This BLM land is perfect to camp alongside the beautiful Zion National Park without having to share it with thousands of others. We camped on top of the mesa for a week and it was incredible. 4wd trail to get there, but worth the trek. We had amazing views, few neighbors, and were a quick drive to the park for daily hikes and activities. Highly recommend if you're okay without amenities.
Since this is a first come, first serve campground and it's so conveniently close to Denver, it has gotten crowded over the years. The last time I went it was extremely difficult to find a spot so be prepared. Once you are there, it's beautiful. There are giant boulders which make the terrain interesting and unique. The river is close by for tubing, fishing, or swimming. It's a great campground for a quick getaway! The ground is mostly soft and there are plenty of trees for hammocks - they don't call it "Pine Valley" for nothin!
There are a lot of dipsersed camping spots all along Hermosa Park Rd north of Durango. Some are even an hour drive (4WD) from town. These spots are far from one another so you feel like you have the mountain to yourself! Good water flow as well if you need it. I wouldn't recommend it if you plan to visit waterfalls and other attractions in Durango since it is such a drive. Definitely stay more than a couple nights!
We came down from North of Medano Pass through the dunes, planning to camp in the dunes but got down too late to buy a permit from the visitor's center and the Pinon Campground was full. The only other close option for overnight camping is the Oasis. They charged almost $40 for 3 people, one night. We slept sloped and over a ton of large rocks - there weren't any other spots. They are racking in the money at this location, you'd think they'd at least spend the money to level the grounds and put in some sand/remove the rocks. I'm thankful we only stayed for one night.
The actual Oasis store/restaurant on the other hand was super convenient. We had dinner and breakfast there and albeit a bit expensive, still good and all of the staff was super friendly. We also rented a board for the dunes which was easy.
I've camped at Rancho del Rio for both music festivals and on my own. The community there is wonderful, local, and kind. The river is super fun to raft or float down and Rancho has a rafting company where you can rent gear - I'm not sure they have guides though so be aware of that. Radium Hot Springs is nearby for a good soak. Lots of amazing memories here!
Beautiful spots along the river at a first-come, first-serve basis. The more popular Colorado gets, the faster these spots fill up so get up there early to lock it down! Some spots are bigger than others but all can fit groups. Be respectful and open if a group is needing to share your large spot with you!
This is very close to both Williams Fork Reservoir and Green Mountain Reservoir for days on the lakes! About 45 minutes to Silverthorne.
Curt Gowdy is the perfect campground for all ages and all types of campers. The best part is the plenty of activities they offer and you'll have access to. Bring your water toys, bow (for the archery course, which is super cool), hiking gear, bikes…you name it! There's a little store on site in case you've forgotten or run out of something. They have parks for kids and pets are allowed on leashes. Some sites are more covered in shade than others. The downsides are that you have to book to reserve super early in the year since they fill up fast and they only allow two structures per site unless you get a group site. That makes it hard to invite friends to come along unless you can commit up to months in advanced.
You can camp at a designated campground right on the lake, or you drive up 24 and find a lot of dispersed camping available - all the way up to the little lakes (great for fishing too). The dispersed camping is above the lakes which offers incredible views but is first come, first serve. Definitely bring your paddle boards, kayaks, etc.
This is one of my favorite places in Colorado - but beware of the altitude! Drink lots of water, you will forget how high you are and a little altitude sickness might creep up on you, even if you've been here before without issues. It's also very close to Mt. Elbert and you should take Independence Pass to Aspen for a gorgeous drive and lots of wildlife!
For backpackers only - this may seem like a short distance from the trailhead, but it is a steep incline the entire way up. With packs, it took us close to 5 hours with short breaks. The top is at around 10,500 feet. You can't camp directly by the lake, you have to go to the right of the top of the trail. Once by the lake, it's a little hard to see the continued trailhead up to the top of Mt. Herard, but just look for the cairns (trail markers/stacked rocks) that will guide you. Again, the top to Mt. Herard doesn't sound like a long distance, but there is bouldering and scrambling involved and will take longer than you think. I do not recommend taking dogs to the top or children.
We saw all kinds of wildlife, including 2 bears. Be sure to hang your food a good distance away at night or when you aren't around! Woke up to deer, saw plenty of little marmots, the local beaver, and lots of trout in the lake! So beautiful. On the other side of Mt. Herard, we also spotted a few Elk relaxing. Temperatures weren't bad at the beginning of July. With the proper clothing and gear, we didn't get too cold. Watch the movement of the clouds or storms coming in if you plan to hike up Mt. Herard. It could get very dangerous if you're caught up there in a storm.
Do this trip! It's breathtaking and quiet - there weren't many people up there at all for our 4 days. It was very peaceful and again, rewarding. Please note that you must have a 4WD vehicle to access the trailhead either from the North or through Medano Pass from the Great Sand Dunes. You will not make it without 4WD.