When it comes to camping in Colorado, the options are almost limitless. From the valleys of the state’s highest peaks to Garden of the Gods and beyond, you’ll find alpine lakes, red rock formations, craggy peaks, dense pine forest, and wildflower-dotted meadows all right outside the tent door.
While Colorado claims many iconic destinations, Garden of the Gods ranks near the top of many visitors’ lists. The red rock formations backed by towering mountain ridgelines offers a jaw-dropping location for both hiking and camping in Colorado. Head to the Garden of the Gods RV Resort and pitch your tent for easy access to adventure, or opt for a cottage to enjoy a little luxury at the edges of one of Colorado’s most scenic locations. Enjoy easy day hikes through the namesake park, or explore the trails that trace through Red Rock Canyon Open Space.
If wilderness and solitude are more of what you’re looking for, ditch the big city and head for Twin Lakes, the basecamp for Colorado’s highest peak, Mount Elbert. Situated at a lofty 9,900 feet on the edges of Turquoise Lake, May Queen Campground offers both tranquility and million-dollar views. Sleep beneath a starry sky amidst lodgepole pines and spend your days exploring the Turquoise Lake Nature Trail. Ambitious hikers can post up at the Elbert Creek campground and head for the Mount Elbert trailhead to tackle the challenging trek to the 14,433-foot summit. And, don’t forget the fishing rod for this destination: angling on any of the nearby lakes is a great way to enjoy sunny summer days camping in Colorado’s mountains.
Those looking to stay closer to the Mile High City can find tent camping at Echo Lake campground on the outskirts of Idaho Springs, or at Aspen Meadows campground in Golden Gate Canyon State Park. Whether it’s a weekend getaway not far from the city or a challenging and inspiring adventure deep in the mountains, the medley of camping in Colorado has something for everyone.
We visited sites 17 and 19 in the Spruce Loop (sites 11-19, all hike-in up to 1/2 mile @ Staunton) Before I begin my review of the sites, I'll tell you that this campground is very clean, bathrooms clean, campsites clean and quiet. The pit, very clean are at base, and there is a porta-potty by site 14, far enough away from 14 to not be a problem. One issue I noticed is that the water spigots are at the base as well and not at or near the sites - 1/2 mile from the farthest site, Site 19. We had to carry up jugs and refill at night. No campfires allowed ever. I brought stoves no bigger than a jetboil/MSR dragonfly. Headlamps are a must. Also, we went in June and July. Check the weather. We had very cold weather in both June and July, weather hit the low 30's.
Since hiking in, some backpacking items would be helpful in order to make the haul easier. Though, taking trips could be an option, if necessary. When camping with a whole posse of kids, we used a wagon to haul all that crap up (see pics). No problems with the wagon getting stuck. Trails are very clear. Finally, when you see "private" in my review, don't think miles of space. You can see other sites from your site, but they're not stacked up against each (minus 15 and 16). There are no cars or car traffic, so that makes a big difference.
If you're looking for a short hike, site 11 is the best. It's hidden away in semi-private spot. 12-14 are less private, but still sheltered with shade and some boundaries from the trail. I wouldn't have a problem staying in any of these sites. There is a porta-potty across from 14, but not too close. There are no issues with smell. I'd stay at 14 if I had to.
My favorite sites at Spruce are 15-19. They're like bonus sites. They're on the other side of the trees and in their own hidden section away from hikers and trails, etc. 15 and 16 are very close together and are the least private of all of the sites. They can easily be booked together for larger groups. Site 17 (my third favorite and most underrated ) is away from the path and rocky/ledgy part and more grassy, with a very peaceful and private view behind the tent pad. At 17, set up your tent door away from the picnic table to have a "front door" view of the grassy area. 18 and 19 are my favorite sites. 18 overlooks the mountain and has the tent pad surrounded by boulders. This one is my favorite in terms of view. Very pretty. I think it's smaller though. Not a whole lot of wiggle room for active young'uns.
My favorite for size and for kids is 19. This one sits atop all of the other sites and is one of the most accommodating and fairly private sites for families both in room and fun. It's a nice barrier to any dangerous cliffs, etc. And, you won't be bothered by anyone up there. There's nature to keep the kids busy. And, behind 19 are rocks and boulders. You could scramble up with or without kids (my kid was 2 and climbed with some help) and explore for about an hour just by the site. We sit at the edge of the boulders and watch the sunset. You can't beat the view. This site never fails to entertain. The only issue is that it's furthest from the porta-potty. It's maybe a five or so minutes walk down. Never had issues. Posting pics below of some of the sites and 17 and 19, the ones we've booked. I hope this is enough to help make your decision. Happy Camping!
Posted pics. Some are in poor quality. My bad!
