July 26  |  Our Communities


The Procrastinator’s Guide to Camping in Colorado [Interactive Map]

This post was updated June 12, 2018 to include current information and recommendations.

There are those fortunate people who plan their summertime camping adventure months in advance — clearing their schedules, making campsite reservations, checking the air mattress and tent for damage, preparing their campfire menus, and packing the Suburban with the utmost care and organization.

And then there are the procrastinators who scramble to come up with a camping plan the day before, just hoping they will have a space to set up camp when the sun goes down.

If you fit in the latter category of folks who have spent the summer stargazing rather than calling around to Colorado campgrounds to make your reservations, this guide is for you.

 

When To Go

While you can set your GPS on all the amazing campsites in the world, if you show up to a site on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend — you’ll be in trouble. The where and when are equally as important while attempting a last-minute camping adventure.

Consider arriving at your campground on a Thursday night or early on a Friday. That way, you’ll beat the Saturday morning rush to the hills and you’ll have a little extra time to enjoy nature’s beauty.

If your work schedule allows, escape the crowds completely by going on a weekday camping trip. Understandably so, spots fill up quickly on the weekend. If you’re one of the lucky folks who can take off on a Tuesday, take advantage of this luxury!

 

Where To Go

So now you have your car packed but you have no idea where you’re headed. Fortunately, there are several campgrounds in Colorado that operate on a first-come, first served basis so you don’t have to make a reservation weeks in advance. Some are near, some are far, but all are worth a visit! 

We rounded up several of the best campgrounds around the state that don’t require reservations and will cost you less than $20 per night. Some are even free!

In each section, you’ll also find links to get more information on dispersed camping. Dispersed camping offers sites located outside of official campgrounds but still inside state and national lands. As such, they’re always free and always first come, first served but they don’t offer the amenities often offered inside campgrounds — like toilets, fire rings and picnic tables.

 

Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests

Camping in Colorado last minute campgrounds

Arapahoe and Roosevelt National Forests circle Rocky Mountain National Park. On the northern end, landmark cities include Fort Collins, Estes Park and Loveland. On the southern end, you’ll be closer to Boulder, Winter Park, Georgetown and Denver.

As of 2018, this area offers 33 no-reservation campgrounds. To see a full list of the area’s campgrounds, click here.

If you prefer dispersed camping instead of campground camping, click here to check out a full list of dispersed camping options in this region.

 

Aspen Glen Campground

Price: $17/night

Location: Fort Collins, CO

Available sites: 9

Aspen Glen Campground is a small, quiet 9-site campground set amidst an aspen and mixed conifer forest and an open meadow.

 

Big Bend Campground

Price: $17/night

Location: Fort Collins, CO

Available sites: 8

Adjacent to the Cache La Poudre River, Big Bend Campground offers eight sites — including three walk-in tent sites — and a tent pad, fire grate and picnic table at each one.

 

Browns Park Campground

Price: $16/night

Location: Red Feather Lakes, CO

Available sites: 28

All 28 sites at Browns Park Campground contain a tent pad, fire grate and picnic table. Because it’s so near Red Feather Lakes, the area provides opportunities for fishing, hiking, hunting, four-wheel driving and wildlife viewing.

 

Tom Bennett Campground

Price: $14/night

Location: Fort Collins, CO

Available sites: 12

Adjacent to the South Fork Cache la Poudre River in a lodgepole pine forest setting, Tom Bennett Campground offers ten, quiet, primitive sites, each with a picnic table and fire grate.

 

Clear Lake Campground

Price: $17/night

Location: Georgetown, CO

Available sites: 8

Clear Lake Campground is a small, rustic campground located just four miles south of Georgetown along Guanella Pass Road. Each site has a tent pad, fire grate and picnic table.

 

Meeker Park Overflow Campground

Price: $12/night

Location: Meeker Park, CO

Available sites: 29

Close to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, Meeker Park Overflow Campground is a rustic option and all 29 sites are first-come, first served! Each one allows tents, campers, trailers and RVs but due to rough roads, tent camping is best.

