help you be prepared for any kind of weather:

Rocky Mountain National Park is a great day trip from Boulder, Colorado.
Y’all: bring LAYERS. This was taken in May in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was like 75 and sunny in Estes Park, and blizzarding and cold in various sections inside the park. Layer up!

What to Pack for Camping in Colorado

We have a comprehensive list of what to pack for a camping trip, but below we’ve included some specific suggestions for camping in Colorado.

  • Water, water, and more water! Don’t underestimate the amount of water you’ll need. Staying hydrated not only helps keep your temperature regulated but can also prevent altitude sickness. We recommend bringing a hydration daypack with 100oz of water for hikes, and sipping constantly from a water bottle back at camp.
  • Sun Protection: You’ll need plenty of environmentally-friendly sunscreen, as well as a hat, long-sleeved shirt, and sunglasses. The Colorado sun is scorching, especially. at high altitude or in the desert.
  • Moisturizer & Lip Balm: Colorado air is DRY, especially in higher altitudes and in the desert! Bring more than you think you’ll need and apply regularly.
  • Layers: Regardless of the weather forecast – but especially if rain or snow is predicted – pack some warm clothing, even if it seems hot. (And bring that clothing on your hikes as well!) A lightweight rain jacket is always a good idea, as is a packable down jacket or fleece jacket and a warm hat. Additionally, if you have space, it never hurts to pack extra blankets for an overnight in case the temperature plummets.

For a general list of “the basics” on what to wear for Colorado weather (and to look cool!), check out this article from Colorado.com. We’ve also got more suggestions on what to pack for hiking in Colorado in our guide to the best hikes near Denver, and of course, a detailed camping packing guide!

View of the sand dunes and the mountains at Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.
View of the sand dunes and the mountains at Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. (For starters, nobody ever tells you there are massive sand dunes in southern Colorado.)

Things Nobody Tells You About Colorado

We always find that our appreciation of a place is greatly enhanced by understanding a little bit about it’s history and culture. Yes, even in our home country! (Honestly, we’re forever shocked by how absolutely lacking our US history classes in school were.) So we’ve included a brief primer on what makes the state absolutely fascinating – and what you need to know before you go camping in Colorado.

Colorado’s history is fierce and fascinating. The beloved mountains that we know and love today are the result of tectonic plate collisions that happened 70 million years ago. Even back then, Colorado was lit: the state was home to so many dinosaurs that there’s even a town in Colorado named Dinosaur! (We’ve included some opportunities for nerding out about dinos near our campsite recommendations below.)

In addition to dinosaurs, the area has been inhabited by humans for at least 14,000 years. Native American tribes inhabited and traveled through what is now Colorado, including Ute, Navajo, Comanche, Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes – with many of these tribes’ sacred origin and ceremonial sites found within the state.

And while there are still many Indigenous communities within Colorado today, there have been many tribes with a legacy of occupation in the area. After European colonizers arrived in Colorado, Native Americans were displaced from their ancestral lands, slaughtered en masse and finally forced onto reservations, some of which were far removed from their homelands.

Today, here are two reservations in Colorado: the Southern Ute Indian Reservation and the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation in southwestern Colorado. Denver was also one of the nine federal “relocation” sites used in the U.S. Urban Relocation Program, which was an “assimilation program” (read: forcible eradication of traditional culture) that brought Native Americans from reservations to urban centers during the 1950s and 1960s. As a result, approximately 7,000 people in Denver – 1% of the city’s population – identify as Native American/Alaska Native. Every March, thousands of Native Americans from around 100 tribes gather to celebrate Native American culture at the Denver March Powwow, one of the largest gatherings of its kind in the U.S.  

The name “Colorado” refers to the state’s red-colored earth, and was given by the Spanish, who showed up around 1700s to mass- murder Indigenous people and steal their land colonize the area. But stealing begets stealing, so the land was later claimed by the French… and then the U.S. acquired the territory in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase. Ahem: it was *still* stolen land.

While many European settlers passed through Colorado on their way out west, there wasn’t much in the way of actual settlements until the 1850s when someone found probably like one teeny tiny scrap of gold on Pike’s Peak.

