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7 Secret (and Free) Campsites in Colorado in 2023

While most people keep their favorite free campsites in Colorado a secret, we’re not most people. Colorado is one of our favorite states as it offers some of the most incredible scenery in the United States.

Unfortunately, we’re not the only people who know how amazing the camping. People are flocking to the Centennial State for vacation.

Lucky for you, we’re spilling the beans on some of our top-secret spots to camp for free in Colorado. Whether you’re experienced or a first-timer, these hidden gems will satisfy your craving for adventure.

Let’s explore!

You’ll Love These Secret Free Campsites in Colorado

If you’re tired of crowds and the high prices that come with them, you’ll love these free Colorado campsites that still seem to be relatively secret. These hidden gems offer some of the most beautiful and secluded spots in the state, where you can enjoy the pristine wilderness and stunning views without distractions or interruptions.

Whether you prefer hiking, fishing, or simply lounging by the campfire, these sites have something for everyone. So why wait? Grab your gear and head to these amazing campsites for a memorable experience.

Pro Tip: Lace up your hiking boots and hit these 11 Best Trails for Hiking in Colorado.

Woman hiking in the Colorado Rockies
Enjoy the great outdoors while camping for free in Colorado.

#1 Camping at Colorado’s Sacred White Shell Mountain

Sacred White Shell Mountain is a significant landmark in the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado. Known locally as Blanca Peak, it’s the fourth-highest summit in the Rocky Mountains, rising to 14,345 feet. Indigenous people, including the Navajo and Ute, have lived in the area for centuries and consider the mountain sacred.

Camping at Sacred White Shell Mountain is a unique opportunity to connect with nature and experience its cultural significance. Four large sections accommodate just about any size rig. As this is dispersed camping, there are no designated sites; you set up wherever there’s space. 

Unfortunately, the spot tends to get rather busy, especially on the weekends. This is because many people come to attempt to summit Blanca Peak. 

In addition, you’ll likely be at 7,500 to 8,500 feet. The high elevation can cause issues such as sickness or dizziness, so drink plenty of water and don’t overexert yourself.

Things to do nearby include Zapata Falls, Great Sand Dunes National Park, and the small towns and communities that make up the San Luis Valley. You can also visit the Fort Garland Museum and Cultural Center to learn about the area’s history or the Colorado Gators Reptile Park and encounter reptiles, fish, and birds.

#2 Campsites Near Colorado’s Red Feather Lakes

Red Feather Lakes, located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. With its stunning natural beauty, clear mountain lakes, and abundant wildlife, it’s no surprise that many visitors are looking for campsites in the area. 

You’ll find several first-come-first-served free campgrounds in this area. However, a higher clearance vehicle may be best for reaching some of these sites. If you’re hauling a trailer, it won’t be easy, and we don’t recommend forcing yourself into a tight situation.

Some of the best spots near Red Feather Lakes are west of the lake on Deadman Road. The fire routes have plenty of options, but the roads can be a little tricky. In addition, the roads are often impassable after heavy rains. However, the views you can enjoy are worth keeping an eye on the weather.

#3 Halfmoon Road Near Leadville, Colorado

Halfmoon Road is just outside the Colorado hotspot town of Leadville, and the road is lined with plenty of free campsites of various sizes. These are great for those wanting to camp in a group and still maintain some privacy. Many people choose this location because of its proximity to Mount Massive, Mount Elbert, and Leadville.

Accessing Halfmoon Road requires navigating a dirt road. It’s typically in decent condition but can get rough, especially the further back you travel. These are fantastic for long-term stays. If you want to take your time and spend two weeks exploring, it’s easy to do here.

#4 Forest Road 788 in the Gunnison National Forest 

If your goal is remote camping, this is one of the best options. Even during the busiest times of the year, you likely won’t have to worry about neighbors. In addition to privacy, you can enjoy epic views of the San Juan Mountains and access to numerous hiking trails, fishing ponds, and camping areas. 

One of the most popular trails is the Cannibal Plateau Trail. It runs five miles and includes the Blue Lakes, a series of crystal-clear alpine lakes near the plateau’s top.

This hike isn’t easy, but the stunning views make it popular with outdoor enthusiasts. 

#5 The Lost Creek Wilderness

The Lost Creek Wilderness area is a low-elevation spot perfect for spring and fall. You’ll find plenty of tent options and several for smaller rigs, but not much for larger rigs. Some of the best areas are Goose Creek, Wigwam, and Hankins Pass Trailheads.

However, it’s important to note that Lost Creek Wilderness has a mandatory self-issuing permit system. You can get these free permits by visiting a trailhead and keeping it in view while occupying the space for up to 14 consecutive days. Ensure you know and follow the permitting requirements to avoid potential legal issues.

Campsites line this 20-mile road, which can get very rough. There’s minimal cell service, but the peace and quiet are worth disconnecting from technology.

As with most free spots, some sites are better than others. Luckily, plenty of options are available in the area, and you’ll surely find one that works for you.

#6 Jones Pass Near Highway 40

Jones Pass is an incredible free location that’s best from June until mid-October. However, if you visit before August, expect snow. Reaching the ridge or the start of the Continental Divide Trail will require a hike. While this spot often gets dubbed the best free camping near Denver, many argue it’s the best in Colorado.

Some tremendous free sites along Jones Pass are Henderson Mine Road, Butler Gulch Road, and Jones Pass Road. However, due to its proximity to Denver, this becomes very popular during the peak season. Some people are better than others at following Leave No Trace principles. 

Additionally, this is bear country. So ensure you take the proper precautions for storing food safely. Bringing plenty of layers is also a good idea since sites are over 11,000 feet.

#7 Alta Lakes Near Telluride, Colorado

The Alta Lakes are in the ghost town of Alta near Telluride. They sit at 11,300 feet and offer incredible opportunities and a look back into time. You can find drive-up dispersed camping spots at Lower Alta Lake, but if you want to explore Upper Alta Lake or The Third Lake, you’ll need to hike there.

These peaceful lakes are the perfect spot to bring kayaks, canoes, and standup paddle boards. You’ll have the calm waters all to yourself as Alta Lakes Road is unsuitable for boat trailers. You can also take advantage of several hiking trails that provide views of the surrounding mountains and forests.

While these have minimal amenities, they do offer pit toilets. You’ll be able to peacefully know that if you stay here, you’ll have a place to answer nature’s call.

However, fire restrictions are frequent in the area during the peak season, so make sure you check the rules and regulations before starting a campfire.

Pro Tip: Check out these 9 Best Things To Do in Telluride, Colorado during your visit!

Abundant Free Camping Available in Colorado

Colorado is known for its natural beauty and abundance of outdoor adventures. From scenic mountain passes to alpine lakes and wilderness areas, this state offers something for everyone.

Whether you’re looking to hike, camp, fish, or enjoy the views, plenty of free camping options are available throughout Colorado. As we’ve shown, you don’t have to spend a small fortune to camp here.

Discover the Best Free Camping Across the USA

To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America (with complete privacy).

You should give it a try!

As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.

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