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San Juan National Forest Camping

The Best Silverton Camping

West Fork Campground – San Juan National Forest

Silverton is a blast, but you wont be the only one crowding the streets of a town thats all about the steam train and mining vibes which once served as the areas livelihoodand still does. These days theyre not hauling ore from deep in the ground but serving tourists eager to drive their Jeeps across the mountain passes or dress up in 1870s garb and have a fun family photo to take back home come the snowfall.

While there are RV parks directly in town, Red Mountain Motel & RV Park being the most centrally located, the real beauty of this area lives in the forested mountain camping west of town. There are a handful of places you can make your spot, nearly all of them without charge some a bit more organized and some more or less free-for-alls but for the biggest views check out Golden Horn Camping Area, perfect for the most rugged of Sportsmobiles or largest of Class As alike.

Rad Campgrounds In San Juan National Forest Colorado

Its no secret that San Juan National Forest houses one of the best mountain ranges in Colorado. Outdoor enthusiasts have long kept a special place in their hearts for the San Juans.

And theres good reason for it. The San Juan National Forest includes 13 of Colorados fourteeners across its 1.8 million-acre expanse. If climbing fourteeners isnt really your jam, though, there are also 314 thirteeners. Thats not a typo: there are more than 300 high-altitude mountains in this forest.

It also encompasses four designated wilderness areas, dozens of alpine lakes, and several mountain towns. In 2012, President Obama added to San Juans list of magnificent places and established Chimney Rock National Monument: Colorados version of Machu Picchu.

So its no wonder that Colorados second-largest national forest attracts visitors from both far and wide. So in order to have the best possible adventure, youll need a good basecamp. There are over 30 official campground in the San Juan National Forest scattered within the forest boundary and dozens of free, dispersed camping options. Make sure to check with the local ranger district on the status of their campsites as many might be closed due to fire activity at any given time.

Regardless of the activities youve got planned, heres a quick run-down of the best campgrounds in San Juan National Forest.

Why you should camp here: Sleep in close proximity to the-famed Ice Lake Basin hikes

Camping: Resources To Help Plan Your Next Adventure

Advanced Reservations for campgrounds can be made, where available, at or call toll-free 877-444-6777 TDD 877-833-6777

Campground Status Page: list of all campground with open/closed status, fees, services

San Juan National Forest Campground Guide: campground maps, descriptions, amenities and regulations

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Free National Forest Camping Near Durango Colorado

Depending on your elevation, national forest camping in the Durango area can involve thick gamble oaks surrounding wide open spaces, such as east of town at Madden Peak dry, ponderosa pine needle-laden or juniper scrub forest camping in oil field BLM land like Durfield and Sauls Creek or elevated aspen and fir shade along the river at Old Lime Creek Road .

Those are only a smattering of the available free camping options in the larger Durango area, and we have yet to find one that truly disappoints.

San Juan National Forest Camping Spots To Explore Southern Colorado

San Juan National Forest

This article about San Juan National Forest camping is brought to you by Good To-Go. Good To-Go has the delicious meals youll want on your trip to one of these great spots with new bundles going live!

Are you looking for the best San Juan National Forest camping spots? Well, search no further. The San Juan National Forest is one of the most stunning regions in the world, giving Southwest Colorado its coveted reputation. Mountaintops bleed deep shades of red and yellow, giving the San Juans their unique beauty. The best way to enjoy the San Juan National Forest and Southwest Colorado is to spend a few days exploring and camping. These are the eight best San Juan National Forest camping spots for every kind of adventurer.

Read Also: Car Camping Blue Ridge Parkway

Where Is The San Juan National Forest

The San Juan National Forest is located in the southwest corner of Colorado. The area features the San Juan Skyway, a Bureau of Land Management 4WD scenic byway, Alpine Loop Backcountry Byway and a National Forest scenic byway. The forest encompasses three wilderness areas: Weminuche Wilderness, South San Juan Wilderness, and Lizard Head Wilderness, two of which are alpine wilderness areas.

Chicago Basin Specific Regulations

  • Camping is not allowed in Twin Lakes Basin . This includes the entire area bounded by the three 14ers.
  • Campfires are not allowed in the Needle Creek drainage. This includes Chicago Basin, Twin Lakes Basin, and the alpine basins below Columbine Pass.

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About Us

Founded in 1988, the San Juan Mountains Association , promotes the exploration and protection of public lands in Southwest Colorado through stewardship and conservation education for people of all ages.

Get Around

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Q I Am Hiking To Colorado Trail And Need To Send A Resupply Package Can I Send One To The Campground

A. Yes! We are conveniently located right off the Colorado Trail. The best way to send your package is by UPS to the following address:

Molas Lake Campground 65560 US Hwy 550 N Silverton, CO 81433

If you send your boxes via USPS General Delivery , you will incur a fee based on the size of your package and cost of transportation from the Silverton Post Office to Molas Lake Campground.

