The Top 14 Places to Camp in Colorado

Sleeping under the stars with your family and friends is a coveted pastime. After spending the past decade scoping out the best campgrounds in Colorado, I came up with this list of the most beautiful places to pitch your tent (or RV, or vehicle).

About this Guide to the Best Campgrounds in Colorado

Camping in the Colorado mountains is a must-do for locals and visitors alike. In this guide to the best campgrounds in Colorado you’ll find:

  • An in-depth look at the best places to camp in Colorado
  • Suggested campgrounds in Colorado at each location
  • Local tips for camping in Colorado
  • Additional resources for travel to the Centennial State

New to camping? Start with this Guide to Camping for Beginners

best campgrounds in colorado

Camping Near Denver

You don’t have to venture far from the capital to experience some of the best campsites in Colorado. In fact, there are a lot of options for both paid and free camping near Denver. Some of the best camping in Colorado State Parks is right nearby (Golden Gate State Park is lovely). You’ll get a full, alpine-camping experience with these outstanding campgrounds under 2 hours from Denver.

Locally Recommended Campgrounds: Guenella Pass Campground (reservation recommended), dispersed camping at Jones Pass (first-come-first-serve), Devil’s Head Campground (first-come-first-serve), Lost Creek Campground (first-come-first-serve), Golden Gate Canyon Campground (reservation only), Michigan Creek Campground (first-come-first-serve).

Camping in Rocky Mountain National Park

Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the highlights of any Colorado adventure. There are a variety of camping options inside Rocky Mountain National Park, including some of the most scenic camping in Colorado’s National Parks. However, competition is fierce, so it’s best to reserve in advance or arrive early if you want to snag a spot during the busy season.

Local Tip: Camping outside of the national park is also an option, but keep in mind there is not much free camping to be found near Estes Park since most of the land surrounding the park is private. You can also camp at nearby Grand Lake and access the park from the quieter, western side.

Locally Recommended Campgrounds: Moraine Park Campground (reservation only), Glacier Basin Campground (reservation only), Aspen Glen Campground (reservation only), Long’s Peak Campground (first-come-first-serve), Timber Creek Campground (first-come-first-serve).

Related: The Local’s List of Things to Do in Rocky Mountian National Park

Incredible Camping in the Great Sand Dunes National Park

For the most beautiful campground in all of Colorado, head to Great Sand Dunes National Park. Personally, I spend most of my time dispersed camping over staying at a campground, but I absolutely love camping at the Great Sand Dunes National Park. All the campsites are perched on a hillside that overlooks the sand dunes. You can enjoy an EPIC sunset right from your campsite. Seriously jaw-dropping.

Local Tip: the camping here fills up exponentially fast – people wait in line to get in, so arrive early or come during the off-season.

Locally Recommended Campgrounds: Pinon Flats Campground (first-come-first-serve), Zapata Falls Campground (first-come-first-serve, primitive), Great Sand Dunes Oasis (privately owned, reservations recommended)

Indian Peaks Wilderness

Located right near Rocky Mountain National Park and Boulder, the Indian Peaks Wilderness offers up some of the best campgrounds in Colorado. Due to its popularity, this area is more regulated than other wilderness areas in Colorado. However, there’s a ton of excellent camping options that provide a perfect base for the many amazing hiking trails in the area.

Local Tip: If you want to backpack and wilderness camp in Indian Peaks, keep in mind you’ll need to reserve a permit in advance.

Locally Recommended Campgrounds: Fourth of July Campground (first-come-first-serve), Rainbow Lakes Campground (first-come-first-serve), Pawnee Campground (reservations recommended), Arapaho Bay Campground (reservation only).

camping in colorado national forest

Camping Near Ouray in the San Juans

Yet another spot where you can find tons of incredible free camping in Colorado’s mountains, Ouray is a must-see spot. Home to arguably some of the most scenic drives in Colorado, as well as plenty of Colorado’s most scenic hikes, this place is a must-visit for overlanders, off-road enthusiasts, hikers, and mountain lovers alike.

Locally Recommended Campgrounds: Molas Pass Campground (reservation recommended), Ampetheater Campground (first-come-first-serve), Angel Creek Campground (first-come-first-serve), County Road 14 (first-come-first-serve). All sites are primitive except for Molas Pass which has restrooms and water.

