Home to some of the most beautiful hiking trails and natural wonders in the United States, Colorado is the perfect place to camp, see wildlife, and get out into nature.
From national parks to charming mountain towns, Colorado has so much to see, and you’ll have to visit several times before you can say that you’ve done it all.
Let’s take a look at some of the best times and places to camp in Colorado:
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Peak Camping Times:
The average weather in Colorado is pretty common.
In May, the weather reaches a high of 53 degrees Fahrenheit and about 29 degrees at the lowest. By June and July, the weather is in the 80s Fahrenheit with lows of 50s and 60s at night, depending on where you camp.
This lovely weather stretches out until about October, when temperatures begin to drastically decline back into a high of 60 degrees Fahrenheit during the day.
This means that your peak camping times in Colorado are probably between May and June, where the weather is very warm but not sweltering. If you like fall camping, September through October is perfect, too, as things will start to cool down without being too cold.
December in Colorado is closer to the 40s during the day, with temperatures in the 20s at night.
If you decide to go winter camping, please make sure that you have the equipment and experience to prepare for harsh conditions.
Can you Go RVing in Colorado Outside these Dates?
You can absolutely camp year-round in an RV in Colorado.
There are several locations that you can go to, including:
- Durango RV Park
- Prospect RV Park
- The Last Resort RV Park
- Manor RV Park
Each of these locations is open year-round, offers Wifi, and allows pets. They have pull-through sites and hookups, as well as are in areas that have a pretty good signal for most cellphone carriers.
Durango RV Park offers a pool, and all of these RV parks include showers and bathrooms.
If you are considering camping in an RV during harsher conditions, such as extreme heat or cold, consider investing in a hardy RV with air conditioning and heating.
You don’t want to camp in extreme conditions in an RV with poor insulation and no way to heat it.
Where Can you Camp for Free in Colorado?
Camping for free is called “dispersed camping” or sometimes “boondocking.”
This usually means that campers set up camp on government and public land rather than at a private or designated campground. Public land is very rustic, won’t have water, bathrooms, or showers, and often requires a lot of rules and regulations when it comes to how you dispose of human and animal waste as well as light fires.
According to the USDA Forest Service: “Free camping (dispersed) is allowed on most national forest lands except in highly developed areas – such as trailheads, campgrounds and picnic sites – and in some of our most visited places. Be sure to check for regulations in advance and look for signs in the area to indicate if camping is allowed.”
Most camping areas only allow you to stay up to 14 consecutive days (to prevent living there permanently) and require you to pack up any trash from food or products that you bring with you.
If you are thinking of camping for free in Colorado, here are a couple of areas to choose from according to the USDA Forest Service:
Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests Pawnee National Grassland:
There are three major districts available to camp for free in the Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests Pawnee National Grassland:
- Boulder Ranger District, west of Boulder, CO
- Canyon Lakes Ranger District, west of Fort Collins
- Clear Creek Ranger District, near Idaho Springs
You can also camp in the Pawnee National Grassland, NE of Greeley, and the Sulphur Ranger District, near Winter Park & Granby.
There are areas for bicycling, nature viewing, picnicking, scenic driving, and both winter and water sports and activities. You can usually find a lot of wildlife viewing spots.
Most of these dispersed camping sites are marked in these certain areas, letting you know that it is safe to camp there.
There may be restrictions on camping during hunting seasons, so make sure you know when you are going and are staying as safe as possible.
White River National Forest:
Colorado has some amazing places to camp for free, from backpacking to car camping, especially in their White River National Forest.
There are a few districts to choose from when you go dispersed camping here:
- Aspen-Sopris Ranger District
- Blanco Ranger District (East of Meeker, CO)
- Dillon Ranger District
- Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District (Vail-Eagle area)
- Rifle Ranger District
Each district comes with several trails, roads, and areas to choose from when dispersed camping.
The Lincoln Creek Dispersed Campground, for instance, includes about 22 dispersed campsites for car camping. This can be found along Lincoln Creek Road in the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District.
Other locations like the Crystal Lakes #44 area in the Dillon Ranger District offer beautiful alpine views, horseback riding, bicycling, and skiing or snowshoeing in the winter.
Watch Out for Animals in Colorado:
When you are camping for free on public land, make sure that you are prepared not only for the harsh elements but also for potential wildlife.
Elk, deer, sheep, and hundreds of birds call Colorado home, and that’s not all.
Most of the snakes in Colorado are non-venomous but watch out for rattlesnakes. Rattlesnakes can be found in the underbrush and beneath rocks, so keep a close eye on your feet when you are out and about.
Furthermore, mountain lions and coyotes have been known to interfere with campers or hikers depending on the time of day or if food is around. It is rare to be attacked by one, but if you are camping, try not to leave a bunch of food out or cook meat on open flames.
If you think you’ll be camping or hiking at night, be very careful, stay in groups, and bring preventative gear such as noisemakers or sprays.
Can You Camp on Public Hunting Land in Colorado?
You can camp on public hunting land in Colorado, but only in designated areas.
The Rio Grande National Forest, for example, has plenty of areas where you can go big game hunting:
- Antonito, CO
- Creede, CO
- Crestone, CO
- Del Norte, CO
- Gunnison, CO
- La Garita, CO
- La Jara, CO
- Monte Vista, CO
- Platoro, CO
- Saguache, CO
- South Fork, CO
- Villa Grove, CO
However, only places like Fern Creek Trail #815 in Creede, CO, will allow you to camp in its hunting area. San Isabel Trail #858 in Crestone, CO, is also a hunting location that you can camp for free.
If you are curious about particular locations, consider consulting the USDA Forest Service website for more information.
Camping Rules & Regulations in Colorado:
It comes as no surprise that anyone drinking under the age of 21 years old in the United States is breaking the law, but there are more laws than that regarding camping and alcohol.
For example, alcohol cannot be consumed in public places, such as at the beach, in picnic areas, or playgrounds.
Alcohol should be consumed responsibly at your designated campsite and kept in a safe container that won’t spill or be left unattended.
– Firewood & Campfires:
Like most state policies, Colorado laws state that you shouldn’t cut down trees to burn but instead use dry, felled wood that is already lying on the ground, such as sticks, twigs, and small logs.
Fires should never be left unattended – especially if you are dispersed camping in the wilderness – and should be fully extinguished before you leave a campsite.
Furthermore, burning fuel or materials that emit dense or dark-colored smoke can be burned in a campfire. All flammable liquids should be kept safely stored in containers away from open flames.
Finally, never burn anything poisonous, such as poison ivy or poison oak, as it could cause respiratory problems and even more fatal issues.
All pets should be on a leash of no more than 6 feet in length.
If you bring your dog to a hiking trail, keeping it on a leash helps you keep track of its waste, as well as protect native species from potentially being chased or killed by the dog.
Furthermore, don’t leave your pets in parked cars for long periods of time, especially during harsh weather such as extreme heat or cold.
If you have a dog at your campsite, please make sure that they are safely put in the RV when you leave them behind.
Do not leave dogs unattended in tents or spare vehicles while you are gone, as they could escape from tents or suffer from heat or cold in cars.
Only licensed carriers who are using their firearms for hunting are allowed to carry and operate firearms.
You shouldn’t bring weapons on a regular camping trip, anyway.
If you have a proper license and are camping and hunting during the proper season, you should be alright.
Unlicensed use of firearms or carrying of firearms could result in fines or jail time.
Finally, you may have to check in or register with the ranger offices upon arrival.