We are getting a lot more boxes this year, so to cover the increase in our storage costs, there will be a storage fee based on the size of your package. Please label your box clearly with your name, estimated time of arrival, and mark it with something that differentiates it from the other boxes . Boxes that havent been asked to be returned or have not been picked up within 30 days of the ETA will be donated to our hiker box for fellow CT hikers to enjoy.

Dont forget we also have a store filled with drinks, snacks, and ice cream!

The Best Rv Parks In Durango Colorado

East Fork Campground – San Juan National Forest

If youre dead set on having hookups, or just like the amenities private RV parks offer, Durango has a nice variety to choose from. United Campground of Durango is as close to town as you can get, and its the last stop for the trolley that serves as the primary transportation around the downtown area. They offer full hookups, hot showers, laundry, a pool your typical RV park amenities, but the best part of this park is perhaps the antique steam engine locomotive, which hauls tourists from Durango to Silverton and back on an all-day tour of one of the most stunning valleys youll ever ride a train through. The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad passes immediately behind United, but doesnt run at night so you wont have to worry about the whistles blow come bedtime.

A little west of town theres an RV park by the name of Lightner Creek Campground with a real summer camp vibe, and I mean that in the best way possible, where families flock to play in the river and swim in the pool. Its a short drive to town and otherwise, one of the more beautiful private parks youll find in the area.

In both cases: dont expect cell service, expect nothing from the WiFi, and you just might be pleasantly surprised.

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Seasonal Changes Announced For Recreation At San Juan National Forest Campgrounds And Mcphee Reservoir

San Juan National Forest will begin closing some campgrounds and reducing services for the fall and winter season.

Campers should check a campgrounds status online before visiting. Some campgrounds will remain open, but offer limited services such as no camp hosts, no trash pickup, no water, no electricity and/or no restrooms available. Snow could cause sites to be closed earlier than indicated.

The Pagosa Ranger Districts East Fork and Bridge campgrounds will close Sept. 7. West Fork campground will close Sept. 19. Palisades and Cimarrona campgrounds will remain open, weather permitting, through Nov. 14, but with limited services after Sept. 27. The remaining Pagosa campgrounds will close Sept. 27.

Haviland and Vallecito campgrounds will have limited services after Sept. 26 and will close Oct. 20. There will be no water and only one toilet available. South Mineral campground in within the Ice Fire closure area and remains closed. The remaining Columbine campgrounds will close starting Sept. 19 and Sept. 26.

Dolores Ranger Districts House Creek campground, West Dolores campground, main Transfer campground and the Juniper loop of McPhee campground will be open with limited services after Oct. 1 through Nov. 22. The stock corrals at Transfer Campground will remain open with no services until Nov. 22.

Dispersed Camping Near Silverton Co

All of the site listed below are located inside San Juan National Forest. But there are some boondocking areas east of Silverton that lie on BLM lands. These are not recommended in this list due to difficulty in reaching sites, bumpy washboarded roads and high-traffic and dust.

Kendall Camping Area Lying right along Mineral Creek, Kendall Camping Area is only 3.0 miles from Silverton. The camping area is part of San Juan National Forest. Its the most popular place for free camping near town. While its technically not dispersed camping, its not campground camping either. Its just a large flat area by the creek, and RVs are allowed set up camp anywhere within this flat area. .

Sultan & Anvil Camping Area Also located along Mineral Creek, Sultan & Anvil Camping Area is only 3.2 from Silverton. The camping area is part of San Juan National Forest. It is similar to Kendall Camping Area, but much smaller, accommodating no more than 6-8 RVs. Its free, and you park your rig wherever you want, you just wont find much room. However, its still one of the closer camping options to Silverton. .

Golden Horn Camping Area Located a little more further along Mineral Creek, Golden Horn Camping Area is only 4.6 miles from Silverton. This is another free camping area set up by San Juan National Forest. Its about the same size as Kendall Camping Area, and could hold up to 30 RVs. Its right on Mineral Creek, so every camper should have creek-front accommodations. .

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All The Best Camping In The San Juan Mountains Of Colorado

They call it the Million Dollar Highway, presumably because if you crash over the precipice lining one side of the oft-broken, always gorgeous road as it winds from Durango to Silverton and then on to Ouray , the payout to whoevers name is on your life insurance is going to be that large.

Luckily for any white knucklers out there, the route is full of national forest and private RV parks to pull over, get some rest, and give it a shot come morning.

Lets take a trip north from Durango on the Million Dollar Highway, officially known as US 550 if youre looking at a map.

Guide To Camping In Colorado’s San Juan Mountains

10 Best Campgrounds in San Juan National Forest

Weve often written about the San Juan Mountains because of rugged alpine beauty, friendly mountain community, well-developed access, and the multitude of outdoor options available there. This includes backcountry hikes, one of the countrys only via ferretas, ice climbing, and a vast network of four-wheel driving routes.

Thanks to a vast wilderness that enjoys federal designation, most of the public land in the national forests around the San Juan Mountains is available for dispersed camping, and there are numerous campsites that are ideal for staging an outdoor retreat. Heres a quick roundup of some of the regions best.