Camping Near the Flattops

Located in the northern part of the state, the Flattops offer an awesome spot to get away from the crowds often found in the more popular areas of the Rocky Mountains. There is an array of camping out here, as well as plenty of stellar scenery to keep you occupied. Take note that this area is popular with hunters during the fall months.

Locally Recommended Campgrounds: Himes Peak Campground (first-come-first-serve), Shepherds Rim Campground (reservation only), Cold Springs Campground (reservation only).

Cottonwood Pass and Buena Vista

The area surrounding the stunning Sawatch Mountain Range (Buena Vista, Salida, and Twin Lakes) offers up some of the best free camping in Colorado. The Sawatch Range is a famous hiking, peak bagging, biking, white water rafting, and fishing destination. This range also has the highest concentration of 14,000-plus-foot peaks in the Lower 48 – 14 to be exact! This area makes a great base to hike a Colorado 14er.

Local Tip: These sites are typically first-come-first-serve and offer zero amenities. That means you’re in charge of practicing Leave No Trace and keeping it better than you found it. However, if you’re looking for luxuries such as a bathroom, you’ll find a few options. Most are privately owned and not all that enjoyable.

Locally Recommended Campgrounds: *Note: all of these campgrounds are dispersed on a first-come-first-serve basis with no amenities. Cottonwood Pass, Chaffee County Road 390, Winfield camping area, Browns Creek

best campsites in colorado

Crested Butte and Gunnison

Scope out one of the best national parks in Colorado and enjoy world-class mountain biking with a camping trip to Crested Butte and Gunnison. The wildflower blooms and fall colors in Crested Butte have to be seen to be believed, they are just that beautiful. Gunnison is close to one of the most beautiful canyons in Colorado, the mighty Gunnison Canyon that cuts through the earth with vertical granite walls.

Locally Recommended Campgrounds: Oh Be Joyful Recreation Area (first-come-first-serve, primitive), Cement Creek Campground (first-come-first-serve), Lake Erwin Campground (reservation only)., North Rim Campground (first-come-first-serve), South Rim Campground (first-come-first-serve).

Routt National Forest

Medicine Bow Wilderness and Routt National Forest offer excellent, off-the-beaten-path camping options in Northern Colorado. Located right at the border with Wyoming, you’ll find pristine wilderness without the crowds. Areas of interest include Buffalo Pass, Steamboat Springs, and Rabbit Ears Pass.

Locally Recommended Campgrounds: Teal Lake Campground (first-come-first-serve), Seedhouse Campground (reservation only), Big Creek Lake Campground (first-come-first-serve), Summit Lake Campground (first-come-first-serve).

Excellent Camping in the Sangre de Cristos

Behind the mighty sand dunes lies one of Colorado’s best-kept secrets, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Known for being home to some of the best backpacking in Colorado, this area also hosts a small amount of unbelievable camping in national forests in Colorado. As one of my favorite areas to explore, the Sangres is a stunning mountain range with plenty of hiking, backpacking, and fishing.

Local Tip: You can camp at virtually any trailhead here. Although pitching tents isn’t recommended, it’s a great option if you’re coming from Denver and looking to sleep in your vehicle overnight before you hike.

Locally Recommended Campgrounds: Bear Lake Campground (reservation recommended), Blue Lakes Campground (reservation only), Purgatoire Campground (reservation only), South Colony Basin (first-come-first-serve), North Crestone Creek (first-come-first-serve).

best camping in colorado

Halfmoon Campground and Twin Lakes

If you’re looking to hike to the top of Mount Evans, the highest point in Colorado, look no further than Halfmoon Campground. Similar to Beuna Vista, there are endless dispersed camping opportunities at Twin Lakes and the surrounding areas. However, Twin Lakes is also home of the best campgrounds in Colorado can be found here, but they are all primitive, so be prepared.

Locally Recommended Campgrounds: Halfmoon Campgrounds (there are two, east and west, both have toilets, first-come-first-serve), Twin Peaks Campground (first-come-first-serve), White Star Campground (reservation only), Lakeview Campground (reservation recommended).