Suddenly Colorado was the sexiest state in the nation since California, and the sudden influx of settlers led to – you guessed it – even more violence against Native Americans. The Sand Creek Massacre of 1864 saw more than 150 unarmed Native Americans slaughtered. This atrocity served as a catalyst for warfare between the U.S. government and Native American tribes, with the tribes eventually being forced onto reservations as Colorado became the country’s 38th state in 1876. US history sucks, y’all.

Despite its bloody challenges, Colorado remained the destination for fortune seekers during the state’s Gold Rush and progressive Silver Boom. Newly wealthy settlers built towns high in the mountains that had everything they ever needed in a Wild West town (turned ghost town): saloons, brothels, a chapel, and a post office.

These towns remain Colorado’s most-visited destinations to this day: after the silver rush faded to more of a dull gray, the state’s coffers relied instead on tourism, craft beer, and – most recently – weed.

The Best Camping in Colorado

Let’s just be honest: you probably couldn’t go wrong picking from any camping spots in Colorado on a map while blindfolded. But the sites we’ve featured below best highlight all that this beautiful state has to offer, spread from north to south and featuring all the best of Colorado: majestic peaks, clear lakes, verdant forests, and expansive valleys. 

Many campgrounds in Colorado have drive-in convenience amenities like bathrooms and water, as well as easy access to activities like hiking, biking, fishing, and more. We’ve included all the details you’ll need to decide where to go camping in Colorado on your next outdoor adventure.

  • Note: while we’ve included many drive-up sites, some may require 4-wheel drive capability or require a short hike between the car and the site. 

Angel of Shavano Campground

This peaceful campground is located along a fork of the Arkansas River in the San Isabel National Forest, where Utes and Jicarilla Apaches once lived and traveled through before colonization.

The area contains 19 of Colorado’s 53 Fourteeners (14ers are Colorado slang for peaks over 14,000 feet) and the campground is off the beaten path and rarely ever crowded. If you are looking for solitude and tranquility amidst the majesty of some of Colorado’s best fourteeners, this is the place for you!

Mount Shavano, which looms over the campground, is named after Chief Shavano of the Ute tribe. He was a prominent negotiator and peacekeeper of the 1800s, signing two treaties with the U.S. government and preventing further bloodshed among Native Americans and settlers.

The campground itself is named after an image of an angel that reportedly appears in the winter as Shavano Mountain’s peak is dusted with snowfall.

The Angel of Shavano campground is perfect for both hammock and tent camping and offers plenty of tree cover: the 20 available campsites are wooded with Colorado’s iconic aspens and spruce trees, and are located alongside a pleasant, babbling creek.

The campground is first-come, first-served – meaning you won’t need or be able to make reservations in advance. To improve your chances of landing a site, avoid showing up late on either Friday and Saturday, as these tend to be popular evenings for camping!

The campsite is particularly popular with hikers looking to bag the nearest 14er, Mount Shavano, via a trail that begins just across the street from the campground at Blanks Cabin Trailhead. This trail also lies along the 500-mile long Colorado Trail, so if you see some grungy lookin’ thru-hikers, that’s why!

  • Fascinating Fact: The 500-mile long Colorado Trail was the dream-turned-reality of Gudrun “Gudy” Gaskill, one of the coolest and most badass female mountaineers ever. She was 50 years old when she started working on the trail and kept working on it until she passed away at 89, with the recognition of two U.S. Presidents. In her spare time, she climbed all 54 of Colorado’s 14ers, did a lap around the European Alps, and summited many other major peaks around the world – some as many as 12 times. GOALS AF.

Things to Know

  • This campground can accommodate RVs and trailers up to 30′ in length, but there are no hookups
  • The campround is located next to the Angel of Shavano Group campground, which is designed for larger groups, costs more, requires reservations, and has different amenities. Don’t let that confused you – there are also 20 non-group campsites available right next door!
  • There are no bear boxes at this campground; you’ll need to keep all food and toiletries in the trunk of your car.
  • The campsite lies at an elevation of 9,200 feet. If you’re coming from lower elevation, be aware of the symptoms of altitude sickness, and drink much more water than you normally need to!