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The Best Durango Camping

Durango is home to a host of RV parks, but the real beauty of the area shines through with the suns rays between tall ponderosa pines and Douglas firs in the towns surrounding national forest. Durango is a quintessential Colorado destination it has multiple breweries, tons of mountain biking, rafting and climbing, ample natural food stores and a Main Street lined with local jewelry and clothing shops, plus restaurants boasting nearly all the culinary wonders this world has to offer.

History Of The San Juans

Back in 1905, Theodore Roosevelt created the San Juan National Forest by proclamation on June 3, 1905, a great move that really benefited this region of Colorado. Since then these 3000 square miles of raw and wild beauty have been enjoyed by many people from around the world. The San Juan National Forest is also an important habitat for many creatures including foxes, bears, bighorn sheep and nearly 300 species of birds.

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Camping Near Durango Co


Love the San Juan. The fire danger was high this week, but the smoke from the current fires stayed to the east for the most part. We hiked the Potato Lake trail, in addition to many other local attractions. It was a beautiful destination and worth the hike with our kids. We drove to the trailhead in our regular passenger car as the guidebook we had said it was doable. We made it, but I would NOT recommend that. We enjoyed the views all week. Could see myself living here!

Priest Lake Dispersed Campground

Cimarrona Campground San Juan National Forest Colorado

Located near the Galloping Goose Trail in the San Juan Mountains, Priest Lake has nine designated tent-only campsites. Since this is a dispersed-style campground, visitors should plan to pack out their garbage and supplies. Priest Lake offers limited fishing opportunities as well, and is a short drive from Telluride.

I love this campground. It is only 15 minute drive from Telluride, but once you are there you are immersed in wilderness. Great for car camping, solid fishing, bonfire pits and bathrooms available. The Dyrt camper Patrick L.

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Camping Near You Find A Free Campsite

Whether you just need to know where to camp nearby or you want to plan a free camping road trip, we’ve got you covered. You can simply use your smart phone’s GPS to find camping near you or even use our trip planner to plan your route from coast to coast.

Our community provides the best free camping information available. Free campgrounds can be hard to find. makes it easy. We give you a simple, map based search engine to find free and cheap camping areas. Community reviews and ratings provide you with up to date information and help you select the best camp site for your next camping trip.

This is a platform for sharing campgrounds and camp sites you have discovered. We are community driven, and while we will be adding many free camping spots, we hope that you will add some of your favorite camping places as well. By sharing camping information freely, we can all spend less time researching campgrounds, spend less money, and more time camping. If everyone contributes a few campsites, we’ll all have more places to go camping.

Please come back and let us know what you find!

We are not actively seeking Wal-Marts, truckstops or other parking lots and will not be adding very many of these. There are enough Wal-Mart and truck stop directories out there already. However, if a member of the community finds one of these locations to be useful for overnight RV parking and creates an entry, we may approve the listing.

Please come back and let us know what you find!

Camping In The San Juan National Forest

There are 39 developed campgrounds in the San Juan National Forest offering close access to a variety of recreational opportunities, including backpacking, fishing, hiking, boating, biking, and horseback riding.

With such a variety of campgrounds to choose from, SJNF is one of the most popular Durango CO camping destinations. A few are particularly well-liked. West Fork Campground and Navajo Trail Campground are situated near hot springs the latter offers fantastic views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains as well as the rugged namesake San Juan Mountains. Transfer Park Campground was built in an 11-acre meadow amidst a sweeping aspen grove. Old Timers Campground on the Vallecito Lake in Upper Pine Valley is perfect for water-sport enthusiasts.

NOTE: Only one campground in the San Juan NF, the McGee Campground, offers showers and a limited number of electric hookups.

Campgrounds in the San Juan National Forest are open during the snow-free months, generally between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Each has self-service registration and a drop-fee payment station. There is a 14-day limit per visit. Thirteen locations allow reservations up to 120 days in advance , but most work on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The phone number for campsite reservations in the San Juan National Forest is 800-280-2267.

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Seasonal Changes For San Juan National Forest Campgrounds

San Juan National Forest

The San Juan National Forests campgrounds will start limiting services and closing through the fall season. Visitors should know before they go check the San Juan National Forests campground status webpage and be prepared for limited services.

Limited services mean there will not be camp hosts, trash pick-up, water or power available.

The Pagosa Ranger Districts Cimarrona and Palisades campgrounds will remain open through Nov. 1, weather permitting, with limited services and half-price fees. East Fork and Bridge campgrounds are closed. West Fork campground closed Sept. 20. Remaining Pagosa campgrounds will be closed on Sept. 27.

The Columbine Ranger Districts Haviland and Vallecito campgrounds will remain open with limited services there will be no water and only one toilet available. Remaining Columbine campgrounds will be closed with no services or facilities available Sept. 20 and Sept. 30.

For specific information, please check the campground status page and contact the local district office:

Pagosa Ranger District, 264-2268.

Columbine Ranger District, 884-2512.

All offices on the San Juan National Forest are conducting business and providing visitor services virtually. For information on the San Juan National Forest, call 247-4874.

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