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Come Camp: Boulder County's Most Scenic and Accessible Camping Spots



The Front Range of Colorado and Boulder, in particular, offers some of the most scenic drives and outdoor recreation in the country. The Rocky Mountains and Flatirons serve as picturesque backdrops for hiking, rock-climbing, rafting, fishing, and, of course, camping. Luckily, Boulder is situated conveniently within driving distance of several state parks, Rocky Mountain National Park, and a variety of areas perfect for camping and just being with nature. 

Topping out the list, the Fourth of July Campground, just a short drive up Boulder Canyon, is a spectacular area for hiking. A peaceful area just outside of the quirky town of Nederland, Colo., this campground is accessible year-round, though getting to it in the wintertime requires a 4WD vehicle and some nerve. 

Known worldwide, Rocky Mountain National offers a plethora of established campgrounds as well as backcountry spots. Moraine campground, in particular, puts visitors close to Cub Lake and just a short distance from famous Bear, Nymph, and Emerald Lake. 

Want to get into the mountains but skip most of the crowds? Pawnee Campground, near Brainard Lake in Indian Peaks Wilderness offers the opportunity for a quiet evening and stunning views. Though popular, this is a smaller campground that fills up quickly, so reservations or getting there early is highly recommended. 

Choose any one of the spectacular camping areas near Boulder and you're sure to have a once-in-a-lifetime mountain experience. 


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Rainbow Lakes Campground
Photo courtesy of Hope Gately

Located near Indian Peaks Wilderness just outside of Nederland, Colorado, Rainbow Lakes Campground is perfect for those who are less interested in "glamping" and more interested in getting in touch with nature. 18 first come, first served sites are available to those with tents and small trailers and there are 8 sites that can accommodate up to 15 guests. There are fire grates for cooking, vault toilets, picnic tables and easy access to the Rainbow Lakes trailhead. The campsites are $13 per night and this area does see heavy usage, so getting there early or making a reservation is highly recommended.




Golden Gate Canyon State Park, located just 30 minutes south of Boulder and just outside of Golden, Co., allows for scenic camping. Reverends Ridge is comprised of 97 sites and allows campers and rents. Aspen Meadows provides 47 cites and is tents only. For those who prefer a more primitive setting away from the crowds, backcountry camping is allowed in certain areas offering 3 shelters that are hut-style, 20 backcountry camping sites are open year round, as well as cabins and yurts. Since the cabins and yurts are quite popular, they fill up fast, so be sure to book well in advance.


Indian Peaks Wilderness
Photo courtesy of Hope Gately

Indian Peaks Wilderness, located along Colorado's scenic Peak-to Peak Highway just above Ward and Nederland is known for its pristine wilderness, jutting mountains, roaring streams, and challenging hikes. Just the drive alone is an adventure with sweeping vistas as far as the eye can see. Spring and Summer hiking provide opportunities to see some of the most beautiful wildflowers in the state. A winter wonderland come January, backcountry skiing and snow shoeing can be accessed near the Brainard Lake area. However, the road it closed, so hiking in is your only option well worth the effort. Some favorite areas include Lake Isabelle, Blue Lake, and Isabelle Glacier. When skiing or snowshoeing in the backcountry, it is essential to be familiar with avalanche conditions. It is also recommended that adventurers bring an avalanche shovel and avalanche beacons.


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With Longs Peak towering over this spectacular state park and plenty of backcountry skiing in the winter, along with hiking and climbing galore, RMNP is Colorado's iconic destination. The highlight of the 415-square mile park is the Trail Ridge Road. Travel 50 spectacular miles over Trail Ridge Road, the nation's longest continuous road at such a high altitude, and experience incomparable changes in climate, vegetation, and eco-zones. Witness panoramic views of mountain ranges and peaks and close-ups of deer and elk grazing, bighorn sheep, birds, and other indigenous critters. If you're camping, stop off at Moraine campground that boasts a crystal clear view of the Rockies from almost any site, bathrooms, and easy access to hiking. The Cub Lake trail is moderate and perfect for travelers who have yet to acclimate to the high altitude. Pack a camera and get ready to take some shots of mountain lakes and wildlife.


