Get Outside: Ten Best Campsites Close to Denver | Westword

Get Outside: Ten Great Campsites Near Denver

From rustic to glamping, you don't need to go far for a little weekend outdoors getaway.
Bonus points to campgrounds that allow dogs!
Bonus points to campgrounds that allow dogs! Abigail Bliss
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Summer is here! Are you eager to get away from it all, but don't have time to get too far away? Within an hour of Denver (traffic depending), you'll find campgrounds — free and paid, public and private — that offer everything from scenic hikes to wildlife viewing, water and motor sports and even hot-air balloon rides.

Time to get out of town! Here are ten of the best spots under an hour from the Mile High City:

A-Lodge Boulder
Cannabis enthusiasts, this is the campsite near Denver for you. A-Lodge Boulder is one of Colorado’s few 420-friendly campgrounds with designated areas for smoking, where joints and infused s’mores are shared around the bonfire. As promised, A-Lodge delivers on “access, adventure, amenities,” with downtown Boulder and outdoor recreation just minutes away. A hot tub and pool, creekside pavilion with picnic tables and a slackline park are also available on site. Pitch a tent here — or if you prefer a more luxurious stay, book a private or hostel room within the site's lodge (but remember: No smoking indoors).

Chatfield State Park
Chatfield State Park offers plenty of outdoor recreation to keep anyone busy on a weekend camping trip. There are 197 tent and RV sites that can be booked online, located south of the 1,400-surface-acre reservoir. Here you can enjoy sailing, jet and water skiing, paddle activities and swimming along the beach. Biking and hiking are other popular pastimes, but some of the most unique attractions at this park include horseback riding from Chatfield Stables, as well as sunrise hot-air balloon rides.

Chief Hosa Campground
Once famed as “America’s first motor-camping area,” Chief Hosa Campground was established in 1918 to accommodate camping trailers. The reservable sites are more known for their proximity to Genesee Mountain Park’s bison herd. View the venerable animals from nearby overlooks, and enjoy other wildlife and scenery while hiking the park’s trails. Genesee Summit Trail, one of the best Denver-area hikes with great views, is one you won’t want to miss.

Cherry Creek State Park
On the eastern side of Cherry Creek State Park’s reservoir lie 131 tent and RV reservable campsites, along with group camping areas that accommodate up to 72 people. With nearby water access, visitors can enjoy fishing, swimming, boating and even jet and water skiing, perfect for summer afternoons. Round out your beach day with a game of volleyball and a picnic on the sand. It’s a great destination for the whole family, pups included! Be sure to take them to the massive off-leash dog park for even more fun.

Columbine Campground
Central City
Those seeking a more rugged experience in the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests should look to Columbine Campground. Sites can be reserved online, and it’s a popular spot for off-roading, as backcountry roads sprawl throughout the area. Dirt bikes, ATVs and Jeeps are allowed on several trails, identifiable with COTREX maps, which you can download using Columbine's free mobile app. Noise and exhaust fumes may turn some off to this campground, but it’s a great choice for anyone into motor sports.

Denver West/Central City KOA Holiday
Central City
Access to wi-fi and cable TV may not suit everyone’s ideal camping experience. But families with young children will especially love Denver West KOA Holiday, which has a playground, games including giant Jenga and checkers and all-you-can-eat pancake breakfasts. Tent and RV sites are available for booking, as are deluxe cabins. When visiting, enjoy outdoor recreation, nearby attractions in Central City and a drive along the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway.
click to enlarge
Views at Golden Gate Canyon State Park.
Abigail Bliss
Golden Gate Canyon State Park
Golden Gate Canyon State Park is home to one of Colorado’s best backpacking routes, but not all camping in this park is primitive. All types of campers are welcome at Reverend’s Ridge, with 97 year-round sites including tent pads, electric hookups and even nearby cabins and yurts. Reservations are required, but if the grounds are full, look to Aspen Meadows, where you’ll find 35 additional tent camping sites. Have a big group? Works Ranch and Rifleman Phillips group campgrounds can accommodate up to 30 and 75 people, respectively.

Reynolds Park
If you’re looking for more secluded camping near Denver, seek a permit to Idylease Campground at Reynolds Park. Here, five designated campsites are located just a half-mile from the parking lot. Light-weight backpacking gear isn’t necessary to access the area, but plan accordingly and leave the “extras” at home. Though semi-primitive, vault toilets are nearby and tables are available at each site, as are wildlife-resistant storage boxes. You’re in bear country when staying here, so be sure to use those boxes!

Standley Lake Regional Park
Found in the nearby Denver suburb of Westminster, the 66 campsites at Standley Lake Regional Park fill up fast during peak season. But with advanced planning, glampers will be thrilled by the six deluxe bell tents available for booking. Elevate your stay further with a morning float on one of the SUPs or kayaks available for rent. To view some of the park’s wildlife, paddle up close to Bird Island, home to white pelicans, cormorants and great blue herons.

St. Vrain State Park
Fishing, boating and other water sports are the major draw to St. Vrain State Park, a scenic camping destination located just north of Denver. Most of the park’s 87 campsites are found on the shaded banks of ponds, several of which are surrounded by short hiking trails. All eight campgrounds are open year-round, and reservations can be made up to six months in advance. Modern camping amenities make this a great choice for the entire family.
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