It’s no mystery that Colorado’s Front Range has some of the best backcountry in the states, but what about those weekends when you’re just looking to get out of the city, roll out your sleeping bag, and bundle up with a few friends around a campfire? Well there’s plenty of that, too. There are several state parks and national forests within an hour of Denver, and each of them has the right campground for you and your crew. Whether you’re looking for a forest hideaway or something with a view of the city, whether you’d like to relax by the lake or lumber along hiking trails or drop a line in a fishing hole, one of these campgrounds has just what you’re looking for.
In Pikes National Forest, Buffalo Campground is a quiet hideaway with access to hiking and mountain biking, but it’s an intriguing area for car campers as well. Though the campground proper boasts only two car/tent sites, free backcountry campsites are located nearby, and the area’s lumpy rock formations are calling for exploration.
Dillon Reservoir west of Denver has plenty of aquatic real estate for fishing, boating or just hanging out on the shore, and one of its nicest adjacent campgrounds is Prospector. With over 100 car/tent sites, it is huge, and a clearcut of pine beetle-ridden trees in years past created wide open views of the surrounding mountains. Reservations recommended.
Just 30 minutes outside of Denver, Golden Gate Canyon State Park has miles of hiking and horseback riding trails within just a half hour of the city. Aspen Meadows Campground is a great option for campers, with 35 car/tent sites nearby Dude’s Fishing Hole, which is regularly stocked with trout.
Sawmill Hikers Campground in White Ranch Open Space Park is a welcoming contrast to the pine forests farther west. Under 30 minutes from Denver, it has a unique character. Its ten walk-in sites are available only by special permit, giving it an air of exclusivity. Located a mile’s hike from the parking lot, it has a remote feel. Free firewood cooks up marshmallows just as crispy as the stuff you pay for. Nestled amid hillsides swathed in golden meadows, it has wide-open skies and views of the city skyline to the east, adding a little bit of the cosmopolitan.