I took my 3 daughters for our first ever dispersed camping trip. I thought it would be a cool adventure as we had only ever camped at campgrounds. We ended up going about 16 miles from County Rd 123 up Phantom Canyon Rd.
We were in a Toyota Sienna which did perfectly well on the dirt road and as others have mentioned there are definitely some rough, wash boarded areas and lots of blind corners so taking your time is wise. Part of the reason we went as far in as we did was that there wasn't a spot to spare. This was on Friday/Saturday, May 1-2nd and every place that could be camped in was taken until we got to an area called, "Glenbrook" elevation 8,061 and we were able to find a place to set up camp opposite of the creek side.
We had a great time and made the most of it, and I say this only because our primary reason for "dispersed camping" was to get away from it all, the people, the noise, the congestion of campground camping. I can honestly say, it is more quiet when we have camped in my backyard in Colorado Springs than the 2 nights we spent here. On Friday night there was an entire group with loud music, hooping & hollering & partying down the road. On Saturday night there was a group down the road the other way with loud music & such. Both nights this lasted until almost midnight.
I realize the negatives weren't from the place just the people that happened to be there at the time we went. That was the problem just sooo many people everywhere! But the area is absolutely beautiful and a great place to hike and explore. We may have to try again possibly during the week it won't be so busy.
Loved it! Highly recommend all wheel, as some sites are rocky and/or steep, but don’t let your sedan stop you—you’ll have options. The place has eyes— but not mean ones. Very likely wildlife (or phantoms? Eek!) and the bears were my main concern, though I didn’t see one in the flesh. Saw old tracks at my campsite, saw waaaay too much scat when hiking around, and in the morning, though I hadn’t seen or heard anybody, there were extremely fresh tracks leading from the stream on the bank. I had my dog and bear spray with me so I felt secure, but in hindsight, maaaybe should consider extra precautions! Like more people or a firearm… still, it’s a special place and I highly recommend it. I went midweek with the express intent of avoiding other humans, which worked for the most part. Saw some humans but campsites are really private and the place feels just wild. Which I dig. Just be careful with your tasty foods! I keep my trash in a separate cooler to minimize the smell— not sure if it works but it feels safer. Lots of birds, no other critters. Probably because of ALL THE BEARS. 🙂
I came into Phantom Canyon from highway 50. I had read a few reviews that had me concerned. Maybe those people don't get out a lot. The road is in good shape. I drove my long bed, 4 door truck and towed a 15 foot pop-up camper. No worries at all. The road is wash-board here and there but nothing major. Plenty of room and where the road narrows a bit to 1 1/2 lanes, there are plenty of pull-offs. The tunnels are single lane, but plenty wide enough for anything to get through. There is nice camping near the creek at 9.3 miles and 11.3 miles from highway 50. But know that you will not get your camper or trailer down there. And you need an awd or 4 wheel drive with good clearance. Rocks, steep drives to these camping spots. This is a canyon where tent camping is king. There are numerous camping spots closer to the road where you can camp. There are numerous bridges, but THE bridge is at about 13.7 miles into the canyon, again from highway 50. High, long and winding bridge that is red. On the other side of the bridge, the road narrows considerably and is indeed one lane in many places. I was quite comfortable and again, there are lots of pull-outs where one driver can pull over or back up a little bit. On a Saturday around noon I only passed 4ish cars and there was no issue. Beautiful canyon.
Overall: Phantom Canyon Road is a beautiful, peaceful location, but a bear came directly into our campsite!
Directions: Very easy to find and clearly marked. There are several signs warning you not to continue on if your vehicle is longer than 25 feet. The dirt road is twisty with several washboard sections, but it's not severely rutted up. I kept it around 20 mph the whole time and was pretty shocked at how fast some people were driving. There are a lot of blind corners and narrow roads, so be careful!
Camping: We found a pull-off on the left hand side pretty soon after the second tunnel. It was a pretty deep pull-off, enough that you could see the front of our truck but not our campsite from the road. Very private and quiet! Nice and level too, with two fire pits. Super sunny and not well shaded- it was lovely in April, but I bet it gets incredibly hot in the summer. Unfortunately, there was a lot of trash when we arrived, which I did clean up. We found some bullet shells and pieces of bright orange clay, which makes me think people were shooting back there. We arrived Friday night around 6:30pm and had to drive pretty far back to find a spot, there were a lot of people camping already. I think the road went on much further too, so don't get discouraged about finding a place! As someone mentioned, there is a pit toilet, but we didn't park anywhere near enough to use it. We got NO wifi or cell service back there either (Verizon).