Campground Amenities

  • Vault toilet and trash pickup
  • Drinkable water from hand pump
  • Drive-up campgrounds (first come, first served)
  • Tent pads
  • Picnic tables
  • Fire ring and grill
  • Leashed dogs welcome

What to Do Nearby

How to Get There

From the junction of Hwys 50/285 in Poncha Springs, travel west on Highway 50. Near Maysville, watch for County Road 240 on the right. Travel for 3 miles to the campground, which you will find on the left side of the road. Continue past the group area to the main entrance for Angel of Shavano campground.

Blue Mesa Reservoir in the Curecanti National Recreation Area, view of the San Juan mountains
Blue Mesa Reservoir in the Curecanti National Recreation Area, view of the San Juan mountains. Original Photo

Elk Creek Campground on Blue Mesa Reservoir

Elk Creek Campground is located on the north shore of the magnificent Blue Mesa Reservoir, Colorado’s largest body of water. This is a fantastic place to go for summertime fun on the water: the area is known for its mesas, narrow canyons, and reservoirs that almost resemble fjords. Bring a boat to take advantage of the marina attached to the campground!

Elk Creek Campground is located within the Curecanti National Recreation Area. Though it’s named after a Ute Indian sub-chief, there’s evidence that humans lived in this area as far back as 10,000 years ago – in fact, 5,000 acres of this recreation area are conserved as the Curecanti Archeological District and recognized on the National Register of Historic Places! Oh yeah, and dino fossils were also recently discovered here.

The campground offers stunning views of the reservoir and the San Juan Mountains, where Ute tribes would once hunt in the high alpine meadows in the summer and spend the winter in the range’s valleys. It’s also the place where Kit Carson – the famous frontiersman – is known to have roamed, trapping beavers for fur back in the 1800s (fun fact: Denver Parks and Rec proactively dismantled Carson’s towering statue in the city in June 2020 following the toppling of a sculpture dedicated to Christopher Columbus, as well as a Civil War statue, at the Capitol).

The campground is also located just under an hour away from Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. And it’s part of the Alpine Loop, a 65-mile 4×4 scenic byway that winds through the alpine terrain of the San Juan Mountains. The Alpine Loop is characterized by its treeless tundra, vast array of wildflowers, and historic significance—it passes through the century-old ghost towns of Capitol City and Animas Forks, which was abandoned in 1884 when it accumulated 25ft of snow over 23 days and locals were forced to dig tunnels to get from building to building! Oooh, creepy.

Things to Know

  • While perfect for tent camping, Elk Creek Campground is not a great option for hammock campers: trees are minimal here because the reservoir gets less than 12 inches of rain a year.
  • Elk Creek is surrounded by sagebrush, and trees are few and far between because the reservoir gets under 12 inches of rain a year. For this reason, be cautious when starting fires for your campsite and check news sources for any fire danger warnings before doing so.   
  • Check availability of visitor centers and ranger-led tours.
  • The campground is only open from late spring to early fall.

Campground Amenities

  • Drinking water
  • Flush toilets
  • Parking area
  • BBQ grills/Fire ring/Firepit
  • Picnic tables
  • Tent pads
  • Electricity hookup – only on some campsites
  • Small boat marina
  • Amphitheater
  • RV hookups
  • Coin-operated showers (summer months only)

What to Do Nearby

  • Blue Mesa Reservoir is Colorado’s largest body of water. You can explore some of its 96 miles of coastline or fish in the largest Kokanee Salmon fishery in the US. You can also swim or take a boat out on its crystal blue waters. 
  • Curecanti National Recreation Area, between the towns of Montrose and Gunnison, Colorado, offers lots of hiking and mountain biking trails. This area also stretches across three reservoirs, named for each dam on the Gunnison River. 
  • Check out the National Historic Civil Engineering landmark, Gunnison Diversion Tunnel.
  • Ranger-led pontoon boat tours are offered through the upper portion of Black Canyon, around the Morrow Point Reservoir
  • Drive the incredibly scenic Alpine Loop Byway. Due to its challenging terrain, the route is only recommended for 4-wheel-drive vehicles, all-terrain vehicles, motorcycles, or mountain bikes. You’ll also find one. of our other favorite Colorado towns on this loop: Ouray, aka the ‘Switzerland of America,’ which has amazing hot springs and stunning scenery.

