The Hotspots for FREE Camping in Colorado (2024)

Looking for free camping sites in Colorado?

You’re in luck. Colorado is home to some of the best free camping sites in the United States with spectacular views of the Rockies.

Free camping offers you the chance to go on a budget camping trip and without making reservations. This post will provide you with information on free dispersed sites in Colorado.

Whether it’s your first time or your hundredth time at free camping, there is always something new and exciting about sleeping under the stars in majestic surroundings.

Where to find free camping in Colorado?

When it comes to free camping (also widely known as dispersed camping) locations in Colorado, there are literally thousands of them scattered across the Centennial State from sea level all the way up to 10,000’. However, while camping in the Rocky Mountain National Park is permitted, you will need to make a reservation and involves a daily fee.

Some of the popular locations are :

  • National forests. There are 11 in Colorado covering over 14.5 million acres of land. Arapahoe, Pike, White River national forest are 3 of the widely camped national forests.
  • Bureau of Land Management (BLM) managed lands can include both primitive and developed campgrounds. Some campgrounds have facilities such as toilets, showers, potable water, and electric hookups for RVs. Others are very basic, remote, and have nothing.
  • Outside of Durango and Grand Junction. Due to the summer heat, camping is busier over the Fall and Spring.
  • Salida to Leadville. The stretch of highway between Salida (3,000’) to Leadville (10,000’) is packed with campers all summer long. 
  • Crested Butte has an abundance of stunning campsites in whichever direction you head into.

Best dispersed camping areas in Colorado

With so many good dispersed campsites in Colorado, it is an impossible task to list them all. Below you will find some of our readers’ favorite free campsites.

The Lost Creek Wilderness

The Lost Creek Wilderness is home to some of the best camping in Colorado while the snow remains high. The area surrounding Segments 3 and 4 on the Colorado Trail is closed for mountain bikers. There are many beautiful wooded surroundings and rocky outcrops for exploration.

The wilderness is one of the paradises for hikers thanks partly to the fact that they were closed in part to vehicles due partly to the natural beauty of the region and rugged terrain. This place is a good place to camp in the spring and fall.

Alta Lakes, Telluride

Just south of Telluride, Alta Lakes is a rustic camping site near the town.
There are around 20 free camping sites in the area. Make sure to plan your trip ahead and aim to arrive early to reserve a place as it gets busy quickly especially during the weekend and holiday seasons.

You’ll have great views of the San Juan Mountains and access to excellent fishing in turquoise alpine lakes from the Alta Lakes area. It will be hard to find a better free camping site in Colorado than this.

The downside? The road to Alta Lakes is difficult, so an RV or trailer isn’t recommended. Bring a 4×4 if you have one.

Gordon Gulch Dispersed Camping Site, Nederland

National Forest System Road (NFSR) 226, also known as Gordon Gulch is located five miles north of Nederland. This area is easy to get to and from Boulder and Denver, which makes it perfect for weekend trips.

There are 15 numbered, designated campsites scattered along with the road system. You want to pitch your tent in one of those spots (not anywhere else).

Take extra precautions when driving around this area as snow and mud may be around for the entire year.

Canyon Escalante, Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area

The Canyon Escalante is a massive BLM site in the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area. Popular activities here can include hiking, swimming in the pools formed at the bottom of the canyon during high-water seasons.

The hiking trails and climbing routes here are very underdeveloped and should be approached with caution and experience. So get a guide or go with someone who understands the routes. It is extremely hot here during the summer, so always bring plenty of water.

The canyon walls block off lights and give a wonderful sight at night which is perfect for stargazing.

Anvil Dispersed Camping Area, Silverton

Just north of Silverton, you’ll discover a dirt road (County Road 7) that diverts from Highway 550 and plunges deep into the heart of a valley with a stream coursing beneath the towering San Juan Mountains.

