Gross Reservoir Camping: Helpful Tips You Should Know

A mountain gem camping along Gross Reservoir near Boulder, Colorado.

Don’t let the name turn you away. Gross Reservoir camping offers an amazing getaway, just outside Boulder, Colorado.

However, if you want a place with lots of amenities, look elsewhere. On the other hand, for unspoiled natural beauty in the heart of the Colorado Rockies, head toward Gross Reservoir. It’s a lesser-known area for recreational activities like hiking, camping, fishing, and certain kinds of boating.

About Gross Reservoir

Like many of our great modern lakes in the United States, Gross Reservoir manages water for the surrounding areas. Specifically, they designed and engineered it to handle the massive runoff from the Rocky Mountains to the west. Dwight Gross headed up the project, and the high mountain lake carries his name.

Abundant recreation opportunities followed after its completion in 1954. Many people enjoy hiking, camping, fishing, and rock climbing. Sorry, they don’t allow swimming or wading in the reservoir, but you can in nearby streams.

Gross Reservoir, 7,282 feet above sea level, sits in the Roosevelt National Forest and is owned and operated by Denver Water. Water pumps into this 440-acre lake through a structure called the Moffat Tunnel. The reservoir’s 340-foot concrete dam is being expanded to 471 feet (from the stream floor). Gross Reservoir will hold an estimated 25 billion gallons of water after construction.

A gorgeous and cold mountain Gross Reservoir just outside of Boulder, Colorado.

When Is the Best Time to Visit?

Unless you like skating or ice fishing, summer is the best time to visit. Even during the hottest months of the year, it can get very cool at night. The water itself stays extremely cold year-round.

Because of Gross Reservoir’s proximity to the continental divide, you can have extreme and unpredictable weather. Dangerously high winds can pop up with little or no warning. For this reason, keep an eye on weather forecasts when Gross Reservoir camping.

Camping at Gross Reservoir

You can camp for free, so it can get congested at times even though there are almost 11 miles of shoreline. Only primitive camping is allowed. You will find no amenities other than a vault toilet.

Winiger Ridge 

Get There: Winiger Ridge, Colorado 80466

About Winiger Ridge: This campground rests on the western end of Gross Reservoir off National Forest System Road 359. You can camp in 26 different designated, numbered sites on a first-come, first-served basis. It is limited to 14 days in one location and 28 days total in Roosevelt National Forest.

Facilities and Amenities: You can find metal fire rings and a single vault toilet at the Forsythe Canyon Trailhead.

Site Types: You can use tents or RVs at these sites.

Fees: You don’t have to pay any fees to camp here.

A green and blue heavenly sight of Gross Reservoir beneath mountains outside of Boulder, Colorado

Things to do at Gross Reservoir

Other than Gross Reservoir camping, you have many other recreation opportunities along its shore. Here are some of the most popular ones.

Boating

You can use non-motorized boats that you don’t need a trailer for at Gross Reservoir from May to September. This means “car-top” watercraft like smaller rowboats, canoes, kayaks, and inflatables.

Fishing

The state regularly stocks the reservoir with several kinds of fish. They include three types of trout (rainbow, brown, and lake) and splake and kokanee salmon — also called silver trout, a close relative to sockeye salmon.

Hiking

Many people love hiking the Forsythe Trail, which leads to a small waterfall. You can locate the trailhead on the National Forest Service System Road 359. The 3.2-mile trail (out and back) follows Forsythe Creek through a wooded area to a rocky canyon. You can even take kids on this easy hike. However, you might need a four-wheel-drive vehicle to get there on the rough road.

Rock Climbing

There are lots of reasons they call the place Boulder, even though it’s actually closer to the town of Nederland. You can find many irresistible rock formations here, perfect for climbing. You can try your luck with bouldering near the lake’s eastern shore.

Time to Explore

It may sometimes get overlooked, but people have enjoyed this gorgeous man-made lake for nearly 70 years. If you can land a spot, try Gross Reservoir camping on the water or any of the other activities the area provides.

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