Great dispersed sites

So I’m not totally sure where Buckhorn Canyon campground is…I don’t even see it on the forest service map. There’s a lot of really great dispersed campsites off of Buckhorn Road though. If you turn off Buckhorn Road onto 513, you will find a long dirt road with dispersed campsites - no bathroom, water, or tables. 513 is a long road that also has some dead end routes off of it. It takes awhile to explore and find a site you like but there’s a lot of good ones! I drove up one of the dead end routes (I don’t remember which one), and then parked the car and walked no more than maybe 200 ft until I found a site with great views. The sites already have fire pits created as well, and that is how can can tell it is a campsite. Overall it’s an awesome area to explore. It wasn’t very crowded - only a few people off roading. It is also not very high in elevation so it stayed warm at night.

Pretty good

This is a decent campground. It is next a big creek and has some good 4x4 trails near it. I thought some of the sites were a little close to each other. There are trees between the sites, but you can see right through them. The sites on the creek side were better, but unfortunately they were all taken when I arrived. It has all the basic amenities - picnic table, fire ring, bathrooms. There are dispersed sites along Homestake Rd (703) as well, which is the road you take to the campground. Past the campground there’s the Missouri Lakes Trailhead for hiking. There’s also a whole network of 4x4 trails which have excellent views and a ghost town called Holy Cross City. It’s really just one building, but still interesting. I recommend bringing a map if you go off roading on the trails because we totally got lost.

Kind of boring

I’d say the pros to camping at Beaver Park is that it is free, the sites are large, and maybe 2 sites have lake views. Most of the sites are spaced really far apart too - excluding the 2 by the lake. Cons are that the lake is private so basically you can look but can’t touch. If you continue down the road past the lake you end up in a community, so I don’t think there is any hiking back there. I didn’t try though because I felt sort of like I wasn’t supposed to be there. The site I stayed at was ok. It was forested and had privacy from the road. It also had a lot of good firewood just there, but I’m sure not every site is always like that. One problem we had was that our site had a lot of tree stumps, and that made it hard to park our car where we wanted it since we were car camping. Overall a just ok dispersed site. I found myself bored here and wished there were more things to do/see.

Awesome Mountain and Lake views

This is a really big campground. The sites are big, they are spaced a fair distance apart, and the views are big as well. The campground sits above Lake Dillon with views looking west towards multiple peaks. You can see mountains from every site thanks to the campground being in an area of regrowth. The trees are only a couple feet tall in some areas. Sites on the western side also have lake views. I stayed at this campground in May and it wasn’t crowded at all. It was a little chilly, but the sites are large so really great for car camping. I actually stayed here so that I could snowboard at Breck and A Basin. Much cheaper than a hotel, and it’s pretty dang cool to camp and ski in the same day!

Next to great trails

I car camped here on a cold rainy day. It was a fairly large campground with well spaced sites. Right by the entrance, there’s a loop and the sites inside the loop have no trees. Those sites aren’t very good, but there are better sites on the outside of the loop that have trees and some are along the creek. If you follow the road up the hill on the left there are a few more sites in thicker forest. I thought this campground was better than Peaceful Valley, which you drive past on your way up. The sites had the basics - fire pit, table, tent pads. There’s also multiple restrooms, drinking water, and paved road. The Middle St. Vrain trailhead starts on the west side of the campground. From there you can take the Buchanan Trail into the Indian Peaks Wilderness to access a large network of trails that can take you all the way over the divide. There’s also 4x4 trails from this trailhead too. I was here during off season, so it wasn’t too crowded but I can imagine this campground and trailhead are heavily used in summer.

Idylease campground in Reynolds Park

This campground is actually called Idylease, and it is in Reynold Park about 45 minutes from Denver. You must get a permit in advance from Jeffco to camp here although there is no fee. The campground can only be accessed by hiking in with your gear for a half mile. The hike is uphill on Chickadee Trail, but it’s not too bad since it is short. There are only 5 sites and each has a tent pad and table. The sites are set far apart from each other, and mostly in forested area. There is also one outhouse, bear boxes, and firewood. Campfires are not permitted in this campground but you can use a camp stove. I also hiked the Eagles View Trail on the other side of Foxton Rd the next day. It’s a nice place to camp for it being free, but having to get the permit was kind of annoying.

