How to Find the Best Free Camping in Colorado

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Dispersed camping site located in Colorado

Colorado is an outdoorsman’s dream. There are so many things to do in Colorado, and the state’s mountains and valleys provide so many adventures. Each season has something new to offer.

So whether it’s hiking or skiing the Rocky Mountains, enjoying the dunes of Great Sand Dunes National Park, or hiking and camping in the forests and trees, Colorado truly has something to offer for everyone. Let’s check out some free camping in Colorado that can get you close to the action.

How to Find Free Camping in Colorado

One of the best ways to find free camping is to look for land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or the U.S. Forest Service. You should be able to camp for free for 14 days, as long as you’re outside of designated recreational sites, such as campsites, picnic areas, or trailheads. Therefore, these public lands are excellent areas for free camping in Colorado.

An open road entering the wilderness in the Colorado Rocky Mountains where there are plenty of hidden gems to find free camping.

What Is Dispersed Camping?

Dispersed camping is camping anywhere on BLM or National Forest Service land outside of designated recreational areas. The most popular benefit of dispersed camping is that it’s free. But there are no reservation services, and campers claim sites on a first-come, first-served basis. Arriving earlier in the week can help ensure you get a good spot. 

Also, there are no amenities available, meaning no bathrooms, tables, garbage service, or even drinking water and fire rings. Therefore, you must commit to bringing everything you need and cleaning up your area before you leave. Also, be prepared to pack out everything you use while camping. And when you leave, there should be little to no trace that you were there.

The Best Free Campsites in Colorado

Colorado is an excellent state for dispersed camping and has some fantastic free campgrounds. Join us as we look at some of the best free camping in Colorado. Let’s get started.

San Luis State Wildlife Area Campground

Location: 37.6772, -105.7331

About: San Luis State Wildlife Area Campground sits near Hooper, Colo., and has 51 sites. It’s an excellent site for recreation and has areas for birding, boating, fishing, camping, hunting, and wildlife viewing, all within reach of the campground.

Amenities: This free camping in Colorado has asphalt pads, which are great for RVs but can also work for tent camping. But be aware, there are only sewer and electrical services. You won’t have water here. Also, all individuals 18 and older must have a valid Colorado Parks and Wildlife fishing or hunting license or a State Wildlife Area pass to use the area for any reason, even camping.

Portal Campground

Location: 39.076, -106.61289

About: Portal Campground lies near Aspen, Colo., in White River National Forest. It’s an excellent location for day hikes, fishing, and horseback riding. Many people also enjoy using the nearby trails for mountain biking or motorcycle and ATV riding. 

Amenities: Although this campground provides amazing free camping in Colorado, it’s small. It only has five sites. Therefore, you can only stay at Portal Campground for five days. You’ll also need a high-clearance vehicle with four-wheel- or all-wheel-drive. And RVs over 32 feet are prohibited on Highway 82.

Camping place with amazing view in National Part in Colorado.

Sacred White Shell Mountain

Location: 37.527, -105.5935

About: Sacred White Shell Mountain is a great location to stay if you plan to hike Mt. Blanca. Mt. Blanca is the official name for Sacred White Shell Mountain, and the peak is more than 14,000 feet tall. Therefore, it’s a “bucket list” item for many amateur and professional hikers. 

Amenities: Located near Mosca, Colo., the Sacred White Shell Mountain camping area provides free camping in Colorado. However, this site only has dispersed camping and no amenities. You’ll need to bring potable water and find other locations to dump your sewage. Some use the nearby Great Sand Dunes National Park for water and sewage services.

Keep Exploring: If you didn’t get your fill of sand dunes in Colorado, head south to New Mexico to explore the White Sand National Park for more sand sleddin’.

Madden Peak Road Dispersed Camping

Location: 37.3476, -108.2016

About: Madden Peak Road Dispersed Camping is located near Hesperus, Colo., and is an excellent location for camping near San Juan National Forest. San Juan National Forest is the home of Chimney Rock, which has played a critical role in Native American history. 

Amenities: All vehicle types can easily access Madden Peak Road dispersed camping. Sites do have fire rings. You might even see some cows nearby, as the site sits near cattle grazing areas.

Hiking in the San Juan National Forest in Colorado.

Gordon Gulch Dispersed Area

Location: 40.0113543713, -105.50019906200

About: You can find Gordon Gulch dispersed area on Gordon Gulch or National Forest System Road (NFSR) 226. Gordon Gulch is located about five miles north of Nederland, Colo. This location has 15 designated sites within a 1.5-mile stretch just east of Highway 72. Access to the area can be challenging at times because mud and snow are common. 

Amenities: This area is a great way to take advantage of free camping in Colorado. You may stay on one of these sites for up to 14 days. Then, you must either leave or move to another dispersed location. After relocating, you may stay for another 14 days. There is a stream, but you should treat your water before drinking it.

Twin Lakes View

Location: 39.1016, -106.3499

About: The Twin Lakes View sits in the Pike-San Isabel National Forest. Pike-San Isabel has Pike’s Peak, Mt. Evans, and Mt. Bernstadt within its borders. This National Forest is a superb location for hiking. You can also fish, boat, and picnic during the warmer months and cross-country ski during the winter.

Amenities: The campground offers a dirt pad for RV or tent campers. Campers report decent cell service for the major carriers. They also warn that you’ll need a high-clearance vehicle due to potholes and rocks.

Pro Tip: Read our ultimate guide to camping in Colorado for more tips and info on planning your camping trip to the Centennial State.

A girl enjoying the beauty of mountain and cloud and taking photographs from the top of Pike's Peak in Colorado.

What to Know Before You Go Free Camping in Colorado  

Free camping in Colorado is a great way to enjoy the state’s natural landscapes. But before you go, you need to remember that most free sites offer few amenities. Leave No Trace policies are crucial and necessary to maintain these lands and keep them in good condition for the future. Have you ever done any dispersed camping in Colorado?

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