Occupying the majority of the Southern Rocky Mountains, in addition to the northeastern portion of the Colorado Plateau, the state of Colorado is situated in the Southwestern United States (as well as the Western U.S.) and is part of the group of states that make up the Mountain States. Boasting an unbelievable number of pristine and secluded camping spots, Colorado is the eight-largest state in the Union by total area and the 22nd-most populous, placing it in the upper half of America according to that category.
The state of Colorado was actually named for the Colorado River, which runs through it—and through many other states as well. Spanish explorers named the state for the word “ruddy,” which at the time described the silt of the river carried from the nearby mountains. Colorado is bordered by a number of U.S. states, including Arizona to the southwest, Utah to the west, New Mexico to the south, Oklahoma to the southeast, Kansas to the east, Nebraska to the northeast, and Wyoming to the north. This topographic position makes Colorado a virtual haven for camping and its associated activities, including boating, fishing, hiking, backpacking and a whole range of water and snow sports.
In the following piece we will shine a light on five of Colorado’s most beloved camping spots, and highlight some of the great amenities and unique characteristics that make each of these sites so popular and well-visited.
1. Little Moles Lake Campground
Colorado is loaded with great camping spots, from basic “roughing-it” type campgrounds to luxury log cabins. One campground that truly lives up to its reputation is the Little Moles Lake Campground, located in the gorgeous San Juan National Forest.
Campers far and wide regularly flock to this beautiful location, largely because of its close proximity to Andrews Lake, a deep blue oasis, located high in the mountains that is simply teeming with tasty rainbow and brook trout. Another selling point of this amazing campground is the usually-snow-capped peaks of Snowdon, Grand Turk, Engineer, and Twin Sisters—pine-dotted hills that encircle the Little Moles Lake Campground and add significantly to the site’s allure.
Little Moles Lake Campground is situated between the towns of Durango and Silverton, Colorado, a locale that features miles of beautiful trails nearby that are perfect for hiking, backpacking and general exploration. The campground, which also features rock climbing and a refreshing waterfall, boasts both bathrooms and showers; picnic tables; fire rings (for campfires); and grilling facilities; as well as a half-dozen sites rigged for RV hookups.
While the summer months are simply pristine for camping at the Little Moles Lake Campground, campers should always be prepared for afternoon showers—and even hail storms—during the later hours of the day and early evening.
The nightly cost for campsites at the Little Moles Lake Campground ranges from $10, for basic tent camping sites; to $30, for those who prefer to stay in campers or recreational vehicles.
2. Moraine Park Campground
Located in the beautiful town of Estes Park, Colorado, the Moraine Park Campground is one of the state’s most beloved camping areas. The Moraine Park Campground is situated in the middle of the breathtaking Rocky Mountain National Park, one of the world’s finest wilderness areas, which includes gorgeous, deep-blue lakes; rippling creeks and streams; an unlimited number of hiking and backpacking trails; and more trees than one person could possibly count.
According to one of the longtime stewards of the Rocky Mountain National Park—a forest ranger with two decades of on-site experience—the Moraine Park Campground is the pick of the litter when it comes to Colorado camping—a place in which the character of the terrain at the campground is highlighted by deep green meadows that are uniquely interspersed with massive rocky outcroppings, providing some much needed screening between campsites. In some cases, where the sites are closest to the road, campers are treated to near total seclusion, but because the various campsites are only available on a first-come, first-served basis, only a select few early birds are able to secure these particular campsites on the weekend.
Known as a wonderful campground for families, the Moraine Park Campground is very kid-friendly, with a number of low rocks that are perfect for climbing and other activities beloved by children. Most nights, the call of the coyotes in the nearby area can be heard from the camps—a sound that is as distinctive as it is elusive.
The Moraine Park Campground features all of the new and modern conveniences that veteran campers have come to expect, including RV hookups, sealed trash bins, drinking water and full restrooms, complete with showers.
Fisherman and hikers will also love this marvelous campground, as it is conveniently located next to scores of great hiking trails and a nearby lake brimming with many freshwater fish varieties.