We love this CG! It is in a beautiful part of Colorado, centrally located to many attractions. The CG itself is large, but spread out well. All sites are paved and fairly level, all have electricity and there are even a few cabins for rental. What makes this park great is the huge trail system, trails are all around and all at various levels of difficulties and lengths. Wildlife is abundant and the sites themself are well maintained. Each site has a fire ring, electrical hook up and picnic table. Water spigots are nearby, RV dump is included with stay (and you can fill up with fresh water too). They have a laundromat and shower house as well as several bathrooms located throughout the campground with flush toilets. They have nightly educational programs and the rangers have always been polite to us. Firewood is available for sale at the CG entrance.
This is the largest of the campgrounds in RMNP. It has several loops, one is "generator free" and each have their own positives. The CG sits above a couple shuttle stops at the moraine below and there is one that stops at the entrance so you can reach the rest of the park without driving yourself or to connect to other trailheads. It is only near a couple trails, but the shuttle can get you where you need. Each site has its own tent pad, picnic table and fire ring. There are toilets and water sources centrally located and a few solar shower facilities (stalls to hang your own solar shower…bring your own water). Being in the park makes it easy to get around without fighting all the traffic if you use the shuttles.
Great campground! There are trailheads on both sides and behind all the loops to connect to the RMNP trail system. What makes this CG most convenient is the RMNP Shuttle lot is a short walk across the road from the campground so you can hike where you want and shuttle back or vice-versa. Half of the loops suffered beetle kill so they are treeless but offer great views. Some of the sites are close together, but all in a ll its a great National park campground with daily Firewood, ice, ice cream and candy sales and weekly educational programs in the amphitheater. The community restrooms are also flush toilets instead of vault and they have dish cleaning facilities for the tent campers.
I typically visit this campground a few times per year on mountain biking trips. The grass fields and trees are unique in that most desert camping is spent sand out of all your nooks and crannies. The showers are a bonus after long days in the saddle.
The sites all had ample space between them, but no real barrier. There was no light pollution, so the milkyway photos were amazing! Huge sites, picnic table with shelter, fire pit and pit toilets. It was 100% worth the $8.
We had it to ourselves 11/30/19.
This area requires a permit which you can buy at the ACE hardware in Nederland. However, after mid-September permits are no longer required or sold, as we found out when we arrived at the hardware store.
We camped about a mile down from Devil's Thumb lake because we got a late start (~4:00pm) and it started getting dark and cold. We made the hike into a two-day loop instead of out-and-back by summiting and then taking King's Lake trail back to the original trailhead. Beautiful sights all along this path! It's about 12-13 miles this way.
Plenty of access to water via various streams. Did not see many other people camping. Passed a few hikers the second day. Once you summit you can see the town of Fraser and also get cell phone service, but we did not have service in the valley before summiting. Note that it got quite cold this night in mid-September, just below freezing.
I won. Camp robbers (the birds) lost.
Booked through Passport America. Beautiful Rocky Mountain get away. We stayed one night on our way to California. The check in was difficult because only one person was working. After check in, we went to our site high on the hill above the lake. Awesome views and quiet overlook. Since fall weather was closing in, we didn’t need shade but if we had wanted it, there would have been very little to find!
As most of the middle portions of this 9 mile trail are relatively flat, there are many good backcountry camping opportunities in this area. Some are in the pine and spruce forests and others are in the aspens. The best are in the open meadows around the south side of Captain Mountain. A short scramble to the top affords great views west to Mt. Goliath, north along the Chief Mountain ridge, and back south to the Bear Creek Basin. An amazing variety of wildflowers abounds throughout the trail. Water sources are easiest on the northern portion of the trail.
Nice secluded sites up here. Out of the way. Great for ease to hike or bike to Rabbit ears or on the Devide trail. Lots of trails break off of this area. Road is super rutted and rough at top. Not recommended unless you have higher clearance vehicle.
We camped at Vallecito for a week in July of 2019. The water to the reservoir was pleasantly over capacity (a joy after a drought) but meant that the water line was well into the brush making swimming a challenge among the branches and driftwood that would tangle little feet. I saw signs that I assume were supposed to be at a beach, twenty feet out into the lake. I would imagine that this would be a great swimming hole when the lake was at a normal capacity.
The campground was typical for a forest service campground. There are vault toilets and the host comes around once per day. There is a dumpster. There is clean water.
The campground is almost entirely shaded by tall pines. There is a creek that trickles past some of the campsites (which makes for a pleasant sound when lying in the tent at night).
Noise travels over the water and through this area like it doesn't at many other campgrounds. While overall, I found the campground to be quiet and peaceful, neighbors arguing a few campgrounds down, or being rowdy by the fire, will keep the light sleeper awake at night.
