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Open Year-round
?
Reservations possible?
No
RV Hookups
No
Potable water
No
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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.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer

Parking Pass

Not Required

Pros

Free.

Cons

Hard to find.

Pets allowed

Allowed

Managed by

Forest Service

Address

County Rd 64B
309
Ophir, CO 81426
United States

Features

Historically significant
Vault toilet

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Comments

11/19/2018
Priest Lake is located near Telluride, Colorado and is close to another more noticeable and enjoyable lake, Trout Lake. Finding Priest Lake is difficult and not at all worth the trip. I travelled to this campground in June 2018, where the campground was supposedly in its best time during the year, but I still didnt end up staying more than 6-7 hours here.

Pros:
-The surrounding location of the San Juan Mountains makes this location seemingly beautiful.
-Quiet Camping
-Not crowded
-Accessable Parking
-Historic location

Cons:
-Fishing is terrible, the "lake" itself resembles more of a shallow swamp where there are numerous trout, but you are unable to fish for them.
-In order to access the lake you have to navigate through thick vegetation and deep mud.
-Hard to find, the location is behind Trout Lake and takes nearly 20 minutes to travel to, with no signs posted to guide you.
-Despite the beautiful location, the surrounding trees in this area are so dense that you cannot see the forest floor, making exploration of the area impossible.

To anyone looking to camp in this location, I would avoid it. If you can even find Priest Lake, it is nearly impossible to access the lake and enjoy the main attraction of this place. 3-4 foot deep mud surrounds the entire lake with thick plants making it even harder to navigate around it. There are trout in the lake, but due to the shallow water and weeds, fishing for them was impossible. I suggest visiting nearby Trout Lake instead.


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