15+ Best Places for Free Dispersed Camping in Colorado

Today, I’m going to share my all-time favorite free campsites in Colorado.

The Centennial State is home to literally thousands of dispersed campsites (spread across 11 national forests and two national grasslands as well as over 8 million acres of BLM land), so let me be clear that my recommendations below are simply to help you start your search.

Here are my 15 favorite free dispersed campsites in Colorado (with nearby backups/alternatives).

Related Post: My Favorite Free Campsites in Utah


Please always follow the 7 Leave No Trace principles (especially packing out all your trash, properly disposing of human waste, respecting campfire bans, and proper food storage) when dispersed camping in Colorado.


Best Dispersed Campsites in Colorado

Skip down to the free campsite you want to learn more about:

Or, use my Colorado dispersed camping map to find a free campsite near you.


My Favorite Dispersed Campsites in Colorado

Here are 15 of the best places for free dispersed camping in Colorado (in my opinion) to help you start your search for the perfect campsite.

Priest Lake

Location: Near Telluride

Priest Lake stands out as one of the best places for dispersed camping near Telluride.

Like many very popular dispersed camping areas, you’re unfortunately no longer allowed to set up camp anywhere you please. You must now camp in one of 9 designated dispersed campsites – but this is no reason not to visit.

These designated dispersed campsites are spaced quite far apart so you still have plenty of privacy from your neighbors. Each campsite is marked and has a picnic table and fire ring. A vault toilet is located on site.

Turn off Highway 145 onto Priest Lake Road (FR 64B) about 12.5 miles south of Telluride to reach these campsites. The road is moderately rough, but passable with any passenger vehicle. Although the road is doable for small trailers and RVs, both types of rigs are no longer allowed to camp here.

Although the lake itself is little more than a bog, the surrounding scenery is extremely beautiful – especially during the fall when the aspens turn lovely hues of yellow and orange.

What I Like:

This free camping area is beautiful and very close to Telluride. Although it’s not much of a swimming lake, the lakeside campsites are still nice. The walk-in sites offer a little more privacy than the drive-in sites.

What I Don’t Like:

Priest Lake no longer allows RVs or trailers. It gets very crowded in summer, especially with day-use visitors, although it tends to be fairly quiet at night.

Other Free Campsites Nearby:

There’s a ton of dispersed camping near Telluride in both Uncompahgre and San Juan National Forests. Two other popular spots are Alta Lakes and Lizard Head Pass. But know there’s plenty of under-the-radar free camping nearby (especially if you have a high-clearance rig with 4WD and aren’t afraid to explore).

For More Info:

Priest Lake is part of Uncompahgre National Forest

Call the Norwood Ranger District for more information: (970) 327-4261

Get Directions to Priest Lake

Weston Pass

Location: Near Leadville

Weston Pass is one of the most scenic places for dispersed camping in Colorado.

Dispersed camping and boondocking are available on both sides of the mountain pass (just under 12,000 feet elevation) along County Road 22.

Although you can reach these campsites from both Highway 24 south of Leadville and from Highway 285 north of Buena Vista, I advise RV boondockers to arrive from the east.

The road to Weston Pass from Highway 285 is gravel, but it’s well-maintained (expect moderate washboarding at most) and much less steep and windy than the western access road from Leadville.

Countless dispersed campsites are located just off the road, including many along the South Fork of the South Platte River. Several of these campsites are large and flat enough for small to medium trailers and RVs.

What I Like:

Dispersed camping at Weston Pass is quiet, peaceful, and remote. The scenery is nice and there’s plenty of room to spread out. It’s a good spot for RVs and trailers under, say, 26 feet (just remember to arrive from the east).

What I Don’t Like:

There’s very little negative to say about camping here. Just about the only problem I noticed was an abundance of trash scattered about. But, unfortunately, this is a big problem at almost all dispersed campsites nowadays.

Other Free Campsites Nearby:

Look at the dispersed campsites near Clear Creek Reservoir, Twin Lakes, and Turquoise Lake for even more options near Leadville and Buena Vista. Weston Pass Campground (just $15 per night) is another great choice if you don’t mind staying in a developed campground.

For More Info:

Weston Pass is part of Pike National Forest.

