Camping in Colorado state parks may resume, Gov. Jared Polis announced on Monday, except in counties that aren’t ready to welcome an influx of campers. So how do campers find out which counties are open and which ones remain closed?
That’s just one of the many questions raised by Monday’s announcement. We’re here to help with some answers.
How do I reserve a campsite?
Colorado state parks remained open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but camping has been prohibited since March 26, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife stopped taking reservations on that day. Campers who had reservations while campgrounds were closed were given full refunds. Now CPW has resumed taking reservations through its website cpwshop.com. Camping is by reservation only, as it was before COVID.
How should campers prepare?
Polis urged campers to fill their vehicles with fuel and supplies before leaving their home communities, whether they are using state parks or federal lands. Campgrounds in national forests remain closed, but the U.S. Forest Service still allows dispersed camping.
“If you are going camping somewhere in Colorado, either at one of these campsites or the federal ones that are open or on a friend’s land,” Polis said, “you should fill up your car in your area, get the supplies in your area that you need, including the food, then travel to the great outdoors, recreate and come back. Don’t risk infecting areas that have been free from the virus or, perhaps, acquire the virus in a place that has it and bring it back to your home.”
Campers should also mentally prepare for a different experience than they may be used to.
“There will be phased openings at a park by park level to ensure that communities and staff are ready, and visitors are well prepared to come camp with us,”Bridget Kochel, CPW public information officer, explained in an email. “We are just as excited to see our guests as they are to visit, but we ask that campers understand that camping will necessarily look different at our state parks for a while.”
How is CPW reopening campgrounds?
CPW is phasing in available sites, coordinating with counties where each state park is located. Many sites reopened Tuesday. Some campgrounds may have limited opportunities for camping, and some may remain closed “for a few more days based on local needs,” according to a CPW news release.
How do I find out where camping is allowed and where it’s still prohibited?
One site CPW recommends is a Safer-At-Home map, where you can click on a county and find out what restrictions are in place there. For example, if you click on Summit County, you will find out that a public health order dated May 7 prohibits camping there through May 31. If you click on Clear Creek County, you will see that non-residents are still prohibited from driving on county roads there. The Safer-At-Home map is maintained by Colorado Counties Inc., an association of the state’s counties.
You also can go to the CPW Park Finder map, click on a specific park to find out what restrictions are in place, along with plenty of other information about that park.
Is it too late to get a reservation for Memorial Day?
As of Monday evening, there were still available reservations for Memorial Day weekend, but they aren’t likely to last long. People typically reserve campsites for Memorial Day six months in advance — the day reservations open for Memorial Day — so the availability is bound to be scant.
There are available sites, though. For example, as of Monday evening, 20 of the 120 sites at the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area were available for Memorial Day weekend. At Steamboat Lake State Park, 25 of its 175 sites were available.
What are the current guidelines for camping in Colorado during the pandemic?
CPW has more instructions: Wear masks. Bring cleaning supplies and personal hygiene items. Be prepared to pack out trash, because trash receptacles may be closed. Make sure you have everything you need to cook your meals, eat them and dispose of leftover waste.
Bring a first aid kit. Bring your own toilet paper, hand sanitizer and trash bags in case restrooms are closed. If you’re camping in a dispersed area, bring a portable toilet. Fires must be restricted to approved fire pits, keeping in mind that some counties may have fire bans in place and notices will be posted. Keep gatherings limited to members of your household, and keep them to groups of less than 10. Practice physical distancing and do not congregate near restrooms or water sources.
“Make new friends another time,” the CPW release says. “Don’t invite visitors to your campsites, even for a few minutes. Gatherings of larger than 10 individuals will be asked to leave and may result in loss of your camping privileges.”