Camping is a great way to connect with nature. With Colorado’s long list of camping attractions with towering peaks, exquisite lakes, and wildlife, you can rarely run out of beautiful places to enjoy a wonderful camping experience.
While most campers want to enjoy an adventure with nature, they quickly find that designated campsites can be pricey. Established campsites can also quickly run out of space.
As a solution, we have provided the best-dispersed camping spots in Colorado. They are free, they are beautiful, and they are in the open!
Camping In Colorado
Colorado is one of the many U.S. States that remain a regular spot for people looking to experience nature. With its diverse landscape that varies from arid deserts to intimidating river canyons and snow-capped rocky terrains, it is easy to see why Colorado remains a favorite.
Camping in Colorado opens you to gorgeous landscapes, beautiful terrains, gorgeously diverse wildlife, and many activities like hiking and swimming to keep you busy during your stay. In Colorado, you will encounter various natural wonders that will leave you in awe and appreciation of the state, considered to be home to some of the best camping areas in the world.
It doesn't matter if you are more interested in tent camping, van camping, or backpacking. There are many campground locations for you to set up camp for the duration of your stay. There are thousands of campsites in every part of the state open to using by campers.
Colorado boasts forty-one state parks and privately-owned campgrounds with amenities like complete electrical connections, restrooms, and shower facilities. Some of these campsites even have laundry facilities, playgrounds, hot tubs, and Wi-Fi.
While this is great, campgrounds like this often require booking reservations months in advance to secure a comfortable space. They also require payment that varies depending on location.
For many people, paying a few hundred dollars in exchange for comfort while camping is no big deal. These paid campgrounds are comfortable and will provide you with the same degree of outdoor experience you get camping in the wild on your own.
For some campers, paying is not an option they can afford to take. This leaves them to seek free camping, also known as dispersed camping.
Dispersed Camping In Colorado
Camping for free in Colorado is easy if you know where to look. On these sites, you do not need to make payments for reservations to use the land or any of the provided amenities.
Free camping grounds are primarily in National forests and Bureau of Land Management land (BLM land). The Federal government owns approximately 65% of Colorado’s forests.
There are 22.4 million acres of government land, with the U.S. Forest Service managing 14 million acres across 11 National forests and two National grasslands. The BLM manages the other 8.4 million acres.
Although dispersed campgrounds are free, they often lack significant amenities usually provided on paid campgrounds. While some dispersed campgrounds own shower and restroom facilities, some do not own any amenities. This requires the campers to figure out how to manipulate their resources to serve them better.
Other than this downside, dispersed campsites are a great camping option. They are safe, private, perfect for outdoor recreation, and easy to find. Signs often mark out BLM and forest land to alert campers that they are free. These signs can be found on highways or on the forest land itself.
If you have enough time to plan out your movements, it might be easier to research free dispersed camping sites close to you. Forest services often provide a detailed map showing the free land boundaries.
Although these campsites are free to use, they often require the campers to abide by rules and regulations designed to protect the environment. Some of these rules include:
- If possible, camp within 150 feet of roadways.
- Don't camp within 100 feet of a water source.
- Don't camp at developed trailheads or picnic areas.
- Move your campsite every two weeks or fourteen days to prevent excess environmental damage.
- Secure your personal property and never leave your property unattended for more than ten days.
- Protect the area and do not litter to minimize environmental impact.
- Use existing fire rings if available.
- Leave no trace.
20 Best Dispersed Camping Spots In Colorado
There are a lot of dispersed camping spots in Colorado. It doesn't matter if you prefer rocky trails or dusty wilderness, you will always find a dispersed camping site to settle in. Some of our favorite dispersed camping spots include:
1. Deadman Road In Red Feather Lakes
Located in the Rocky Mountains, an hour away and 45 miles west of Fort Collins, Red Feather Lakes is an outdoor playground open year-round. Red Feather Lakes is more of a small community than just an area in the Roosevelt National Forest. With its beautiful natural scenery of hiking trails, mountainous terrains, and wildlife, it is not difficult to see why Red Feather lakes are one of the most famous dispersed camping areas in Colorado.
Although there are many dispersed camping sites in Red Feather Lakes, Deadman Road is one of the campers’ favorite hot spots. Deadman Road is also open year-round and is easily accessible by all licensed vehicle types. This might, however, be limited in adverse conditions. Dead Man Road is reported to have easily accessible roads most months of the year, cell phone coverage, and allows both vehicle and tent camping.
2. Jones Pass, Empire
Jones pass can easily be located by following road signs after you get off I-70. The beautiful wilderness scenery is marked by dirt roads that lead directly to the Jones Pass trailhead and camping sites on the side of the road.
Following the initial camping areas lead to more dispersed campsites with breathtaking views and the promise of solitude. The roads are easy to access but even better if you have a perfectly functional 4X4 vehicle.
Thanks to the number of camping areas here, campers can choose any space they want. Jones Pass also provides activity opportunities like hiking, rock climbing, and mountain biking. Overall, Jones pass provides great free camping. Remember to pack layers as it gets very windy and cold at night.