Call the South Park Ranger District for more information: (719) 836-2031

Get Directions to Weston Pass

Little Molas Lake

Location: Near Silverton

Looking for free camping near Silverton? Little Molas Lake is a good bet.

Just 15 minutes south of Silverton (and just south of the Million Dollar Highway), this is a great stopover for those traveling along the Highway 550 stretch of the stunningly beautiful San Juan Skyway between Durango and Silverton.

Although it’s not dispersed camping (you must camp in a designated campsite), camping here is still completely free. Plus, the primitive campsites are incredibly scenic themselves, set near the shore of the small lake with views of the surrounding mountains. Small trailers should be fine here.

Unfortunately, with only 10 first-come, first-serve campsites, Little Molas Lake does fill up quickly in the summer months. But have no fear – there’s a heck of a lot more free dispersed camping (yes, actually dispersed!) in the surrounding San Juan National Forest.

Poke around the countless forest roads that split off from the highway for roadside dispersed campsites galore (high-clearance will help you score more privacy as the sites nearest the highway are typically packed with RVs, trailers, and low-clearance passenger vehicles).

What I Like:

Not only are these campsites incredibly scenic, but the drive into them along San Juan Skyway is one of the most scenic drives in America. If the 10 marked campsites are full (which is likely if you arrive after, say, 3pm), there’s tons of dispersed camping in the surrounding national forest – you’re sure to find a spot.

What I Don’t Like:

It gets cold at night, but that’s to be expected at over 10,000 feet elevation. It does get very busy here during the summer, especially on weekends. Unfortunately, Little Molas Lake is close enough to the highway for a little (albeit faint) road noise.

Other Free Campsites Nearby:

Free dispersed camping certainly isn’t in short supply around here. Explore the many roadside turnoffs and forest roads to find more free campsites. For example, on my last visit, I turned off here (37.765938, -107.676668), drove in a few hundred feet (it was muddy and extremely rough) and found a private, forested campsite with a magnificent view of towering Grand Turk.

For More Info:

Little Molas Lake is part of San Juan National Forest.

Call the Columbine Ranger District for more information: (970) 884-2512

Get Directions to Little Molas Lake

Washington Gulch

Location: Near Crested Butte

Dispersed camping certainly isn’t in short supply near Crested Butte – but the free campsites along Washington Gulch Road stand out above the rest.

Although recent rule changes now require you to camp in designated dispersed campsites (dispersed camping is banned throughout Crested Butte Valley), this is still one of the most beautiful places to camp in this part of Colorado, especially during wildflower season.

But don’t let these rule changes discourage you. These new camping restrictions are actually for the best, in my opinion. Not only do they help minimize human impact to the land, but they also increase privacy and solitude for campers lucky enough to snag a spot for the night.

Washington Gulch Road is unpaved but is usually well-maintained. It’s typically passable for most vehicles, including RVs and trailers. Other than keeping an eye out for free-range cattle, moderate washboarding/potholing is the worst you should expect.

I believe there are now a little over 40 designated dispersed sites at Washington Gulch. The first several (starting about 4 miles in after turning off Gothic Road) are best for big rigs.

What I Like:

Absolutely stunning views. Many campsites look out to Mount Crested Butte in the distance. Other sites are located down near the stream. If you’re not afraid of bumping around, a couple sites are great for RVs and trailers up to about 30 feet (possibly a bit longer).

What I Don’t Like:

It’s not really a complaint, but campsites do fill up quickly here. And, because dispersed camping is restricted throughout Crested Butte Valley, there’s not many guaranteed backup sites. I recommend arriving in the early afternoon if not the late morning to secure a spot for the night, especially on summer weekends.

Other Free Campsites Nearby:

Kebler Pass and Paradise Divide are two other exceptionally scenic free camping areas nearish Washington Gulch. You’ll also find dispersed campsites near Brush Creek, Cement Creek, and Lake Irwin. Remember that camping in designated dispersed campsites is now required in most of Crested Butte Valley.

For More Info:

Washington Gulch is part of Gunnison National Forest.

Call the Gunnison Ranger District for more information: (970) 641-0471

Get Directions to Washington Gulch

Sacred White Shell Mountain

Location: Near Great Sand Dunes National Park

For dispersed camping and boondocking near Great Sand Dunes National Park, look no further than Sacred White Shell Mountain.