There are many RV parks on the other side of the lake (about a 20-30 minute drive from North Canyon) where showers can be purchased for about $5. Call ahead. There is small store on the other side of the lake too, but it was closed when we went trough.There is a camp store in an RV park only a few miles away from North Canyon where a camper could likely purchases supplies. Bayfield has many amenities.
The campgrounds on the East side of Vallecito are all located on a very well maintained dirt road. If driving to the camp from Bayfield be sure to take a right before the dam. We camped in a large group of people, and most of them missed this turn. Trying to drive around the lake will create two problems. The first is the addition of an hour to your drive time. Secondly, a couple miles north of North Canyon Campground, the road ceases to be well maintained (this questionable area is not marked as a road on all maps and is likely seasonal). There is a dirt road that will connect the North to the East--however, but many vehicles and trailers are not recommended to pass through. To drive through it will look as though the traveller is going through at least two different, private campgrounds. They will pass a warning sign about the road conditions, and they will have to go up a steep grade and around a sharp corner. The dirt road is minimally maintained. Having said that, I arrived at Vallecito from the North after and 4 day wilderness trek in the Weminuche, so I wanted to investigate this stretch of dirt road. I was able to pass through with my minivan (nicknamed VanJeep). Needless to say, it would be better to take the right before the dam!
Northeast of historic Downtown Durango, CO towers a mountain wilderness with an alpine lake whose breadth and width defy its altitude above the clouds, Emerald Lake. From the bounty of Emerald lake streams ramble, which cascade into waterfalls, and form into large rivers that overflow the reservoirs downstream. The first day of our out-and-back trek, we followed the Pinos River along the fairly level Pinos River Trail for about 6 miles before setting up camp. There is ample camping space along this part of the trail with small fields opening from under the cover of the trees, which is never far from the roaring Pinos River. In the morning, we packed up to turn from the Pinos River Trail and made a 4-mile ascent up to Emerald Lake via Lake Creek Trail. The trail upwards was dramatic, taking us through forest and field, past a tumbling river with many falls, through heavy vegetation, through a hail storm, and into rocky terrain. Many switchbacks later and we spotted the jewel of the mountains, little Emerald. Little Emerald forms from the runoff of Emerald proper. In its own right, little Emerald is larger than any alpine lake that I’ve hiked to or camped at previously. It is near little Emerald that we set up camp.
Finding a campsite at Emerald lake can be like playing a game of hide-and-seek. A strict camping set back from the water pushes campers out into a boulder-filled moraine where a level patch of ground is not so easy to find. There is no camping directly alongside Big Emerald Lake, whereas the entire canyon makes up the watershed. However, there is a small side canyon towards the northside of the lake where the adventurer can find some great campsites with a little more elbow room. And venturing another half mile beyond the northside of the lake will yield more camping space. The northside will afford the camper more solitude, but it will come at the cost of a longer walk to the water to replenish supplies. We were happy to find our place among the boulders of the moraine above Little Emerald, where we camped for two glorious nights.
With camp set up, we sat still and quite by the moraine and watched our curious marmot and shy, silky pika neighbors pop in and out of their boulder-made mansions. Mule deer silently wandered in and out of camp, foraging on the abundant plants throughout the forest. Exploring little Emerald, we found Lake Creek, peaceful and playful, large for the name of "creek", here in the Southwest. Hiking alongside Emerald Lake proper carried us through lush vegetation, overflowing with wildflowers. The lake surpasses all expectations, surrounded by snowy peaks that stand like sentinels. From a distance we could gaze at a waterfall freefalling off the cliffs high above us. In the evenings we sat by the campfire and watched the sky turn to fire and the peaks glow purple, reflecting their brilliance on the water. Despite the fact that Emerald Lake is a popular destination, we found peace and restoration by the shores of Emerald.
Trail to Emerald Lake begins at Pine River Campground and is approximately 20.5 miles round trip.
As a backpacking enthusiast, I weigh out every ounce of my gear before setting it in my pack. Anything that I bring into the backcountry must carry more than its weight in value, while having almost no physical weight. This is what makes the products designed by Outdoor Element so brilliant. Outdoor Element makes survival gear for the adventurer that is based upon the essentials that we already carry in our pack. Their gear helps me to be more prepared, while carrying less. On this trip I carried Outdoor Element’s Firebiner and Wombat Whistle stuffed with their Tinder Quick(https://www.outdoorelement.com/product/firebiner-carabiner/). . )
The Wombat Whistle is emergency gear that no hiker/backpacker should travel without. While I had the great fortune of not having a misfortune to require the use of the emergency whistle, my sons and I played with it before setting out on our adventure. The shrill, sharp notes of the whistle are sure to grab the attention of any would be rescuer. It is lightweight and clips easily onto the outside of my pack, where I can grab it in any emergency situation. The Wombat whistle doubles as a waterproof vial to keep the Outdoor Element Tinder Quick dry and ready for use. The Wombat Whistle boasts a screwdriver tool for the Firebiner that doubles as a reflector. While the screwdriver works nicely with the Firebiner, the reflector is so small that it would take a lot of skill to direct any noticeable amount of light into the eye of a passerby; so I'm not counting on that feature.
