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.

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mobile device showing map of camping locations

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Recent Colorado Free Campsite Reviews


"Great quick stop before/after Denver! "

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Free, easy access for all vehicles. Numerous spots. Stayed here in Late November, and we had the place to ourselves. Great cell service, and sunsets! Lots of cow poo :) Minimal highway noise.

Kayla Lamb
2 reviews
Nov 29, 2021

"Really Good. One of my favorites in Colorado."

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Rabbit Valley Exit and then turn right, if heading toward UT. Follow the gravel road that leads west out of the lot. You will climb up and around a switchback and then see a turn off for spots 1,2,3 or keep climbing a bit, and take a right, past the long drop toilet. I believe there are at least 4 -6 spots along that upper ridge. ...
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Kevin Matejovsky
16 reviews
Nov 25, 2021

"Out in the middle of nowhere! Great stargazing. "

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I stayed here as an overnight boondocking stop. So away from everything. Dark skies, great stargazing. During the day you overlook the grassland prairie for miles & miles. No real “sites” Vans would be easy here, I found a flat area for my TT.

Dan Eischens
8 reviews
Nov 22, 2021

"Dispersed Camping on the Rim"

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We camped overlooking the rim. Several spots available, but as you move either direction along the rim, you encounter some tight curves around trees that would be a problem with a longer rig. Stay right when you get to the sign for the trailhead campground. Very quiet with few others around, but it is the middle of November. There were fire...
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Roger Whyman
5 reviews
Nov 17, 2021

"Beautiful nothing!"

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This was a great place to just kick back. Only a couple other campers. Was greeted by cows upon arrival, but they did not show up on the following days. Nothing to do, except watch beautiful sunsets & sunrises. There are roads for good long walks.

Dan Eischens
8 reviews