6 Colorado Campgrounds You Can Reach in an Hour from Denver

Denver is the perfect basecamp for a Colorado holiday spent out in nature. With dozens of Front Range attractions and seemingly endless camping opportunities, there’s no better place to explore with a camper van rental.

But with gas prices on the rise, driving to far off destinations sounds less appealing. A recent survey by The Dyrt found that almost 24% of their community members said they plan to camp closer to home because of rising gas prices.

In Denver, we’re lucky there are so many incredible spots less than an hour away where you can park your camper van and have a blast — whether that’s with your friends, family, or on a solo adventure.

Rising gas prices mean Coloradans need to camp smarter. Here are 6 Colorado campgrounds outside of Denver you can get to in under an hour (and with a quarter tank of gas)!

1. Chatfield State Park

Centered around the Chatfield Reservoir, this Littleton State Park is super popular from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Campers are permitted to bring powerboats and jet skis. So water sports are especially prominent during the summer months.

There’s also a big off-leash park where your pup can mingle and meet new friends!

What to know before camping in Chatfield:

  • You have to make your reservation ahead of time either online or over the phone by calling 1-800-244-5613.
  • Daily vehicle passes are $10.
  • Camping site fees start at $36.
  • Dog off-leash pass: $3 a day or $25 annually.
  • Facilities include coin-operated showers, flushing toilets, laundry, picnic areas, and marina rentals.
  • Check-in time is 12pm and check-out time is 1pm.

Chatfield State Park is one of the Colorado campgrounds that are open year-round, but the reservoir closes for its off-season from December 1-March 1.

Per Colorado camping laws, reservations must be made for campsites in State Parks. Each park will require a fee or pass, but those rates will vary.

You can also opt for purchasing annual passes for easier access to camping in State Parks throughout the state.

2. Buffalo Creek Recreation Area

A dirt trail leads towards the mountains in Colorado.

There are over 50 miles of multi-use, non-motorized trails around the Buffalo Creek Recreation Area. There is also lots of hiking, backpacking, or riding!

The sites at Buffalo Creek are pretty big and spread out. That means you can wake up with a cup of coffee and enjoy the sounds of the woods, not your neighbor.

These are great campsites near Denver to visit if you’re looking for a little isolation while you’re out in nature. During the summer months, this area can become busy and attract larger crowds.

What to know before camping in Buffalo Creek:

  • Make a reservation at least 4 days in advance online or by calling 877-444-6777.
  • There’s a Friday and Saturday night minimum when staying on a weekend.
  • You may only park and camp in designated areas (there’s signage) or you can face a hefty fine.
  • Facilities include toilets and picnic tables.
  • Dogs must remain leashed at all times.
  • Open year-round with limitations during the winter months due to snow.

There are other developed camping options available at nearby Colorado campgrounds like Green Mountain, Kelsey, and Meadow Group campground.

3. Dakota Ridge Park

If you’re into extra comfort when you camp, this is one of the nicest private campgrounds in Colorado you’ll find. Located in the foothills of picturesque Golden, Dakota Ridge RV Park is a fun blend of outdoor adventure and city culture.

All 141 campsites are available year-round and are paved and landscaped. There’s even a clubhouse that features a fitness center, billiard room, and library.

Best of all, they even have a heated outdoor pool and hot tub available from Memorial Day through Labor Day. With all the amenities, it’s best to think of this park as more like a resort!

What to know before camping at Dakota Ridge Park:

  • You’ll need to fill out a reservation request form. You should be contacted within 24 hours to confirm your reservation. 
  • Either a deposit of 50% or full payment is expected when the reservation is made.
  • Peak season is April 1-September 30. Daily rates start at $58.50 during this time.
  • Check-in time is 1pm and check-out time is 11am.
  • Open fires aren’t allowed, only propane fire grills (propane is available).
  • Dogs must be on leashes at all times.

Dakota Ridge also provides a daily trash pickup service from 8 am to 10 am. Other perks include close proximity to the casinos in Black Hawk and Central City.

4. St. Vrain State Park

Located only 30 minutes north of Denver is another excellent year-round Colorado campgrounds option: St. Vrain State Park in Firestone. This wetland paradise features scenic ponds and the Blue Heron Reservoir.

Electric and manual boating is allowed at St. Vrain, with no added extra fees. Birding is also a popular activity around this park, especially with all the interesting water birds that frequent the area!

What to know before camping at St. Vrain State Park:

  • Your reservation must be made either online or by calling 1-800-244-5613.
  • Daily vehicle passes are $9.
  • Camping site fees start at $36.
  • Facilities include coin-operated showers, flush toilets, picnic sites, and a dump station.
  • Check-in is 1pm and check-out is 12pm.
  • Nearly all 87 campsites at St. Vrain Park are located on or near the pond or reservoir banks. Your campsite will be an easy walk away from fishing or kayaking!

5. Cherry Creek State Park

Located in Aurora, Cherry Creek Reservoir is a prime place when you’re looking for camping close to Denver year-round. This is another tranquil wetlands environment that’s perfect for recreation and exploring.

The warmer months bring in a lot of boaters and fishermen, with the water open for recreation from April through the end of November. The 12 miles of trails attract cyclists in the summertime and cross-country skiers in the winter.

What to know before camping at Cherry Creek State Park:

  • Make your reservation either online or by calling 1-800-244-5613.
  • Daily vehicle passes are $11.
  • Campsite fees start at $28.
  • Access to the off-leash dog area is $3 daily or $25 annually.
  • Facilities include credit/debit card operated showers, laundry, picnic sites, a swim beach, and a dump station.
  • Cherry Creek Reservoir also provides stables to horse owners, a family shooting range, and educational programs.

6. Jones Pass

A Colorado snowy landscape hosts beautiful clouds and mountain peaks.

Jones Pass offers some of the best free camping in Colorado and backpacking near Denver. You’ll find high-alpine adventures, killer mountain views, and plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy.

During the summer months, explore the trails by hiking or biking. And when the snow starts to set in, bust out your skis or board and shred the trailheads. Keep in mind that there’s no winter maintenance of the roads, so the route up can get treacherous during winter months.

What to know before camping in Jones Pass:

  • This is a first-come, first-served situation, so you’ll want to arrive early to snag a spot.
  • There aren’t any toilets, trashcans, or water.
  • Camp in designated spots only (there’s signage indicating where you can go).
  • Jones Pass sits above 11,000 feet in elevation, so pack warm layers for when the temps drop at night.
  • This area is frequently under a no-burn mandate, so be sure you’re following instructions.
  • Driving up in a camper van should give you enough clearance to snag the camping spot you want. But if you feel uneasy about the drive, there are spots lower down where you can park, and then hike higher up to enjoy the alpine trails.

Start Your Camping Adventure in Colorado

The Denver Metro is the perfect place for campers and outdoor enthusiasts. It’s truly a jumping-off point for discovering some of the best camping in Colorado.

Whether you live in Denver or you’re planning to spend some time in the Mile High City, there are endless possibilities for exciting experiences outside of the cosmopolitan ambiance and thrills of the capital city.

GoCamp has an impressive fleet of camper vans available in Denver, all ready for a Rocky Mountain adventure.

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