Just because school started doesn’t mean camping in Colorado is over! Our favorite times to camp are during the fall when the leaves change, and the weather cools enough to enjoy being around the campfire. We love waking up to a vibrant sunrise illuminating the colorful leaves with a hint of fog hovering over a nearby lake. It’s simply the best time to be out!
Camping in Colorado is done two ways. First, by reserving a campsite at one of the numerous campgrounds throughout the state and paying a fee. Second, by obtaining a free dispersed campsite on BLM land or a national forest. There are plenty of options available to choose from, whichever one you prefer. Here are just a few of our favorite free camp spots in Colorado.
Camping for Free in Colorado
Some of the best places to camp in Colorado are free. With over 11 national forests expanding over 14.5 million acres, there is plenty of room to sleep away from home for free!
You can find the closest camping area to Denver in the Arapahoe National Forest. Located in the front range, near Idaho Springs, before you reach Summit County. White River National Forest expands Summit County through Vail. But in Southern Colorado – outside the small mountain towns- there are plenty of beautiful free camping areas.
If you are not in a National Forest or on BLM land, there may be regulations to follow, a limited amount of time you can stay, or fees in general to reserve your spot. This might be a good option if you are more of a planner! Take a more in-depth look at all campsites through Dyrt or Avenza Maps: Offline Mapping.
4 Free Camping Spots
These sites are great, but they do tend to fill up fast. There are a limited number of established camping spots at each location and they are first come, first serve. So the locals tip is to arrive really early to snag the best spot or go camping during the week if you can swing it!
Alta Lakes Campground : Telluride
Located near Telluride, there’s beautiful lakes and rivers, prime for fishing and views of the San Juan mountains. There are 20 designated campsites that are completely undeveloped. The road to Alta Lakes campground is narrow and rough and requires a high clearance vehicle. The best part of this site is it is close to Alta Townsite, a former mining town that has several buildings still standing.
Twin Lakes Campground : Leadville
One of our favorite places to camp. About half between Leadville and Buena Vista, this campground is stunning! It’s a short distance to Twin Lakes which is great for paddle boarding and fishing. There are 35 designated campsites here and Twin Lakes campground has access to Independence Pass. A high mountain pass that reaches an elevation of over 12,000 feet. You can drive to the top of the pass to take in the stunning mountain views or hike one of the many trailheads you’ll see along the road.
Lost Creek Wilderness : Fairplay
This is a beautiful spot! Many backpackers venture around this forest. But you don’t have to be a backpacker to experiences the camping in Lost Creek Wilderness! This wilderness area has 136 miles of trail much of which can be accessed along Highway 285 just past Kenosha Pass. If your looking for the perfect place to set up camp in the fall, this would be it! Kenosha Pass is known as a go-to spot to see the brilliant golden aspens in autumn.
Gordon Gulch Dispersed Camping : Nederland
Five miles north of Nederland is Gordon Gulch dispersed camping area, which includes 15 designated campsites along Highway 72. Most sites are spread out and far apart, so it will feel like you have the forest all to yourself. This campground offers excellent mountain views, and a variety of wildflowers take over the area during the spring.