How to Get There

You can start either to the north at Blue Mesa (Hwy 50) or to the south at South Fork (US 285). From there, take Highway 149 for 117 miles.

Sunrise reflections on Dowdy Lake in Red Feather Lakes, Colorado near Fort Collins
Sunrise reflections on Dowdy Lake in Red Feather Lakes – one of the best camping spots in Colorado! Original photo credit

Dowdy Lake Campground, Red Feather Lakes

Dowdy Lake Campground is a stunning lakeside campsite on the shores of beautiful Dowdy Lake within Red Feather Lakes, a 612,000-acre outdoor playground within the Roosevelt National Forest just an hour way from Fort Collins, Colorado.

The campground offers lakeside views amongst ponderosa pines, with trails winding around the lake and plenty of beach access! Bring along paddle boards, kayaks, or canoes or just swim in the clear water of Dowdy Lake.

But take note: this is a popular campground, and reservations can be difficult to snag! For a quieter campsite option nearby, we also recommend the first-come, first-served Kelly Flats Campground, located about 45 minutes away on the banks of the Cache La Poudre River. The campground is located along the Cache La Poudre-North Park Scenic and Historic Byway, one of Colorado’s many stunning scenic drives through the Rocky Mountains.

  • Fascinating Fact: Red Feather Lakes is named after Tsianina Redfeather, a Creek and Cherokee woman who was an opera singer and activist in the early 20th century. Redfeather was a total badass, growing up on a reservation in Oklahoma in the 1800s, but leaving to study music in Denver, where she collaborated with composers to write songs that were later performed at the Met Opera in New York. She toured all over the U.S. and Europe during WWI, and in the 1920s, one of the developers of the Red Feather Lakes heard her sing and decided to name the lakes in her honor.

Things to Know

  • The campground has 70 campsites with electric hookups (ten sites are designated for tent camping only and do not have hookups). 30 of those sites are open year-round.
  • Dead and downed firewood may be gathered in the forest or purchased in bundles from the campground host.
  • The campsite sits at 8,200 feet of elevation.
  • Expect afternoon thunderstorms during spring and summer. 
  • Some sites are a lil’ on the sunnier side due to Colorado’s mountain pine beetle infestation – hammock campers, take note.

Campground Amenities

  • Tent pad
  • Bear locker
  • Picnic table
  • Lake access
  • Drinking water
  • Vault toilets
  • Drive-up convenience
  • Campfire ring with grill
  • RV and tent camping

What to Do Nearby

  • Dowdy Lake is a serene boating location, where you can let the heavy feelings of city life slip away while enjoying the solitude of nature.  Be sure to bring a canoe or small fishing boat with you (motorized boats are allowed on the lake, but a 10 mph speed limit is enforced.)
  • The rustic mountain village of Red Feather Lakes is nearby, with a few restaurants and cute stores to explore.
  • The nearby Cache La Poudre River is known as Colorado’s first designated Wild and Scenic River and is ideal for whitewater rafting, kayaking, and fishing
  • There is a wide variety of trails nearby for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. One of the most popular is the Mount Margaret trail, which connects directly to the campsite. There are also well-maintained trails around the lake, perfect for a relaxing stroll.
  • For a profoundly spiritual experience, check out the Shambhala Mountain Center. This place was founded in the ’70s by master and teacher, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (known by some as the Bad Boy of Buddhism). He was one of the very first Buddhist teachers to gather a significant following in the west. You don’t have to be Buddhist to visit; the retreat offers meditation sessions and educational programs to the public. 
  • As this is 45 miles from Fort Collins, you can always head into the city for a fun downtown atmosphere and local beer

How to Get There

Drive 21 miles north of Fort Collins on U.S. Highway 287. Turn left (west) onto the Red Feather Lakes Road (County Road 74E) and travel approximately 22 miles. Turn right (north) and travel another mile to signed campground entrance on the right.

