One of my favorite things about Colorado is the amount of beautiful free camping available. I also love how easy it is to find free campsites in Colorado where you won’t have to worry about running into many other people. Just you, your adventure buddy (because who can go camping without a pup?!), and nature.
My favorite way to camp in Colorado is by doing some form of activity during the day, and just finding a campsite nearby to plop down for the evening. Because of that, most of the campsites I love are near hiking/mountain biking trails, offroading trails, or lakes (for an early morning paddleboard sesh).
Where To Find Free Campsites in Colorado
A very large portion of Colorado is BLM/National Forest land, which you can camp on for free for up to 14 days. All you have to do is find a fire ring.
My favorite way to find a fire ring is honestly by just driving around the woods and finding one, but if you’re more of a planner or visiting from out of state it can be pretty stressful to not know where you’re going to sleep that night.
In that case, I love to find trails on freecampsites.net or use the app iOverlander. I usually search both apps, write down which campsites I would enjoy, and pick one that’s near the activities I’m trying to do. Or, you can keep reading this blog post!
In this blog post I’m going through all my favorite free campsites in Colorado, broken down by city. GPS coordinates are included, so all you have to do is plug them in and head to the campsite. While I have tested these coordinates myself, campsites are always subject to change or be taken by someone else since they are first come first served. That being said though, there are plenty of campsites nearby all of these places so you should have no issues snagging a campsite near any of the coordinates.
For the most part these are all dispersed campsites, so you won’t have outhouses or a campground host. But they are absolutely incredible for connecting with nature! Just bear in mind that you’ll need to pick up firewood beforehand and be prepared to properly go to the bathroom outside. I would also ALWAYS recommend bear bagging your food away from your campsite, or bringing a bear canister with you.
Note: All of these campsites are pet friendly!
10 Best Free Campsites in Colorado
My absolute favorite free campsites in Boulder are the dispersed campsites located on Sugarloaf Mountain off of an offroading/bike trail, Switzerland Trail. There are plenty of places to pull off along the trail, or a ton of dispersed spots near the trailhead.
You do not need 4WD to reach the campsites, but I would recommend it if you plan on driving Switzerland Trail as well!
The dispersed campsites located off of Coyote Hill Road are a hidden gem in my opinion. They’re located right outside of Rocky Mountain National Park on the east side and have gorgeous views. I’ve hardly ever run into anyone else here too. The road is not very well maintained, so I would definitely recommend 4×4 and high clearance.
St. Mary’s Glacier (Idaho Springs)
The dispersed campsites by St. Mary’s Glacier are some of my favorite free campsites in Colorado! They’re great if you want to be around water. Take Fall River Road all the way up to the top and you’ll see plenty of signs that lead you to dispersed camping. I recommend finding one as high up as you can. 4×4 is not necessary, but you will have more options for campsites if you do have 4WD and high clearance. Otherwise, I’d just recommend sticking closer to the bottom.
The campsites located off of Boreas Pass Road are by far my favorite dispersed campsites on the planet. You get so much beautiful land all to yourself and I’ve never run into another person here which is just insane to me. If you love being off the grid and fully immersed in nature, these campsites are your spot.
There are tons of pull-offs along the main road that you can reach with any vehicle and they’re nice if you like camping closer to other people. If you have 4WD though I’d highly recommend venturing further into the woods and finding a fire ring.
Note: Boreas Pass Road`is a seasonal road, which is open May-October each year whenever it is plowed. Check conditions for up to date information.
Turquoise Lake is located at the end of Hagermann Pass, an easy offroading trail that starts in Leadville. You’ll pass by some gorgeous lakes, summit at the Continental Divide, and continue to Turquoise Lake, where you’ll find plenty of dispersed camping nearby. I’d recommend arriving early if you want a campsite with a great view, but there is definitely no shortage of great campsites in this area.
4WD is recommended.
Portal Campground is a paid campground located on a cute little lake that you can stay at if you would prefer to stay near other people or have bathroom facilities. It is a first come first served campground, but if you don’t snag a spot there on the lake there are plenty of dispersed campsites as well.
4WD is definitely recommended in order to reach the campground or campsites. I will also warn you that it’s a little ways down a dirt road and you’ll think to yourself “Am I really going the right way?” at least once or twice. Just keep going and you’ll get there!
Note: This is also a seasonal campground, which generally opens in mid-June.
If you’re looking for a campsite with gorgeous views, I highly recommend the dispersed campsites located at the Paradise Divide in Crested Butte. This is a great place to set up camp if you’re looking to stay for a few days and go hiking nearby. It is located at a high elevation so it does get pretty cold at night, but I promise it is well worth it.
4WD is required in order to reach these campsites as it is an offroading trail and far away from paved road.
The Alpine Loop is a gorgeous 93 mile long offroading trail with tons of dispersed campsites throughout. I’ve stayed at quite a few and have hardly ever run into anyone else. I will say that you do have to drive on a narrow road on the side of the mountain for a minute, so 4WD and driver experience is definitely required.
Once you get to the trailhead of the Alpine Loop in Ouray, you’ll have to go up the trail a little ways in order to reach the campsites, so bear that in mind for timing purposes!
Blue Lakes Trailhead
The campsites located at the base of Mount Sneffels at the Blue Lakes trailhead provide gorgeous views and is just up a dirt road so you can easily access it with any vehicle. They are just along a creek with a clear view of the San Juan mountains. Fair warning though: there are only a few campsites located here and it is a busy road so I would make sure to arrive early or have a backup plan.
Bonus: Moab Utah
If you’re looking to camp in the desert, keep driving a couple hours west of Colorado and you’ll find some lovely campsites overlooking Arches National Park in Moab Utah. They are free and even include bathroom facilities!
I love coming here in the fall for some different offroading terrain and for mountain biking and paddle boarding trips!
Fun Things To Do in Colorado (Summer 2021)
Like I mentioned above, my favorite way to enjoy camping in Colorado is by participating in a variety of activities during the day. Some of my favorite summer activities to do near these campsites are:
Offroading is my favorite activity in Colorado, especially during the summer! Some of these campsites are located off of my favorite off-roading trails, such as:
Switzerland Trail in Boulder (easy)
Hagerman Pass in Leadville (easy)
Paradise Divide in Crested Butte (moderate)
Alpine Loop in Telluride (moderate)
Fins and Things Trail in the Sand Flats Recreation Area in Moab (moderate)
There are plenty of hiking trails nearby in all of these cities, but the best hiking trails you’ll find near the campsites are:
St. Mary’s Glacier in Idaho Springs
Blue Lakes Trail (Mount Sneffels if you want to do the whole 14er!) in Telluride
Bear Lake Corridor in Rocky Mountain National Park near the Estes Park campsite
Arches National Park in Moab Utah
My all time favorite mountain biking trail is The Whole Enchilada in Moab Utah! There are also plenty of trails near the campsite in Crested Butte.
There aren’t a ton of places to go paddle boarding in Colorado, but there are plenty in Utah! If you’re looking to go paddle boarding in Colorado I’d recommend visiting:
Gross Reservoir in Boulder
Lake Dillon (near Breckenridge)
Portal Campground in Aspen
Glenwood Springs or Carbondale (near Aspen)
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