Although it’s widely known as Lake Como Road (since the road leads to Lake Como), the access road’s official name is Mt. Blanca Road. Confusing, I know. Luckily, the turn-off for Mt. Blanca Road (BLM 5410) is clearly marked.

Dispersed campsites appear almost immediately after turning off of Highway 150. Big rigs should stick to the first couple pull-outs as these are the largest and most level. Smaller RVs and trailers can venture further up the unpaved road (which is well-graded and hard-packed with only minor washboarding).

Wait until the road starts winding up the side of the mountain for the campsites with the best views. The more elevation you gain, the better the views of the surrounding plains of the beautiful San Luis Valley. Most campsites here are quite exposed to the elements.

Do know that the road does become rougher the further up you travel. Although the road continues all the way to Lake Como, this last stretch of road is for serious off-road 4X4 vehicles only (even stock jeeps will have a very difficult time here).  

Sacred White Shell Mountain does get quite with those visiting Great Sand Dunes (just 20 minutes away) and those hiking Blanca Peak (one of Colorado’s many fourteeners), but there’s plenty of room to spread out.   

What I Like:

There’s plenty of room to spread out here. And the road’s rapidly worsening roughness allows those with 4WD to escape the busier RV-friendly spots to find something more peaceful. These difficult-to-reach spots are also those with the best views.

What I Don’t Like:

My biggest complaint about Sacred White Shell Mountain is the wind. And, because the area is so dry, this wind kicks up a heck of a lot of dust. For me, this isn’t a deal breaker, but definitely come prepared.

Other Free Campsites Nearby:

Two other great options for free camping near Great Sand Dunes are Smith Reservoir State Wildlife Area (dispersed camping) and San Luis Lakes State Wildlife Area (free campground with free water/electrical hookups and a dump station!). Both do require all campers to have a valid Colorado hunting or fishing license though. 

For More Info:

Sacred White Shell Mountain is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Call the San Luis Valley Field Office for more information: (719) 852-0165

Get Directions to Sacred White Shell Mountain

Gross Reservoir (Winiger Ridge)

Location: Near Boulder

Reaching Gross Reservoir is quite the challenge – but the payoff is some of the most scenic free camping in Colorado.

The majority of the campsites here are located along Winiger Ridge (access via FR 359) on the western side of the reservoir. Like many of Colorado’s best free campsites, dispersed camping near Gross Reservoir is now restricted to “designated dispersed” campsites only.

Normally, I believe there are 31 such campsites. However, as of summer 2021, the vehicle roads into the last five, those closest to the lake, are closed. Here is a current USFS map of Gross Reservoir’s designated campsites. I believe those nearest the lake are set to reopen in summer 2023.

Forest Road 359 which leads into the campsites is very rough. However, I managed perfectly fine in a high-clearance vehicle without 4WD. This definitely isn’t the spot for RVs or trailers, no matter how small, but I think any high-clearance vehicle can make it in (of course, 4WD is helpful, especially if it’s muddy).

Almost all of the designated campsites have at least peekaboo views of the reservoir. But, even those that don’t are beautiful and peaceful thanks to the thick surrounding wilderness.

What I Like:

Winiger Ridge and Gross Reservoir are just an hour from Boulder and an hour and a half from Denver. The reservoir itself is beautiful and most campsites have lake views. Although this isn’t true dispersed camping, the campsites are well spread out and offer a good amount of privacy.  

What I Don’t Like:

Camping is now restricted to designated dispersed campsites. Despite the rough roads, it still gets crowded here on summer weekends. Denver Water owns and operates the reservoir itself, so recreational opportunities are limited. No swimming or wading is allowed, although I believe you can canoe, kayak, and fish here.

Other Free Campsites Nearby:

The surrounding Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests are filled to the brim with dispersed camping opportunities. Gordon Gulch, an hour from Gross Reservoir and just a half hour from Boulder, is a beautiful spot to camp nearby.

For More Info:

Gross Reservoir is owned and operated by Denver Water.

Call Denver Water for more information: (303) 893-2444

Winiger Ridge is part of Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests.