Mueller State Park Campground

Take in panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains at Mueller State Park Campground while you relax in the shade of a verdant forest made up of spruce, pine, fir, and bright green aspens. This campground has the added benefit of being close to two major Colorado cities (Denver and Colorado Springs), so it’s ideal for a quick weekend getaway!

This area used to be a popular hunting ground for Ute Native Americans. But when gold was discovered in the late 19th Century, prospectors and ranchers rushed in to strike it rich. One of those settlers, a rancher by the name W.E. Mueller, turned the area into “Mueller Ranch.” In the 1980s, Mueller’s descendants turned the ranch into a game reserve, and then later sold it to the Nature Conservancy and Colorado State Parks, who then turned it into a State Park.

Today, 5,121-acre Mueller State Park Campground is accessible to tents, trailers, and RVs, and offers year-round camping and excellent amenities, including a laundromat and showers. This is also a great place for equestrians with specially-designed facilities for horses and trails for horseback riding. 

Things to Know

  • To book a campsite at Mueller State Park, you can go to Reserve America.
  • Be aware that during hunting season, permitted hunting is allowed here. If you’re not a hunter and gunshots aren’t your favorite ambiance noise, maybe avoid this campground during hunting season.

Campground Amenities

  • Leashed pets welcome
  • BBQ grills
  • Campfire center
  • Campsite tables
  • Comfort station
  • Drinking water
  • Dump station
  • Electrical hookup
  • Equestrian facilities
  • Firepit/Grills
  • Group camping
  • Laundromat/Laundry
  • Nature center
  • Payphone
  • Picnic tables
  • Restrooms 
  • RV hookups
  • Showers

What to Do Nearby

  • With 5,000 acres of meadows, ponds and forested ridges surrounded by mountains, a wide variety of adventures await! Summer provides trails for backpacking and hiking. In the winter, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are popular activities.  
  • There are also fishing opportunities in the numerous ponds, though boating is not permitted. 
  • For mountain biking enthusiasts, Mueller State Park has 36 miles of biking trails. 
  • For those who enjoy a good scavenger hunt, you can also try your hand at geocaching, with 6 geocaches in the park. Please check Geocaching.com for further details
  • As this locale is very equestrian-friendly, horseback riding is encouraged. With the 34 miles of trails and equestrian-specific campsites, visitors can bring their trusty steed (and all their own food) on this adventure. No horses are provided for rent. 

How to Get There

From the north or south, get on I-25 to Colorado Springs. Continue west on US-24 W/W Hwy 24 to Woodland Park. Pass through Woodland Park and take CO-67 south to your destination in Teller County.

View of the mountains from the sand dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.

Piñon Flats Campground at Great Sand Dunes National Park 

Pitch your tent at Piñon Flats Campground to gain access to the Great Sand Dunes National Park, one of the great wonders of Colorado! Nestled on the edge of the San Luis Valley in the embrace of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this field of brilliant yellow sand stretches as far as the eye can see. Home to the tallest dunes in North America, this iconic landmark is a must-see. 

What’s so cool about this place? There’s evidence that humans were active in this area as far back as 11,000 years ago. Today, 19 Native American tribes maintain active cultural affiliation to the Park and surrounding area. For instance, the Navajo hold the area as sacred and part of the boundary of The Navajo Nation; nearby Blanca Peak, or Sisnaajini, the “White Shell Mountain,” play a prominent role in the Navajo origin story.

Because of it’s unique landscape, NASA used the park to test rovers, including two Viking spacecraft that first landed on Mars. And Bing Crosby was inspired by the park’s “singing sands” phenomenon that he wrote his 1940 hit love song “The Singing Sands of Alamosa” in honor of the place. It’s definitely a fascinating area.

