Located 20 minutes outside of Telluride, Priest Lake Campground is a dispersed camping area near the Lizard Head Wilderness. One of the few free camping options in the area, it offers budget-conscious campers flat campsites and basic amenities in a beautiful setting close to town and nearby outdoor adventures.
There are no numbered campsites at Priest Lake, but many areas are ideal for camping: several sites around the lake, including one on a short shelf with a fantastic view of the lake and surround. The only amenity is the on-site vault toilet, which is clean, but not always stocked. Because of the informal nature of the campground, the site is pocked with fire rings where crowds have camped in the past. Their presence suggests that, at times, Priest Lake Campground gets quite busy indeed—perhaps during Telluride’s many summer festivals.
Priest Lake is also busy with animal activity—in particular, the wild yips of coyote on the hunt, which are especially noticeable after dark when you are hunkered in a tent prepared to sleep. Adding to the campground’s intrigue is a small, historic cabin located near Priest Lake, carved with inscriptions over the years of the campers who spent the night.
The camping limit at Priest Lake Campground is seven days. Though it requires a drive from town, and access requires navigating poorly marked, rough roads, those looking for free camping in the Telluride area should look no further.
Note: Though access is rough, two-wheel drive vehicles should have little problem navigating to Priest Lake Campground.