So, you’re ready to begin your Rocky Mountain van camping adventure, but you’re not interested in the standard, popular destinations, which are likely overrun with tourists and crowds of campers. Good call, we are big fans of taking the camping trip off the beaten path, dodging the crowds, and having a more authentic experience of nature, while enjoying the comforts of a van camper. Here are a few suggestions for campsites near Denver, which you’ll find less crowded, but still extraordinarily beautiful and filled with great trails and vistas.
Rainbow Lakes Campground
Rainbow Lakes is a great place to go if you want to remain somewhat close to cities, and don’t feel the need to get lost in the wilderness deep in the Rockies. Just a few miles West of Boulder, you can even pop into town at some point for a nice dinner or supplies, if you want to. Because of its close proximity to the nearby Indian Peaks, which is much more popular, you’ll find less campers here, yet an excellent 1.9 mile trail with expansive views of the chain of lakes from which this campground takes its namesake. It even offers some primitive camping, which is even more likely to be calm and sparsely inhabited.
Beartracks Lake Trail
A campground that has survived forest fires in both the 60s and late 90s, Beartracks is a relatively unvisited and rough trail with dispersed camping, and the way in requires high clearance, which luckily your campervan should be able to accomplish. Trail maintenance is infrequent, and trails are often washed out, but if you’ve got an adventurous spirit, this can be a great choice.
Bill Moore Lake/Empire Loop
Known for being a prime 4×4 and off-roading playground, the Bill Moore Loop can also be a great place for dispersed camping in a camper van. However, It’s probably a good idea to check trail conditions before going, as they can be very rough (it’s known as an off-roading destination for a reason!). However, if conditions are good, and you stick to the safest roads, this can be a great place to visit with many beautiful trails.
This is in fact not a campground, but an entire park with dispersed camping. Near Jefferson, it is accessible only with 4×4, so make sure your van has this capability. While the way in is rough, once there, it provides a unique opportunity to explore relatively unspoiled Colorado wilderness. There’s also plenty of wildlife, and a good chance you’ll manage to see a bear.
Jones Pass Road is an example of dispersed camping that is highly accessible by van, and much easier than some of the others listed here to get into and out of. Jones Pass is on the way to Winter Park, and offers both a tree-lined parking lot for those who want to take it easy, or a rough road that requires 4×4 drive, but will reward you with more isolation, and proximity to Vasquez Peak.
Well, there you have it, many choices for van camping in Colorado ranging from extremely remote and high difficulty to quite easy, but in all cases, less crowded than your more commonly visited destinations. Happy trails!