Amenities

  • Drive-up convenience
  • Restrooms with sinks
  • Water spigots
  • Tent pads
  • Picnic tables
  • Fire grates
  • Moderate shade
  • No RV hookups, but larger sites can accommodate a dry camper
  • Visitor center 
  • Leashed dogs welcome
  • Group camping

General Notes

  • Check before you go to see what’s open and what’s requiring reservations.
  • Pets are permitted in the campground and in the park, but must be leashed. If you are planning to hike the dunes with your 4-legged friend, please keep in mind that there is no shade, and the sand can be quite hot! Training your doggo to wear shoes like these will keep their little feet comfortable.
  • Make sure to also bring lots of water, sunscreen and shade hats. The dunes may not look that high but hiking them is quite the workout! 
  • To plan your visit, check out the info page on nps.gov!

What to Do Nearby

  • There’s a lot of access to nearby hiking and backpacking trails in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
  • In addition to hiking the dunes or making your way up to High Dune (the highest dune in the park), many people enjoy sandboarding and sand sledding down them.
  • Zapata Falls is an intermediate river hike to stunning waterfalls cascading over sheer rock faces.
  • Medano Creek is made up of snowmelt that flows from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in spring and early summer only. This 3″ deep creek is a great place to relax from a hot day or give your pup a much-needed respite.
  • Crestone, Colorado is small town about an hour away from the campground. Nicknamed the “Shambala of the Rockies,” the town is a spiritual mecca where weird, unexplainable things happen. There’s a certain “vibratory frequency,” an eerie quietness, an inexplicable feeling of peace and zen… and also some truly strange sh*t. Like, a lot of UFO stuff. And for some reason, alligators? We’ve got more information and details on what to do in Crestone in our post about the best day trips from Boulder!

How to Get There

This campground is easily accessible from major roadways. Take I-25 from the north or south to Walsenburg (exit 52). From there, head west on US-160 past Fort Garland. Turn north on CO-150 in Alamosa County. 

For a more scenic route, take US Hwy 285 south through Buena Vista. Continue on CO-17 for 50 miles then connect with CO-150 S.

Looking down on Ruedi Reservoir and marina in the late afternoon sun, surrounded by mountains and alpine flowers.
Looking down on Ruedi Reservoir and marina in the late afternoon sun, surrounded by mountains and alpine flowers.

Ruedi Marina Campground on Ruedi Reservoir

Located on the western side of the Continental Divide, Ruedi Reservoir is home to impressive views and a flawless starry night sky. It’s not too far from town – only 15 miles upstream from Basalt and Aspen – in the White River National Forest.

The Ruedi Marina Campground is near the rich conifer forest that reaches toward the shoreline of the reservoir. This is an ideal location for both land- and water-based adventures, with access to 8 different wilderness areas, ten fourteeners, scenic rivers, and tons of alpine wildlife! 

  • Fascinating Fact: Before the Ruedi Reservoir flooded the area in the 1960s, there used to be a small town here named Ruedi, which was established in the 1880s during the silver mine boom. The town (and then later reservoir) bears the name of Swiss immigrant John Ruedi, who settled there in the 1880s and established the town’s post office.

Things to Know

  • The campsites are suitable for tents and hammocks, trailers, and boondocking RVs (there are no hookups).
  • Fishing is allowed. herebut with some regulations, including fishing with artificial flies and lures only. You must also release all trout except brown trout, and there is a limit of two fish over 14 inches.

Campground Amenities

  • Vault toilets and trash collection
  • On-site drinking water
  • Drive-up convenience
  • Picnic areas
  • Fire pits
  • Picnic table at individual sites
  • Boat ramp
  • Leashed dogs welcome

What to Do Nearby

  • In the reservoir itself, you can go boating, swimming, or water skiing. Zoom along clear, cold waters while surrounded by imposing peaks and under a bright blue sky.  
  • Fishing is abundant in the reservoir as well as nearby rivers with populations of cutthroat, rainbow, and brown trout. Fryingpan River, flowing below Ruedi Dam, is specifically renowned for its abundant fly-fishing.
  • The nearby Roaring Fork River drops over 6,000 ft. in elevation in just 70 miles, making it ideal for whitewater rafting! There are whitewater trips available here from class II-V. The river is called “Thunder River” in the Ute language due to the roaring sound the river makes during the spring.
  • For hikers and bikers, many trails will lead you toward incredible scenery. Ruedi Trail, north of the reservoir, climbs 3,000 feet in elevation to a fantastic panorama view on the top of Red Table Mountain. There is also a Jeep Trail nearby, as well as a boat ramp.