Call the Boulder Ranger District for more information: (303) 541-2500

Get Directions to Winiger Ridge (Gross Reservoir)

McElmo Dome Sand Creek Overlook

Location: Near Cortez

I don’t believe there’s an official name for this dispersed campsite – but most visitors call it McElmo Dome Sand Creek Overlook.

It’s located just inside the boundaries of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument and boasts some of the best views of any campsite – free or paid – anywhere in Southwestern Colorado.

To get here, head towards Sand Canyon Pueblo on County Road N. Just after this ancient ruin, the road swings first to the left and then back to the right. Cross the cattle guard and take the first left onto BLM 4726 (I can’t recall if this side road is actually marked in person).

Up to this point, the gravel road is smooth and accessible to all vehicles. The access road itself isn’t horribly rough, but you should expect bumps, rocks, and not much room to pull off if you encounter traffic coming the opposite direction. I suggest high-clearance (4WD is helpful, especially after rain). I recommend against taking even a small RV or trailer here (although plenty of people do).

I strongly recommend checking out the Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum in nearby Dolores, even if you’re not a big history buff. It’s one of the most extensive collections of Native American artifacts I’ve ever seen in a single place.

What I Like:

The sweeping view from the overlook of the canyons below is gorgeous. But, even if you can’t make it all the way up the hill, you’re sure to find a quiet, peaceful campsite for the night.

What I Don’t Like:

Like many free campsites, trash is a big problem here. So, please, please, please remember to pack out all of your garbage otherwise dispersed camping might be restricted in the future.

Other Free Campsites Nearby:

I believe dispersed camping is allowed throughout the entirety of Canyons of the Ancients, aside from a handful of restricted areas (i.e. near archeological sites).

Continue past the cattle guard on County Road N and you’ll see countless other side roads to explore as well as several roadside pullouts more suitable for RVs and trailers.

Although some campsites are suitable for small RVs and trailers, I recommend avoiding this area in big rigs…anything up to about 24 feet long should be fine.

Here are the official Canyons of the Ancients dispersed camping regulations.  

For More Info:

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Call the Tres Rios Field Office for more information: (970) 882-1120

Get Directions to McElmo Dome Sand Creek Overlook

Shavano Wildlife Management Area

Location: Near Salida

Shavano Wildlife Management Area is another great spot for free BLM camping in Colorado.

Located near Mount Shavano (yet another one of the state’s many fourteeners), this scenic dispersed camping area is popular among RV boondockers thanks to the abundance of flat, level campsites and relatively well-maintained access roads.

Get here by heading west along Highway 50 out of Poncha Springs before turning north onto County Road 250. Stay on this road until you reach the Wildlife Management Area. The first campsites appear around these coordinates: 38.554198, -106.117704.

Countless side roads split off from the main access road. Most of these are accessible for all vehicles, including large RVs and trailers, but it’s always wise to scout ahead on foot if you’re in a big rig. It does get busy here, but there’s almost always enough room to spread out to find a private spot for the night.

Moderate washboarding on hard-pack gravel is as bad as the road gets for the first mile or so after you reach the first campsites. After that, the road does get quite a bit rougher, not to mention steeper, narrower, and more winding.

What I Like:

This is one of the best spots for boondocking in Colorado. You’ll find sites big enough (and level enough) for even the biggest rigs. After the first mile or so, the road does get too rough for most RVs and trailers, but this just makes for more private campsites for tent and van campers.

What I Don’t Like:

Lots of cactus here – so watch kids and dogs closely. It’s also quite exposed with minimal shade (this is great for those with solar panels though). There’s one short, steep hill about 3/4 miles in from the turnoff that some RVs and trailers might struggle with (scout ahead on foot before attempting).

Other Free Campsites Nearby:

Those with high-clearance can continue past Shavano WMA towards Mount Shavano. You’ll find additional dispersed camping once you cross from BLM land into San Isabel National Forest. The roads here are quite rough (4WD is very helpful) which means fewer crowds and more privacy. Some sites have 360° views of the surrounding mountains.

For More Info:

Shavano Wildlife Management Area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Call the Royal Gorge Field Office for more information: (719) 269-8500

Get Directions to Shavano WMA

Flagler Reservoir State Wildlife Area

Location: Near Flagler

* Flagler Reservoir now requires a Colorado hunting or fishing license or State Wildlife Area pass for day use and camping.

