Camping in Colorado is spectacular. The mountains. The rivers. The trees. The snow. The sand dunes. Wait! What? Snow? Sand dunes? Yes. Due to its varying elevations between mountains, valleys and plains, Colorado offers e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.
Camping in Colorado:
- Rocky Mountain National Park is a whopping 415 square miles of mountain beauty. Try Trail Ridge Road, which crests at over 12,000 feet. Or enjoy the 300 miles of hiking trails, lakes, wildlife and more. Spectacular! Buses are available to transport you from Point A to Point B. And if you tire of the outdoors? Hop in your car and head into nearby Estes Park for the day. It’s about 2 1/2 hours from Colorado Springs.
- Great Sand Dunes National Park is a bit further, but worth every mile. This place is flat-out cool. Home to the tallest dunes in North America, it also has grasslands, wetlands, conifer and aspen forests, alpine lakes, and tundra. Rent a sand sled or sand board locally and glide your way down the dunes. In May and June, splash or float in Medano Creek to cool off. And at night? It’s a certified International Dark Sky Park.
- Mesa Verde National Park is in the far southwest corner of the state, but just go! It was home to the Ancestral Pueblo, who lived in mesa top sites and stunning cliff dwellings from 600 to 1300 AD. The park protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites — some of the best preserved in the United States.
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison is known for being “deep, steep and narrow.” This park offers some of the oldest rock, craggiest spires and steepest cliffs in North America. Oh, and don’t forget the thundering river running through this 48-mile gem. Hiking, trout fishing, wildlife watching and scenic drives are all on the menu here.
The US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management oversee more than 22 million acres of land in Colorado. That includes 11 National Forests and two National Grasslands. Federal campsites range from developed areas with restrooms, fire rings, water and other amenities to remote areas with no amenities that are reached by horse, mountain bike or backpacking. Reservations here.
Forty-one parks with more than 4,000 campsites. Many of these include full electrical hookups, restrooms and shower facilities. Some even offer playgrounds, laundry facilities, yurts and cabins. Listing a few nearby spots below to get you started, but what are your favorites? Reservations here.
- Mueller State Park is just over an hour from Colorado Springs and it is spectacular! Great little playground. Visitor center. Tons of hiking. Fishing. Fun for the whole family. Catch? It fills up fast, so make your reservations six months out — especially if you plan to go on a holiday or weekend.
- Eleven Mile State Park offers 325 campsites scattered around a huge lake known for its great fishing. It’s often windy here, so if you’re a windsurfer or sailor, make sure to bring your gear. This place doesn’t get overly crowded and it’s a great place for exploring. COSMC writer Katie says it’s “close enough for a weekend away, far enough it feels good to get away!”
- Lathrop State Park is the only Colorado State Park with a golf course: the 9-hole Walsenburg Golf Course. It also has an archery range and two lakes. Martin Lake offers water skiing, power and sail boating and because it’s a warm-water lake, it’s great for swimmers. Horseshoe Lake is a quiet spot for canoeists, kayakers, sailors and anglers (tiger muskies live here, folks). Both lakes boast catfish, bass, walleye, trout and blue gill.
- Cheyenne Mountain State Park is v-e-r-y close to home and is one of the state park system’s newest additions, having been acquired in 2000. It offers an archery range, 28 miles of trails and more. Don’t have time for overnight camping, but want a day out? Cheyenne Mountain has 41 handicapped-accessible, day-use picnic spots — each with a table and grill.
- Rifle Gap State Park is a bit further afield, but if you like water, put this place on your Colorado camping list. It’s west of Glenwood Springs. The clear, clean waters of the 350-acre reservoir provide some the best fishing, boating, waterskiing, swimming and windsurfing in Colorado. The Visitor Center also serves Harvey Gap and Rifle Falls State Parks.
Privately owned campgrounds sometimes have extra perks like playgrounds, hot tubs, laundry facilities and Wi-Fi. Here are a handful of websites through which you can make reservations for private campgrounds: COLORADO.com, the Colorado Campground and Lodging Owners Association and Colorado KOA Owners Association.
- Jellystone Park at Larkspur recently went from a cute little campground with farm animals to a sprawling camping and RV park with a waterpark, swimming pool, playground, theater, restaurant, mini golf and other amenities. It’s tucked away on the west side of I-25 between Colorado Springs and Denver and in its first summer of operation was already packed with guests.
- KOA Fort Collins/Lakeside is a “holiday” level campground. Essentially, that means it’s a resort. Lake. Pool. Mini golf. Bike rentals. Snack bar. Paddleboats. Jump pad. Private hot tub sites. Train. Arcade. Bumper boats. And lots more. If you’re looking for self-contained entertainment, this might be your spot.
- Cutty’s Hayden Creek Resort isn’t too far, but it’s a lovely, winding road past Canon City and Cotopaxi to get there. Indoor and outdoor pools. A game room. Miniature golf, tennis, basketball, volleyball, shuffleboard, playground. Outdoor movie nights. Just a fun place for families!
- Fun Valley Resort is a great family spot along the Rio Grande River in South Fork. Rent golf carts, paddle boats or bikes. Go fishing or tubing. Play games in the rec hall. Try square dancing. Grab some food at a restaurant or snack shack. Parents can even set kids up with a daily “account” tied to a wristband, so the younger set can grab a snack or go fishing at the pay pond on their own.
Other Great Colorado Camping Spots:
- Cotopaxi/Arkansas River KOA is perched between the highway and one of the most popular stretches of the Arkansas River. Try fly-fishing, kayaking and whitewater rafting. There’s a motel, swimming pool, hayride, ice cream social, art shed, game room, mini golf and playground. Small and close to other attractions, including the Royal Gorge.
- Farish Recreation Area is simply amazing (but heads up, you can only go if you have military connections). It’s up the hill from Woodland Park. This 650-acre mountain resort has three lakes, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, paddleboats and stunning views.
- Silver Queen Campground is tiny, but mighty. COSMC writer Kristal called it “the best campsite we have stayed at.” There are only 5 sites and it is inside the gates to go up to Maroon Bells Scenic Area. That means you get a headstart in driving to the popular hiking destination. It is also on a creek. Just a peaceful time.
Endless Opportunities for Camping in Colorado
Colorado offers a staggering number of camping options. This list barely scratches the surface. What are your favorites?