But if you are anything like me, before you come out, better do your research. Poorly planned trips can lead to crowded camps and trying to relax in campgrounds that feel more like parking lots filled with RVs.
Fortunately, Colorado has a smorgasbord of campgrounds to choose from. You can meet new people or isolate yourself. To help get you started, here’s a list of 30 of the Best Places to Camp in Colorado.
The Crags – Colorado State Forest
Let everyone else head over to the Rocky Mountains. Southeast of Gould, the Crags is one of the state’s best spots for car camping. There’s climbing at Nokhu, hiking and cast flying at American Lakes. The access roads can be pretty rough, so make sure your vehicle’s up to the task.
Camp Dick – Boulder Range District
Adjacent to Middle St. Vrain Creek, the pet-friendly Camp Dick offers dogs plenty of places to run. The sound of surrounding water is relaxing and the water’s a great place to take a dip on warm days. There’s fishing, horseback riding, biking and just enjoying nature.
Guanella Pass Campground – Arapaho National Forest
You’re going to love the pioneering spirit that Guanella Pass encourages. Take in reenactments of wagon days or explore old wagon trails and ghost towns. Collect your own campfire wood in the spruce forest, hike burly trails or spend a day trout fishing.
Mueller State Park Campground – Pike National Forest
There’s black bear, deer, elk, fox, coyotes, big horn sheep and tons of birds. You’ve got stunning views of the Continental Divide on the west and Pikes Peak on the east. Four Mile Creek has trout. Hike up Dome Rock or join a ranger-led nature walk.
Dunton Hot Springs – Dolores
Sitting in the valley at the tail of the mountain range, Dunton is more of a resort with a relaxing camping/tenting atmosphere. A renovated old west town with full modern amenities, the meadowed property has a saloon, dancehall, hot-spring bath house and a private stretch on the Dolores River.
Turquoise Lake Recreation Area – San Isabel National Forest
The Turquoise is a great place for privacy. With a total of eight campgrounds, you’ll be surrounded by a thick evergreen forest, an 1,800 acre lake and Colorado’s spectacular mountains. The 12 mile bike trail starts in Leadville and loops Mineral Belt. It’s an easy trek the whole family will enjoy.
Granite Tent Campground – Gunnison National Forest
A great place for car camping, we hear the river is a soothing lullaby and mornings can be a joy listening to the lunkers swim and leap. It’s said many of the lunkers migrate from nearby Harmel Ranch’s private stretch of the river.
Aspen Campground – Jefferson, Colorado
Within a stone’s throw of Jefferson Creek, Aspen has one of the state’s highest elevated lakes, bordered by peaks up to 12,000 feet high. The campground’s surrounded by groves of aspen and spruce, offering a relaxing shade. As getting there in the winter can be rough, this site is seasonal.
Kelly Dahl Campground – Roosevelt National Forest
Kelly Dahl is a small campground and makes for a great weekend getaway. The majority of outdoor activities require almost no travel as they’re waiting right outside your tent. You can head over to Nederland for some cultural events or the skate park.
Thunder Ridge – Colorado Springs
Located above the Rampart Reservoir, Thunder Ridge is popular for fishing, boating and hiking. Pikes Peak is one of the country’s highest, reaching over 14,000 feet. It’s quaint, quiet and a great place to sit around the campfire and get to know your family better. You can even bring the family pet.
Kelly Flats Campground – Fort Collins, Colorado
Hiking, fishing, outfitter and private rafting, wildlife, mountain biking and trails, and picnic tables await amid this first-come, first-served campground. Enjoy a variety of vegetation along the riparian zone of the river in an open conifer forest. The river flows throughout the campground and there’s outstanding stream fishing.
Long Draw Campground – Roosevelt National Park
If you want to meet new people, set up at Red Feather Lakes or Poudre Canyon. If you seek a little privacy, head to Long Draw. Long Draw promises wilderness and solitude. The area has RV camping. Expect to be surrounded by woods that shade and minimizes the heat. If you hike, Corral Creek will become your spot.
Bear Lake Campground – Sangre de Cristo Mountains
Marvel at the forest of fir and spruce bordering the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. There’s the granite domes and the open meadow to Bear Lake. Set in the southeastern national forest land, there’s an alpine meadow. Throw a line in almost any direction and catch some great trout.
Saddlehorn Campground – Colorado National Park
The masses have discovered this secret treasure, a canyon country outside Grand Junction. Once upon a day, you could be out there for days and not see a soul. Now campers know of the forests, rock sculptures and trails. It’s still worth the trip. We’ve enjoyed nice long hikes on Monument Canyon and Ottos, and we absolutely love the wide canyon vistas.
Vallecito Reservoir – Northeast Bayfield
If your trip’s about family adventure, Vallecito is what you want. Get some fishing done in the quieter parts of the early fall because the warmer months belong to water skiing. After the boating and water sports, trek the Weminuche Wilderness’s scenic and quiet overlooks.