Just OK

Last October, I was planning on camping a night here or at the campground further up the road (Camp Dick). After driving through this campground, I decided to go on further up the road because this campground doesn’t have much trees or space between the sites. Otherwise, the campground is very scenic, well maintained, and is next to good trails. A creek runs along the south side of the campground, and you can start the Buchanan Trail hike further up the road past Camp Dick. There’s also a 4x4 trail up there.

Smaller campground on Guanella Pass

There are many camping options on Guanella Pass, and I can’t say this is the best option but it isn’t bad. It’s a nice little campground near a lot of hiking and lakes. The sites have all the necessities, are sized well, and are surrounded by mostly aspen forest. I arrived after dark on a weekend and still snagged a spot. It made for a good place to spend the night before hitting the trails in the morning. I did the Silver Dollar Lake and Murray Lake Trail which takes you to 3 alpine lakes. Bierstadt Trail is also just up the road, which goes to the summit of 14er Mt Bierstadt. There is a closer campground to these hikes, but Clear Lake is a couple hundred feet lower in elevation so it is a little warmer. Although this campground is named Clear Lake, it is not on Clear Lake so there are no sites with views of the lake or creek. There is a picnic ground next to the lake instead with day sites.

Not crowded 🙌🏼

What’s great about this campground is that it is not crowded and quiet! It is also about a 5 minute drive to one of the bigger waterfalls in Colorado - North Clear Creek Falls. It has everything you need - picnic table, fire ring with grate, 2 restrooms, and water. Some sites are better than others, but since this campground isn’t very popular you can actually drive around and pick out a site you like. The best sites are the ones closest to the creek or in the southern loop (on the right when driving in).

Primitive sites near Piney River Ranch

So I am not sure if this is still a “campground” as of 2019. It is no longer marked on the forest service map for 2019. Regardless, there’s still primitive/dispersed camping in the area. I stayed at one of the primitive sites last fall and spent most of my time in Piney River Ranch. There was a wedding at the ranch when we were there, and we didn’t want to intrude on it so I don’t know much of what the ranch has to offer. I do know that there’s a restaurant and a store, as well as cabins. My guess is that there is a wedding there almost every weekend summer-fall, so that is something to take into account if you come here for the ranch.

You are allowed to hike in the ranch during weddings, so that is what we did. We hiked the trail to the left of Piney Lake. It is a great trail to do in the fall because it goes through numerous aspen groves. We took the trail all the way to a waterfall area, but the trail does continue further to Upper Piney Lake. The trail became hard to follow after the waterfall area though, so we turned back.

As for the drive up to the ranch and camping sites, it’s about 45 minutes on a dirt road from Vail. It is a beautiful drive, but it is slow. The road is also in pretty good condition - I’d say a 2wd car can do this drive if the road is dry.

Standard Campground, but Excellent Hiking

Brainard Lake Recreation Area has some really great hikes to alpine lakes, and Pawnee campground is the place to stay if you want to be the first person on the trail. Overall it is your standard large campground - the sites have grills, fire grates, picnic tables, bear boxes, and are fairly close to one another. The campground also has clean restrooms and you can book your site online.

There are a lot of moose in the area! I have been here twice and I have seen moose both times. Once was just along the road, and the other time I saw 2 moose while I was hiking to Lake Isabelle. Also, the Lake Isabelle hike is one of my favorites - I recommend coming here just to do this hike. It is helpful to stay at the campground the night before because the trailhead parking lots fill up quickly.

Free Dispersed Sites on Kenosha Pass

This is a pretty popular area for camping thanks to the Colorado Trail being in close proximity and the abundant amount of aspen trees here that turn gold come September. There are 2 campgrounds to accommodate - one on each side of Hwy 285 and they can become rather crowded on summer weekends. Luckily, there is a limited amount of dispersed camping sites here as well if you are searching for some peace and quiet to go along with your camping trip. In this area the Forest Service specifically states that dispersed camping is only allowed in designated sites along NFSR 126 and 126.A on the east side of Hwy 285.