 

 

Grand Mesa Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests

Camping in Colorado last minute campgrounds

Gunnison National Forest is on the east side of the Rocky Mountains and is accessible from Pueblo or Colorado Springs. To the west through Crested Butte and Gunnison, you’ll enter Grand Mesa Uncompahgre and Uncompahgre National Forest near Ouray and Telluride.

This region offers more than 40 first come, first serve campgrounds. To see a full list of available sites, click here.

If you prefer dispersed camping instead of campground camping, click here to check out a full list of dispersed camping options in this region.

 

Cement Creek Campground

Price: $14/night

Location: Crested Butte, CO

Sites available: 13

Cement Creek Campground is a relatively undiscovered campground in Gunnison National Forest with spectacular views!  It’s just 15 minutes from Crested Butte and provides access to hiking, mountain biking, four wheeling, spelunking and fishing.

 

Crag Crest Campground

Price: Free

Location: Grand Junction, CO

Sites available: 11

Nestled on the shores of Eggleston Lake, Crag Crest Campground often has available spots even when other nearby sites are full.

 

Little Bear Campground

Price: $16/night

Location: Delta, CO

Sites available: 36

At 10,200 feet in elevation, Little Bear Campground is on the shores of Island Lake and has 36 campsites, two of which are handicapped-accessible.

 

Lost Lake Campground

Price: $20/night

Location: Paonia, CO

Sites available: 18

A great option for families or groups, Lost Lake Campground is located right on the shore of Lost Lake Slough which offers fishing and hiking. Nearby, you’ll also find Lost Lake and Dollar Lake!

 

McClure Campground

Price: Free

Location: Marble, CO

Sites available: 10

On the south side of McClure Pass, McClure Campground is just up the mountain from the historic town of Marble, CO where you’ll find quaint art galleries, a general store, and fishing on multiple lakes or the Crystal River. We recommend walking through the ruins of the old Marble quarry, too!

 

Ward Lake Campground

Price: $16/night

Location: Cedaredge, CO

Sites available: 27

Ward Lake Campground is the perfect destination for those in search of lakeside camping. The campground hosts 27 sites on two loops, each providing a different view of Ward Lake among a forest of spruce trees. This is a fantastic campsite with unparalleled views!

 

Woods Lake Campground

Price: $16/night

Location: Telluride, CO

Sites available: 41

Woods Lake Campground features three loops with 41 campsites adjacent to Woods Lake in a thick aspen forest. This is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, due to its proximity to Telluride, Lone Cone and Woods Lake Trails in the Lizard Head Wilderness.

 

 

Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests & Thunder Basin National Grassland

Camping in Colorado last minute campgrounds

This region covers northwest Colorado and crosses the border into southern Wyoming.

Of the Colorado campgrounds, more than 20 that are first come, first serve. To see a full list of the area’s available campgrounds, click here.

If you prefer dispersed camping instead of campground camping, click here to check out a full list of dispersed camping options in this region.

 

Lynx Pass Campground

Price: $10/night

Location: Craig, CO

Sites available: 11

Set amongst lodgepole pine trees, Lynx Pass Campground facilities include vault toilets, fire grates and picnic tables in each campsite.

 

Hinman Park Campground

Price: $12/night

Location: Steamboat Springs, CO

Sites available: 13

Located near the Elk River, Hinman Park Campground offers trout fishing in the river, hiking, biking and horseback riding trails.

 

 

Pike and San Isabel National Forests Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands

Camping in Colorado last minute campgrounds

This area is located on the Front Range just west of Colorado Springs and it includes Pikes Peak and the famous Garden of the Gods.

As of 2018, this area offers 44 no-reservation campgrounds. To see a list of all the available campgrounds, click here.

If you prefer dispersed camping instead of campground camping, click here to check out a full list of dispersed camping options in this region.

