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Roosevelt National Forest Camping Guide

State and national parks have plenty of acres to explore and camp in. Forests are similar, and Roosevelt National Forest has so many acres and so many campsites!

Because of this forest’s size, you have a ton of choices as to how and where you want to camp. Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place to narrow them down.

Read on to learn what there is to Roosevelt National Forest camping!

roosevelt national forest camping

Brief History of Roosevelt National Forest

During Theodore Roosevelt’s administration, 815,000 acres of this land were part of the Medical Bow Forest Reserve. In 1910, the land was called the Colorado National Forest.

Because President Roosevelt worked to preserve the forest, it was renamed the Roosevelt National Forest in 1932 to honor him.

What to Expect

Only Electric Sites for RVs

If you plan on RV camping in Roosevelt National Forest, understand that there are no full hookup sites. Some sites have electric hookups, while even some RV-friendly sites won’t have any hookups.

Delayed or Unavailable Potable Water

Certain areas will have you waiting for their seasonal (May through September) potable water or won’t have any at all. For your Roosevelt National Forest camping trip, it’s best to pack as much water as your cooler can carry.

Passes and Rates

Some recreation and wilderness areas and developed campgrounds require day-use fees and passes. Instead of paying day-use fees, you can purchase an annual interagency pass to access these areas.

The rates are affordable for individual camping, but it becomes costly when reserving group or double sites. Depending on your interagency pass’s status (military, disabled, seniority, etc.) and if the water is off, discounted rates are available.

Roosevelt National Forest Camping

Some of Roosevelt National Forest’s campgrounds have both reservable and first-come, first-served sites. You can reserve a campsite online or by phone six months or a year in advance to beat peak seasons.

roosevelt national forest camping

There are about 53 campgrounds at Roosevelt National Forest. Here are some example sites with different types of camping:

Tent and RV Camping

Ansel Watrous Campground

Ansel Watrous’s campsites are along the bank of the Cache La Poudre River in the Poudre Canyon. It’s perfect for campers wanting a rustic Roosevelt National Forest camping experience.

The sites are wooded and open with wheelchair-friendly vault toilets and potable water. Each tent-padded site has a bear locker to protect food from bears and other intrusive wildlife.

Ansel Watrous has 16 RV sites and three walk-in tent sites and is divided into two loops. The lower loop is seasonal from May to October, accommodating 30-foot-long RVs. The upper loop has tent sites and is open year-round, accommodating 45-foot-long RVs.

Dowdy Lake Campground

Along Dowdy Lake’s shores is a campground with some sites overlooking the lake. 52 RV sites accommodate various-sized RVs and 10 walk-in tent sites.

Five double sites are available if you have more people joining you on your Roosevelt National Forest camping trip.

Each site (except the walk-ins) has electric hookups and vault toilets, and sites with tent pads provide bear lockers. Fishing and boating are popular activities at this campground since Dowdy Lake has a boat ramp.

Kelly Flats Campground

All of Kelly Flats’ sites are first come, first-served. They’re in an open conifer forest with various vegetation near the Cache La Poudre River. If you desire a river ambiance for your Roosevelt National Forest camping trip, book a Kelly Flats site!

The 19 RV sites have no hookups but accept 15–65-foot-long RVs and trailers. The 10 walk-in tent sites have tent pads, bear lockers, fire grates, and picnic tables. In general, the campground has vault toilets and potable water.

July and August are Kelly Flats’ peak months, so advanced reservations are a must here!

Group and Equestrian Camping

Mountain Park Campground

In a mix of an open meadow and a dense forest is Mountain Park. The first 32 campsites are for 35–45-foot RVs, and sites 33–55 are first-come, first-served with no electricity.

Mountain Park’s group site holds 10 RVs or 25 cars in the parking area and allows tent camping for 30 people. Unlike the individual campsites, you may book this site for your group of up to 100 people.

The 55 sites’ amenities include restrooms, pay showers, potable water, horseshoe pits, and a playground. The group site has similar amenities but also has a bear locker, a covered pavilion, and an electrical outlet.

Pickle Gulch Campground

Pickle Gulch is a group campground set among lodgepole pine trees and aspens. The day-use area has two volleyball courts, horseshoe pits, picnic tables, and a vault toilet. This is one campground where athletes can enjoy some Roosevelt National Forest camping.

Large groups will benefit from the day-use picnic sites and six campsites. They’re all walk-in sites for tent camping, and they have picnic tables, a campfire circle, and tent pads. Potable water spigots and vault toilets are shared between sites.

South Fork Campground

Like Kelly Flats, all of South Fork’s campsites are first come, first-served. It does have one reservable group site, which holds up to 25 people.

The sites are non-electric and they accommodate tents, trailers, and RVs. Each one has a tent pad, fire grate, and picnic table; amenities include restrooms, trash service, and potable water.

If you’re a horse-loving camper, take a Roosevelt National Forest camping trip because this is one of a few equestrian campgrounds! Its small corral holds one or two horses, and the riding level here is easy for campers unfamiliar with horseback riding.

Things to Do at Roosevelt National Forest

roosevelt national forest camping

A lot of the forest’s campsites and recreation areas are perfect places to engage in these example activities:

Hiking and Mountain Biking

  • Hessie Trailhead: This 4-mile trail is very popular with campers and backpackers. When camping in Roosevelt National Forest, choose between its four routes for their scenic meadows and lakes.
  • Forsythe Canyon Trail: Whether you hike or mountain bike on this 3.2-mile trail, follow Forsythe Creek into the wooded rocky canyon. This trail is also open to horseback riding!
  • Greyrock Trail: This 7.2-mile National Recreation Trail is a local favorite. Campers (even cross-country skiers) will have views of eastern meadows and high peaks as they hike.

Water Activities

Stream fishing and boating are popular at campgrounds with lakes and rivers. Other water activities you can do during your Roosevelt National Forest camping trip include whitewater rafting and kayaking.


Driving off-highway vehicles is becoming a popular activity in Roosevelt National Forest. There are more than 40 off-road areas and trails available. Use a motor vehicle map to figure out where to legally drive; in the meantime, share the paths!

Horseback Riding

Because Roosevelt National Forest has equestrian campgrounds, horseback riding is inevitable! Instead of walking some of the forest’s trails, ride on a horse through them.

Rock Climbing

To make your Roosevelt National Forest camping experience an adventure, Boulder Canyon offers rock climbing opportunities.


roosevelt national forest camping

Camping in Roosevelt National Forest means you’re in bear country. You’ll need to get in the habit of sealing your food tight and out of sight.

Besides bears, there are many bird species that birdwatchers can find here. Roosevelt National Forest has 10 wilderness areas and certain recreation areas, trailheads, and campgrounds for viewing such wildlife.

Other wildlife includes mountain goats, mule deer, elk, bighorn sheep, moose, small rodents, coyotes, and even mountain lions!

Vegetation and Geography

Roosevelt National Forest borders three major forests: Arapaho National, Colorado State, and Routt National. The forest has grasslands, mountains, rivers, and lakes; cliffs have 14,000-foot-high peaks, and various trees shade the campsites.

As you’re camping in Roosevelt National Forest, you’ll notice various vegetation within or near the campgrounds. Some of the trails and recreation and wilderness areas have wildflowers as well as poison ivy among them.

Camp Your Way at Roosevelt National Forest!

roosevelt national forest camping

A land as big as this national forest will always have something for you to make your camping adventure exciting! And however you want to camp, you’ll have a fun and peaceful time during your Roosevelt National Forest camping trip.

Would you like to learn about other forests to camp in? Read up on our national forest camping guides for more information!