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With so much breathtaking mountain scenery, it’s no surprise that Colorado offers practically an endless number of amazing places to camp, but with so many great sites, how do you decide just where to go? This list features the best of the best, making that decision just a little bit easier.
Maroon Bells, Aspen
Located five miles southwest of downtown Aspen up Maroon Creek Road, the Maroon Bells are one of Colorado’s most iconic landscapes as a twin set of 14’ers that mirror off Maroon Lake. There are three campgrounds set within the woods by West Maroon Creek: Silver Queen, Silver Bar and Silver Bell – Silver Bell offers walk-in sites that are great for tent camping, which is available from about late May through late September. If you want to enjoy the most breathtaking scenery without the big crowds, try to come during the second half of September when you may be able to enjoy the brilliant golden leaves, set against the snow-dusted Bells. The campgrounds include water and trash facilities as well as vault toilets – reservations are a must and can be made through recreation.gov.
Steamboat Lake State Park, Hahns Peak
One of Colorado’s most impressive state parks is located a little under 30 miles from Steamboat Springs. It not only offers an abundance of scenic places to camp, but it features a marina with watercraft rentals, a swim beach, visitor center and 5.5 miles of hiking trails, all framed by Hahn’s Peak. Wildlife watchers can enjoy glimpses of red fox and mule deer, as well as a variety of shorebirds and waterfowl like the sandhill cranes that nest in the wetland areas. Camping is available year-round and includes traditional sites as well as camper cabins and even winter camping with electric outlets in the marina parking lot. Winter activities include ice fishing, snowmobiling, and tranquil cross-country skiing or snow-shoeing in a valley surrounded by snow-capped mountains.
Moraine Park Campground, Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park offers the quintessential Colorado camping experience, and by pitching your tent at Moraine Park campground, you’re likely to get a closeup look at the mule deer, coyotes and elk who wander by in the nearby meadow. It also enjoys a good central location with easy access into the town of Estes Park, and as being near the popular Fern Lake Trailhead which leads to the west up into the higher mountains. The views alone make for an unforgettable camping experience. If you want to get out and do some exploring without getting behind the wheel, free shuttles connect the campground to Bear Lake hiking trailheads as well as Estes Park restaurants and shops. The campground is open year-round and includes 245 sites, though reservations are highly recommended if you plan to stay between Memorial Weekend and late September.
Pinyon Flats Campground, Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park offers one of the most exotic places to camp in the entire U.S. Reminiscent of the Gobi or the Sahara, it sits between the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the San Juan Mountains. The unique landforms are the tallest dunes in the country, rising up to over 700 feet in height. Those who hike to the top are rewarded with panoramic views of nearly endless dunes. The park offers the chance to try out sand-boarding and sand-sledding, and because of its high elevation and frequently clear skies, this is also an incredible place for stargazing. Pinyon Flats is the best place to overnight, offering access to abundant hiking throughout the dunes. If you’re here in May, Medano Creek overflows with melt water and creates a water park to splash around in with gentle flows that are safe and fun for the entire family.
Cache La Poudre Scenic Byway, Fort Collins to Walden
This national scenic byway follows the Cache La Poudre River from Fort Collins almost the entire way, which makes for especially picturesque scenery and outstanding recreation – and, campgrounds can be found throughout nearly the whole stretch to Walden. Surrounded by jagged mountains, lush meadows, lodgepole forest, and glistening lakes, it offers views galore as well as lots of opportunities for exploration, including hiking and mountain biking, whitewater rafting, fishing, geocaching, four-wheeling or just relaxing and enjoying the sounds of the river. Kelly Flats is a great campground in the lower Poudre Canyon, with park benches along the riverbank and numerous outstanding fishing spots. Grandview, however, may be the very best, if you plan to bring your tent. This small, tent-only campground offers some of the most impressive views of any in this area, overlooking Long Draw Reservoir and Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s also a common spot for moose sights and excellent for fly fishing at the three nearby lakes: Peterson Lake, Trap Lake and Long Draw Reservoir.
Big Creek Lakes Campground, Routt National Forest
If you’re looking for remote location, Big Creek Lakes Campground near the Wyoming border is about 34 miles northwest of Walden and a great choice for finding solitude. Sitting at 9,000 feet near Mt. Zirkel Wilderness, filled with brilliant blue alpine lakes, jagged summits and scenic rivers, you’ll have access to over 150 miles of spectacular wilderness. By hiking the Seven Lakes Trail for two miles, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful Big Creek Falls, which also happens to be a great place to spot moose. The campground is right next to the lake, and includes toilets, water and a boat ramp, along with both RV and tent sites.
Gunnison National Forest, Crested Butte
Located in the Gunnison National Forest near Crested Butte, the Taylor River flows right next to all seven sites at Granite Tent Campground within the forest, allowing the gurgling sounds of the water to lull you into a peaceful night’s sleep. This cozy campground, as the name belies, is for tents only, so you won’t have to worry about that horrible loud beeping noise from an RV next door. Plus, you’ll have access to some of the best fishing in the state. Across the river from the campground, Hamel’s Ranch Resort stocks the river with large trout, but of course, the fish don’t stick to the artificial boundaries and often head to the public side of the river where you’ll have the chance to make a great catch.
Turquoise Lake Recreation Area, San Isabel National Forest, Leadville
Turquoise Lake is a recreation area in the San Isabel National Forest just outside of Leadville. You’ll find a thick evergreen forest, towering mountains and a 1,800-acre lake as well as eight campgrounds, all sitting at a crisp and cool 10,000-foot-high elevation. The lake offers boating and fishing, and on land, visitors can enjoy hiking, biking and four-wheeling. If you’re looking for a fairly easy hike or bike excursion, the 12-mile paved Mineral Belt Trail loop starts in downtown Leadville, just four miles east of the lake. The campgrounds offer both RV and tenting camping, with tent-only sites at Belle of Colorado. They’re all spread across the lake’s shoreline, most along the eastern shore. All include picnic tables, fire rings, toilets and drinking water.
Sunshine Campground, Telluride
If you want a wilderness experience, but you’d like to be close to “city” amenities, Sunshine Campground is just eight miles south of Telluride, one of the state’s most beautiful towns. It features 15 sites in a dense aspen forest along with a small mountain lake and spectacular views of Sunshine Park, making an especially colorful setting in the autumn. As this is a tent-only campground, you’ll be able to enjoy plenty of peace and quiet too. Amenities include vault toilets, water, fire grills and picnic tables.