We drove along 126 and were able to snag the last dispersed site late on a Saturday. I would say that there couldn't be more than 10 dispersed sites along 126. I did not drive down 126.A. Also, on 126 you eventually come up to a gate and the road goes through private property. The very last dispersed site is right before this gate, and that is the one we got. This site required some hauling of gear from the road down to the site, but it wasn't very far. This would not be a good site if you have a rooftop tent though, because you are not allowed to drive down to the site you have to park on the road (not all of the dispersed sites were like this though). There were actually 2 fire rings at this site too - we went with the further one from the road for privacy. Overall it was a good site and much quieter than the campgrounds. Would recommend if you are trying to stay near the Colorado Trail or want to camp in the aspens in fall.

Dispersed Campsite with Views - Gordon Gulch (4x4 recommended)

So the Gordon Gulch dispersed camping area has around 15 numbered sites that are ok… but if you keep driving further down 233.1 you will find many more unnumbered campsites. I am reviewing one of these unnumbered campsites in particular, because this one had the best view. Before you read too far, I can't guarantee you will be able to reach this campsite without a 4X4 high clearance vehicle. We got to the site with a Jeep Wrangler and Toyota Tacoma TRD so we had no problems… I can't definitely say a Subaru would make it though. In the pictures I have included a map of the Gordon Gulch trail system. Entering through the Gordon Gulch entrance and taking 226.1 to 233.1 is the hardest route - there is one very steep and washed out spot. Entering via 120J/Switzerland Trail from the Peak to Peak Hwy and then turning right onto 233.1 is the easier option. On that map I have marked the general area of the campsite with a pink dot and here are the coordinates.

DMS: 40°01'18.5"N 105°28'37.6"W

DD: 40.021814, -105.477103 - if you type this into Google Maps it will locate it

As for the actual campsite, it is a great option for spring/fall camping in Colorado. The elevation is about 8,800 ft and it is on the south side of a hill so it gets a lot of sunlight and is protected from northern winds. In terms of privacy, there are no other campsites that can be seen from this one. However, Gordon Gulch is a popular off-roading area so dirt bikes and Jeeps pass by frequently. This campsite is set up high above and away from the road though, so it is really not that bad. Another thing to point out is that this is a popular area for shooting as well, so if you absolutely hate guns it may not be the place for you. Also, as stated before, this is a dispersed campsite the only thing it has is a fire ring. Pack it in, pack it out!

Telluride Town Park

This campsite is great if you want to do Telluride on a budget - it's free. It's right next to the town and is used a lot for Telluride's summer festivals. Its more than a campground it is also where a lot of town events are held and also has sports venues. There's also grills, bathrooms, picnic tables, a dog park, and a pond. Unless you're at a festival, the campground isn't where you will want to spend your time though. The campground is very close to Bridal Veil Falls, a huge free fall waterfall. You can drive or hike up to it, and climb around on the rocks and get blasted by cold water from the falls. It's huge. There's also a bunch of awesome hikes around Telluride - the San Juans are my favorite part of Colorado.

First to Review
Echo Lake

Echo Lake campground is situated off Squaw Pass Rd next to Echo Lake and the start of Mt Evans Rd. The campground has all the facilities: fire ring, picnic table, tent pads, toilets, water, firewood… there's even a lodge right next to it. This is a good campground if you're not trying to rough it. If you're looking for some peace and solitude though, I would not recommend. Being at the base of Mt Evans Rd means a lot of cars driving by and people walking around the lake. For good reason though, because the lake is beautiful and driving to the summit of Mt Evans is a must do. Overall this campsite is at a prime location because the surrounding scenery is great and there are many hikes to do nearby. There's multiple hikes to chose from of different difficulty. Ranging from nature walk status - the Echo Lake Trail, a flat 1 mile walk around Echo Lake - to quick but tough hikes like Chief Mountain Trail, a 3 mile uphill hike to the top of Chief Mountain - to rewarding day hikes like the Chicago Lakes trail, a 9 mile strenuous hike to the Chicago Lakes. Mt Evans Rd also offers great views; it is the highest paved road in North America and from the top at 14,264 ft you can see for miles. There is a per vehicle fee to drive on Mt Evans Rd.

