A few months when I was researching a new place to go camping this summer, I was stressed out. I have lived in Colorado for 12 years and the possibilities for outdoor explorations are limitless, making the process overwhelming. So, I put it out there to the experts (you!) and received some fantastic recommendations of where to camp. My criteria is it needed to be approximately two hours from Denver, in the mountains, preferably near water and gorgeous.
That isn’t too much to ask in a fabulous state like Colorado, right?
Turquoise Lake. Photo: USDA
Turquoise Lake. With a name like Turquoise Lake you know this recreational area near Leadville has got to be beautiful. Located in the heart of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains and near the state’s highest peak, there are 8 campgrounds that are named for nearby gold and silver mines and the tycoons who owned them. The 300 campsites consist of fire rings, toilets, drinking water and picnic tables and area activities include hiking, fishing, boating and two boat-launching ramps. For a great family hike, do a portion (or all) of the 6.4 mile Turquoise Lake Trail that parallels the shoreline of Turquoise Lake from the Dam to May Queen Campground. Turquoise Lake is about 5 miles west of U.S. Highway 24 and Leadville, Colorado.
Camp Dick. Camp Dick is the site of a Civilian Conservation Corps camp that was established in the 1930s just off the Peak-to-Peak Scenic Byway. The campground is situated on the banks of the Middle Saint Vrain Creek in a glacial valley surrounded by mixed conifer and aspen forests and has vault toilets, campfire rings, firewood, drinking water and grills. The Middle Saint Vrain Creek is a good fly-fishing stream where anglers cast for rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout. Many trails in the vicinity are open to hiking and biking, including Sourdough and Buchanan Pass trails. The Indian Peaks Wilderness boundary is four miles from the west end of the campground. Guided horseback riding is available at Peaceful Valley Lodge, which is just over a mile away.
This beautiful valley has it all: The mighty Collegiate Peaks in the Sawatch Range stand sentry at the west and host a dozen of Colorado’s famous 14ers (14,000-foot peaks). More than 100 miles of the mighty Arkansas River forms the eastern boundary and is perfect for rafting, fishing, floating or kayaking. Camping options abound in this land also famous for its hot springs. The Arrowhead Point Campground and Cabins is located on 23 acres with campsites, cabins, cottages and yurts in a mountain setting. The Buena Vista’s KOA 35-acre property boasts million-dollar views of six 14ers, while the Chalk Creek Campground in Nathrop (7 miles south of Buena Vista) lets you get back to nature with a fun twist like Summer Potlucks on Thursdays and Rubber Ducky Races on holidays. Other options include Fisherman’s Bridge Campground (between Nathrop and Salida), Heart of the Rockies Campground (10 miles west of Salida) or the Monarch Spur RV Park and Campground that is nestled in a valley only 200 feet from a trout stream.
Kenosha Pass Campground. Northeast of Fairplay on U.S. Route 295 (and just 50 miles southwest of Denver) is Kenosha Pass campground. The campground features a trail head for the Colorado Trail, which infamously starts outside of Denver and threads its way nearly 500 miles over eight spectacular mountain ranges before ending in Durango. The campground includes an interpretive area that has a wheelchair/stroller-friendly trail on the old Denver, South Park and Pacific Railways. Facilities at the 25-site campground include water, tables, vault toilet and fire rings and if you love fall, consider returning late-September when the area’s aspen trees come to life. Hike the spine of the Front Range from Jefferson to Grant with tremendous views of 14,265-foot Mount Evans and 14,065-foot Mount Bierstadt.
Red Feather Lakes. Photo: Colorado.com
Red Feather Lakes. Head to the Rocky Mountains northwest of Fort Collins and you’ll fall in love with this rustic mountain village that is surrounded by 612,000-acre Roosevelt National Forest. This year-round outdoor playground boasts the Cache La Poudre River, Colorado’s first designated Wild and Scenic River, and has the area’s best whitewater rafting, kayaking and fishing. Camping choices range from Archer’s Poudre River Resort on the Poudre River with a Country Store for all your grocery and fishing tackle needs to the Poudre Canyon KOA that is nestled in one of Colorado’s most scenic river valleys–a favorite for whitewater rafters and kayakers. The West Lake Campground has 36 sites in a mountainous, ponderosa pine forest while nearby Dowdy Lake’s 70-site campground is extremely popular for fishing, hiking, and mountain biking.
Jack’s Gulch. Photo: USDA
State Forest State Park’s 70,838-acre park offers visitors 71,000 acres of forest, jagged peaks, alpine lakes, wildlife and miles of trails located in Jackson and Larimer counties east of Walden, Colorado.
Snow Mountain Ranch. The YMCA of the Rockies’ lodges and cabins near Winter Park, Colo. are well-known for family vacations with hiking, biking, swimming, roller-blading, ziplining, a summer tubing hill and more. But not to be overlooked is their campground and yurt village–all the fun at a fraction of the price.
Jack’s Gulch Campground is located 48 miles northwest of Fort Collins and is tailored to those traveling with horses. The campsites have corrals and the area is home to a network of trails amid aspen stands and ponderosa that are perfect for leisurely rides.
What are your favorite places to camp in Colorado?