The Best Time To Backpack In Colorado
Backpacking in Colorado is possible year-round depending on where you go and how much youre willing to deal with the snow and cold.
However, if you are planning to head to the mountains, the best season for backpacking is from July through September.
Temperatures start to drop in October, although you can still sneak in a warm-weather weekend, just be prepared for the cold once the sun goes down.
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Closest Towns To The Park
Rim Rock Road is the major thoroughfare of Colorado National Monument. This beautiful scenic drive can be accessed from Grand Junction, Colo. on the east end and Fruita, Colo. on the west end.
Grand Junction is the biggest city in Colorado outside of the Front Range . Here youll find many lodging, dining and shopping opportunities ranging from locally owned businesses to chains. Dont miss eating at least one of Grand Junctions restaurants owned by local favorite chef Josh Nierenberg, which include Bin 707, Taco Party Food Bar and Dinner Party.
Fruita, Colo., on the monuments east end is known as Colorados mountain biking capital. This small town packs plenty of charm and is home to several chain hotels such as Comfort Inn & Suites and locally owned and chain restaurants including a Starbucks. Dont miss the cult favorite Hot Tomato Pizza.
Located 30 minutes east of Colorado National Monuments east entrance, the town of Palisade is a great location to base your vacation out of. Famous for its late summer Palisade peaches and lavender festival, the town is also home to numerous fruit orchards and wineries. Several boutique hotels make for a charming getaway.
If youre looking for an oasis in arid Western Colorado, head just under two hours east to Rifle Falls State Park. The 70-foot triple waterfall and shady campsites tucked next to the river will keep you cool even on the hottest summer days.
Future Of Colorado National Monument
Despite its stunning beauty, the monument suffers from a lack of popularity good for visitors but not good for the economy. This triggered a debate on whether or not the area should be promoted to a national park. Many hope that with the new status, the park will attract more visitors.
Others, on the other hand, argue that statistics from our newest national parks do not support this theory.
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Book Luxury Co Tents For Colorado National Monument Camping Trips
Explore the beauty of Colorado and head to the Colorado National Monument where you’ll find spectacular canyons which cut deep into the rock, creating stunning rock formations. Feast your eyes on the unobstructed beauty of Colorado’s landscape from the comforts of your own luxury tent and tipi camping near Colorado National Monument. Enjoy the panoramic views as you trek through the meandering trails. You’ll find your luxury tipi or tent, nestled in the wilderness. Appreciate the peacefulness at night, away from the hustle and bustle of crowds. Breathe in the fresh air, and admire the serene surroundings which envelop you. Your luxury Colorado National Monument camping accommodation will provide all the amenities you need, offering all the comforts of home while still allowing you to immerse yourself in nature.
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Grand Mesa Scenic Bypass
Grand Mesa is known as the world’s largest flat top mountain. The 63 mile scenic bypass overlooks endless forests and 300 lakes. Enjoy the great trout fishing, ATV trails, skiing, snowboarding, snow shoeing, hiking, and the beautiful scenery.
The Grand Mesa also host events throughout our four seasons including Color Weekend at the end of September. The colors of the aspens are unbelievable!
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Camping Near Grand Junction
With an estimated population of around 65,000 residents, Grand Junction provides all the shops, restaurants and attractions to keep you entertained and well fed during your Western Colorado camping trip. The downtown features several blocks of businesses, perfect for strolling and enjoying the warmer days at 4,586 feet. With magnificent mesas visible in most directions, its a scenic high desert landscape with a few RV campgrounds to choose from close to town. Clifton is its direct neighbor to the east and part of the same metro statistical area.
Grand Junction Koa Holiday
Want to stay in the heart of Grand Junction? The Grand Junction KOA Holiday is a compact RV park packed full with amenities youve come to expect in a KOA, like a playground for the kids as well as mini-golf. The best part of staying here, however, is the ease of access to all of the recreation that Grand Junction has to offer.
- Closest Town: Grand Junction
- Specs: 50+ full hookup pull-thru, back-in, and tent camping sites, cabins also available
- Amenities: Showers, restrooms, dog runs, laundry, dump station, playground, mini-golf
- Reservations: Yes, at KOA.com
- Address: 2819 US-50, Grand Junction, CO 81503
- Directions: From Grand Junction, use US-50 E to travel a little over 3 miles. From there, the Grand Junction KOA will be on your rightmake a right to enter.
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Dispersed Camping Near Colorado National Monument
Reservations: First-come, first-servedSeason: Open all year
Rabbit Valley is a popular and convenient place for dispersed camping near Fruita. It is located within the BLM-managed McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, which offers plenty of great hiking, mountain biking, and motorcycle/ATV riding. Its about 30 minutes from the West Entrance of Colorado National Monument. When you turn off I-70, youll first see a large gravel parking lot. This is typically used for larger RVs. If you continue along the road, youll see several marked and numbered dispersed campsites. There are no amenities at the sites, but there are toilets near the entrance and the nearby Fruita Visitor Center has water, a dump station, and trash/recycling facilities. Keep in mind that you may only camp in designated dispersed sites , and you are required to bring a portable toilet and fire pan.