How to Get There

Take I-70 from the east or west to Glenwood Springs (stop here to take a dip in the largest hot springs mineral pool in the world – we’ve also got a few more suggestions in our Colorado weekend getaway guide). Turn south on CO-82. Turn east at Basalt onto Frying Pan Road to your destination in Eagle County. 

South Mineral Campground

Turquoise lakes sparking under brilliant green hills against sheer rock walls welcome you to South Mineral Campground. Nearby cliffs of contrasting reds and grays add another layer of beauty to this pristine wilderness area. You will find a calming stream and incredible scenery at this popular campground.

Set high in the San Juan Mountains, this is the last “developed” camping area along US Hwy 550 – aka the Million Dollar Highway – and one of the best places to camp in Colorado by far.

It is also the gateway to the Ice Lakes and the Ice Lakes Basin Trail, a seven-mile picturesque hike through two basins in the San Juan National Forest.

  • Travel Tip: Traveling here in the off-season or at either end of the peak will help you avoid the crowds! 

Things to Know

  • South Mineral Campground is first-come, first-serve. But although this campground tends to be fairly busy, finding a spot is still possible (though still difficult in peak season). If you don’t find a spot in the campground, there are also designated areas along South Mineral Road for dispersed camping. Note that camping is allowed in designated areas only.
  • This campground is located at 9,800 feet, so be sure to bring lots of water, shade, and take it easy if you’re coming from down below!
  • The campground is accessible to 2WD vehicles, though the road behind the site is 4WD only. Driving off of these roads is prohibited.
  • The campground is open in the off-season, but no services are available, and trash is pack in/pack out.

Campground Amenities

  • Picnic tables
  • Composting vault toilets
  • Fire grates
  • Trash disposal
  • Potable water
  • Some handicap accessible sites
  • Lots of shade but also great sunny sites
  • Some large parking areas
  • Creek-site real estate

What to Do Nearby

  • Hike to Ice Lake and Crystal Lake via the Ice Lakes Basin Trail, known to be a strenuous, steep, and popular hike, especially among experienced hikers. 
  • A mountain stream with excellent fishing and a spectacular waterfall is also located close to the campground. 
  • Honestly? Just sit and admire the view. Bring a book or a deck of cards (and some weed, because hey, you’re in Colorado) and just take it all in.

How to Get There

From the north or south, head toward US-550 S (aka the Million Dollar Highway) At Silverton, turn west on CO 7/Forest Rd 585 in San Juan County. Turn on S. Mineral Campground Rd. 

Psst: If you opt to make a pitstop in Silverton, we’ve got suggestions for what to do in our Colorado weekend getaway guide.

Timber Creek lake at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
Timber Creek Lake at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.

Timber Creek Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park

No list of the best campgrounds in Colorado would be complete without including a campsite in Rocky Mountain National Park! This corner of the Rockies boasts more than 100 peaks and jaw-dropping vistas. Within the park, there are over 350 miles of trails and 147 lakes. 

While you can’t go wrong with any of the five scenic campgrounds in Rocky Mountain National Park, I’ve chosen the Timber Creek Campground on the western side of the park.

Located by the Colorado River and nestled between magnificent peaks, you can see fly-fishermen casting for rainbow trout or being visited by curious elk. (Remember: please do not feed or touch the wildlife!)

Things to Know

  • The campground is first-come, first-serve, though there are 100 sites which make it easy to find a spot.
  • There is no ADA access. 
  • Park entry does have a fee and may require a reservation – check before you go. An additional camping fee is also required. 

