DU Field Notes: Best Campsites Near Denver
In this series, the DU Newsroom introduces readers to the world outside campus by exploring Denver and the near beyond.
This may be the summer of quarantining, but Colorado’s beauty makes it easy to social distance out in nature. From state parks to national parks, and even dispersed camping, the mountains offer endless possibilities to disconnect and enjoy a peaceful weekend in Mother Nature. Here are a few of our favorite places.
Dexter Campground — Leadville
Distance from DU: 2 hours, 9 minutes
This scenic, first-come, first-served campground sits right on the shore of Twin Lakes Reservoir. These campsites are positioned perfectly, so you can catch both the sunrise and the sunset over the water and mountains on each side. They are just miles away from the base of Mount Elbert for a hike and just a quick drive to the town of Buena Vista if you’re looking to grab a bite or stock up on provisions. Be prepared to pay in cash when you arrive!
Moraine Park Campground — Estes Park
Distance from DU: 1 hour, 46 minutes
Enjoy the beauty of Rocky Mountain National Park overnight with a stay at Moraine Park Campground. Close to the park entrance just outside Estes Park, this campground is a beautiful drive from campus and definitely one to put on your bucket list. You can make reservations at recreation.gov, and remember, you’ll need also need to pay to get into the park, one of the crown jewels of the nation’s park network.
Chatfield State Park Campgrounds — Littleton
Distance from DU: 24 minutes
Not eager to drive too far, but still feel like getting out in nature? Try the campgrounds at Chatfield State Park just south of Denver. The park sits near the foothills and offers camping year-round, boating, biking trails, horseback riding and an off-leash dog area. Camping reservations can be made on the park’s website.
Pinon Flats Campground — Mosca
Distance from DU: 3 hours, 44 minutes
It’s worth the drive to see another side to Colorado’s beauty at the Great Sand Dunes National Park. The park is home to the tallest dunes in North America and one of the best places to appreciate the wide-open night sky. You can hike, fish or even spend the day sandsledding. Like Moraine Park Campground, reservations can be made at recreation.gov.
Oh Be Joyful Campground — Crested Butte
Distance from DU: 4 hours, 12 minutes
Make a trip to Gunnison National Forest to camp near Crested Butte. The 15-site campground is just 5 miles from the city and sits along the scenic Slate River. The campground is also the start of the popular Oh-Be-Joyful trail which features stunning waterfalls and the beauty of Blue Lake. Want to set up camp off the beaten path? There are plenty of opportunities for dispersed camping in the area as well.