When you got skin in the game, you stay in the game. But you don’t get a win unless you play in the game.
When you got skin in the game, you stay in the game. But you don't get a win unless you play in the game. (Lewis Geyer / Staff Photographer)

You're not officially a Boulderite unless you've hiked into the wild with only the gear you can carry and shit in a hole in the woods that you dug yourself with a specially designed folding shovel called an iPood. (It's a real thing; get yourself one stat.)

Of course, backpacking's not for everyone. That's why this list has a nice mix of organized, dispersed and backcountry camping options so you can match your adventure to your fitness level. Sorry, there's no "professional GoT binge watcher" level of camping in Colorado. You will have to move your soggy behind for all of these, at least a little bit.

These recommendations are all within an hour of campus. Being a mountainous area, nights get cold and weather can change quickly, so be prepared with rain and cold-weather gear. My pro tip for sleepful nights under the stars: Eye masks and foam ear plugs. Because the sound of a babbling brook is quaint, but a snoring friend will turn you violent quicker than a menstruating woman will draw bears in the woods.

Another pro tip: If you pack it in, pack it out. Leaving your trash on the trails isn't OK; it's the mother of all dick moves. Help out our friends in public service and their recently slashed budgets and clean up after yourself. Bonus karma points if you clean up after others.


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Extra bonus points: Play the Anal RV Game. Easier than actually doing anal. Simply spot an RV or camper and add the word "anal" in front of its name. My winners so far: Anal Crescendo, Anal Fury and Anal Spree.

You'll never look at Mom and Pop's quaint retirement recreating the same way.

Longs Peak campground

Where: Rocky Mountain National Park

Directions: Head up Boulder Canyon Drive to Nederland, then north on Colo. Highway 7. The campgrounds are 10 miles south of Estes Park.

Moraine Park Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park is a good place to spot horny elk bulls bugling their pickup lines during the September-October
Moraine Park Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park is a good place to spot horny elk bulls bugling their pickup lines during the September-October seasonal sexy times. (Andy Cross / The Denver Post)

Reservations: No

More info: nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/camping.htm

Only tents are allowed here, so you'll have to travel into town to play your new favorite game. (Anal Tourists, anyone?)

But sleeping at the foot of the nearest 14er is an experience no one should miss. Only the most ambitious should attempt to scale Longs Peak: it's a challenging hike, and people die on it every year. We recommend ambling into RMNP for the trails, the elk and the views.

It closes in late fall, but if you have a hankering for wintertime RMNP, head over to nearby Moraine Park Campground.

Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Where: Golden

Directions: Head south on Colo. 93, then west on Golden Gate Canyon Road

Reservations: Yes; backcountry is first-come, first-serve

More info: parks.state.co.us/parks/goldengatecanyon

There are lots of camping options in this state park, but our fave: the yurts. A bit pricy at $80 per night, but bring a group and split the cost.

Camp Dick

Where: 6 miles north of Ward

Directions: From Ward, head north on Colo. 7, the Peak to Peak Highway.

Reservations: Yes

Hee hee hee.
Hee hee hee. (Lewis Geyer / Staff Photographer)

More info: fs.usda.gov/recarea/arp/recreation/camping-cabins/recarea/?recid=28224&actid=29

First off, giggity.

Second, this campground is in a glacial valley. It has forests. It has meadows. It has a creek. It also has a shit-ton of people, being one of the most popular spots around and so close to civilization. But the views along the Peak to Peak — especially in fall — are worth fending off midwesterners and soccer moms.

Pawnee Campground

Where: 5 miles west of Ward

Directions: From Ward, briefly head north on the Peak to Peak Highway, then turn left on Brainard Lake Road.

Reservations: Yes

More info: fs.usda.gov/recarea/arp/recreation/camping-cabins/recarea/?recid=28314&actid=29

Just a mile east of Camp Dick (giggity), this is another popular spot because of the awesome nearby hiking and views of the Indian Peaks.

Pro tip: It's mega windy here. A CU-sponsored Tundra Cam sits atop Niwot Ridge to measure the gusts. You can view the live cam to get a sense of conditions or if your life has become so empty and devoid of meaning that you want to stare at open spaces for a few hours while listening to Gary Jules' "Mad World" on repeat: instaar.colorado.edu/tundracam/view.php

This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are as many places to pitch a tent in Colorado as there are flecks of glitter at a Pride Parade — and they're just as awesome. The best way to find a new spot? Ask those salty upper classmen. They've been around.

Shay Castle: twitter.com/shayshinecastle