Flagler Reservoir State Wildlife Area is an excellent free overnight stop along I-70 just after crossing from Kansas into Colorado.

It’s nothing fancy and it’s not particularly scenic (at least, compared to some other Colorado dispersed campsites), but it’s conveniently located, accessible to all vehicles, and usually pretty quiet (even with the highway nearby).

Although it’s far from the mountains, Flagler Reservoir does have its own unique beauty. The reservoir is often (maybe always) dry or nearly dry, but wildlife, especially birds, are abundant. Plus, the area is surrounded with trees, shrubs, cacti, and, even, wildflowers at the right time of the year.

This is a great spot for boondocking in RVs and trailers, even big rigs. Although passenger vehicles and tent campers can find more private sites around the dry lake bed, most RVs and trailers stick to the large main gravel lot.

As mentioned above, Flagler Reservoir is no longer completely free. A Colorado hunting or fishing license or SWA pass is now required for camping. Luckily, a 1-day SWA pass is just $9.00 while an annual SWA pass is currently $36.71.

What I Like:

This free campsite is just off I-70. The access road is well-maintained and there’s space at the reservoir for all vehicles, even the biggest RVs and trailers. It’s typically very quiet and peaceful here. The scenery might not be as stunning as the mountains, but it’s beautiful in its own right.  

What I Don’t Like:

It gets windy at Flagler, but that’s to be expected in the Eastern Plains. The only other downside is that a SWA pass (or Colorado hunting or fishing license) is now required to camp here…but these are quite affordable, especially if you plan to camp at several State Wildlife Areas on your trip.    

Other Free Campsites Nearby:

There are several other State Wildlife Areas in the general vicinity of Flagler. These include Kinney Lake SWA, Hugo SWA, Karval Reservoir SWA, and South Republican SWA (formerly Bonny Lake State Park). Pick up an annual Colorado SWA pass and stay at all for cheap.

For More Info:

Flagler Reservoir SWA is managed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Call the Colorado Springs Parks and Wildlife Office for more information: (719) 227-5200

Get Directions to Flagler Reservoir State Wildlife Area

Carson Lake Recreation Area

Location: Near Grand Junction

Carson Lake Recreation Area and the surrounding national forest land is a great spot for free camping near Grand Junction on the Grand Mesa.

The free campsites at the lake itself are marked. Each of these four campsites has a picnic table and a fire ring. A vault toilet is located on-site. A ranger tends to check on things at least once daily, especially during the summer months.

Prefer not to stay in a developed, albeit free, campground? You’ll find several dispersed campsites along Forest Roads 100 and 108 on your way to the lake. Forest Roads 105 and 109 (as well as spur roads) also have additional options for dispersed camping.

The roads leading to Carson Lake are unpaved but not usually very rough beyond minor washboarding. The four lakeside campsites accommodate small to medium RVs and trailers, say up to around 26 feet max. Bigger rigs should probably stick to one of the paid developed campgrounds along Highway 65 (the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway).

Do note that, while fishing is allowed here, you’re not actually allowed to enter the water. This means there’s no swimming, floating, or boating. Anglers must fish from the shore and refrain from wading into the water.

What I Like:

Carson Lake is quiet and peaceful with beautiful scenery. It’s not technically dispersed camping, but it is completely free. Each site has a picnic table which is a nice change of pace if you’re typically used to true dispersed camping.

What I Don’t Like:

There are only four campsites here. So, naturally, they fill up quickly. Luckily, there are plenty of backup dispersed campsites throughout the rest of Grand Mesa National Forest.

Other Free Campsites Nearby:

The Grand Mesa is rife with free camping. Explore the surrounding national forest and you’ll find countless dispersed campsites. Like usual, the farther you travel down unpaved roads, the more private the campsites get. Find some of my favorite dispersed campsites in the area by heading past Carson Lake towards Lands End Observatory.

For More Info:

Carson Lake Recreation Area is part of Grand Mesa National Forest.