3. Saddlehorn Campground
Situated just west of the popular town of Grand Junction, Colorado, the Saddlehorn Campground is located in a quiet and peaceful corner of the woods, very near the Colorado National Monument.
The Saddlehorn Campground is also located near the Saddlehorn Visitor’s Center, some four miles from the west entrance near the town of Fruita, Colorado, and is the only established campground within the aforementioned Colorado National Monument.
The Saddlehorn Campground features a number of great amenities, including restrooms with flush toilets; drinking water (summer months only); picnic tables; grilling facilities; and campfire pits. Up to two pets, which must be leashed at all times, are permitted on all campgrounds, but cannot go onto the hiking trails.
Activities are plentiful at the Saddlehorn Campground, the most popular of which are hiking, fishing, backpacking, and nature walks. For an added adventure, backcountry camping is also permitted at Saddlehorn, allowing visitors to get a true taste of the “Old West” while setting up camp in the secluded wilderness. A free “backcountry camping permit” is required for this activity, which can be obtained at the visitor center.
The Saddlehorn Campground is open year round, and all sites in the “A Loop” are available on a first-come, first-served basis, with a self-registration kiosk at the main entrance. Campsites in the “B-Loop” are reservable up to 6 months in advance, and are open from March to October, weather permitting. All sites are suitable for tent camping and recreational vehicles, as long as campers and RVs do not exceed 40 feet in length.
4. Chambers Lake Campground
According to the staff of the United States Forest Service, the Chambers Lake Campground is “one of the ten best camping spots in the agency’s Rocky Mountain region.” Located high above in the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests, the Chambers Lake Campground hosts a great number of tent and RV sites, all of which feature a variety of amenities and a wonderful family atmosphere.
Parts of eight distinct wilderness regions are found in the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests, and the Chambers Lake Campground borders two of them: the Rawah and Comanche Peaks. The renowned Rawah wilderness area is a 76,000-acre-plus region with elevations ranging from 8,400 to 13,000 feet above sea level. The high peaks here were carved over the centuries by glaciers, ultimately resulting in breathtaking, circular lakes and moraines.
Comanche Peak was added to the Wilderness System in 1980, and is named for the 12,702-foot peak that defines it. Well-groomed trails in this area provide access into the wilderness system, which abuts the Rocky Mountain National Park.
Eighty percent of the campsites at the Chambers Lake Campground are completely barrier-free, including many sites that include raised tent pads to ensure a flat area in which to pitch a tent. The Chambers Lake Campground also features an amphitheater, at which programs are offered throughout the summer months; an easy-access boat ramp; and playground facilities for children. The nearby alpine lake offers a variety of water-based activities, including fishing, canoeing and kayaking.
Chambers Lake Campground is located 60 miles west of La Porte, Colorado on Highway 14—a beautiful drive with a majestic and very scenic backdrop.
5. Trappers Lake Campground
The dense collection of mountains and towering trees that comprise the White River National Forest play host to one of Colorado’s most well-liked camping areas: the Trappers Lake Campground. Trappers Lake is actually a complex of distinctive camping areas that surround the lake. Features of the complex include some very authentic Old West structures and themes, the Flat Tops Scenic Byway; and the nearby Flat Tops Wilderness Area.
The Trappers Lake Campground is a somewhat secluded outdoor paradise, tucked away into a finger of the wilderness area near its boundary. Visitors that camp in—and explore—the campground will be treated to some very glorious vistas, highlighted by some vast canyons that reach far into the White River Plateau—canyons that have been carved by several centuries of wind and water to form vast amphitheaters encircled by rocky outcroppings.
In addition to its beautiful scenery, Trappers Lake Campground offers plenty of great options for outdoor recreation, including boating (kayaking, canoeing, etc.); hiking, backpacking and nature explorations; and some of the finest fishing the Rocky Mountains have to offer. All of the campsites here are designed with families in mind and include full service restrooms with showers and drinking water; grills for BBQ-ing; fire rings; and well-contained garbage bins at every campsite.
Trappers Lake Campground is located roughly 50 miles from the town of Meeker, Colorado and is part of the Blanco Ranger District.