Arapahoe National Forest
Photo courtesy of Hope Gately

Arapahoe National Forest is expansive and many areas lie well within a short drive from Boulder County. The Canyon lakes ranger district of Ft. Collins and the Clear Creek Road District of Idaho Springs offer cabins and campsites. Those who prefer to stay as close to Boulder as possible should consider, Camp Dick with 41 sites allowing tents and campers tucked away amongst trees and meadows. Other campgrounds close to Boulder include, Kelly Dahl just off Peak-to-Peak Highway with 46 sites accommodating tents, trailers, and RVs or Peaceful Valley, with 17 sites perfect for tents, trailers, campers, and RVs. This site boasts picnic tables, fire grates, water, vault toilets, and pets are allowed on hand-held leash.


Pawnee Campground
Photo courtesy of Hope Gately

Pawnee Campground in situation in Indiana Peaks Wilderness above the town of Ward, Colorado. Just 40 minutes from North Boulder, this campground provides access to come of the most amazing scenic hikes in the states. Mt. Audubon, a rolling mountains topping out at over 13,000ft can be accessed easily from the Pawnee campsites. There are 47 sites and a variety of tents, RVs, and campers are allowed. Though not primitive, there is no electricity, hook-ups, or showers. Clean vault toilets are accessible, however, and fires are permuted unless otherwise posted. Because this is a popular area during the summer months, make sure to arrive early to snag a spot or make a reservation.


Gordon Gulch Campgrounds
Photo courtesy of Hope Gately

Just north of Nederland, Gordon Gulch allows for primitive camping, hiking with spectacular views, and a getaway from the more populated state and national parks of the Front Range. Camping is permitted in designated sites only and, because there are limited sites, they can fill up quickly, particularly on holiday weekends. This is a heavily wooded area and campfires are permitted as are dogs. However, bear, mountain lions, moose, and elk frequent this area, so be sure to keep an eye on your pet at all times. Be sure to take precautions with food by putting it in either a bear-proof cooler or storing it in your car overnight.


Boulder County Fair Grounds
Photo courtesy of Boulder County Fairgrounds

Year-round RV and camper facilities perfect for those visiting for the week or passing through on their way to the mountains are available at Boulder's beautiful fairgrounds. Located just outside the bustling city, the Boulder County Fairgrounds provides 92 sites with electric and water hookups. Situated conveniently in Longmont, campers are close to Boulder, Lyons, Fort Collins, and neighboring smaller towns. Throughout the year, the fairgrounds play host to animal and livestock shows, fairs, rodeos, and are perfect for picnics and large meetings. Be sure to make arrangements in advance, since spots can fill quickly when popular events are in town.


St. Vrain State Park
Photo courtesy of Hope Gately

St. Vrain Park is a beautiful paradise located just a short drive from Boulder with sweeping views of Longs Peak and the Rocky Mountains. Wildlife abounds and fisherman will go crazy for the Rainbow Trout available in the over 80 acres of water to be found in the park. 50 acres of recreational land is perfect for camping, picnicking, hiking, and general relaxation. The area is equipped with vault toilets, picnic tables, as well as dumping stations for trash. 87 campsites and 8 different campgrounds give visitors access to ponds perfect for kayaking. There are also several sites that offer electric hookups and water.


Fourth of July Campground
Photo courtesy of Hope Gately

Fourth of July Campground is located near the mountainous town of Nederland, Colorado and gives campers access to hiking trails leading to Arapahoe Pass, Diamond Lakes, Mt. Neva, Lake Dorothy and a variety of other trails located within Indiana Peaks Wilderness. Backcountry camping permits are required and pets allowed but must be on handheld leash. This area offers camping nestled amongst pine trees, beautiful meadows, and jutting peaks. Many of the hikes actually allow visitors to view peaks over 13,00ft. During the summer, this is a very popular area, so arriving early is a must. Always be sure to practice Leave No Trace while camping and hiking in the area.


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Meet Hope Gately

Hope Gately should have a bumper sticker proclaiming "Not a Native...But I Got Here as Fast as I Could!" A transplant from the Midwest, Hope has fallen in love with Colorado's mountains playing...  More About Hope

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