 

Fourmile Campground

Price: $17/night

Location: Fairplay, CO

Sites available: 14

Fourmile Campground is conveniently located near lots of amenities. Once you’re on the grounds and have selected your site out of the 14 available, you’ll feel like you’ve escaped to an outdoor oasis. The trees overhead provide ample shade during the hot summer days and you can access the trailhead for Mt. Sherman, a popular fourteener with incredible views!

 

Hayden Creek Campground

Price: $18/night

Location: Salida, CO

Sites available: 11

A quiet, hidden gem near Salida, Hayden Creek Campground costs just $18/night which includes two cars or one RV per site.

 

Lost Park Campground

Price: $15/night

Location: Jefferson, CO

Sites available: 12

At Lost Park Campground, all 12 sites have their own picnic table and facilities include toilets, water and fire rings.

 

Michigan Creek Campground

Price: $15/night

Location: Jefferson, CO

Sites available: 12

At Michigan Creek Campground, you can pay $15 per night to camp or grab side-by-side buddy sites for just $20 per night!

 

Ouzel Campground

Price: $18/night

Location: Deckers, CO

Sites available: 13

About 1.5 hours from Denver, Ouzel Campground is a year-round tent camping option with a picnic table and fire ring at every site.

 

Springdale Campground

Price: $18/night

Location: Woodland Park, CO

Sites available: 13

Just 3.5 miles from the Rampart Reservoir Recreation area, Springdale Campground is a quiet campground and the camping fee includes two vehicles or one RV.

 

 

Rio Grande National Forest

Camping in Colorado last minute campgrounds

Rio Grande National Forest is in the southwest corner of Colorado. In the forest, you’ll find charming towns like Creede, South Fork and Pagosa Springs. Just to the east, you can also access Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Out of nearly 40 campgrounds in this area, 30 are first come, first serve. To see a full list of campgrounds in Rio Grande National Forest, click here.

If you prefer dispersed camping instead of campground camping, click here to check out a full list of dispersed camping options in this National Forest.

 

Cathedral Campground

Price: Free

Location: South Fork, CO

Sites available: 22

The 22 free sites at Cathedral Campground include five pull-through sites for cars and camping trailers. The campground is located in a mature aspen and spruce grove along the banks of Embargo Creek with a beautiful view of Cathedral Rock.

 

Ivy Creek Campground

Price: Free

Location: Creede, CO

Sites available: 4

Best suited for tent camping, the four sites at Ivy Creek Campground each have their own picnic table and fireplace ring.

 

Lost Trail Campground

Price: Free

Location: Creede, CO

Sites available: 7

About 38 miles southwest of Creede, Lost Trail Campground is an isolated spot near Rio Grande Reservoir. Brings your kayaks and your tents!

 

Penitente Canyon Campground

Price: $11/night

Location: La Garita, CO

Sites available: 28

Penitente Canyon Campground is located at Penitente Canyon, one of the state’s best rock climbing destinations! For $11, six people can fit in one campsite, or you can opt for a group site for just $20 per night!

 

Road Canyon Campground

Price: Free

Location: Creede, CO

Sites available: 6

Road Canyon Campground is located in an open meadow on the banks of the Rio Grande River. Because it’s secluded its still a bit of a hidden gem and often has open spots when surrounding campgrounds are full!

 

Stunner Campground

Price: Free

Location: Platoro, CO

Sites available: 5

Sitting at 9,700 feet in elevation, Stunner Campground is just west of the ghost town Stunner, CO. From camp, you can explore the banks of the Alamosa River and the lands of this failed mining town.

 

 

San Juan National Forest

Camping in Colorado last minute campgrounds

San Juan National Forest is in the southwest corner of the state, just west of Rio Grande National Forest. Landmark towns include Durango, Telluride and Ouray.

Most campgrounds in San Juan National Forest are large and offer a mix of both reservable sites and non-reservable sites. To see a full list of San Juan National Forest’s campgrounds, click here.

