Classic Colorado beauty close to Denver

There are some excellent trails starting very close to the campground, many going along the continental divide. This is a small campground that will fill up nearly every day since it’s so beautiful here all year. You can reserve in advance; do so if possible. Water and vault toilets are provided, you can buy firewood, and the site is nice and basic. Sites are pretty private thanks to underbrush and the little creek adds a lot to the charm of this campsite.

Amazing campground near Steamboat Rock river horseshoe

This site is pretty central in the whole Dinosaur National Park geography about an hour from the main visitor center. We definitely needed a high clearance vehicle for the dirt road to get to it but evidently the road conditions vary a bit season to season and year to year, so call the rangers to check. This is tent-only no reservations and there are water, toilets, and designated camp sites, making it a remote frontcountry style campground. I’m not sure where you could go instead if it fills up since it’s in the middle of the park, but it was only 3/4 or so full in early spring. The absolutely beautiful cliffs and water make this campsite memorable and the other nearby areas in Dinosaur (petroglyphs, cave, fossils) make it exceptional.

Pawnee Grasslands

This is the only campground in Pawnee National Grasslands, though you can also camp almost anywhere along public land (get a free map from the ranger office or online). This is the beginning and end of the Pawnee birding driving tour and less than an hour from the Buttes themselves. The campground is fairly open but shady. It was empty when I went in late spring (peak birding season). There are bathrooms & water, large cooking pavilions, short hiking trails, a stream, a baseball diamond, and a “museum” showing some historic farm equipment (it’s outdoors and there isn’t too much info, still neat though). There are no stores in this area at all so make sure you have what you need before venturing out.

Pawnee Grasslands

This is the only campground in Pawnee National Grasslands, though you can also camp almost anywhere along public land (get a free map from the ranger office or online). This is the beginning and end of the Pawnee birding driving tour and less than an hour from the Buttes themselves. The campground is fairly open but shady. It was empty when I went in late spring (peak birding season). There are bathrooms & water, large cooking pavilions, short hiking trails, a stream, a baseball diamond, and a “museum” showing some historic farm equipment (it’s outdoors and there isn’t too much info, still neat though). There are no stores in this area at all so make sure you have what you need before venturing out.

National Forest primitive camping with no reservations

This is a pretty short drive from Boulder (or Denver) but since you can’t make reservations at this small site (15-20 sites), so plan to get there as soon as you can after it opens. The site is lovely and right along lakes with snow-capped peaks in the distance. A friend said she saw moose and beavers in this lake but I’ve only ever seen deer. There are vault toilets but no water so bring some and/or treatment methods.

Charming Alamosa camping

We came and camped here for the crane festival. We absolutely loved the state park’s diverse ecosystems and camping here. The campground is very open which means you can most likely see your neighbors but you can definitely see the lake, the dunes, and the mountains. The tent areas had the cute retro shade/wind blocks we’ve seen around the southwest. Surreally beautiful just like the rest of the valley.

Waterfalls next to Sand Dunes National Park

The falls are beautiful in winter but the campground isn’t open then (in winter you’ll need a 4WD vehicle to get to the trailhead, or just walk further). The road is rough and I’m not sure RVs or campers could make it, but sedans are fine most of the year. The trails aren’t very long but they’re fantastic both for the views of the National Park, valley, and the waterfall. Camping here is very basic, meaning minimal facilities (vault toilets, byo water/treatment), no reservations, no caretaker, about 20 parking/camping sites, low cost.

Tons of camping options

The views, wildlife, and geology in the park are astounding---add to that the yellow aspens in the fall and you have classic Colorado camping not far from Denver. There are a lot of different options: typical state park camp sites, cabins, and a yurt, as well as backpacking/backcountry sites. We did the yurt in the winter and it was amazing, but make sure you have a jeep (or similar) and bring everything you need.

Excellent state park not far from Front Range

One of the best State Parks for fall foliage! A huge criss-cross of trails to choose from with Pikes Peak views, yellow aspen, wildlife. We’ve only done the walk-in campgrounds (there are also backpacking sites), all of them were nice and simple, clean and quiet. They provide bear boxes but we’ve never seen any here. Worth the drive from Denver. If you’re into fossils and natural history, check out the Florissant Fossil Beds National Park while you’re in the area (petrified redwoods).

Pine Cove Campground on Dillon Reservoir

This camp is along the Dillon Reservoir & close to town. I camp here sometimes when I visit Keystone for work. This site is a great base camp for the hiking and town life in Summit County, but you can also take a kayak or boat out on the reservoir, setting in right next to your tent. The camp sites are right along the water and the views are exceptional, even though you’re close to all the amenities of Frisco. The sites are close together and open---no privacy. Very basic facilities. Lots of RVs here. There are no reservations but there are a lot of other campgrounds in the area if this one happens to be full.