Reservations: First-come, first-servedSeason: Open all year
Things To Do In Colorado National Monument
Located four miles from the Fruita Entrance and near Saddlehorn Campground, Saddlehorn Visitor Center is a good place to start your visit. You will learn there how to visit the park within your time frame. You can also get maps and watch movies about the park.
Take Rim Rock Drive if you dare!
Colorado National Monuments Rim Rock Drive ranks among the most spectacular drives in the United States. Redrock canyons, blue skies, and green juniper present outstanding scenery. Warning! The road is challenging, narrow, and steep in some sections with sheer drop-offs.
Stay alert. since motorists and bicyclists share the road too. Almost 23 miles of this can get your heart pumping! There are many overlooks along the way, each of them worth stopping. My favorite was the Grand View Overlooks. The rock formations there are spectacular. This area also provides panoramic vistas of the valley below.
Hiking Colorado National Monument
Colorado National Monument preserves one of the most unique and grandest landscapes of the American West. Even though it can easily be explored without breaking a sweat, I encourage you to get off the road. You can access most of the short hiking trails from Rim Rock Drive.
You will find great hiking along trails ranging in length from a quarter-mile to more than fourteen miles.
The most popular trails include:
Off-road mountain biking is not permitted in the monument, but several adjoining areas allow for it.
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James M Robb Co River State Park Fruita Campground
For those who want to treat themselves during their stay near Fruita, the Fruita Section Campground is one of the most developed around. With an abundance of sites that are full-hookup, this campground is a haven for RV and trailer campers, but also features walk-in tent campsites as well.
- Closest Town: Fruita , Grand Junction
- Specs: 57 total sites, 22 w/ full-hook up, 22 w/ electric only, and 13 walk-in tent campsites
- Amenities: 4 restrooms, coin showers, laundry, visitor center, book store, playgrounds, fishing nearby
- Reservations: Yes, at CPWShop.com
- Address: 595 Highway 340, Fruita, CO 81521
- Directions: From Grand Junction, follow I-70 W towards Fruita. At US-6, exit the highway turn left onto CO-340 E. Continue for about a mile, then the campground will be on your right.
Colorado National Monument Campgrounds
Campers looking to spend the night inside Colorado National Monument have two great options. Those looking for convenience and comfort will enjoy the established Saddlehorn Campground, while those seeking adventure and solitude should consider pitching a tent in the backcountry. Weve covered everything you need to know about both options in this section.
Number of Sites: 79 sitesFee: $22/night RVs: Yes, max size 40Reservations: Available for A and B Loop sites. Season: A Loop sites are open all year. B and C Loop sites are open late-March through Mid-October.
The Saddlehorn Campground is conveniently located just four miles past the West Entrance of Colorado National Monument, near the town of Fruita. The 79 sites are arranged in three loops.
The A Loop is open year-round. It can be reserved six months in advance for the summer season, and is open on a first-come, first-served basis in the winter months . The B Loop is open during the summer months and sites can be reserved up to six months in advance. If not reserved in advance, sites in the A and B loops are available on a first-come, first-served basis, but may be used for one night only. The C Loop can be reserved for group camping, or used on a first-come, first served basis for individuals.
RVs are welcome at the Saddlehorn Campground, and there are some pull through sites in the A and B loops. There are no hookups at the campground.
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Colorado National Monument Boondocking Sites 7 Miles: Colorado Welcome Center Rest Stop
Management Public Bureau of Land Management
The road in is Dirt. There are 6-15 campsites at this location. Great little spot to camp. Has restrooms, picnic tables and fire rings but no water and trash is carry out. There is a trailhead at the site that goes up to the Miracle Rock which is really neat. It is a nice little hike, pretty easy for all ages. If you are so inclined, there is a set of swimming holes a few miles up the dirt road, just be careful as a lot of injuries have occurred there
Management Public Bureau of Land Management
The road in is Dirt and 1-7 miles from a paved road. There are 30 or more campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is unlimited. This spot, just outside of Grand Junction below the Book Cliffs, is primarily an ORV area.
I only stayed here one night, getting in near Sunset and leaving at dawn. The spot I had was nothing fancy, there may be better further in. Roads are rough, but not to bad however I would suspect that the mud gets very bad when wet, including during the summer monsoon.
There are probably areas here worth further effort. It might help to check in with the BLM office which is located near the airport, right near one of the access points.
Hiking In Colorado National Monument
The monument contains more than 40 miles of hiking trails, encompassing a variety of short hikes and longer trails. Some are quick jaunts from the car and others are longer, more involved explorations.
