Though it may not feel like it with the late season snow showers we’ve been having, but summer is on its way to the Centennial State. When the warm weather rolls in, there’s only one place we want to sleep: under the stars. Camping in Colorado is one of those experiences that brings the whole family together; cooking over a campfire, playing outside, and turning off those electronic devices are moments that we look forward to all year.
The West End of Montrose County on the Western Slope of Colorado is just the place for a summer camping adventure. From mesas to dramatic red rock canyons, from deep river gorges to rolling ranch land, the landscape of Western Colorado’s West End is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. In this remote destination, you won’t find crowds of people hunting for campsites nor will you find lines of hikers on the trails. You can, however, expect to find beautiful lakes, roaming wildlife, and a thriving outdoors culture with endless opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, off-roading, and other outdoor recreation pursuits. This Colorado destination is also home to some of Colorado’s most storied mining history, and the remnants of that history can still be seen today in the ruins left behind in the ghost towns and old mines that dot the landscape.
There are three main types of camping destinations in the West End: primitive campsites, developed campgrounds, and RV campgrounds. Each allows for a different type of camping experience, but all promise to provide the perfect basecamp for your Western Slope summer adventures. Below you’ll find a list of some of the best places to camp on the Western Slope so that you and your family can enjoy your summer nights under the stars.
West End Developed Campgrounds
The beautiful locations of these campgrounds combined with the ability to make advanced reservations and the facility amenities make this type of camping experience one of the most popular in Colorado. From lakeside sites to riverside destinations, there’s truly something for everyone.
1. Pioneer Campground (US Forest Service)
Buckeye Reservoir is a popular destination for camping, OHV/ATV trails, hunting, and fishing. The reservoir and adjacent recreation area are located in a beautiful valley at about 7,600 feet above sea level. Views of the La Sal Mountains and lakeside grasslands are visible from these pristine shores. The Pioneer Campground, part of the Buckeye Recreation Area, has 30 reservable campsites as well as 18 less-developed sites dispersed around the reservoir. For more information, click HERE .
2. Ledges Rockhouse BLM Campground
Ledges Rockhouse Campground is located along the shores of the San Miguel River. The area includes 12 RV and 12 tent camping sites, sun shades, picnic tables, grills, and a boat ramp. For more information, click HERE .
3. Miramonte Reservoir Campground (US Forest Service)
Located on the Dan Noble State Wildlife Area, this beautiful campground with 32 total campsites (including RV and tent sites) sits on the shores of the 405-acre Miramonte Reservoir near Norwood, Colorado. Anglers will enjoy catching rainbow trout, Snake River cutthroat trout, and brown trout in addition to trapping crayfish. For more information, click HERE .
4. Columbine Campground (US Forest Service)
Visitors to this campground will enjoy the unmatched recreation opportunities on the Uncompahgre Plateau, including hiking, ATV riding, horseback riding, and mountain biking. There are six designated campsites at this campground and two vault toilets. Note that this is a no-fee camping area, and all sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, click HERE .
5. Iron Springs (US Forest Service)
This Uncompahgre Plateau campground is lightly used during its open season between June and October. There are eight campsites at this site available on a first-come, first-served basis and one vault toilet. There are no other services here, so be sure to pack in and pack out everything that you’ll need for your weekend getaway. For more information, click HERE .
6. Caddis Flats BLM Campground
Located between the Unaweep/Tabeguache Scenic and Historic Byway and the San Miguel River, this campground also doubles as a boat launch. Expect to find incredible scenery as the canyon landscape transitions from forest to high desert. There are three developed campsites (one with a sun shade) and four parking areas that can accommodate large RVs and boat trailer parking. For more information, click HERE ..
7. Bedrock BLM Campground
This beautiful campground sits along the shores of the Dolores River. You can expect to find a boat ramp, and four sun shades with tables, grills, and a large flat area for tents and RVs. If you’re an angler, or love to raft, hike, or immerse yourself in truly inspiring landscapes (views of the massive canyon walls are unbeatable here!) this is a great destination for you and your family. For more information, click HERE .
8. Gypsum Valley Dolores River BLM Campground
This recreation area is a very remote destination along the Dolores River about 50 miles north of Dove Creek. The site primarily serves as a boat launch, but there are three designated campsites here with fire rings and sun shades. There are no other facilities available at this campground, and availability is based on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, click HERE .
West End RV Campgrounds
If you’re traveling in the comfort of an RV, there are three great options for setting up your basecamp. With well-developed facilities and the perfect location for all of your outdoor adventures, these RV camping parks in the West End are spots that you’ll want to return to season after season.
9. High Country RV Park
This RV campground located near Naturita, Colorado is the perfect home base from which to enjoy all the hiking, mountain biking, off-roading, rock climbing, fishing, wildlife viewing, and paddling that the West End has to offer. The campground has full hook-ups, a dump station, 37 available sites, and laundry facilities for your convenience. For more information, click HERE .
10. Black Shadow Camping
Located in downtown Naturita, you can expect to find great views and an authentic taste of Western Colorado culture.
Location: 111 W. 2 nd Ave. Naturita, CO 81422
Phone: (970) 428-2001
11. Backcountry Inn
Located in Norwood just a few blocks from local restaurants and the grocery store, the Backcountry Inn offers the only RV hook-ups in town. Amenities include full hook-ups with water, sewer, electric, and free WiFi. Reasonable nightly and weekly rates also make this destination perfect for those on a lengthier Western Colorado road trip. For more information, click HERE .
West End Campsites
Campsites such as the ones listed below are often found outside of more developed camping areas. If it’s an off-the-beaten path adventure that you’re after, a campsite will be the perfect destination as you seek out a bit of peace and quiet and a break from the hustle and bustle of that Monday-Friday lifestyle.
It should be noted that the experience of staying at campsites like these is primitive; they do not have facilities like toilets or running water. They are also filled on a first-come, first-served basis without the ability to make a reservation. Prepare and plan for a weekend stay at one of these sites by bringing plenty of water as well as layers and hand-held maps to avoid the inconvenience of getting stuck without cell service.
They are not easy to find, so the best way to find them is to follow this map , make sure you have a full tank of gas, and give yourself plenty of time to find them. Also, remember to follow the Leave No Trace principles and abide by all campfire advisories sent out by the county. For those who choose this adventure, the serenity you’ll find at these campsites is sure worth the extra effort.
For more information about staying at these campsites and their locations, visit westendtrails.org .
12. Thunder Road Campground
The Thunder Trails system is a series of four interconnecting loops used for mountain biking, dirt-biking, horseback riding, and hiking. Campsites can be found on the north end of the trail system (Forest Road 609), and campfires are only allowed in the metal rings provided at each campsite. For more information, click HERE .