3. Caribou Townsite, Nederland
Caribou Townsite is a dispersed camping area that lies five miles northwest of Nederland. There are 11 designated campsites located here along National Forest System Road 505.
Sites 1-2 are easily accessible and marked off the FS 505 towards Eldora, sites 3-5 lay across the creek in thick vegetation, sites 6-7 are located off the route across the creek in a narrow rocky trail and sites 8-11 lay along the route between Rainbow Lakes and the Caribou townsite. We recommend using a high-clearance 4WD to access the sites.
Caribou Townsite is always in heavy usage, and the camping areas quickly fill up, especially during weekends. It is seasonally open from late June to November.
4. Guenella Pass, Georgetown
Georgetown is a railroad town that acts as a gateway to Guenella Pass. It provides easy access to the campgrounds in this area, making it one of the most convenient camping areas.
Guenella Pass provides a variety of options when it comes to dispersed camping. There are various campsites along its northern route up the summit and on the Grant side of the pass.
Both vehicle and tent campers enjoy camping in Guenella Pass. If you are not into hiking or simply need a place to set up for the night, you can simply pull off the road on the byway and set up camp.
5. Montezuma Road, Keystone
Located in Keystone in the White River National Forest, Montezuma Road dispersed recreational campers mostly frequent campsites.
Although, like many other dispersed campsites, there are no facilities or amenities, Montezuma Road is easily accessible by all types of vehicles, including low-clearance vehicles. It allows camping with tents and vehicles.
Montezuma Road is a favorite because it is closely related to Denver and only minutes from Denver. It provides campers with gorgeous scenery and lots of explorations to enjoy.
6. Gordon Gulch Dispersed Area
Gordon Gulch Dispersed Area is five miles north of Nederland. It is easily accessible by heading north on Colorado Highway 72 for five miles, then east onto NFSR 226.
Gordon Gulch Dispersed Area is often heavily used and quickly runs out of space. There are 15 designated campsites scattered in the area, and campers can only set up camp on these sites.
Gordon Gulch Dispersed Area is easily accessible, provides cell phone service, allows pets, and can be used by tent and vehicle campers.
7. West Magnolia
West Magnolia is a trailhead a few miles south of Nederland that provides eight miles of trails for activities like hiking, horseback riding, and biking. It also provides designated areas for free dispersed camping.
There are 22 free campsites on West Magnolia. Breathtaking views of the mountains surround these campsites. There are no facilities or amenities, and the seasonal roads are closed to motorized vehicles from November-May.
If you find yourself in West Magnolia during this period, simply park your car and follow the trails on foot. If you are worried you will lose your way without WiFi to help you navigate the area, using a Nat GEO PDF Quad map is an excellent option.
8. Bill Moore Lake, Empire
Bill Moore Lake is 45 miles away from Denver and located north of Empire. The U.S Forest Service operates in this area.
To access Bill Moore Lake, exit 232 US on Highway 40 from I-70 westbound. This will lead to Main Street on North Empire Road, where you will turn right and follow the County Road onto Forest Road 171.2.
The road to this area is rocky and steep, with the high elevation causing the roads to be packed with snow until late July. We recommend using a 4WD with high clearance for your journey.
Bill Moore Lake provides numerous dispersed campsites with great views of the mountains.
9. Kingston Peak
Kingston Peak starts west of Alice, with most of the road being steep and rocky. If you choose this dispersed camping area, we recommend a high-clearance 4WD for your expenditure.
The road through Kingston Peak might be challenging, but it provides a great medium to explore your off-road driving skills.
Some of the dispersed camping spots are on the north side of the Mammoth Gulch area, with some being on the south side close to the Loch Lomond area. Kingston Peak is best visited in the summertime if you plan to conquer the trails and safely travel to the camping areas with picturesque mountain views.
10. Alta Lakes
Alta Lakes offers accessible primitive dispersed camping settings in a breath-taking view of the Gunnison National Forest and alpine backdrop.
Campsites at Alta Lakes are challenging to access as the roads are narrow and rough. Regardless of this min of difficulty, Alta Lakes often sees high traffic, with most spaces taken during the weekends.
Alta Lake is easily accessible with smaller high-clearance vehicles, not RVs. There are 20 designated campsites open seasonally with pit toilets and cell phone coverage. Campers have a maximum stay of seven days.
11. Portal Campground
Portal Campground is located eleven miles southeast of Aspen in the wilderness. To access the campground, campers will pass Independence Pass Road and seven miles south on Lincoln Creek Road.
The terrain might be a little rough, but it is easy to conquer it with a high-clearance vehicle. It is essential to note the campground is small and offers limited spaces on a first-come, first-served basis. To secure a great spot, it is crucial to make your journey during the weekday or very early on weekends as the area gets filled up quickly.
The campground is located near a lake and provides a fire ring with a picnic table.
12. Anvil, Silverton
The Anvil camping area is located in San Juan National Forest, close to Silverton. The campsite is nestled next to the creek and surrounded by incredible views.