The approach to the camping site is rather smooth for a dirt road, so you may bring your camper. The area is located on federal land, allowing you to stay up to 14 days. You can easily go from here to the odd little metropolis of Silverton. Alternatively, you could spend the day exploring the region’s mountains via hiking paths or rough dirt roads.

Be careful of the fire regulations. Campfires are allowed, but make sure you take extra campfire safety precautions. They can be banned during the summer months.

  • Best seasons : Summer
  • Closest town : Silverton, CO

Loch Lomond, Idaho Springs

The Loch Lomond is a short one-way, 4×4 road. The first of five lakes can be seen at the end of this rocky road near Idaho Springs. People also go there to camp and fish and hike the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail.

This area offers north-facing campsites with views of the San Juan River. The Continental Divide Scenic Trail and this section of National Forest extend into this area, making it a popular hiking and mountain biking destination. 

If you like fishing, don’t miss out on catching rainbow trout or loudmouth bass in this beautiful natural environment.

Jouflas Campground, Grand Junction

The Jouflas Campground is part of Rabbit Valley Motorized Area in the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area. This is one of the few free campgrounds on BLM land which have fire grates, picnic tables, and restrooms. Western Slope Desert is an epicenter of outdoor activities such as mountain biking, cliff climbing, and running.

The campground is located close to the border with Utah and can be the perfect place to travel the east for exploring the country. Try not to arrive too late by night as there are only eight sites.

Molas Pass, Silverton

Camping near the San Juan Mountains and their surroundings is an unforgettable experience. The road leading into Molas Pass passes through Colorado’s most scenic road, the Million Dollar Highway.

Check out Lime Creek Road Forest Road 584 and County Road 33 for a selection of free camping sites. If you want to pay for camping then check out the Mola Campground, which is among the most populated campgrounds located in Colorado.

  • Best seasons : Summer
  • Closest town : Silverton, Durango, CO

Mount Herman Road, Pike National Forest

The road leading up to Mount Herman is not only named for the mountain, but also for the service road system that runs alongside it. Park your vehicle or RV here for a few nights camp while exploring the entire Pike National Forest or simply relax after a day of trekking.

Six miles from the summit on Mount Herman Road, you’ll find a short 4×4 road that ends at a parking lot and four campsites with benches, fire pits, and an outhouse. This is probably the best-known area to camp on Mount Herman Road.

The final climb up to Mary’s Mountain is steep and unforgiving in dry weather. There are no guardrails along the route, take extra precautions while driving here.

Portal Campground, Aspen

When most people think of Aspen, they think about the expensive skiing and luxurious hotels. There will be little to no free stuff within the boundaries of this resort town, but if you travel down the road towards Independence Pass and you’ll discover the Portal Campground.

It is a camping location that outperforms any ski town hotel. You’ll have easy access to hiking, fishing, cycling, and camping among towering pines and surrounded by a mountain paradise.

This is a small campground and is usually packed on weekends. Try to go on weekdays if possible. Although it is free, a permit is required.

Things to know about dispersed in Colorado

  • No fee. Most of the dispersed campsites are free. To help the rangers maintain the area, you can make a small contribution at the donation box, if available.
  • Campsite availability. Remember to check the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and United States Forest Service (USFS) websites before you leave. Some areas can be closed during certain times of the year.
  • 14 days stay duration unless mentioned otherwise.
  • No amenities. Don’t expect to have toilets, showers, tables, or fire rings. You might get lucky at times though.
  • Trash management. Carry home your thrash if there is no dumpster available. Bring out what you brought in.
  • Fire permit. Check the USFS website to determine if you need a permit before setting up a campfire.
  • Leave No Trace. Always abide by the 7 LNT principles.

Amanda Williams

Amanda Williams is a writer, plant-nerd, and outdoor enthusiast. She has traveled extensively, around the U.S., throughout Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Everywhere she treks, she takes time to enjoy the outdoors. John Muir is her hero. She aspires to inspire people to live better as he did.

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