THE BEAR: Our campsite was backed up right next to a dried out wash. Saturday morning, we decided to explore it a little (mistake #1 - we've explored washes before but not that far into the backcountry). We didn't go back super far, just followed the rocky path. At one point we noticed A LOT, and I mean A LOT of bear scat and turned around. Our dog started barking like crazy and when we looked up, there was a giant black bear high above us on a ridge. It was turning around and clearly uninterested in us, but we hurried back to our campsite - the bear was probably less than a quarter mile away from it. A few hours later when we were hanging out at the campsite just reading (we should've left immediately), our dog started growling. We looked up and there was the bear, standing at the edge of the wash. O_O We didn't have any food or trash out (we ALWAYS keep all of that locked away in our truck unless we are actively cooking/eating). The bear wasn't acting aggressively, but it wasn't leaving either. I kept talking to it, making myself appear larger, moving slowly as we packed up and got the heck out of there (we had to take our giant awning apart while the bear watched us curiously the whole time, omg).
Just be aware if you camp here that there are bears around! Not only is it their home, but all of the trash we picked up from that campsite upon arrival makes me think that they're starting to become habituated to the area since people are so trashy (a few other reviews mention finding trash at their sites as well). I will DEFINITELY be picking up some bear spray and bringing it with me from now on. Be safe and PACK YOUR TRASH OUT!!!
I was nervous about going here in my Nissan Versa because I had read it was a 4 wheel drive road on several sites, however I was also optimistic after speaking to someone at Canon City because they mentioned I would have no issue.
Driving down to this campsite I was happy to have a small car because the road is very narrow to say the least. I cannot imagine the feeling of driving a large rig here. Just before you enter the camping area you encounter an old rail style tunnel cut right out of the mountain and it is one of those things you just have to get a picture of because it is so cool, but on the same token you kind of hold your breathe while navigating through because you can reach out and touch the sides almost.
I did notice there were a few sections that had I have not been going very slowly could have ended very badly for my small car, dips that appear out of nowhere if you are going to fast.
By the time I arrived at the camping location I was looking for, I noticed that other campers had built rocky fire rings so I found one of those and set up so I could begin to explore the area. The ground was not super even but also not something I couldn’t overcome with a little quick clearing. My site was in a full sun area, it looked like most of the other sites were similar.
This area is so interesting to explore there are a few signs about the railroad tunnels a lot of desert like mountain terrain. I found it interesting to hike around this area and saw that there had been several different animals to which I didn’t have the knowledge of the scat to know what they were.
When hiking I did notice that there is a restroom about 3 miles into the BLM area, I wasn’t aware the campsite had access to a toilet of any kind so this was a pleasant surprise and though it was a vault toilet it was a great find on my little hike.
I did notice there were just beyond the restrooms more camping sites and also what looked to be an area which people probably do a little recreational 4 wheeling. Deep ruts were in these areas and I was very happy that up higher where I had set up this was not the condition of the camp.
I made it back to my camp and settled in making sure to not leave any food items out in the open overnight because I wasn’t trying to welcome animals into my camp. By nightfall it was quiet with only some animal noises in the distance sounding like coyotes. It was a bit surreal how silent it was here.
By far our favorite campsite to date! we lucked out and snagged a place right by the creek. Fantastic location! Even did some hiking while there.
love phantom canyon road. there are lots of options within the first 16 miles or so. don’t get impatient, the further down the road you go the better the spots (and further from road traffIc) my pictures are from a site after the second tunnel. all shade, you walk over a little creek to set up tent!
Beautiful spots along Phantom Canyon Road, but most are taken unless you get there before the crowds. Sites are pretty unmanaged, fire pits are at most of the well used spots. People leave sites trashed and full of broken bottles. Lots of bugs last year. (more so then the year before by 10x at least). There are two stops along the road with vault toilets that I would not recommend using. If you get a decent spot it is beautiful and quite at night. The road is unpaved and many of the sites require going down roads that are best left to 4x4s. Small creek runs though or near most sites. Best suited for smaller groups.
Free BLM sites along Phantom Canyon Road, an hour outside Colorado Springs. Small creek that follows the road to camp along. Pre-existing fire rings. The sites were well used but sadly had a good bit of trash left from the previous occupants. Not much traffic on the road so it was a peaceful night.