If there is a state that has it all, it just might be Colorado. It’s home to the majority of the Lower 48’s tallest mountains — 58 of them are over 14,000 feet tall! It also has one of America’s deepest canyons — Black Canyon of the Gunnison, and sand dune fields that wouldn’t look out of place in the Sahara at Great Sand Dunes National Park.
The Centennial State is a camper’s paradise, too, with thousands of acres of open space that house free campgrounds in Colorado. Going without amenities in this rugged wilderness is certainly no luxury adventure, but it is a great way to experience nature in its purest form. So are you ready to take the leap? Your only question should be, how can I start boondocking Colorado? Keep reading to learn more about boondocking in Colorado and discover some of the best spots to camp for free!
Can I Go Boondocking in Colorado?
There are loads of excellent opportunities for boondocking in Colorado — you just have to know where to look. A large percentage of the state is covered in land owned by the federal government, either through the National Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management. Both allow for free boondocking in Colorado, so long as you don’t stay in one place for more than fourteen days.
You can also do some boondocking in one of Colorado’s four national parks or its 42 state parks. While these sites won’t be free, they should be more affordable than private RV parks that offer more amenities.
Overnight parking in urban areas is generally not allowed. Boondocking in Colorado Springs or Denver is limited by city and state ordinances. This is true on public streets and in private parking lots like Walmart. These rules are not always enforced, but you’d be better off staying in a designated campground near the city to avoid any trouble.
Top Locations for Boondocking in Colorado
The options for boondocking in Colorado are nearly endless, but if you need a little help getting started, these are some of the best campsites in the state.
If you’re thinking of visiting Colorado’s southwest corner, including Great Sand Dunes National Park, Hanson's Mill campground is perfect for boondocking. The area is popular for horseback riding, with several trails branching out from it. It only has three designated camp spaces, which include fire rings and picnic tables, but it is a great place for free dispersed camping in Colorado if you can snag a spot. A vault toilet is the only other amenity available at the site.
Hanson's Mill sits over 10,000 feet above sea-level, which means snow is an issue for around half the year. It usually starts falling in significant amounts in early December and clears up around Memorial Day. This free camping area in Colorado is open during these times, but the roads won’t be plowed so be cautious.
More Information: Hanson's Mill
Sawmill Creek Campground
The campground itself is closed and doesn’t offer any amenities at this time. However, experienced boondockers can easily do some dispersed camping in Colorado just outside the designated campground. Sawmill Creek is the closest water source and is a few miles from the dispersed camping area. It’s best to bring all the water you’ll need for the trip rather than relying on the mountain stream.
There is a 13-mile-long gravel road for accessing the campground and larger RV rentals might have a hard time navigating it. Dinosaur National Monument is a couple of hours to the west of Sawmill Creek and is great for fossil hunting. Don’t miss out on this free RV camping spot in Colorado!
More Information: Sawmill Creek Campground
Trout Creek Recreation Area
Half an hour to the south of Steamboat Springs, Trout Creek Recreation Area is a secluded forest campground that’s ideal for boondocking in Colorado. Though it has almost no amenities, it does feature a single vault toilet, so you won’t be filling up your wastewater tank while camping here.
Routt National Forest surrounds the recreation area and is loaded with great hiking trails, and as the name suggests, Trout Creek has some excellent fishing. Due to the remote location high in the Colorado Rockies, the recreation area is only open during the summer months. You can pick up supplies in the nearby towns of Yampa or Oak Creek –– both have groceries and gas.
More Information: Trout Creek Recreation Area
Sarvis Creek Wilderness
Not far from Yampa and the Trout Creek Recreation Area, the Sarvis Creek Wilderness offers over 44,000 acres of heavily forested terrain. Dispersed camping is allowed anywhere there are roads in the wilderness area, though there are no toilets, drinking water, or amenities of any kind. You’ll need to be completely self-sufficient.
The biggest attractions here are the waterfall on Sarvis Creek and the remnants of an old logging camp. However, the mountains can be anywhere from 7,000 to over 10,000 feet, so expect snow and unplowed roads during the winter months. If you are looking for free camping in Colorado, Sarvis Creek Wilderness is a great place to try.
More Information: Sarvis Creek Wilderness
Vedauwoo Designated Dispersed Campsites
For something completely different, check out the dispersed camping area at Vedauwoo. It’s actually in Wyoming, between Cheyenne and Laramie, but has good access to northern Colorado towns like Fort Collins, Loveland, and Greeley.
The camping area is quite large, with space for nearly a hundred RVs, though it has no amenities to speak of. It still gets a lot of traffic, thanks in large part to its excellent hiking trails. The Turtle Mountain loop trail is both short and relatively easy, making it a good choice for families with small children.
More Information: Vedauwoo Designated Dispersed Campsites
Browns Canyon National Monument
If you’re looking for a good place for boondocking in Colorado Springs, Browns Canyon National Monument is only two hours to the west. The camping area is completely undeveloped with no toilets or drinking water available.
Most visitors come to enjoy the Arkansas River, which features class V rapids that will challenge any rafter or kayaker. A few roads along the edge of the monument are popular with off-road enthusiasts and motorcyclists. Most require a high-clearance vehicle, so do not attempt them with your RV rental. There’s also a variety of wildlife to enjoy at the monument, including Bighorn Sheep and eagles.
More Information: Browns Canyon National Monument
Clear Creek Canyon
There aren’t many opportunities for free dispersed camping near Colorado’s urban areas, but Clear Creek is an exception. Sitting just outside the city of Golden and the Denver metropolitan area, it offers dispersed camping amongst a historic mining camp.
Great hiking trails can be found along Clear Canyon, and some excellent climbing routes exist on Missouri Gulch and the Cloyses Lake Trail. There are no amenities here, and it can get crowded during the summer months, so plan on getting a site earlier in the week before everyone from Denver shows up.
More Information: Clear Creek Canyon
Tips for Going Free Camping in Colorado
Now that you are familiar with some of the best free campgrounds in Colorado, we’ve rounded up some tips for you if this is your first time boondocking. Read on to learn helpful tips and tricks to remember for your trip.
- Start out with a full freshwater tank. To be safe, it’s best to have your freshwater tank full, especially if it’s your first time boondocking. You don’t want to run out of water and ruin the experience.
- Prep your meals in advance. It’s best to prep your RV meals in advance to be easily reheatable. Freeze them and pop them in the microwave once you’re ready to eat. This saves you from having to wash a bunch of dishes while preparing your food.
- Don’t park too close to other boondockers. This is especially important if you plan on using a generator. Remember they are there to experience the peace and quiet of nature, just like you, so don’t disturb them.
- Be sure to check the weather. Check the forecast before heading out on an adventure free camping in Colorado. You probably want to avoid being stuck in a blizzard if you can!
- Pack layers. Camping in cold weather can be a blast, as long as you’re prepared. Be sure to pack enough layers to stay warm in Colorado if you’re camping in winter.
Remember these boondocking tips to make your free camping experience the most memorable it can be!
Free RV Camping in Colorado With Cruise America
So now you know the best free campgrounds in Colorado and what to bring, it’s time to find transportation. What better way to explore the deep wilderness than in an RV rental? Camping in an RV is the ideal way to explore the less-visited regions of Colorado, and that experience is even better when it’s free.
Cruise America has a vast selection of reliable and easy-to-use RV rentals available for use in the Centennial State. Visit a Cruise America Colorado rental location near you and start your free camping adventure today!