Camping is a quintessential way to spend your Colorado summer, but with hoards of tourists and the number of “locals” that seem to double by the minute, sometimes it feels like when you’re ready to get away from it all, so is everyone else. So here they are, our top five campgrounds that if you are willing to put in the effort and go the extra miles will captivate you with their beauty and seclusion and will make you crave them all week long.
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North Rim Campground
Put the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park on your summer bucket list now. This place is not to be missed. The trek out to the North Rim campground is not short but pictures will never do this place justice. Flip your perspective at the North Rim as the campsites are set on the edge of the canyon; instead of gazing up at the mountains, look down into the heart of the nearly 2,000-foot deep canyon. They do not take reservations for campsite at the North Rim so arrive early if you are heading out on a busy weekend.
Flat Tops Trail Scenic Byway
We are all looking for that one slice of campground that makes every Instagram follower instantly jealous and it can be found here at the Flat Tops Trail Scenic Byway. Connecting the two towns of Yampa and Meeker near Steamboat Springs the Flat Tops Trail is an 82-mile stretch of Colorado beauty. Littered with dispersed camping along the byway, especially on the Yampa side you can find your remote oasis. The jewel of the hunt is Trappers Lake, the third largest natural lake in Colorado. There is plenty of camping near the lake as well but in traditional campground style to help preserve the area.
Only a few miles from downtown Winter Park peace and quiet endures at Vasquez Ridge. Dispersed camping is the main draw here, but this location boasts biking, hiking, fishing and off-roading. Dispersed camping is all that is available at Vasquez Ridge and once you reach the Arapahoe National Forest you can find sites around every turn. This is the best primitive camping outside of Winter Park. The road is not too bumpy, it is easily accessed from town and there are plenty of wooded creek side campsites that won’t cost you a penny.
Lakes of the Clouds
The Lakes of Clouds Trail will challenge you with an 11-mile round trip hike to discover the three chain linked lakes sitting in the high alpine basin of the Sangre De Cristo mountains. This is one of the more easily accessible basins in the Sangre De Cristo range and offers backpackers and hikers a spectacular 360-degree view. On this climb, you’ll gain roughly 3,000 feet in elevation and set up camp at a cool 11,679 feet. The Lake of Clouds trail can help you hike above the crowds and completely unplug.
Kebler Pass offers the striking Elk Range in the background and surrounds you with a sprawling aspen grove that is one of the largest in the country. It will take you nearly 5 hours from Denver to reach all of this beauty, but for me it is worth it every time. Pass through Crested Butte and head towards Whiterock Avenue take a left onto the road and watch it turn into Kebler Pass Road then the hunt begins. As the road climbs you will see multiple off shoots left and right. Each will lead you to a secluded dispersed campsite paradise. Fall at Kebler Pass is unbeatable, but with the heavy wooded aspen groves be sure to pack extra layers as the sun is easily blocked.