Moraine Park Campground – Rocky Mountain National Park
We like Moraine Park for the occasional mule deer, elk or coyote. It’s not unusual for these creatures to wander harmlessly near the campground. And the family’s going to embrace the lily pad-covered pond off Cub Lake.
Oh Be Joyful Campground – Crested Butte
Crested Butte sits at the end of a hanging valley. Oh Be Joyful is set in the trees along a dirt road. Alpine meadows stream up serrated peaks everywhere you look. Fish on Slate River, take a dip in pools off the mountain and find time for a little kayaking.
Big Creek Lakes Campground – Routt National Forest
Near the Mount Zirkel Mountains, Big Creek boasts inspiring summits. The peaceful blue lakes will make you wonder why you’d ever go home. We never get tired of the two mile trail along Seven Lakes and the opportunity to run into a moose.
Rosy Lane Campground – Gunnison National Forest
Rafting, boating, swimming and fishing abound. Every family site comes equipped with a campfire ring and picnic table. It’s elevated at 8,600 feet and banked on the Taylor River. Get a shaded site under a row of aspen trees.
Elk Run and Fisherman’s Paradise Campgrounds – Sylvan Lake State Park
It’s right there in the name: paradise. Campers love this place more for relaxation than anything. During the summer, hit the waters in a sea kayak, canoe or paddle boat, or just take in the groves, wildflowers and really, really, really big mountains.
North Rim Campground – Gunnison National Park
Out near Montrose, North Rim is unbelievable. There’s epic scenery, especially along the rim with its piñon-juniper forest. Campsites are comfy and small, so don’t bring the RV or trailer. Do be ready to look down the 2,000 foot deep canyon, fly fish and take photos that will pale compared to real-world views.
Cold Springs Campground – Routt National Forest
Southwest of Yampa, Cold Springs’s far off the beaten path, even for car camping. It’s going to be one of most private public areas to find along FR 900. You can’t reserve a spot, so get there early. Enjoy the wilderness, jump in the springs or visit the nearby mountain town for a nice dinner.
Little Molas Lake Campground – San Juan National Forest
The fishing community flocks to Little Molas for the rainbow and brook trout. You can get your rock climb on or take in the waterfall in Cascade Canyon. But get ready to do some real camping as hail, snow and sudden rain are common.
Hall Valley and Handcart Campgrounds – Pike National Forest
Surrounded by a dense forest valley highlighted by aspens and wildflowers, this campsite is high country. The North Fork of the South Platte River is a hop, skip and walk away. Gibson Lake Trail, a 1,544 foot climb, is good exercise and worth the effort.
Belle of Colorado – San Isabel National Forest
If you can take your eyes off the Sugarloaf Mountains and the broad crystal waters, take a dip in the lake, cast a line or set up a hammock. There are less than 20 tent-only slots on the lake. Get out there early because the site doesn’t take reservations.
Pinyon Flats Campground – Great Sand Dunes National Park
Grand Sand boasts the largest dunes in the country. The best time to bring the family is in May when Medano Creek’s melting waters create a natural water park. Hikers love navigating the dunes, especially on skis or a snowboard.
Pawnee Campground – Arapaho National Forest
Recently remodeled, Pawnee has been called an alpine heaven. Just park the car and get to camping. You can take on the tough hike along Navajo Peak or go easy on Mount Audubon, or just do some angling in Mitchell Lake or Lake Isabelle.
Florida Campground – Lemon Reservoir, Southwest Colorado
It still remains one of Colorado’s best kept camping secrets. Filled with blue spruce, Douglas fir and aspen trees, there’s boating, water skiing, fishing and hunting. There’s an old fashioned general store, grilling, trail heads and biking.
Angel of Shavano – San Isabel National Forest
Angel of Shavano is nestled between two ridges. The Colorado Trail makes for strenuous biking. If you have the stamina, take in the trails on Mount Tabeguache and Mount Shavano. For fishing, you’re going to need at least a 4×4 to reach North Fork’s reservoir.
Parry Peak Campground – West Twin Lakes
This is the place for fishing road trips. Lake and stream fishing abound. Hit some of the waters by canoe. Leadville is a mountain bike Mecca. Mount Elbert is within hiking distance. And climbers will love Black Slab, Monitor Rock, Dump Wall and the other great climbs.
This is only the start of Colorado’s campgrounds. There’s Chambers Lake, Baby Doe, Dutch George and Guanella. There are in fact thousands of sites where you can rest your tent, RV or SUV. They all promise the grandeur of wilderness you can’t get anywhere else.
We’ve seen enough of Colorado to keep visiting on our bucket list. We encourage everyone who loves to camp to look into the many great places on this list and elsewhere in Colorado. If you’ve never camped before, we can’t say enough about giving it a try and, if you can, starting in Colorado. Once you see what nature has to offer, you won’t be able to get enough.