Best Free Camping in Colorado

Free Camping in Colorado

Dispersed Camping Colorado

By Nathan Swartz

While the Western United States are filled with seemingly endless opportunities to find beautiful, free camping, few states do it quite as well as Colorado.

From desert cliff-dwelling to the Rocky Mountains' abundance of forests, and beyond to the Front Range including Denver and Fort Collins, finding free a free place to camp is not just about saving a buck; it's about living within the most splendid scenery the state has to offer.

Dispersed camping in the Centennial State is downright prolific throughout the dozen or so national forests and grasslands within the state's borders. Are you looking for camping spots near Steamboat Springs? Forest roads and mountain passes galore await. Need beautiful free camping near Denver? Idaho Springs is only about a half-hour from town, yet filled with places to go mountain biking, tent camping, or enjoy your national forest.

See a map of all free camping in Colorado.

Boondocking in Colorado

Boondocking Colorado is nearly always an exercise in driving up a forest road, many of which have designated camping areas as well, and finding a previously established spot (look for a fire ring or stone fire pit) that isn't already occupied. Even with the popularity of getting outdoors on the rise, finding a place to camp in Colorado is still relatively easy, and find a free camping area is no different.

In most of the mountainous portions of the state, expect a shady spot beneath towering pines, quite often with a grand view, located near a water source and typically within an easy drive of yet another cute, small town. Are you looking to go tent camping in Colorado? Car camping? Free camping in Colorado can be found for all makes and models of campers, just choose your national forest and begin exploring its roads.

With nearly endless options, though, where should one begin?

Best Dispersed Camping in Colorado

Depending on the time of year, campsites outside of Durango and Grand Junction offer a little more heat and are best enjoyed in the shoulder seasons of Fall and Spring, when golden aspens light up the mountainsides and brilliant fields of wildflowers rush through the valleys, respectively. All summer long, the stretch of highway connecting Leadville (elevation 10,152') to Salida (some 3000' lower) is home to a new national monument celebrating the Arkansas River. Further north, wilderness less explored can be had outside of Dinosaur National Monument and all through the Medicine Bow National Forest. Or skip right to the cream of the crop and set your GPS to Crested Butte's many, many stunning options for dispersed camping.

Just remember that this type of free camping isn't exactly a right, and it is up to each and every one of us to take care of our public lands to ensure that they remain not only wild and beautiful but open to the public for camping. Practice Leave No Trace, and always pack out everything you bring in, don't try and create new spots, use those that have already been established, and if you can, leave the site better than you found it.

portable computer displaying map of camping locations
mobile device showing map of camping locations


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Recent Colorado Free Campsite Reviews

Jan 23, 2022

"Winter camping fewer choices but quiet and pretty"

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Arrived in the dark and one other rig here-was surprised since it January! Winter pics here out my dirty windows :-). Road back is blocked but can still access the first part of the road. Very quiet and nice for an overnight. Slept great :-)

23 reviews

"Quiet, pretty"

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As others have said, nice for an overnight. It was 9° when I got here late at night. Woke up to a muted sunrise above the lake. Very quiet.

21 reviews
Jan 17, 2022

"Nice Clean Campground"

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No water. Has dump station. Free if you have a CO fishing license. Close to the great sand dunes. Clean and nice campsites. Electricity is available but please use sparingly so it stays free.

Jan 03, 2022

"Unable to be accessed "

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My partner and I were unable to get to the campsite. The road was unplowed and very very steep:(

1 review
Grand Lake, CO

Idleglen Staging Area

Dec 26, 2021

"Easy Access"

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The Idleglen Staging Area is a great place for folks with any size rig who would like to access Grand Lake or Rocky Mountain National Park. There are lots of developed campgrounds nearby but they get very full in the summer and can be difficult to access for people with large rigs. The road up to the staging area is paved and turns to a nice...
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Bob K
66 reviews