Campground Amenities

  • Drive-up tent or RV camping
  • Potable water
  • Picnic tables
  • Campfire allowed
  • Toilets on site
  • Pets welcome

What to Do Nearby

  • Grand Lake is one of the park’s hidden gems, located adjacent to the western entrance to the park. As Colorado’s largest natural lake, it has a depth of 265 feet and offers lots of recreational activities. You can go boating or water skiing on its forever-blue waters nestled within the heart of the spectacular Rocky Mountains.
  • Go horseback riding or hiking on one of the many trails in the area. You can also take a short drive to even more hiking locales and places to hop on your mountain bike! For trails specifically on the western side of the park, check out the park’s website.
  • If you take your trip in the fall, you’ll be able to avoid the crowds and catch elk rutting season. Wildlife viewing, in general, is a great activity in the park with a wide variety of alpine creatures. In addition to elk, you may see pika, marmots, moose, mule deer, mountain goats, bald eagles, falcons, and coyotes…just to name a few! Keep in mind this is bear and mountain lion country, so be sure to practice wildlife safety.
  • The campground offers fly-fishing in the nearby Colorado River. You can also relax on its banks, or hike to one of the nearby waterfalls. 

How to Get There

Make your way toward Estes Park on US-36 W. Continue on US-34 W/Trailridge Rd to Grand County. Look for Timber Creek Campground on your right. 

Looking for more ideas of things to do in Estes Park or near Rocky Mountain National Park? We’ve got a few suggestions in this post.

Map of the Best Places to Camp in Colorado

We’ve created a map of all the best campgrounds in Colorado! Bookmark this post or save the map to your phone to come back to it later.

  • Camping Tip: There’s a very good chance that you’ll run out of cell service somewhere along the way to your campground. To make sure you don’t end up getting lost, download The Dyrt on your phone before your trip. The free version of the app is awesome, but the paid version lets you find camping from your vehicle even when you don’t have WiFi or cell service, and includes downloadable maps, offline campground locating, and even waived fees on campground bookings. If you camp frequently, it’s well worth it!

Contributor Bio: Lyndsie Clark grew up in Boulder, Colorado as the only child of hippie parents. As a bored extrovert, she spent a large part of her childhood in her head, creating stories. In her free-time, Lyndsie is an outdoor adventurer, music-lover, and an enthusiastic patron of local businesses. Residing in Denver, one of the great microbrew capitals of America, it is her goal to try beer from every brewery in Colorado! Currently, she is a blog writer in the areas of travel, pets, food, self-help, adventure, and in-home technology. 


Are you ready to pitch a tent (or hang a hammock, or park an RV) in one of the best places to camp in Colorado? Which one of these camping spots in Colorado would you want to visit first? Drop us a comment below!

Psst: Looking for more outdoor adventure this summer? Take a look at some of our other posts:

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Our Top Travel Tips & Resources

Here are our favorite travel tips & resources for saving money and planning travel logistics! For more tips, check out our complete guide to trip planning.

  • Booking Flights: To score flight deals, search on Skyscanner or Kayak. Money-saving tips: fly mid-week or on the weekend; fly carry-on only on a budget airline; and take red-eyes or early morning flights.
  • Accommodations: We usually stay in mid-range boutique hotels or private rooms in hostels. We use Booking.com to book hotels (we love their flexible cancellation policy) and Hostelworld to book hostels (low deposit, easy change/cancellation, and excellent reviews). Depending on the destination, we also love staying in AirBnBs. We’ve also used TrustedHousesitters as both hosts and travelers.
  • Travel Insurance: We always, always, ALWAYS buy travel insurance for international trips, and we STRONGLY suggest it – visit our Travel Insurance Guide to find out why. We recommend either World Nomads or SafetyWing for international travel insurance.
  • Vaccines & Meds: We use the travel guides on the CDC website to research recommended medications and vaccines for international trips. We always recommend getting every vaccine recommended by the CDC! You can get them at your primary care doctor’s office or a walk-in pharmacy.
  • Tours: We love booking guided tours, especially food tours and walking tours, to get a local’s perspective and a history lesson while sight-seeing! We book our tours using Viator and GetYourGuide.
  • Transportation: We use Rome2Rio to figure out how to get from place to place using public transit. When we book a rental car, we use RentalCars.com to find the best deal.
  • Luggage Storage: Checking out early or taking advantage of a long layover? Use Stasher to safely store your luggage while you’re running around. Be sure to use the code PW10 for 10% off your booking!
  • What to Pack: Here are the travel essentials that we bring on every trip. We also have packing lists for hot weather, cold weather, and many more. Take a look at all of our packing guides!

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