First to Review
Silver Queen

This campground is super close to the Maroon Bells - Maroon Lake is just up the road. It has all the essential facilities - fire ring, picnic tables, toilets, water. It is set in an aspen grove and a creek runs right by it. There aren't many sites at this campground, so I recommend reserving a site especially during peak season. I've stayed at this campsite twice - it's a great spot. The Maroon Bells are super busy during September when all of the aspen trees are turning. The mountains turn gold. During peak season visitors are not allowed to drive up to Maroon Lake, there are buses you must take instead. If you're staying at this campground you're allowed to bypass the bus and drive up there in your own car. From Maroon Lake there is a trailhead. We did the hike to Crater Lake, a moderate hike to a lake at the base of a huge mountain. The Maroon Bells area is extraordinary. This campground is also very close to downtown Aspen - the location is perfect. There are 2 cons to this campground however, first is that it's right next to the road and secondly it is very touristy. If you're trying to get off the beaten path, then this is not it.

First to Review
Buckingham/Fourth of July Campground

First off, this campground is a little strange. It is owned by the City of Boulder so campers have to follow the open space and mountain park rules, as well as state alcohol laws. Only 3.2% beer is allowed and no glass. This campground also goes by two names. Buckingham, the actual name, and Fourth of July campground, the name it has in Google Maps. There are only 10 sites at this campground, but it is free and first come, first serve. The campgrounds only have picnic tables, that's it. There are toilets at the Fourth of July trailhead, which are right by the campground. Overall the campsites aren't much. The only reason you'd camp here is to get an early start on one of the trails from the Fourth of July trailhead, which is what I did. I did the hike to Diamond Lake, a 5 mile round trip hike to an alpine lake in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. The hike was beautiful there were waterfalls, wildflowers, and dense forest. I know that you can also backpack and camp overnight at Diamond Lake with a permit.

Winiger Ridge

Gross Reservoir is not gross! It is an awesome SUPing, kayaking, or canoeing option close to Denver and Boulder. The Winiger Ridge campground is at the end of forest road 359 on the west side of the reservoir. There are around 30 well spread out campsites - some on the shoreline and some covered by forest. It is a free, first come first serve campground with minimal facilities. The bathroom is all the way up at the top of the road. While the campsites are great, exploring Gross Reservoir is the real reason to come. There are a lot of inlets to paddle into and trails to explore. However, there are some cons to the reservoir; there are a lot of rules that are strictly enforced. There is no swimming in the reservoir, which is very tempting. You can only launch your boat at the boat launch on the southeast side (far from the campground) of the reservoir that is monitored by a ranger. He requires you to have a life vest, whistle, and your name written on your boat. Violating the rules is punishable by a fine. He enforces the rules by driving around the reservoir in his motorized boat every hour or so catching people who are swimming, don't have a life vest, etc. So, it's best to just follow the rules here or go somewhere else. Besides that, it's a good spot for a little getaway from the city.

Halfmoon Campground - Dispersed

Halfmoon Campground is located at the end of Notch Mountain Rd (forest Rd 707) near Minturn, CO in White River National Forest. It has the essentials - fire pits, picnic tables, vault toilets, and lots of shade. However, I found the dispersed campsites on the way up to the campground more desirable - they were free, had a view, and had no neighbors. Dispersed camping is allowed along 707 within 300 ft of the road centerline. There are maybe 10- 20 sites - you can see the fire rings from the road. I chose a site about 2/3 the way up the road in a clearing with a view of the mountains across the valley. I could see the back side of Vail Ski Resort from there. The best part about the site were the stars at night - I saw multiple shooting stars. One thing that wasn't so great was the proximity to the road. I wouldn't say the road was busy, but a car does drive by occasionally. Especially early in the morning, because there are trailheads at the end of the road by the campground. You can hike to the summit of Mt of the Holy Cross or to various lakes from there.

Arapaho Bay - Big Rock Campground

Great place to camp if you want to do a hike from the monarch lake trailhead the next morning. The campground has fire rings, picnic tables, toilets, and water. The sites are pretty close together - not much privacy. There's also tipis you can stay in here. The best part about the campground is being near Lake Grandby and Monarch Lake, as well as the hiking trails. I did the hike to Crater Lake. It was 15 miles and took 8 hours, so it was good that we camped near the trailhead. The trail passed many waterfalls and ended at 2 beautiful alpine lakes. It was well worth the effort. You can also backpack the trail and camp at the lakes overnight. A permit is required to camp at the backcountry lakes.