Call the Grand Valley Ranger District for more information: (970) 242-8211

Get Directions to Carson Lake Recreation Area

Pawnee National Grassland

Location: Near Fort Collins

The fantastic yet often overlooked Pawnee National Grassland is an ideal spot for boondocking in rigs of all sizes.   

Unlike many other spots for free dispersed camping in Colorado, these grasslands are wide open with mellow (mildly washboarded) access roads and plenty of level spots.

Pawnee National Grassland is split into two non-contiguous sections. Although dispersed camping is allowed in both, most campers prefer the area around Pawnee Buttes in the eastern section thanks to the interesting scenery. Personally, however, I prefer the western section (near the bird tour) as it seems to have less oil activity than the eastern section.

I recommend talking to a ranger before your visit for up-to-date info on current closures. The grasslands are interspersed with private land and public roads are sometimes closed during heavy oil activity. Picking up a paper motor vehicle use map (MVUM) is extremely helpful (you can also download both a West MVUM and East MVUM with the Avenza Maps app). 

What I love most about dispersed camping here is the privacy. Despite the daytime traffic (mostly from oil rigs), the nights are very quiet and peaceful with few other campers nearby.

What I Like:

Pawnee National Grassland is extremely beautiful in its own right, especially during wildflower season. Not only is it one of the only places to camp in the area, but it’s pretty darn convenient if you’re heading from Cheyenne, Wyoming down into Colorado (or vice versa).

What I Don’t Like:

Navigating the national grassland is a little confusing. There’s active oil activity in the area and large swaths of private land you’ll need to avoid. I suggest talking to a ranger (on the phone or in person) before you arrive.

Other Free Campsites Nearby:

I’m not aware of any other free camping in this particular part of Colorado. But both sections of Pawnee National Grassland have plenty of room to spread out, especially if you have high-clearance to explore the countless unmaintained roads.

For More Info:

Pawnee National Grassland is managed by the United States Forest Service.

Call the Pawnee Ranger District for more information: (970) 834-9270

Get Directions to Pawnee National Grassland

See Also: Best Dispersed Campsites in Wyoming

Picket Wire Canyonlands

Location: Near La Junta

Picket Wire Canyonlands probably looks a lot different than what you imagine when you think of Colorado.

Far from the Rockies, this remote section of Eastern Colorado consists mostly of high plains desert with beautiful canyons and rock formations sprinkled throughout.

For free camping, Comanche National Grassland just south of La Junta is your best bet. Do note, however, that dispersed camping is restricted here. You must camp at either Picket Wire Corrals (37.659194, -103.620306) or Withers Canyon Trailhead (37.659694, -103.572111).

Out of these two, Withers Canyon Trailhead is my personal favorite. It has just four campsites but is lightly trafficked, especially in the summer (it gets extremely hot here). The views are beautiful, hiking trails are close at hand, and the access road is well-maintained (just avoid after heavy rains). Small RVs and trailers are okay but don’t camp here in a big rig.

The Purgatoire River dinosaur track site, home to more than 1,500 well-preserved fossilized dinosaur footprints from the Jurassic period, is well worth a visit. Bring plenty of water and brave the 11-mile roundtrip hike or join a guided auto tour (available in May, June, September, and October – you must bring your own high-clearance, 4WD vehicle).

What I Like:

I love the stunningly beautiful scenery here. It’s a nice change of pace from Colorado’s typical mountain scenery. I’m also a fan of all the nearby hiking trails as well as the dinosaur fossil sites.

What I Don’t Like:

Camping is allowed in just two, not very scenic, locations. There’s not much privacy (although, thankfully, other campers are rare). But, what really irks me is those that camp outside of the legal campsites in restricted areas (a practice all too common in Picket Wire if the handmade fire rings are anything to go by).

Other Free Campsites Nearby:

One of the most popular places for dispersed camping in Picket Wire Canyonlands, at least if you go off of other online reviews, is Picket Wire Canyon Overlook (37.643694, -103.580500).

However, I don’t believe dispersed camping is actually legal here. I believe the access roads have been blocked with signs (“No Motorized Vehicles”) and all existing fire rings have been dismantled.

Please stick to the Picket Wire Corrals or Withers Canyon Trailhead, unless you talk to a ranger ahead of time and confirm dispersed camping is currently allowed elsewhere in Picket Wire Canyonlands.

