The Centennial State of Colorado is rich with various wildlife and diverse geography that makes camping a remarkable experience! From national forests and grasslands to scenic wildlife areas, Colorado has plenty of camping options.
The best campgrounds in this colorful state, however, are the ones that don’t require payment to commune with nature. If you’re looking for a free Colorado camping spot, you’ve come to the right place.
Read on to learn about our various selections for free camping in Colorado!
Free Camping in Colorado National Forests
1. Alta Lakes Campground
The Alta Lakes Campground consists of three alpine lakes in the Norwood Ranger District of the Uncompahgre National Forest. They’re good for fishing and angling, and they provide beautiful alpine and San Juan Mountain views.
Due to the rough roads, it’s safer to go tent camping than RV or trailer camping here. Of course, you’ll still need to drive a high-clearance vehicle to access the three lakes, especially if you’re transporting non-motorized boats.
This free Colorado campground has 20 dispersed and pet-friendly sites, and campers may stay for up to 7 days. Vault toilets are available except for potable water, making this a dry camping spot. Pack in and out as you stay here, and to avoid crowds, come here on weekdays.
Nearby are hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking trails. If Alta Lakes is your winter camping destination, the trails are perfect for snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing.
2. McClure Campground
If you desire silence and plenty of shade while free camping in Colorado, the McClure Campground is the best place. Surrounded by aspen trees are 10 pet-friendly single sites that are great for tent and RV camping.
Each site has a picnic table and a fire ring or grill. They’ll also accommodate 35-foot-long RVs and trailers. A vault toilet is nearby, but there are neither RV hookups nor potable water here.
Understand that this free campground in Colorado is located in bear country. Keep bears away by storing your food and other odorous camping items in your vehicle or secure containers.
3. Priest Lake Campground
Near the Uncompahgre National Forest’s Lizard Head Wilderness is the pet-friendly Priest Lake Campground. In the pine and aspen forests are nine tent sites with each one containing a fire ring and picnic table. Campers are allowed to stay here for up to 7 days.
Just like the Alta Lakes Campground, Priest Lake isn’t for RV campers who seek free camping in Colorado. The reason is that there isn’t any parking suitable for such vehicles.
The manmade Priest Lake offers fishing and non-motorized boating. For hikers, horseback riders, and mountain bikers, they can trek the nearby 17.6-mile Galloping Goose Trail. And as you’re wildlife watching, be sure to snap pictures of elks, grouses, crossbills, and other animals!
4. Stillwater Pass
The pet-friendly, year-round Stillwater Pass near the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests is a popular free camping spot in Colorado. To get a good dispersed campsite for RV and tent camping, come here early during the week.
There are numerous sites with vault toilets and plenty of room for your 32-foot-long RV at the large gravel parking lot. You may not get potable water or trash service here, but nearby Granby has these amenities when you need them.
Stillwater Pass’s shared trails are perfect for hikers, off-highway vehicle drivers, and dirt bikers. In the winter, campers can enjoy cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling.
Moose, elks, and mule and whitetail deer make for good wildlife viewing, but you may see bears, too. Don’t forget to secure your food and other odorous items tight!
Free Waterfront Camping in Colorado
5. Cowdrey Lake State Wildlife Area
The reservoir of the Cowdrey Lake State Wildlife Area is the centerpiece of this free Colorado camping spot. All kinds of boating are permitted on this 80-acre manmade lake except for surf sailboards.
Fishing and angling, as well as waterfowl and small-game hunting, are the area’s main activities. Though camping here is free, you must have a valid state license for hunting and fishing on hand before you arrive. However, campers younger than 16 years old don’t need one.
Tent and RV campers and their pets are welcome to stay here for up to 14 days. There is plenty of room for large RVs and trailers, especially for ones as long as 26 feet. Other amenities include vault toilets and parking facilities.
6. Two Buttes Reservoir
Though the manmade Two Buttes Reservoir is shrinking, there’s still plenty of water for you to go boating and fishing. Campers over 18 years old can stay here for free provided they have their fishing or hunting licenses.
This free Colorado camping spot is pet-friendly and has restrooms, parking areas, potable water, a dump station, and a rifle range. Above and below the reservoir’s dam are tent sites that campers can stay at for up to 14 days.
When you’re not out on the reservoir, you may go hiking, hunting, picnicking, shooting, and rock climbing. Wildlife viewing here is an opportunity to see various animals such as snakes, coyotes, antelopes, pheasants, and waterfowl.
7. Lake Henry
Lake Henry is a 1,100-surface-acre reservoir that’s set in an open area. If stargazing is your favorite activity for free camping in Colorado, this is the place to do it. Best of all, crowds at this family-friendly campground are rare.
The designated first-come, first-served tent and RV sites accommodate pets and 37-foot-long RVs. Onsite is a vault toilet but no other amenities. Packing in and out is required, but less than 3 miles away, JR’s Country Store in Ordway offers trash services.
On the lake, campers can go boating, paddleboarding, swimming, fishing, and angling. Land activities include waterfowl hunting, birdwatching, and wildlife viewing. Besides the many bird species here, campers may see cattle, prairie dogs, foxes, and coyotes.