Camping Near Aspen

Camping in Apsen, Colorado gets you up close to some of Colorado’s most classic mountains. Featuring some of the most scenic campgrounds in Colorado, this area is a hot spot for those who love to revel in classic mountain beauty. It’s a popular area, but for good reason. Luckily, there are plenty of amazing options for camping in Colorado National Forest land here.

Locally Recommended Campgrounds: Silver Queen Campground (reservation only)., Difficult Campground (reservation recommended), Silver Bar Campground (reservation only)., Weller Campground (first-come-first-serve), Castle Creek Campground (first-come-first-serve)

Camp and Climb in the Cache La Poudre

If you enjoy dramatic canyon scenery you’ll love the Poudre Canyon. What’s so great about this area is that it offers several campgrounds near Fort Collins. The Poudre Canyon is popular with rock climbers and water sports enthusiasts. It’s also a great way to get out of the city and into the wilderness in mid-spring once the mountains begin to thaw.

Locally Recommended Campgrounds: Stove Prarie Campground (reservation only), Kelly Flats Campground (first-come-first-serve), Canyon Slide Campground (privately owned, reservations required), Bellair Lake Campground (reservation only), Sleeping Elephant Campground (first-come-first-serve).

Breckenridge and the Tenmile Range

The Tenmile Range near Breckenridge is one of the most accessible spots to explore the mountains. It also happens to have some of the best mountain camping in Colorado, which is a double-win in my book. Enjoy camping right on the reservoir, or head into the mountains for epic alpine views.

Locally Recommended Campgrounds: Peak One Campground (reservation only), Kite Lake Campground (reservation only), Gore Creek Campground (reservation only), Blue River Campground (first-come-first-serve).

camping in colorado mountains

When is the Best Time to Camp in Colorado?

The best time to camp in Colorado is from mid-June through late September. Most campsites are open and should be snow-free. Keep in mind, the mountain air gets chilly at night and you’ll want to be prepared for changing weather conditions.

A lot of campgrounds in Colorado close for the winter season and only accept reservations during certain times. Before you head out to camp in Colorado, be sure you’ve researched the places you plan on going to make sure they are open.

Finding Free Camping in Colorado

Finding free camping is relatively simple and Colorado has some of the best free camping options in the entire country. We are really spoiled for choice here, and free-dispersed camping is one of my favorite activities. You can learn all about how to camp for free with my How to Find Free Camping mini-course!

However, with free camping comes great responsibility. You’ll need to pick up all of your trash and pack it back home with you. This includes toilet paper, dog poop, food waste, and other trash. You’ll also be responsible for bringing your own water.

There are no toilets at many free camping establishments, so be sure to follow Leave No Trace when going for bathroom breaks!

best campgrounds in colorado

Tips for Visiting Campgrounds in Colorado

When it comes to staying at a campground in Colorado, there are a lot of things you need to know. Here are a few quick, local tips to help make your camping experience more enjoyable:

  • Always check the road conditions before heading out. A lot of the best campground in Colorado requires a high-clearance vehicle to reach or they are unsuitable for those who are towing trailers.
  • Pay attention to fire bans. Fire bans are common in our dry climate. Don’t be responsible for starting a forest fire and check with the ranger station where you are traveling for the latest fire ban information.
  • Pack it out. Camping is increasingly popular in Colorado. Unfortunately, this means many people are trashing campsites. Pack out your trash. This not only means cleaning up after yourself, but it also means taking your trash back to the city where the infrastructure can handle the influx of waste.
  • Respect leash laws. Colorado is a dog-friendly place, but respect leash laws at campgrounds in Colorado. Some people don’t like dogs or even fear them, so be courteous to your neighbors.

Now you’re ready to pitch your tent and hit the road this camping season. What are your favorite campgrounds in Colorado? Let me know!

Additional Local Resources for Visiting Colorado:

Wondering where to go camping in Colorado? On this post, we share the best campgrounds in Colorado, including fun camping destinations near Denver, tips to camp in Rocky Mountains National Park, camping near Aspen, and many more incredible outdoor locations for the ultimate camping trip in Colorado. #Colorado #USA

Hi There!

Meg aka Fox is a 30-something who's born to explore. Her mission is to get you out on your greatest adventure. She'd rather be dirty than done up.