San Juan National Forest does not currently offer any dispersed camping grounds.

 

South Mineral Campground

Price: $19/night

Location: Durango, CO

Sites available: 26

South Mineral Campground provides a diverse selection of 26 campsites for the taking. Relax on-site along South Mineral Creek, take on the Ice Lake Basin Trail, or cast a line at Clear Lake, just a 3-mile hike from camp.

 

 

White River National Forest

Camping in Colorado last minute campgrounds

White River National Forest is surrounded by the must-visit mountain towns Glenwood Springs, Aspen and Beaver Creek.

As of 2018, White River National Forest offers 35 no-reservation campgrounds. To see a list of all the available campgrounds, click here.

If you prefer dispersed camping instead of campground camping, click here to check out a full list of dispersed camping options in this National Forest.

 

Avalanche Campground

Price: Free

Location: Carbondale, CO

Sites available: 6

Avalanche Campground is adjacent to one of the major trailheads into the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. Located on the banks of Avalanche Creek, you can also fish from camp our hike 3 miles downstream to the jaw-dropping Crystal River.

 

Blue River Campground

Price: $20/night

Location: Silverthorne, CO

Sites available: 24

Blue River Campground is located along the Blue River between Silverthorne and Green Mountain Reservoir. The area offers 24 camping sites, vault toilets, picnic tables and a fire pit!

 

Deep Lake Campground

Price: $6/night

Location: Dotsero, CO

Sites available: 37

Due to its location, size, offerings and price, Deep Lake Campground is the most popular campground on the Eagle Ranger District. However, there are 37 sites, including one double site and several which can accommodate RVs, so if you leave at the right time, you’re likely to snag a spot!

 

Elk Wallow Campground

Price: $13/night

Location: Basalt, CO

Sites available: 7

Suitable for car camping and tent camping, Elk Wallow Campground is a quiet, primitive option near Basalt.

 

Fulford Cave Campground

Price: $8/night

Location: Basalt, CO

Sites available: 7

Explore a nearby cave and other amazing trails winding around Fulford Cave Campground in Basalt. Pitch a tent at one of the small sites nestled in this area filled with young aspen, spruce and fir, while you enjoy immediate access to an active beaver pond and East Brush Creek!

 

Lincoln Gulch Campground

Price: $20/night

Location: Aspen, CO

Sites available: 7

Lincoln Gulch Campground is situated in a lodgepole pine forest and offers daytime activities like hiking, biking, four wheeling and fishing.

 

Lost Man Campground

Price: $20/night

Location: Aspen, CO

Sites available: 10

Lost Man Campground is located just outside of Aspen near Independence Pass, at an elevation of about 10,500 feet. Claim one of the 10 campsites available and make plans to go on a hike via the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness just across the road. Or explore early Colorado history at the charming mining town of Independence just down the road!

 

Yeoman Park Campground

Price: $8/night

Location: Basalt, CO

Sites available: 24

Yeoman Park Campground hosts 24 campsites, two of which have immediate access to Brush Creek. You’ll find an expansive wetland meadow, a mature spruce forest, and exceptional views of Craig Peak at this lovely campground on the edge of Holy Cross Wilderness. Dip into Sylvan Lake, duck into Fulford Cave, or take a hike along the Ironedge Trail — all of which surround Yeoman Park Campground!

 

White Owl Campground

Price: $6/night

Location: Beaver Creek, CO

Sites available: 10

With 10 campsites total — nine single sites and one double — White Owl Campground is a beautiful and affordable campground near Beaver Creek and Vail.

 

 

Have a favorite campground that’s not on the list?

While these are some of the best, there are even more campgrounds in Colorado worth exploring! For some more camping options, check out Visit Colorado‘s guide to Camping in Colorado.

 

Is sleeping in a tent not your thing?

Don’t worry! You can still experience the beautiful state of Colorado in one of Visit Colorado’s favorite cabin destinations throughout the state.


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