Though there are no boating restrictions, the lake’s average depth is only about 6 feet, so be careful on the water. Also, check the weather before coming here, as heavy rainfall makes the lake’s dam dangerous.
8. Williams Fork Reservoir
Free camping and water recreation are guaranteed at the peaceful and secluded Williams Fork Reservoir. Pets are also welcome to camp here, but they must stay out of the lake.
A majority of the sites are best for trailers and 34-foot-long RVs. Sites on the reservoir’s east side and peninsula are best for tent camping. No matter what type of camping you choose, you may stay for up to 14 days.
Amenities include fire rings, picnic tables, dumpsters, and vault restrooms. There is no potable water unless campers bring a water filter or bring their own water. They’d also need to bring their own firewood.
This free Colorado campground’s main activities include fishing and boating, and campers may use either motorized or non-motorized boats. Ice fishing is also allowed when the lake completely freezes. Land activities include big-game and waterfowl hunting in certain areas.
Free Camping in Colorado Public Lands
9. Hartman Rocks Recreation Area
The Hartman Rocks Recreation Area is the best free Colorado camping spot for recreational campers. There are up to 45 miles of roads and a singletrack trail for mountain bikers, dirt bikers, hikers, and trail runners.
Other activities campers can enjoy here are horseback riding and rock climbing. Kayaking and paddleboarding are also available at the nearby reservoir. Even in the winter, campers are treated to groomed roads for cross-country, classic, and skate skiing.
If campers need to restock or take a break from camping, Gunnison is just outside of the recreation area.
On the camping side, there are 50 designated first-come, first-served campsites for tent and RV campers. The sites offer neither RV hookups nor potable water, but they have accessible restrooms and accommodate 45-foot-long RVs and trailers.
10. Little Molas Lake Campground
The Little Molas Lake Campground is a free camping spot in Colorado that’s popular for fishing and birding. A variety of fish is stocked in the lake, and birdwatching campers will see waterfowl, jays, and many woodpecker species.
Campers are treated to various first-come, first-served sites in a spruce-fir forest. Four of them are double sites, three have hitching rails for livestock, and five accommodate RVs. All are primitive and dispersed, so leave no trace while you stay for up to 14 days.
The campground has no potable water, picnic tables, or trash service, but it has vault toilets, fire pits, and grills.
Besides fishing in the lake, there is non-motorized boating, but swimming isn’t allowed. Campers can also enjoy views of Molas Lake and the nearby San Juan National Forest and Weminuche Wilderness.
11. Sacred White Shell Mountain
The pet-friendly Sacred White Shell Mountain, or Mount Blanca (or Blanca Peak!), is as dispersed as it gets. This free Colorado camping spot isn’t even first-come, first-served; just come and set up camp any time of the year! It’s popular with boondockers, hikers, and mountain climbers.
The campsites are divided into four sections, with three of them big enough to each hold four 40-foot-large RVs. The last section is at the mountain’s peak, where campers receive a good Verizon signal and scenic San Luis Valley views.
The roads around here are rough, so be careful when driving. We also recommend coming here during the week to avoid crowds of car campers and van dwellers on weekends. And if you need a dump station and potable water, nearby is Great Sand Dunes National Park.
12. Shavano Wildlife Management Area
Another popular boondocking spot for free camping in Colorado is the Shavano Wildlife Management Area. Though it’s not really secluded, the dozens of acres provide enough space and privacy. The area is even big enough for 40–50 large RVs (as long as 48 feet)!
Like Sacred White Shell Mountain, Mt. Shavano is ideal for hikers and climbers as they camp at the mountain’s southwestern base. Campers with Verizon as their carrier get good a cell signal here, too. And besides beautiful views of Mt. Shavano, you’ll see plenty of deer roaming the area.
The roads here are just as risky as the previous free Colorado campground. Drive carefully in your two-wheel-drive vehicle, but further up the steep and twisted road requires driving a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
For further safety on the roads while driving, park your vehicle and explore the area to find your ideal campsite. There are no amenities here, but Salida is only 7 miles away if you need to restock items. The nearest dump station and potable water are also 2 miles away!
Gear up for Some Free Camping in Colorado!
Colorado has many animals and natural sights to behold. What better way to enjoy them than to see them up close from your campsite while saving money? Choose your free camping spot in Colorado and experience the state’s ecosystem in ways you wouldn’t get to at traditional campsites!
For more ideas on where to camp for free in the Centennial State, visit our dispersed camping in Colorado post. Check out our free camping page to discover more places to camp for free in the United States!
- About the Author
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Sarah Keck is a long-time resident of the Midwest and loves its warm and cool atmosphere. She takes any walking or hiking opportunity with open arms and likes to learn and write about the best trails.
Sarah’s first camping experience was her church’s teens’ and twenties’ summer conference years ago. Her favorite activities were exploring the campground and sitting by the fire, listening to the wildlife.
As time went on, Sarah looked forward to camping and other vacation opportunities. Writing for Beyond the Tent has opened her eyes and mind to the country’s many beautiful destinations.