For More Info:

Comanche National Grassland is managed by the United States Forest Service.

Call the Timpas Ranger Unit for more information: (719) 384-7647

Get Directions to Picket Wire Canyonlands

Williams Fork Reservoir

Location: Between Kremmling and Granby

Williams Fork Reservoir is a unique option for free dispersed camping in Colorado.

Unlike most of the state’s free campsites, the reservoir is not located on public land. Instead, it’s owned and operated by Denver Water which supplies both water and electricity to the Denver Metropolitan Area as well as much of the Western Slope.

Although there are several options for camping around the lake, my favorite place to set up on camp is on the peninsula near the “West Boat Ramp.” The campsites here aren’t technically dispersed – you must camp in a “campsite” (marked with a metal fire ring and a picnic table) – but it definitely feels like dispersed camping thanks to the spacious sites, overall seclusion, and beautiful lake views.

Camping here is great for RVs and trailers. The only catch with boondocking is a lack of level sites. Tent campers are also welcome – just remember to bring bug spray to keep the summertime mosquitoes at bay.

There’s dispersed camping much closer to Rocky Mountain National Park, but Williams Fork Reservoir is still just an hour from the Grand Lake Entrance (the westernmost entrance), making it a decent place to overnight on a road trip to the park.

What I Like:

Decently close to Rocky Mountain National Park’s West Entrance. Not horribly far from Denver either. The campsites here are quite secluded with great views of the reservoir.

What I Don’t Like:

Neither swimming or wading is allowed in the reservoir – which is tough on a hot day! Mosquitos are also a big problem in the summer.

Other Free Campsites Nearby:

Williams Fork Reservoir Campground on the east side of the lake (across from the undeveloped “West Ramp” area) is another great option. It’s very well-maintained, completely free, and even has a free RV dump station.

For More Info:

Williams Fork Reservoir is owned and operated by Denver Water.

Call Denver Water for more information: (303) 893-2444

Get Directions to Williams Fork Reservoir  

Jouflas Campground

Location: Near Grand Junction

Jouflas Campground is conveniently located off of I-70 just before crossing from Colorado into Utah.

It’s part of the Rabbit Valley Motorized Area which itself is part of the McInnis Canyons Natural Conservation Area. Although dispersed camping isn’t allowed here, I wanted to include this free BLM campground because of its incredibly convenient location.

Just 40 minutes east of Grand Junction, it makes a perfect overnight destination for those traveling from Colorado towards, say, Moab (or vice versa).

Jouflas Campground has 8 total campsites. Each has a picnic table and fire ring. These do fill up quite fast, especially summer, so try to arrive in the early afternoon if possible. Although I-70 is very close (you can actually see the campground from the Interstate), it’s still fairly quiet at night and does feel quite remote thanks to the very dark night skies.

This is a great spot for boondocking in RV and trailers. There’s a decent amount of room in the campground itself, but I’d avoid bringing in anything longer than about 30 feet due to the rough access road.

What I Like:

The main highlight of Jouflas Campground is its great location. It’s just 40 minutes from Grand Junction, an hour from Green River, and an hour and a half from Moab. The campsites themselves are clean and well-maintained (although the sole vault toilet is often a complete disaster).

What I Don’t Like:

Although free, you won’t have any of the privacy of dispersed camping here. The campsites are close together without anything blocking the line of vision from site to site. I-70 is nearby so expect highway noise throughout the night.

Other Free Campsites Nearby:

If Jouflas Campground is full, check out the nearby Rabbit Valley North Designated Camping Area, also part of McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, which has several “designated dispersed” campsites.

For More Info:

Jouflas Campground is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Call the Grand Junction Field Office for more information: (970) 244-3000

Get Directions to Jouflas Campground

Irish Canyon

Location: Near Dinosaur National Monument

Irish Canyon is one of my favorite under-the-radar spots for free camping in Colorado.

Although it’s not technically a dispersed campsite, the free campground at Irish Canyon boasts a lot of the flavor of dispersed camping. It’s secluded and remote with private campsites, few amenities, and dramatic views.

This small primitive campground is managed by the Bureau of Land Management as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) largely because of its unique geologic formations. It’s also home to rare plant species and an abundance of petroglyphs. Dinosaur National Monument is just a short drive away.

