Colorado is both a fever dream and a nightmare for avid campers – a dream because there are so many breathtaking locales to set up camp and a nightmare because you can’t possibly experience them all with other life demands getting in the way.
It can be an overwhelming challenge to sift through different Colorado campsites in hopes of finding the best spot for a weekend getaway or an extended summer swoon. What if you have pets? Do you want city amenities within reach of your campsite or are you looking for transcendence through true solitude?
Rather than forcing you to make these decisions on the fly, we’ve pared down tens upon tens of contenders for our diverse, picturesque and definitive list of the 8 Best Places To Camp In Colorado.
1) Camp Dick (Boulder Range District)
The perfect camping locale for a Colorado-based pet lover, Camp Dick is just as friendly to your four-legged furry friends as it is to the campers in your family and circle of friends. At its busiest, Camp Dick is a spacious dog park full of places to play fetch and explore. Very few campsites in Colorado are for the dogs in the best way, and Camp Dick is the best of the bunch.
The backdrop and enchanting burbles of Middle St. Vrain Creek will leave you mesmerized and the creek also provides a fantastic swimming opportunity on long summer days. Add in a wealth of bike trails, peak fishing spots, and nearby horseback riding lessons and you have a well-rounded camping getaway for you and your puppies.
2) Moraine Park Campground (Rocky Mountain National Park)
Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most enchanting national parks in the entire United States and the Moraine Park Campground is the perfect place for campers to experience its myriad charms firsthand. If observing wildlife in their natural habitat warms your camping heart, you’re going to be in heaven among the elk and mule deer who wander on the outskirts of this glorious campers’ haven.
A year-round campground with 245 gorgeous campsites to choose from, you’ll need a reservation to set up camp in the busy times from Memorial Day weekend through the end of September. You’ll be glad you did after your eyes do a double-take at the gorgeous mountain scenery. Those looking for ease of access will also dig the free shuttle service to nearby hiking trails and the town of Estes Park.
3) Big Creek Lakes Campground (Routt National Forest)
Just a skip and a hop from the Wyoming border, the Big Creek Lakes Campground is a remote camping wonderland with some of the clearest alpine lakes in the region. This is the perfect Colorado campsite for an artist or a dreamer who wants natural glory at its most unchecked and brilliant. From snow-capped mountain peaks to winding rivers, Big Creek Lakes Campground gives you access to it all.
The real showstopper of this campground is Big Creek Falls. Just two miles up the Seven Lakes Trail, Big Creek Falls is part waterfall photo opportunity and part sightseeing spot for those looking to get up close to the Routt National Forest’s moose population. RV campers take note – this is one of the easiest Colorado access spots for those bringing their RV along for the camping ride.
4) Maroon Bells (Aspen)
For the camper looking for a picturesque Colorado camping vacation with thousands of Instagram-worthy photo opportunities, look no further than the three campsites within the West Maroon Creek woods. Silver Queen, Silver Bell and Silver Bar all offer a bounty of aesthetic hallelujahs for both contemplation and recreation.
Complete with water and trash services and toilets available to the public, the Maroon Bells are infamous for the dazzling swath of colors as trees meet the mountains and sky in poetic resplendence. The one drawback of the Maroon Bells (especially Silver Bell) is that you’ll need a reservation to get a spot in its operating window from late May to late September. However, you’ll be glad you took the time to recreation.gov when you do.
5) Oh Be Joyful Campground (Crested Butte)
There isn’t a campground out there with a more apt name than the Oh Be Joyful Campground near Crested Butte. You’ll hardly be able to contain your joy when you get your first peek at this entry point to the majestic Raggeds Wilderness national forest. Situated 7,000 to 13,000 feet above sea level, the views alone make this a bucket list camping opportunity for anyone with Colorado in their sights.
This is also a fantastic camping spot for those who want the best of both nature and nearby town amenities. Crested Butte is one of the prettiest towns in the Colorado mountains and offers a fantastic change of pace if you want a drink or a top-quality meal at one of its many restaurants. Need an unchecked dose of happiness in your life? Get to Oh Be Joyful Campground and do as it says. It’ll be easy.
6) Angel of Shavano Campground (San Isabel National Forest)
The perfect camping destination for Colorado backpackers and those looking for isolation at its prettiest and most philosophically fruitful, the Angel of Shavano Campground’s 20 sites are rarely packed to capacity like some of the other entries on our list. Three hours from Denver, Angel of Shavano is close enough for a thoughtful getaway for anyone living in the Metro area.
The hiking and biking trails along the central Colorado trail offer amazing backdrops and a measure of quiet that is hard to come by. There’s also a litany of fantastic fishing spots in the North Fork Reservoir and plenty of places to read and relax within the trees of the surrounding San Isabel National Forest.
7) Pinyon Flats Campground (Great Sand Dunes National Park)
Now for something completely different. If you’ve never been to the Great Sand Dunes National Park, you’re going to be mesmerized and confused. What looks like a movie representation of Saharan Africa is really one of the most unique national parks going today. While the mountains still offer a cursory backdrops, its the giant sand dunes which will leave you speechless snapping photos.
The Pinyon Flats Campground inside of the Great Sand Dunes National Park offers all the amenities of a great campground while also providing unique access to dreamlike hiking trails through the sand dunes. There’s also some locale-specific recreational opportunities like sandboarding (!) which will make any camping getaway feel like something much more in retrospect.
8) Sunshine Campground (Telluride)
Sunshine Campground is an absolute camping compromise for campers and glampers alike. For the most die-hard campers, there’s 15 beautiful campsites which provide trails into an aspen forest which is simply unbelievable to take in. Only tents are allowed at this campsite, so it’s a great place for those looking for a break from the hustle and bustle.
In addition to the beautiful mountain lake locale and snapshot-ready vistas around Sunshine Park, Sunshine Campground is also just eight miles away from one of Colorado’s most gorgeous towns, Telluride. Glampers in your party that want some civilization to go with their camping vacation will love exploring Telluride and all of its shops and restaurants.
If you’re lucky enough to call Colorado home or to be able to spend an extended time within its borders, you likely have a solid idea of the natural splendor and jaw-dropping scenery which the Centennial State has to offer.
Our list of the 8 best campsites in Colorado, however, will stun even the most dyed-in-the-wool Coloradans looking for something more from their camping experience. These are the places where nature puts on a show and Colorado’s true beauty is on full display.