Dispersed Camping in Colorado [6 Awesome Places]

Published on September 26th, 2021 by Ray & Tammy Roman
This post was updated on August 7th, 2022

Would you love to go dispersed camping in Colorado but just don’t know where to begin?  Let me help!. Let’s start with the basics. 

dispersed camping in colorado

What is Dispersed Camping?

Dispersed camping is free, primitive camping is typically done at least one mile from a designated campground and done on federal land.  Normally, these areas will not have running water, electricity, outhouses, or dumpsters. 

What Areas Allow Dispersed Camping?

Almost all national forests and state parks allow dispersed camping.  With that said even with dispersed camping in Colorado, we recommend researching the specific forest or park you are considering for site-specific rules and regulations.

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Some areas require dispersed campers to move after 14-16 days, depending on the federal regulations for that forest or park, other areas are surrounded by private land.

The forest service website will help you find what areas are safe and what areas should be avoided.    

5 Things To know before going dispersed camping?

  1. Leave No Trace – Dispersed camping is meant to be big on the experience for you and your family but small on the impact for the land and animals who are nearby.  Tips for maintaining a “Leave No Trace” campsite include but are not limited to:
    • Avoid making an abundance of noise
    • Pack out everything that you packed in
    • Bury solid human waste 6-8 inches in the ground 
    • Do not feed or approach the wildlife 
    • Camp at least 100ft from water sources
    • If you must have a fire, do so in an area that has already been developed by someone else and do not leave the fire unattended
    • Do not bury your trash, take it with you
  2. Don’t Forget First Aid – Keep in mind some of these locations can be very remote.  Don’t forget to pack your first aid kit!  Remember to keep any food you may have sealed and put away.  Also, plan for the common inclement weather of that season.  
  3. Don’t forget your sunscreen – The weather may feel cool but at higher elevations, the atmosphere is thinner causing less protection against UV radiation.
  4. Check for Permits – Some forests or National parks may require permits for camping.  Do not forget to check those regulations before leaving.  
  5. Check Park Regulations – Some parks and forests only allow seasonal dispersed camping or camping in general.  If you are traveling outside of the summer season, we recommend checking that location before leaving to verify the area is accessible and safe in the winter or off-season.

Now that we have the basics out of the way, let’s get to the exciting stuff …. Where to go!

6 Dispersed Campgrounds in Colorado

Colorado is rich with beautiful locations and a perfect place for dispersed camping.

  1. Red Feather Lakes – This scenic location is in the Rocky Mountains two hours northwest of Denver.  Red Feather Lake is nestled in the Roosevelt National Forest.  It is the perfect place for avid hikers!  There’s also a river in the area that presents opportunities for whitewater rafting, fishing, and kayaking. 
  2. Guanella Pass – Located just a little over an hour west of Denver. It is the place to be if you’re looking for stunning daytime views and breathtaking stargazing at night.  Other fun activities include hiking, fishing, or visiting the historic city of Georgetown located just 9 miles north.  Camping at Guanella Pass is open from June to September. 
  3. Bill Moore Lake – If you are looking for an area that’s more suited to exciting OHV (Off-Highway Vehicle) opportunities then Bill Moore Lake is a great place to camp! It is located about 50 miles West of Denver. The unpaved road to get to the lake can be steep and rough so a 4-wheel vehicle is strongly encouraged. While camping is sure to take advantage of the Empire Loop offering a multitude of trails for your OHV!
  4. Twin Lakes –  located in Lake County, about 2.5 hours west of Colorado Springs, between the cities of Twin Lakes and Leadville you’ll find an abundance of dispersed camping sites scattered throughout the San Isabel National Forest.  This area is bursting with scenic views, countless hiking trails, and the dazzling Turquoise Lake is perfect for fishing!
  5. Clear Creek Canyon – Just a short drive southeast of Twin Lakes is the ideal place to camp if you’re a lover of history.  In the Clear Creek Canyon, one can visit four different ghost towns!  These towns are remnants of Colorado’s early mining days and even offer a museum, furnished schoolhouse, and a miner’s cabin for touring on select summer weekends.  Don’t worry, if you’d prefer history stays in the past, this area is also teeming with gorgeous views and hiking trails!
  6. Grand Mesa – The Grand Mesa National Forest can be found 40 miles east of Grand Junction.  The Mesa is the world’s largest flat-top mountain and a beautiful place to visit.  Spanning over 500 miles there are ample places to camp, fish, site see, and hike.  There are rules for pets and OHVs so if you plan to bring either, we recommend visiting the Forest Service website to ensure you have everything you need to stay within regulation.  

Dispersed Camping In Colorado Tips Video

Dispersed Camping in Colorado Final Thoughts

Whether you choose to visit one of our favorites or blaze your own dispersed camping trail, we hope you have a wonderful time visiting Colorado and enjoy all the incredible views and scenery that await you! 

The forest service website can be found at www.fs.usda.gov.  

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