Finding Off-Grid/Free Campsites (in Colorado)?

What’s your favorite or prefered method of finding sites to camp, on a short notice? for free? that is easy to set up your tent/camper? has great views? has limited neighbors?

The whole reason to get this RTT is to remove friction, but finding a place to camp spontaneously seems challenging. I’m trying to figure out the best way to find a place along the front range (for quick overnighters) or deeper in the mountains for multi-day camping. (Technically I’m awaiting a rack to mount my Superlite on, but am chomping at the bit to sleep in it asap.)

I just drive down random dirt roads on US forest land until I find a good spot. The hunt is at least half the fun

13 Likes

Same here. For new areas I usually check the MVUM and onX Offroad for dispersed camping areas. There are a couple Colorado dispersed camping groups on Facebook, but haven’t really had a ton of luck finding spots through those.

1 Like

find an area you like and grab a map that has the forest roads on it. pick one and go for a drive. my go to spots have all been found that way. anything close to denver is going to be hard to find solitude. rough roads turn people away quickly. if you have 4x4 capabilities, find those roads and go for it.

doubtful people will unload their favorite spots for all to see. just the nature of the beast. the search is the best part. good luck .

2 Likes

The front range is more limited, but there are a few options out there. It is much easier at higher elevation further west once the snow melts.

1 Like

Thanks, the guy I picked the Superlite up from said “once you get through the tunnel there are tons of options”… meaning Eisenhower tunnel, which makes sense.

All of the comments are "drive down a dirt/public/mvum trail which also makes sense, and I’m just needing to figure out how I make I find an actual place to park. I am don’t think I’ll need to find a place with a fire ring since I doubt there will be any permitted fires this summer in CO.

I guess I’m off to find some maps I can have on hand whilst driving down fun looking roads.

Definitely look up “leave no trace principles” and “dispersed camping on US forest land”. This info will give you a better idea of the bounds. Dispersed camps aren’t usually marked unless you are in a really busy area (like Rampart range, Platte river, or outside Nederland). They do usually have an old firepit but not always…though I won’t do a fire unless it’s recently rained as I’m overly cautious out here.

3 Likes

I think many of us folks in Colorado have been struggling with the fine line of encouraging others to enjoy the outdoors and being very tired of areas we’ve been going to for years being “loved to death”.

It’s great that so many folks have discovered the hobby and camping in the back country, but it’s become crowded and frequently mismanaged. So, don’t take it personally if people are hesitant to point you towards their favorite spots. There are plenty of decent spots before the tunnel, but it is correct there are more further west.

The best way to find new areas and get the most out of hobbies is to get the maps, the aps, and spend your weekends exploring. Some times it’s a bust. Some times you’ll find pristine areas and not see anyone for days. Just be sure to Leave No Trace. Pack out your trash, etc.

6 Likes

And pickup your brass if you’re shooting…please!

3 Likes

This I get completely. While I’d love to get everyone’s favorite spots, I have no expectation there… I’m just wanting to figure out a good method for finding places. My first attempt to do Switzerland trail west of Boulder I ended up driving on to some guy’s private property and as I turned around, realizing it wasn’t a trail, he greeted me by blocking my path and standing before me with a gun. Really not a fun way to realize you went the wrong way, and not an experience I wish to reproduce (my wife and kids were in the Jeep so… extra fun.)

Anyway, I’ll just plan to start my exploration early as I’m getting used to finding places and get a good map holder that holds plenty of maps.

Do you guys favor USGS maps? They seem to be older, not sure if a 2015 map is too old or not.

1 Like

I grew up as a Boy Scout and “Leave No Trace” or “Leave your campsite in better condition than when you got there” was deeply drilled into my brain.

4 Likes

Google Earth and onx

1 Like

I also check www.freecampsites.net. Note, it also includes Walmart, but you can filter those out

1 Like

I use Benchmark Maps in the field. The recreation maps identify campgrounds, some developed and some primitive/dry. Typically there are also dispersed spots en-route to a campground. Just an idea. These maps have been my go to for years. Cheers.

1 Like

ioverlander app is pretty nice. users can upload pics and give tips/reviews of a particular spot.

4 Likes

I just got a reminder email from Jeep from when I bought my Gladiator. I get a free 6 mos of Elite tier onX Offroad… so I’m playing with that for now.

USGS maps are of limited use in this scenario as they are old, don’t show private property and don’t show allowed usage on public land. They also are mostly from 1950’s map data and won’t have every trail built since then. They’ll also show old logging and mining roads that no longer have been maintained.

Get a local USFS off road use map and pair that with a paper hiking map or suitable APP.

A lot of good advice here. Definitely get west of the Eisenhower tunnel, and preferably get as far from I-70 as possible. Stuff near highway 285 for the first hour or two west of Denver is also prone to being overrun on weekends. Building atop some comments above… if you know some areas you want to see, then go to nearby USFS websites and click through to read their listings for dispersed camping. There are spots all over the place in the FS lands, but as others have stated it’s easiest just to drive down known USFS dirt roads if you’re out wandering. It gets really tedious browsing their websites since there’s so much land in so many sections. Hopefully some of the more offroad oriented apps can tip you off. The main boondocking apps (roadside stuff) don’t have too much in CO. You can also check out the “Dispersed Camping Colorado” facebook group, but it’s pretty much what’s been said here but repeated over and over for years on end because each week a newcomer asks the same question as you. LOL

1 Like

I was camping in Pisgah (NC) this Spring and came on a killer spot. Small creek circling the fire ring area, Go Fast just on the other side, ride out (MTB) site. Set up, walked over to the fire ring area and on the other side of a railroad tie laid a five pack of really good beer. I’m a LNT guy for sure, and improve when possible but I can’t fault the previous occupant for leaving a damned nice 5 pack behind. I gave up the sauce about a year back so it just got payed forward but what do ya call that LNT+5? So in that case I failed the LNT ethic. Ooops.

1 Like

I’ve used it. It’s pretty outdated but works great!