Lovely site near sheep...maybe...

This is closest to Sheep Lakes you can camp if you’re hoping to see sheep (we’ve never seen them at Sheep Lakes though). You will definitely see elk everywhere. I like the walk-to sites across across the little river. You absolutely need reservations in the summer and into fall (for the elk rut). Lovely wooded area with great views everywhere. This is probably the closest campground to town and grocery.

Great aspens in the fall

You can drive up to this campground and it’s a primitive site (vault toilets, minimal water). Amazing views of the lake, Collegiate Peaks, Continental Divide, the valley, wildlife. It’s a great base camp for some serious day hikes and 14ers. Thankfully you can only use human-powered boats on the lake, so bring a kayak if you have one. You need to take a dirt road to get to the campground but it’s accessible to sedans unless there’s been a lot of heavy rain/snowmelt. There are no reservations so get there early in the summer. All the sites seemed to be equally beautiful, ours had phenomenal views even though though it seemed a little close to our neighbors. Buena Vista is not pronounced the way you expect :)

Great aspens in fall

You can drive up to this campground and it’s a primitive site (vault toilets, minimal water). Amazing views of the lake, Collegiate Peaks, Continental Divide, the valley, wildlife. It’s a great base camp for some serious day hikes and 14ers. Thankfully you can only use human-powered boats on the lake, so bring a kayak if you have one. You need to take a dirt road to get to the campground but it’s accessible to sedans unless there’s been a lot of heavy rain/snowmelt. There are no reservations so get there early in the summer. All the sites seemed to be equally beautiful, ours had phenomenal views even though though it seemed a little close to our neighbors. Buena Vista is not pronounced the way you expect :)

Rafting and hiking

We camped here after going on a rafting trip. The Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area has a number of campsites along the river. We only ended up at Five Points because it was the first one we found that was available in July. The campsites are all very open (not private) but have nice views along this small canyon. There are vault toilets but bring your own water and/or plan to treat the water from the creek. Great stargazing and convenient to lots of hiking trails and rafting outfitters, but not close to towns. I highly recommend you look up directions and/or GPS coordinates (38 27.1043 N 105 29.3542 W) on the CO State Park site, as your mapping app will take you to the ranger office instead of the campground (but of course you’ll find awesome information about the region at the ranger office!).

Longs Peak Campground

This review is for the Longs Peak Campground, not the backcountry sites…since this is not a backpacking site :) This is one of two campgrounds in Rocky Mountain National Park that does not take reservations. It’s not open in winter. Whether you’re planning a big summit hike of Longs Peak or just doing day hikes in the area, this is an amazing high altitude campground. Unfortunately there’s a neighboring (non-NPS) camp that is very loud and depending on the day and time of year it can ruin the atmosphere. The NPS rangers sympathize with us campers but there’s nothing they can do. Simple amenities and lovely setting.

West side

This is one of two campgrounds in Rocky Mountain National Park that does not take reservations. It’s not open in winter. If you’re coming from Denver this is a very long drive (especially if you’re stopping to look around a bit) and you will most likely not get a walk-up spot in summer. There are more moose here than at the other campgrounds in the park. We’ve stayed in the C and D loops and both are amazing especially with bright yellow Aspen in the fall.

Close to the big one!

This is one of two campgrounds in Rocky Mountain National Park that does not take reservations. It’s not open in winter. Whether you’re planning a big summit hike of Longs Peak or just doing day hikes in the area, this is an amazing high altitude campground. Unfortunately there’s a neighboring (non-NPS) camp that is very loud and depending on the day and time of year it can ruin the atmosphere. The NPS rangers sympathize with us campers but there’s nothing they can do. Simple amenities and lovely setting.

True nature experience

This is on the edge of the main part of Medicine Bow National forest, not too far from interstate 80. The Medicine Bow river runs through camp. Make sure to get a map (or download) so you can get around all the paved and dirt roads around here. Apparently this is a great area for ATVs but we didn’t see or hear any in use. You can catch views of Elk Mountain (?) and even the Rockies from around here. There is good hiking nearby but not really at the campground. The campground is wooded but sites aren’t too shady. Nice low key simple spot. No reservations but don’t worry about not getting a site.

Amazing part of Medicine Bow

Small site with incredible scenery and stargazing. As if the views weren’t enough, all of the campsites (to my knowledge) are very close to the water. We enjoyed kayaking around the lake and hiking nearby on the CDT. There are vault toilets but not much else…perfect!

Amazing part of Medicine Bow

Small site with incredible scenery and stargazing. As if the views weren’t enough, all of the campsites (to my knowledge) are very close to the water. We enjoyed kayaking around the lake and hiking nearby on the CDT. There are vault toilets but not much else…perfect!