As for the campground itself, it’s tucked away deep in the beautiful canyon. Each of the six campsites has a picnic table and fire ring. Vault toilets are also available. 

The road into the campsite is well-maintained with only mild washboarding. Any passenger vehicle can make the drive, although I’d avoid camping here in anything but the smallest RVs or trailers.

What I Like:

Peaceful canyon with very well-maintained campsites – the BLM does a great job here. I’ve never seen Irish Canyon get very busy, although I imagine it does on summer weekends. Don’t forget to check out nearby Dinosaur National Monument.

What I Don’t Like:

It never gets too busy here (in my experience, at least) and there are just six campsites, but there’s very little privacy between sites. You’ll see/hear what your neighbors are doing and they’ll see/hear what you’re doing too.

Other Free Campsites Nearby:

Sand Wash Basin HMA (Herd Management Area) is a great place for actual dispersed camping near Dinosaur National Monument. There’s plenty of room to spread out with some of the best campsites near a small pond where wild horses gather to drink. Because of rough roads, including several washes, Sand Wash Basin is best for passenger vehicles only (no RVs or trailers).

For More Info:

Irish Canyon ACEC is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Call the Little Snake Field Office for more information: (970) 826-5000

Get Directions to Irish Canyon


How to Find Even More Free Camping in Colorado

San Juan Mountains in Colorado

The 15+ free campsites above are far from the only places for free camping in Colorado. In fact, countless popular dispersed campsites didn’t make my list. Here are a few tips to find even more:

  • Online Maps – Paired with the map above, Google Maps satellite view is super helpful to find potential campsites. I also like Gaia GPS and FreeRoam.app, both of which allow you to turn on USFS and BLM land layers to clearly see their boundaries. 
  • Apps & Websites – User-generated campsite review apps and websites (my favorites are iOverlander and FreeCampsites.net) are a great way to find potential dispersed campsites near you, although I wouldn’t rely solely on these as they miss a lot of spots and sometimes provide inaccurate/outdated information.
  • Ranger Station – If possible, always stop by the nearest ranger station (USFS or BLM) for the latest info on closures and road conditions. Rangers are always happy to share dispersed camping recommendations and typically have the most up-to-date knowledge on accessibility (including approximate maximum lengths for RVs and trailers).
  • YouTube – Although the search algorithm seems to promote popular videos rather than those closest to your actual search terms, a deep dive with YouTube using popular keywords such as “best dispersed camping in Colorado” or “free camping in San Juan National Forest” (as just two examples) can point you in the direction of even more promising spots.

Yet more options for free camping in Colorado include parking lot camping (like in a Walmart parking lot), casino camping (some casinos let you camp in their parking lots), and even stealth camping in a pinch.

Related Post: The Best Free Dispersed Camping in New Mexico


Colorado Dispersed Camping Rules and Regulations

aspen trees in Crested Butte in the fall

As mentioned above, it’s extremely important to respect our public lands.

Although national forests and BLM land have slightly different dispersed camping rules, one important rule pertains to both – always follow the Leave No Trace principles.

These basically boil down to disturbing the land as little as possible. Leave your campsite even cleaner than when you found it. Properly dispose of human waste (ideally pack it out in a WAG bag). Avoid off-limits or environmentally-sensitive areas.

Like much of the American West, wildfire season in Colorado is brutal. Always check on current fire restrictions and please be very careful with campfires – almost 85% of wildfires are started by humans.

Finally, respect all dispersed camping stay limits. In most national forests and BLM land, this is limited to 14 or 16 days in the same location (with some exceptions in very popular areas).


Have Fun on Your Colorado Camping Trip!

Colorado is hands down one of the most amazing states for dispersed camping.

With so much public land, and so much of it inaccessible without 4WD, you’re almost guaranteed to find a private and secluded, yet absolutely stunning, free campsite if you come properly equipped with the will and time to explore.

Even those who want to stick closer to the beaten path are certain to find scenic free campsites along their route (although you should expect crowds at these easier to reach destinations).

Please, let me know if you have any more questions: jake@campnado.com

Related Post: My Favorite Free Camping in Arizona