Outdoor Element’s Firebiner delivers on every promise. It primarily served my needs as a lightweight carabiner. I always clip a carabiner on my pack; their uses are many. I used this one to clip on some camp shoes for the weekend. The utility blade is handy. It doesn’t get caught on the assortment of straps, and gadgets that may swing from my pack, and instantly helps to cut through athletic tape, food bags, or anything too tough to rip or shred.
The key to the Firebiner’s namesake and emergency preparedness is the Ever Spark Fire Wheel. We placed a Firebiner on every pack in our household and my son was the first to test the Ever Spark Fire Wheel. The wheel itself operates perfectly, tossing sparks in a predictable arc, which made aiming the sparks easy. Smaller and lighter than the traditional flint and steel, we love knowing that we are ready to make a fire when our matches and lighters give us grief. We gathered the fire materials to progressively build a safe, small, but roaring campfire. Spinning the Ever Spark Fire Wheel, we gingerly directed the sparks onto the Tinder Quick, kept snug and dry in the Wombat Whistle. The very first spark landed on the Tinder Quick which immediately lit, and tenderly encouraged flame among our awaiting materials, until we could rest beside the warm glow of fire. Outdoor Element has provided us security in time of an emergency without requirement me the need to carry an extra ounce.
Fine Print: The lighting wasn’t favorable for photos during the outdoor adventure, so I took a few in my backyard with just enough material to demonstrate.
This is a NFS site along State highway 160 near South Fork Colorado. They have basic camps with fire rings, picnic tables, and pit toilets. The also have food lockers to protect from bears. The wooden site is beautiful in the Fall surrounded by the golden leaves of aspen trees and ponderosa pines. The highlight is the river side location and the beautiful views of the mountains. The site has a fairly high elevation which can provide cool summer temps and early frost even in September. Surprisingly, the site was half full in September. I would stay here again.
Morefield Campground is the only campground in Mesa Verde National Park, but be forewarned, you might just experience a little sticker shot at the price. Cost for a tent site with NO hookups was almost$35 after taxes. The campground does has flush toilets and wifi through out the campground. Next to the camp store are showers and a coin laundry. Each campsite has a picnic table, tent pad and metal fire ring. The campsites really vary in appearance, some are out in the open right next to each other, other are in the trees and bushes which gives you a little more privacy, but most are still right next to another very close site. Some other these are perfectly level areas, others will have you going up of down stairs. The sites with stairs seemed to be slightly more secluded. While it was nice to have restrooms with running water, their was no way to dry your hands, so bring a towel with you as they have no paper towels or air driers for you hands. Water could be found at the restrooms. For you trash you had to find the one dumpster in the middle of the camping loop, but be warned, it could be difficult for some to open. I was a bit disappointed that the campground wasn't kept in better shape, especially for the price they were charging. Several campsites were closed due to needing repair, and the trail from the camp loop to the store was falling apart, it is need of new pavement or just remove it and go to a dirt path. They have Wifi, and said it was better the closer to the restrooms you were, but if a few people are using it, it really slows down. The Wifi was nice as you have no cell service in the campground. All in all this is a nice campground except for the price.
The site is a high elevation site along the highway 160 between Durango and Del Monte in South Central Colorado. The site is like many NFS sites with basic facilities. They have about 10 sites located along the small river equipped with picnic tables, fire rings and and bear lockers. The highlight here is camping in a wooden site along a beautiful mountain stream. We camped here in October before the closure and had the place to ourselves. I would highly recommend if you are in the Wolf Creek area and traveling across Colorado.
We stayed on Piñon for one night this fall. This area has gravel rods and less facilities than the Yucca campground. However, you have large pull in space and more rustic camping. This camp is closer to the entrance and lake for fishing and boating. The sites are basic with electrical and water. The restrooms are basic and no showers. The camp is in a good location to local towns and the highway. This is definitely worth a try.
We stayed here for two nights this October. This is an expansive state park with hundreds of sites and awesome facilities. The views to the west looking at the Spanish peaks are awesome. They have hot showers and clean restrooms as well as RV dump station. The sites have electrical hookups and fresh water with hose hookup is available in the campground. The lake is popular for fishing and boating. They have a boat inspection station as the entrance for ballast water. The park is near the highway and close to the Spanish Peaks area and the popular of La Veda, CO.