The Piney Lake area of Vail is by far the most scenic spot anyone can drive to. The ranch at the lake is ever growing and offers a restaurant, canoe rentals, SUP, fly fishing lessons as well as cabin and yurts to rent for the night. If you are looking to spend your night closer to nature the campground is just located about a mile away from the lake.
This may get confusing as there are camp spots along the road that are forest service controlled and have fire rings and right next to that you will find many spots that are in the National Forest but are primitive. The "Camp Spots" that have fire rings are located on the final stretch to the lake. There are maybe 6 or 8 of them. Really the only difference in these spots compared to the primitive ones right next door are the fire rings and the fact that they are fenced in with a small wooden fence.
The upside to grabbing one of these spots is all of summer 2018 in the valley we were in a stage 1 fire ban, meaning you could only have a fire in a permanent fire ring, leaving these few spots the only legal camping in the area. The spots themselves are fairly large, we have put 4 cars and 5+ tents comfortably in one of them. There are no toilets or anywhere to get water unless you drive to the ranch (the ranch is privately owned and closes and opens at a certain time, the lake is public and can be accessed anytime) There is also no fee which is always a plus.
Bike hike fish hunt camp. Little something for everyone! Cell service in and out. Horse back riding near by.
This is a great place to camp. Lots of places to choose from with privacy. Four wheel drive recommended, though. Roads can get very muddy.
This became a favorite car camping spot of mine while living in Vail, Colorado. The lake is situated in White River National Forest and is accessible only for a few months during the summer via Red Sandstone Road. I have seen 2wd sedans drive up this road, however I would definitely recommend something with high clearance and 4wd if possible as the roads up there are not well maintained. There are plenty of first come, first serve USFS campsites near the lake, additionally there are quite a few service roads off of Red Sandstone Road that provide access to miles of additional dispersed campsites. It is hard to find a spot to camp without a breathtaking view of the Gore Range from Piney. In addition to camping, there are hiking trails near the lake and the privately owned Piney River Ranch offers horseback riding, boat rentals, fishing, a restaurant, and other lodging options. This area is also known for the moose that frequent the area, be sure to keep your distance if you are lucky enough to spot one! If you are interested in camping at Piney in the early summer or fall, you may first want to call the Minturn Ranger’s Station at 970-827-5715 to check on the closure status of Red Sandstone Road.