Camping in Colorado: Best Campgrounds

The people who come from around the world to experience Colorado’s campgrounds come for all kinds of reasons: to hike and mountain bike on the Continental Divide, to four-wheel through ghost towns, to raft raging rivers, to soak in hot springs, fly fish on Gold Medal waters, canoe across reservoirs, tour fall foliage, and to snowshoe and ski. And, of course, they come to camp—that primordial act of sleeping under the stars that unites us all—so we compiled a list of some of the best campgrounds in Colorado!

 fall with yellow aspens near the entrance to Silver Jack Reservoir
Silver Jack. Photo © Chad Cogdill/

Best for Climbing Fourteeners

Silver Jack, Western Slope South:

Silver Jack is a little-known treasure in the Uncompahgre National Forest near the Silver Jack Reservoir dam, and the views from the overlook of Courthouse Peak, Turret Peak, and Cimarron Ridge are breathtaking.

Collegiate Peaks, Central Mountains South:

Collegiate Peaks is halfway between Buena Vista and Cottonwood Pass. It’s an ideal base camp for hikers interested in summiting Mount Yale, Mount Harvard, and Mount Columbia.

Longs Peak, The Front Range:

Longs Peak is the smallest and is the sole tent-only campground (sleeping in vehicles is prohibited). This is also the starting point for the challenging ascent of Longs Peak.

Scenic landscape of lake irwin with a boat.
Lake Irwin. Photo © Snehitdesign/

Best for Day Hiking

Lake Irwin, Western Slope South:

The campground sits on the northern tip of the reservoir, in a spruce and fir forest, and offers views of the Ruby Range, Anthracite Range, and Mount Axtell, among other peaks.

Timber Creek, Central Mountains North:

Timber Creek is the only frontcountry campground on the west side of the park at an elevation of 9,800 feet. It has four loops near the Colorado River, with views of Baker Mountain, Mount Stratus, and Mount Nimbus.

Glacier Basin, The Front Range:

The basin is surrounded by the peaks of the Continental Divide, including Longs Peak, Storm Peak, Half Mountain, Taylor Peak, Otis Peak, and Flattop Mountain.

Trappers Lake In The Flattops, Colorado Mountain Scenery In Summer
Trappers Lake-Cutthroat. Photo © Cjchiker/

Best for Fly-Fishing

Trappers Lake-Cutthroat, Western Slope North:

Cutthroat and Trapline are identical twins. Adjacent to Trappers Lake, these campgrounds are in a dense spruce-fir forest that obscures the lake but permits glimpses of the volcanic cliffs that ring the lake. The sites are about 50 feet apart and very private. Sites 5, 6, and 7 have the best view.

Weller, Western Slope South:

Anglers can fish on the Roaring Fork, a Gold Medal river, and on Weller Lake. The Weller Lake Trail is about a half-mile long and begins on the other side of the highway.

Platte River, The Front Range:

This campground is in the floodplain and on a hillside overlooking the river, which is wide and slow at this point. It’s a soothing place to pitch a tent and cast a line from the fishing platform or the shore.

Strawberry Park Hot Spings natural hot springs in winter after freshly fallen snow
Strawberry Park Hot Springs. Photo © Teri Virbickis/

Best for Hot Springs

Strawberry Park Hot Springs, Western Slope North:

Strawberry Park Hot Springs is a series of terraced, seminatural rock pools built into the hillside of a narrow valley.

Cottonwood Lake, Central Mountains South:

Cottonwood Lake has enough activities to keep the whole family happy. The lake and South Cottonwood Creek offer good fishing and hand-powered boating.

Orvis Hot Springs, Four Corners and the San Juan Mountains:

The main attraction here is The Pond, a deep and wide natural spring pool with amazing views of Mount Sneffels.

Reflection of mountains in Molas Lake, located in the San Juan mountains of Colorado
Molas Lake. Photo © Asboard90/

Best for Stunning Views

Echo Park, Western Slope North:

Echo Park is located at the confluence of the Green and Yampa Rivers, in the shadow of the impressive Steamboat Rock.

May Queen, Central Mountains South:

May Queen is the only campground at the west end of Turquoise Lake and it is truly special. The views are as spectacular as they are on the east side, but the bedlam is missing.

Molas Lake, Four Corners and the San Juan Mountains:

At 10,680 feet, Molas Lake is the highest campground in the continental United States, and the views are nothing short of awesome.

Golden aspen and high country snow of early autumn in ruby mountain.
Ruby Mountain. Photo © Robert Waltman/

Best for White Water

Deerlodge Park, Western Slope North:

This campground is mainly used by commercial rafting outfitters and private groups setting out on boat trips. Consequently, its heaviest use occurs during peak river flows, usually in late May and early June.

Ruby Mountain, Central Mountains South:

Colorado State Parks manages six campgrounds on the Arkansas River; Ruby Mountain is the second of the six. Like the other campgrounds, it attracts heaps of kayakers and rafters.

Ansel Watrous, The Front Range:

As the easternmost campground on Colorado’s only National Wild and Scenic River, Ansel Watrous fills up fast and early with rafters, kayakers, anglers, families, and groupies.

 Scenic beauty in summer spring of wildflowers and mountains, in Ouray Colorado
Ouray, Colorado. Photo © Joe Sohm/

Best Full-Service Campgrounds

Bookcliff, Western Slope South:

There are 31 sites for tents and RVs up to 40 feet and a group site for up to 100 campers.

Cherry Creek State Park, The Front Range:

Urban camping at its best, Cherry Creek State Park is remarkable for its size and proximity to downtown Denver, just 12 miles to the northwest. The park has 4,200 acres of land and an 880-surface-acre lake.

Ouray KOA, Four Corners and the San Juan Mountains:

Ouray is the northern gateway to the San Juans, which makes this KOA a destination campground. It’s packed all summer and people rave about it, so reservations are strongly recommended, especially for RVs.

Lost lake with a scenic background of fall mountains.
Lost Lake. Photo © Paul Brady/

Best Lakeside Campgrounds

Lost Lake, Western Slope South:

Lost Lake is on the West Elk Loop Scenic Byway, and whether you’re coming from Paonia or Crested Butte, it’s worth every minute of the drive because you usually have to hike to reach a place like Lost Lake.

Arapaho Bay, Central Mountains North:

This wilderness area contains 110 miles of trails, 18 miles of the Continental Divide, and nearly 50 high-altitude lakes, as well as a few ice fields—remnants of the glaciers that carved the serrated ridgelines.

Haviland Lake, Four Corners and the San Juan Mountains:

The lake is stocked and practically lined with kids fishing with power bait and hauling out trout. It’s a good lake for fly-fishing and a beautiful place to paddle a canoe. There’s a short interpretive trail for hikers.


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