While I’m covering a few of our favorite campgrounds in Western Colorado, links at the end of this post will take you from Alaska to Canada and South.
So read on. Get inspired. Pack up your bags and…
Four Favorite Campgrounds in Western Colorado
Western Colorado is where Coloradans go to play. Loosely defined as the area west of the Continental Divide (the mountains to the east are known as the Front Range), the Western Slope is home to the majority of the state’s skiing and public lands open to camping and recreation.
A Western Slope native, I’m not gonna tell you that you can’t find amazing campgrounds and backcountry on the Front Range. But in Western Colorado you’ll find camping heaven.
Matterhorn Campground: Glamp On!
Glamping (verb): A combination of two words, glamorous and camping.
Fifty years ago, Telluride was a rough and tumble mining town that had seen better days. Today, Telluride is one of the most expensive and eclectic communities in Colorado. A combination of latter-day hippies, trustafarians and beautiful people, Telluride throws its doors wide open in summer with a full line-up of music and art festivals, as well as incredible opportunities for biking, horseback riding, backpacking and camping in the rugged San Juan mountains.
And while you could lay your head on a $1000 per night pillow, you can also glamp at the Matterhorn Campground about 7 miles south of Telluride. The US Forest Service describes Matterhorn as “highly developed,” which means picnic tables, grills, lantern poles, flush toilets and hot showers. Bike the Galloping Goose Trail, clean up, comb your hair and enjoy a gourmet meal in town.
Twenty-eight sites total (4 with hookups, 3 walk in tent only). Reservations are essential.
Amphitheater Campground: Cool Down, Warm Up
Amphitheater Campground is perched just above the historic town of Ouray, home of the Ouray Hot Springs Pool and a main street full of (dare I say it?) quaint shops, galleries and restaurants along Ouray’s main street. Yet while the town is close by, so is outdoor adventure, with popular hiking trails leaving right from the campground.
Located at 8,400 feet, this is alpine camping with cool nights and warm days. In addition to the popular pool (the perfect place to warm up, splash, enjoy the water slide or quietly soak away the day’s exertions) Ouray is also known for several beautiful waterfalls, access to Mount Sneffels, one of Colorado’s most popular 14′ers (a mountain peak above 14,000 feet elevation), endless jeep roads and local history.
The Amphitheater Campground loops are tight and not recommended for RVs longer than 30 feet. There are no hookups. Thirty-five sites total (1 RV only, 16 standard and 18 tent-only). Reservations are essential.
Rifle Falls State Park: All Natural Air Conditioning
Looking for a unique and fun place to cool off?
Check out Rifle Falls State Park, located off of Interstate 70 about 190 miles west of Denver. North of the small town of Rifle, the state park is located in a rather hot and dry valley. Yet, within the park, the vegetation is green and lush, thanks to a triple waterfall along Rifle Creek. Spray from the falls keeps the air cool, while limestone caverns behind the falls are open for exploration (watch for the bats!).
A popular day trip destination, the park has 13 RV/tent campsites with hookups. Better yet, there are 7 walk-in sites for tents only. We’ve stayed at the most remote along the creek. It’s a 10 minute walk from your car to the campsite, which makes it a perfect adventure for the littlest backpackers!
All sites have tables, grills and bear proof boxes. Toilets and water are near the parking area. Reservations are recommended.
Hovenweep National Monument: History Served Up Remote
Nearly 800 years ago, more than 2,500 people lived in six villages tucked inside this rugged bit of high desert. Human habitation in the southwestern corner of Colorado dates back over 10,000, but it wasn’t until about 900 A.D., that ancestral Puebloan people established farming communities and constructed masonry villages.
Today, most tourists bypass Hovenweep in favor of the larger and more dramatic Mesa Verde National Park. Still, Hovenweep is worth a visit, especially during spring and fall. A two-mile loop connects the primary ruins, while other short trails lead to outlying structures. Park rangers provide interpretive programs and come nightfall, the ultra-dark sky provides a canvas for stargazing. There is also an excellent NPS Junior Ranger program.
Camping is basic, although quite comfortable with tent pads shade structures, tables, fire rings, running water and flush toilets. The campground is designed for tents, although some sites will accommodate RVs. There are no hookups and generator use is restricted.
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