You can explore and have fun in Colorado in plenty of ways, but few beat the memory-making tradition of camping in the great outdoors. With so many incredible parks and preserves across the state, it’s easy to find a campground that offers much to do and see. But how do you prepare for such an incredible trip? Brush up on your camping skills and start preparing early with our complete guide to camping in Colorado.
Learn the Different Campgrounds
The first thing to do when planning a camping trip in Colorado is to figure out where you want to stay. So, you’ll need to learn about the different types of campgrounds in the state. Plenty of diverse options with various prices, amenities, and popularity are available. Remember that Colorado is a major tourist destination, and many spend their time in at least one of the state’s multiple campgrounds. If you want a campsite with more peace and quiet, you might want to look off the beaten path. That said, even Colorado’s busier campsites offer a beautiful space with plenty to do and see.
Below are some of your best campsite options in Colorado:
Colorado is home to four incredible national parks: Rocky Mountain, Mesa Verde, Great Sand Dunes, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Each park includes campgrounds for visitors who want to spend more than just one day exploring all the great sights and activities available. These campsites offer the basics like restrooms, trash collection, food storage lockers, potable water, and ice and firewood for sale. However, you can also find a more remote option at backcountry sites throughout the park. You’ll need a permit to pitch your tent at these more rugged locations, so be sure to plan whenever you make your reservation.
You can also book a site at one of Colorado’s 43 state parks. With over 4,000 campsites across the state, you’re sure to find one that offers plenty of adventure while suiting your needs. Many campgrounds offer comfortable amenities like restrooms, showers, electrical hookups, playgrounds, and laundry facilities. Nearly 300 ADA-accessible campsites are also available to choose from. However, all of Colorado’s state park campsites require a reservation, so book early to ensure you find one that works for you.
Popular choices for state park campgrounds include the lush Rifle Falls, the cozy retreat of Golden Gate Canyon, or the panoramic views of Trinidad Lake.
Private campgrounds are another option for Colorado campers. These include KOA campgrounds, sites owned by the Colorado Campground and Lodging Owners Association, and plenty of other RV and tent sites throughout the state. Private campgrounds are a budget-friendly option and often offer amenities like playgrounds, laundry facilities, Wi-Fi, and more.
Finally, Colorado offers numerous campsites on public land that the Bureau of Land Management owns and maintains. These campsites are first-come, first-serve and are a popular spot for campers looking for a more rugged experience. Therefore, these sites have fewer amenities than other options, but they’re also far enough off the beaten path that you’ll enjoy a quieter experience away from other campers and tourists.
Pack Like a Pro
Once you have a place in mind, you can turn your attention toward preparing for your trip. The biggest packing tip for a Colorado camping trip is to include all the essentials without weighing yourself down.
Prioritize comfortable clothing and proper sleeping equipment. Remember that weather can be tricky in Colorado—especially once you’re high up in the mountains. You can experience warm, sunny days and frigid nights on the same trip, so be ready. Dress in layers that you can put on or take off to easily adjust to changing temperatures.
Set yourself up for a comfortable night’s sleep by including a temperature-appropriate sleeping bag. If you have the room and want to be even cozier at night, consider bringing a camping mattress, cot, or pad to put an extra layer between you and the ground at night.
Don’t Complicate Cooking
Preparing and enjoying meals at your campsite is a fun experience, but it does take a little bit of prep. Don’t worry—you don’t need to create complex meal plans to survive a weekend camping trip. Some of the best campground meals are the simplest.
Of course, you can’t go wrong with classics like hot dogs and s’mores. But you can also branch out with meals like chilis or basic stews, foil-wrapped potatoes, and countless skillet meals (there’s nothing like waking up to the smell of potatoes, eggs, and sausage sizzling over a campfire).
In addition to meals, be sure to pack plenty of healthy snacks and water. Make sure everyone has a water bottle they can keep with them throughout the trip. Staying hydrated and energized is the key to enjoying your time in the wilderness.
Keep Altitude in Mind
Exploring the mountains is fun, but you must keep elevation in mind. Colorado has the highest average elevation in the United States, and the more mountainous regions are 8,000 feet or more above sea level. You’ll find some of the greatest views and adventures in the state here, but you won’t enjoy any of it if you’re dealing with headaches and nausea due to altitude sickness.
Luckily, there are ways to prevent altitude sickness. Staying hydrated is key. It’s also a good idea to limit alcohol consumption, especially if you’re not used to being at higher elevations. Finally, give yourself time to adjust. Move gradually up the mountains if you can and avoid a lot of physical activity during your first couple of days.
Be a Good Neighbor
No guide to camping in Colorado would be complete without one of our favorite pieces of advice: respect the creatures and land around you. This respect extends to your campsite neighbors, the wildlife you encounter throughout your trip and even the people who will come to the campsite after you. Being a courteous camper makes everyone’s experience better. Obey campground rules, keep the noise down (especially at night), pick up after yourself, and maintain a respectful distance from all wild animals.
There’s no time like the present to start booking your camping trip in beautiful Colorado. While you’re here, be sure to pick up colorful and comfortable Colorado apparel for kids at YoColorado. With countless designs celebrating the things that make Colorado great, we have the perfect hats, clothing, and more for everyone in the family.