The road leading to the campsite is mild and can be accessible with a 2WD. While this is great, accessibility is not always guaranteed. It would help scout the area first before driving down the roads.
Avil provides cell phone coverage, allows pets on leashes, and even provides a latrine. You can camp in your tent or vehicle but remember to layer up as it gets freezing at night.
13. Hanson's Mill
Hanson's Mill is located in the Rio Grande National Forest. While it is not a glamorous campground, it is beautiful, comfortable, and offers you a bonding session with nature.
The campsites in Hanson's Mill are on-reservable in a first-come, first-served setting. The roads leading to the sites are windy and steep but easily accessible by a vehicle with high clearance.
There are pine trees in the area to provide shade if necessary. The campsite also offers a toilet, two tables, and some fore rings for free. Remember to layer up if you choose to visit Hanson’s mill. Thanks to the high altitude, it can get extremely windy.
14. Trout Creek Recreation Area
Trout Creek Recreation Area is located about 14 miles northwest of Yampa. It lies along Trout Creek and Forest Road 925.
Trout Creek Recreation Area is mainly known for its recreational stream fishing opportunity. Other than this, it is also known for its four free dispersed camping sites.
The dispersed campsites in Trout Creek Recreation Area are seasonal due to winter weather conditions. However, during their open seasons, they operate on a first-come, first-served basis.
There is no drinking water or trash service at Trout Creek Recreation Area, but it offers a vault toilet.
15. Sarvis Creek Wilderness
Sarvis Creek Wilderness is located in the Yampa Ranger District of the Routt National Forest. It features a densely wooded rugged terrain coupled with a scenic waterfall and meadow.
A total of more than 44,000 acres, the Sarvis Creek Wilderness is a heavy forest home to large mammals like black bears. Campers who set up camp here must respect the area and practice the Leave No Trace principles.
16. Browns Canyon National Monument
President Obama designated 21,586 acres of canyons, rivers, and forests, making it what is now known as the Browns Canyon National Monument. The campsites are off the CR 194 road to the Arkansas Headwaters State Campground.
The Browns Canyon National Monument boasts beautiful views and a large, comfortable, open area for campers. Although the campgrounds are underdeveloped, they are clean and safe. The road leading to the Browns Canyon National Monument is a favorite route for off-road enthusiasts and requires a high-clearance vehicle.
17. Clear Creek Canyon
Clear Creek Canyon is accessible via Clear Creek Road, also known as Forest Service Road 390. Located outside the city of Golden and the Denver metropolitan area, Clear Creek Canyon provides dispersed camping opportunities in the old mining settlement of Winfield.
The canyon provides impressive hiking trails and routes for campers to enjoy their expenditure with nature. Coupled with the ample mining history in the campgrounds, it is easy to see why Clear Creek Canyon is crowded in the summer.
The Clear Creek Canyon dispersed campground is open seasonally, provides no amenities, has a maximum stay of 14 days, and offers tent camping opportunities.
18. Homestake Reservoir Road
Homestake Reservoir Road is located in the White River National Forest. Campers can access the campgrounds off U.S. Highway 24 north of Tennessee Pass.
The Homestake Reservoir Road is bordered by the wilderness and offers many sites for campers to pull off to the roadside. The roads are mainly easily accessible dirt roads that fit most types of rugged vehicles.
Homestake Reservoir Road dispersed campsites can be accessed by truck - for truck bed and rooftop tent campers - and conventional tent campers. Although there are no amenities, it makes up for this with its striking views.
19. Mount Herman Road
Mount Herman is a hiking trail close to Monument. The Mount Herman Road trail begins at a small parking area on a switchback on Forest Service Road #320. The roads are moderately accessible and always used by campers.
Not many people camp on Mount Herman Road as it isn't very popular. However, it is pet-friendly, fun to hike, and offers a mind-blowing view. You don't require a parking pass to set up camp on Mount Herman Road. While there is no room for RVs, you can hike a bit off the road to set up camp.
20. Unaweep Canyon
Unaweep Canyon offers a spectacular view of rocky mountains and a sweep of beautiful pine forests. The Unaweep Canyon is mindblowing as it is the only canyon in the world with a divide in the middle and streams running out of both ends in opposite directions.
Unaweep’s high elevation makes it a cooler camping spot, but this is nothing a few layers of clothing cannot solve. Essentially, Unaweep Canyon is one of the best camping spots in Colorado.
Choosing The Perfect Dispersed Camping Spot
If you find yourself camping in Colorado, be rest assured that there are more than enough dispersed camping sites you can set camp in. These camping spots are designated spaces that will offer comfort and help you save money as you enjoy your camping expenditures.
When choosing dispersed camping spots, choose one that aligns with your camping preference, location, and vehicle. Remember to pack your boondocking essentials and always practice the Leave No Trace Principles.
If you are looking for even more beautiful places to enjoy spring camping across the U.S.A, check out our list of ten best destinations for spring camping.