• Ross Taylor / The Denver Post

    Camping is a great excuse to set fires (in a designated pit) and roast sugary, gelatinous blobs until they expand and blacken like a miniature re-enactment of "Akira."

  • Seth McConnell / The Denver Post

    If you've never been camping before, it's OK to take baby steps. You're free to knock it once you've tried it, or go the other direction and become the second coming of Bear Grylls.

  • Helen H. Richardson / The Denver Post

    The second best reason to go camping (after indulging your caveman fire-creation fantasies), is the chance to see adorable wildlife.

  • Dawn Wilson / Estes Park Trail-Gazette

    A herd of elk relax in Estes Park. Look at those chubby ungulates, chilling in the wilderness. Go. Join them.



The University of Colorado has a habit of attracting students who came here for the outdoor activities and possibly to study whenever they have extra time.

The mountains to the west of Boulder have plenty of camping opportunities for the outdoor enthusiast, and many of them are modern enough for the person who wants to camp but not in a “I-hate-humanity-and-must-escape-to-the-woods” kind of way.

If you are feeling like you must escape the world and retreat to the deep forest, you probably aren’t reading this anyway. For the rest of you, here are some ideas:

Longs Peak Campground

Where: Rocky Mountain National Park

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

Reservations: No

More info:

The campground has 26 spots and is tent-only. It’s a pretty high elevation at 9,500 feet, so lowlanders should take it easy to avoid altitude sickness or give yourself time to acclimate to your new home before rushing up into the mountains. It closes in late fall.

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:

The park has numerous camping options along with cabins and yurts. Obviously, you want to camp in a yurt at least once so you have an excuse to use the word “yurt” in many future conversations. Group camping options are also available. Ride sharing services like Uber don’t come to the area, so make sure you have someone to pick you up if you get dropped off.

Camp Dick

Where: 6 miles north of Ward

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

Reservations: Yes

More info:

The campground is in a glacial valley with forests, meadows and a creek. It is one of the most popular campgrounds, so it might be kind of crowded. There’s a party at Camp Dick, and everyone’s coming. The views along the Peak to Peak Highway, especially in the fall, are nice.

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:

The campground is at the foot of the Continental Divide and is in a mature spruce fir forest. It can get cold and wet at any time. Trails to the west enter the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

John Bear:

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