Written by: Katie Wellman
Boondocking in Colorado is a great way to get out and experience the many hiking trails and the gorgeous scenery throughout this beautiful state. Here are five places to dispersed camp in Colorado that are spread out a bit giving you the opportunity to explore and experience what each area has to offer!
Dispersed Camping at Purgatory Near Durango
In the beautiful San Juan Mountains near Purgatory Ski Resort there are a number of Forest Service roads and trails as well as dispersed camping areas. There are many options including hidden spots branching off on spur roads, small and large individual spots along the main road and even a large, flat turn out that accommodates numerous campers. And the best part is that they all come with beautiful valley views nestled among the green forested slopes.
About 26 miles north of Durango off US-550, turn west into Purgatory Ski Resort and continue right onto Hermosa Park Road/Forest Road 578. The dispersed campsites are all along this road. In the warmer months, Purgatory Ski Resort becomes a popular camping and mountain biking destination so expect weekends to get a little busy. There are many recreation opportunities nearby so get out and explore!
Boondocking on Kebler Pass Road
Kebler Pass Road is a beautiful, well maintained scenic drive along a dirt road that connects Paonia with Crested Butte. This scenic mountain road stretches for about 30 miles and gently climbs to about 10,000 feet. And it makes a great place to boondock while exploring the amazing nearby recreation opportunities in Gunnison National Forest.
The boondocking spots on Kebler Pass Road are most abundant if you turn south at the junction with Forest Road 706 towards Lost Lake Campground as well as east of this junction. There are a range of spots among the pines and aspen of various sizes as well as some more open camp spots closer to the Lake Irwin junction. This area along Kebler Pass Road is gorgeous and extremely peaceful. Be sure to check out nearby Crested Butte, a charming outdoorsy mountain town that serves as a gateway to countless adventures.
Free Camping on Uncompahgre Plateau
Uncompahgre Plateau is a lower elevation boondocking location near Montrose, Colorado. If the weather is too cold at the surrounding high elevation locations this may be the spot for you. It’s also a nice place to stay if you’re interested in checking out the nearby Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
After an interesting drive through the countryside, past the sheep, cows, llamas and rusty classic cars you’ll reach BLMs Uncompahgre Plateau. There are numerous dispersed campsites just off of the main road on the plateau which is a well maintained dirt road. These camp spots are pretty level, easy to get to, can accommodate large rigs and some have cell service. There are many trails to explore if you have an OHV or if you like taking walks. The first few camp spots see the most use but they have a vast view of the city below and as a result the cell service is probably strongest here. All in all, dispersed camping at Uncompahgre Plateau is peaceful and convenient in many ways. Here are the coordinates: 38.42478151358236, -107.99077284586893
Halfmoon Creek Road
There are so many dispersed camp spots along Halfmoon Creek Road! Many of these sites are right along the beautiful Halfmoon Creek among the tall pines. And there are others in the large open meadow which can accommodate large rigs. We had a nice spot in the forest with easy access to the creek below. This camping area gets pretty busy on the weekends. This is probably because there aren’t many forest roads in the Leadville area with dispersed camping but also because of the number of adventures and amenities in the area.
Our favorite part about camping on Halfmoon Creek Road was the convenience of having the trailheads for the two highest peaks in Colorado just a few miles down the road! There are also a couple paid campgrounds as well as Emerald Lake day use area. Like many places in Colorado, this is an adventure-rich area worth exploring!
Between Leadville and Vail lies the Holy Cross Wilderness which is of course, full of gorgeous Colorado mountains, lakes and alpine scenery! You’ll find several trailheads, a reservoir, an old historic town site and even a super gnarly jeep road that attracts people from all over. So camping on Homestake Road is a great place to call home while experiencing some cool sites and some serious beauty. From Leadville, follow US-24 W for 18.5 miles then turn left onto Homestake Road and pick out a spot!
You’ll find a variety of dispersed campsites to choose from along Homestake Road. Near the beginning of the road you can choose to find a spot in what used to be a developed forest service campground but is now free. Here you’re likely to have neighbors and less privacy. Or continue further and there are cozy spots in the woods near Homestake Creek as well as large, open meadow spots to choose from. Overall this area is quiet and peaceful though expect some through traffic heading back to the trails.
Thanks for reading! The best part about boondocking in Colorado is that no matter where you end up there’s always plenty of hiking and exploring to do!
Written By Katie Wellman
Katie and her husband Shane have been living on the road full time since 2017 discovering and sharing awesome free camp spots and hikes around the US. While living on the road, they create hand painted longboards so you can also find information about skateparks and great places to longboard. You can read about their adventures on their blog The Lost Longboarder.