If folks are looking for a particular experience in the monument, stop by the visitors center and we would be happy to help them pinpoint the type of hike that will suit their purposes, says monument Chief of Interpretation Arlene Jackson. One of the things I love about this place is even though its not very big, it seems to have a little something for everyone. Below are a few visitor favorites.
- Difficulty Rating: Intermediate
- Best For: Wildlife watchers
With stunning views of rock formations like Independence Monument and Kissing Couple, Monument Canyon is one of the monuments most scenic trails. The upper trailhead descends into Monument Canyon and the elevation change from the upper to the lower trailhead is substantial. It goes from 6,140 feet down to 4,700 feet, so be prepared for a change in elevation and incredible red rock scenery. The canyon is a good place to see bighorn sheep. It also contains an ample dose of history. One of the cool things about the hike is you are hiking in the footsteps of people who have hiked this for 100 years, Jackson says. She notes that John Otto, a key advocate for the creation of Colorado National Monument, was responsible for laying the trail and developing many of the rock cuts still seen today.
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Rules For Dispersed Camping In Colorado
The rules for dispersed camping are pretty similar for all National Forests in the US. This park system is managed by the United States Department of Agriculture .
The most important rules for dispersed camping are:
- Camp within 150 feet of roadways, if possible
- Always use existing fire rings when available
- No camping within 100 feet of a water source
- No camping at developed trailheads or picnic areas
- You must move your campsite every 14 days
- Do not leave personal property unattended for more than 10 days
- Minimize your environmental impact
- Leave no trace
14 Day Stay Limits
All National Forests have a 14-day stay limit. This is to prevent excess damage to the environment. In Colorado, this means that you cant camp in the same spot for more than 14 days within a 28 day timeframe.
That includes both consecutive and non-consecutive visits.
After youve reached the 14 day maximum, you must move your campsite outside of a 25 mile radius.
Dispersed Camping Sites With Bathrooms In Colorado
Not everyone has the luxury of traveling with a portable toilet. Likewise, not everyone wants to do their duty in the outdoors. Fortunately, you can still find campsites that are free, and come with bathrooms!
For starters, apps like The Dyrt already list campground amenities so if youve found one you want to visit bathrooms are easy to check.
As a rule of thumb, you should expect all dispersed camping areas to be primitive and undeveloped unless otherwise stated.
You can look up bathrooms and other amenities at specific campgrounds using these links:
For the National Forest and BLM campsites, click dispersed camping and you can find information including location, directions, water and restroom facilities.
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Finding Free Campsites With The Dyrt
More recently, weve switch to using The Dyrt Pro to find National Forest boundaries. Using the map layers you can easily find exact boundaries for:
- Bureau of Land Management Areas
- National Parks
- National Forests
You can download the maps for offline use and see exactly when you cross into forest areas.
Our favorite part about the app is that there are thousands of user-submitted reviews that include photos, amenities, and reports about campsite conditions.
And the reviews are not limited to paid campgrounds only.
Anyone can submit a review of any area so there are plenty of free and dispersed camping sites in there as well.
Rabbit Valley Blm Campgrounds
Rabbit Valley Motorized Area is located within McInnis Canyon National Conservation Area, and the spectacular scenery that this BLM land offers is indescribable. There are a handful of campgrounds accessible in this areaweve listed the two most well-known. As always when using a free-use BLM campsite, be sure to practice fire safety and always pack your trash out.
Rabbit Valleys most famous campground, Jouflas is located only a few miles into the maze of roads that make up Rabbit Valley Motorized Area. While there arent many amenities at this campground, it affords great opportunities for recreation like hiking, wildlife viewing, and fishing.
- Closest Town: Mack , Fruita , Grand Junction
- Specs: 8 undeveloped campsites
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Rv Ranch At Grand Junction
RV Ranch at Grand Junction is one of the largest RV parks weve come across, with amenities like a swimming pool and WiFi to help entertain the whole family. Just a hop, skip, and jump to Grand Junction, this RV park is worth a visit on your next stay in this gorgeous area.
- Closest Town: Clifton , Grand Junction
- Specs: 146 total sites, many with full hookups, and cabins available
- Amenities: Showers, restrooms, laundry, pavilion, swimming pool, fire pit, cable and WiFi available
- Reservations: Yes, at RVRanchGJ.com
- Address: 3238, I-70BL, Clifton, CO 81520
- Directions: From Grand Junction, take I-50 Business Loop E for about 6 miles. Turn left onto F Rd, then a right onto I-70B Frontage Rd. The park will be on your left.
The Colorado Trail: The Highest Thru
The Colorado Trail winds its way from Denver to Durango over 486 of mountainous terrain. This is the United States highest thru-hike, with a majority of the trail above 10,000 feet.
If thru-hiking isnt your thing, its certainly possible to section hike this incredible trail .
Distance: 486 miles. Each segment is between 12 and 20 miles on averageElevation: 89,000 feet! Average time to complete: One month as a thru-hike. Most segments can be completed in a day or a weekend.
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