• Kim J. Phillips /

    Katie and Chris Bugbee relax by the fire at their campsite in Pawnee Campground.

  • Kim J. Phillips /

    Katie Bugbee zips up her tent while camping in Pawnee Campground on Aug. 3. Pawnee is popular, but with the incredible views and stellar hikes right from the campground, it's well worth the effort.

  • Kim J. Phillips /

    Jane and Kirk Fields look at a map and guidebook at their campsite in Longs Peak Campground.



Borrow some gear here

The CU Outdoor Program has the goods you’ll need to go camping even if you don’t. They’ll rent you a tent, sleeping bags and pads, and in the winter, snowshoes. (Not needed for camping, of course — unless you camp in the winter, which can be loads of fun. Really.) Visit to learn more.

Dorm or apartment life got you down? Craving some fresh air, stars at night? We’ve got you covered with five camping spots, all within an easy drive from Boulder.

Take a break from your computer and enjoy the simpler life (toilets not always included, but whatevs) at some of these serene camping spots in Colorado.

(Also, promise us you won’t spend too much time Instagramming some of these amazing mountain and lake views. If you do, be courteous and #nofilter it. Colorado is beautiful enough on its own.)

Longs Peak campground

Where: Rocky Mountain National Park

Directions: Head up Canyon to Nederland, then north on Colorado highway 7. The campgrounds are 10 miles south of Estes Park.

Spots: 26 camping sites

Reservations: No

Cost: $20 when the water is on

More info:

Spend the night at the foot of our very own fourteener, even if you don’t plan to hike it (although that would be a solid weekend). However, keep in mind that since this campground is just downhill from the trailhead for Longs Peak (and the gorgeous hike to Chasm Lake, one of the best day hikes around these parts), this campground can fill fast, especially in the summer.

Only tents are allowed at this site. After you wake up and make some nice campfire breakfast, explore the park’s 355 miles of hiking trails — not all in one day, of course. If you play your cards rights, you will probably spot marmot, elk, moose and maybe even some bighorn sheep.

This campground closes later in the fall, so check the website for details before you go.


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.

Spots: 39

Cost: $19

Reservations: Yes

More info:” title=”“>


This campground is just east of Brainard Lake and sits at the foot of the Continental Divide, which means it gets cold at night, so bring warm clothing and gear. The hiking trails here in the Indian Peaks Wilderness are extremely popular with Front Rangers, and for good reason — these are high-quality hikes just a short distance from Boulder. The campground is just as popular as the hiking, so plan ahead and make reservations or try camping mid-week.

Now that we’ve told you how busy it gets, we should tell you how awesome the views of the peaks are from the campground. They’re amazing and completely worth getting there early for — do it!

Of note: It gets windy here. It gets so windy that several groups of atmospheric scientists at CU have sponsored a Tundra Cam that sits on an extra windy spot, Niwot Ridge. To see what’s happening up there, visit the live cam at

But still go! And the season ends early up here, so go now or plan ahead for next year.

Camp Dick

Where: 6 miles north of Ward

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

Spots: 41

Cost: $19

Reservations: Yes

More info:” title=”“>


Camp Dick sits in a glacial valley next to Middle Saint Vrain Creek, where the hiking and mountain biking are awesome. The Buchanan Pass and Sourdough trails are super fun rides, and you can even bring your four-wheeler or ATV for some roads nearby (you have one in your dorm room, right? OK maybe later). Here you get a mix of forests and meadows, and it’s only an hour’s drive from Boulder.

Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Where: Golden

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

Spots: 186

Cost: $16-$22

Reservations: Yes

More info:

There are tons of campgrounds in this state park, but the best one by far is the “backcountry” area, which allows you to rent out traditional Appalachian trail huts. These huts are three sided and can sleep up to six people without a tent at $10 to $12 per night. There are only four huts, but there are 20 backcountry tent sites open all year long scattered throughout the park (though no fires allowed at theses sites since they’re so remote).

You can also rent a yurt — a tent inspired by Mongolian and Siberian nomads — in this park. But if you rent a yurt, promise us you’ll belt out R.E.M.’s “Everybody yurts sometimes” at the top of your lungs.



Heaton Bay

Where: On the shores of Lake Dillon, in Summit County

Directions: Take Interstate 70 west into the mountains until exit 203. Turn left onto Dillon Dam Road.

Spots: 67

Cost: $19

Reservations: Yes

More info:” title=”“>


You know how you always drive up I-70 during the winter to go skiing? Turns out it’s beautiful up there in the summer and fall, too. This campground sits right on the forested shores of Lake Dillon. It’s surrounded by mountains, is crisply cool in the evenings and in the fall, the aspen trees are spectacular.

This is also a good spot to stay if you want to ride the bike paths along the lake shores or rent a kayak from the Frisco marina to take out for some flatwater paddling.



Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.

blog comments powered by Disqus