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Beautiful Aspen, Colorado is up there as one of Colorado’s best mountain towns. Known for its glitz and glamour as much as its mountainous surroundings it’s a great town for a summer getaway. For those looking to maximize their experience, we think dispersed camping near Aspen, CO is the perfect way to see this beautiful area.

You’ll be well located to explore some of Aspen’s highlights including Maroon Bells, the Roaring Fork River, and even explore some of downtown Aspen’s art scene. Not to mention the nearly unlimited options for hiking, biking, and any other type of outdoor activity you can imagine.

However, finding a great dispersed campsite can often be difficult. To help make it a bit easier for you, we’ve compiled the best dispersed camping near Aspen, CO in to this easy to read guide.

Keep reading to find your perfect campsite!

 

Aspen, CO Dispersed Camping Guide

 

The Basics

When to Camp Near Aspen, CO

Situated in the Roaring Fork Valley at an elevation of 8,000′, Aspen’s high altitude location means you’ll want to plan you camping trip during the summer months. This generally means late-May through the first half of September for those who plan on tent camping. If you’re in an RV or camper you can likely extend the camping season by a few weeks.

However, outside of those months you’ll likely find the dispersed campsites in this guide full of snow and nightly temperatures too cold to camp.

Aspen trees in the fall near Aspen, CO

Fall is a beautiful time to camp near Aspen.

 

What to Bring

Planning a dispersed camping trip near Aspen involves more than deciding which campsite best fits your needs. There is also the important job of making sure you have all the right gear you’ll need to ensure a great trip. This is especially true for dispersed camping, as you can’t depend on the amenities of a developed campground.

We’re sure you’ll already have the essentials like a great tentsleeping bags, and camp chairs, but below are some of our favorite items specifically for dispersed camping:

  • Map: A good map is essential to making sure you are on public land, exploring the area, and learning more about your surroundings. We recommend this National Geographic version for a good overview Aspen and Independence Pass.
  • Coleman Camping Stove – This classic piece of gear is perfect for cooking up deluxe campsite dinners.
  • Portable water container – These portable water containers are a lifesaver, especially as some camping areas do not have water available.
  • Cooler – Keeping food and drinks cool is essential when camping, particularly in the hot afternoon sun. We can’t recommend Yeti enough!
  • Bug Spray– The mosquitos can be pretty nasty in the summer months, but good bug repellent makes a huge difference.
  • Portable Toilet– Even if there are vault toilets near your campsite, you might prefer this clean, private, and convenient option. It’s a great way to ensure you leave no trace! Also, don’t forget to pack TP!

 

Permits and Fees

One of our favorite benefits of free dispersed camping is that it almost never requires any specific permits or fees.  

Dispersed camping near Aspen is no different, and as of the time of writing, permits were not required to camp at any of the locations included in this guide. However, it is always a good idea to do a quick internet search or check with the local field office before setting out.

Fees are not required to park or camp at any of the BLM or Forest Service lands included in this post.

Your best bet is to contact the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District for the most up to date information.

 

Fires

Seasonal fire restrictions and fire bans are common in the wilderness areas surrounding Aspen. It’s important to check for the latest restrictions before heading out on your camping trip. This website has a comprehensive list of links to all current fire information in the state of Colorado, including USFS and BLM areas. You can also contact the appropriate field office for the area in which you’ll be camping.

If you are able to have a campfire, be sure to completely put it out prior to going to sleep or leaving you campground for any amount of time.

Pets

Pets are welcome at all of the dispersed camping areas included in this guide. Pets should be kept leashed and under control at all times, especially in areas where wildlife could be present. Remember to pack out pet waste and ensure that pets are protected from extreme temperatures.

 

Other Considerations

  • Elevation: Many of the peaks around Aspen rise to over 14,000′! While you won’t be camping on the top of them, the surrounding area is situated at a very high elevation. Many of the dispersed camping areas near Aspen, CO are at 9,000 feet or higher. Bring warm gear and a sturdy tent to prepare for the ever changing weather conditions that are common in these areas. Snow can come at any time of year!
  • Cell Phone Service: Don’t plan on getting a cell signal when dispersed camping near Aspen. Some of the areas are quite remote and getting a signal is rare.
  • Access: We’ve done our best to describe the road conditions you can expect when heading to each of the areas described in this post. The majority of camping areas near Aspen will require 4WD and a vehicle with high-clearance.  Use your best judgement as a tow truck on a remote road is not something you want to have to call!
  • Water: The majority of the sites included in this guide do not have a water source. Given that, it is important to bring all the water you’ll need, or have a plan for how you’ll get it.
  • All of these dispersed campsites are first-come, first-served. Many fill up quickly on summer weekends- you may need to get there on a Thursday and/or arrive early in the morning to secure a site.
  • Wildlife: The wilderness around Aspen is bear country. Be sure to store all food, trash, and other scented items in your car to avoid attracting bears and other wildlife.
  • Always Leave No Trace so that others can enjoy these beautiful places, too.

 

Dispersed Camping Near Aspen, CO

The following list contains what we consider the five best dispersed camping areas near Aspen, CO. We’ve done our best to include a variety of options in the surrounding area. The map below gives an overview of each site’s location with a full description included in the following section. Enjoy!

For other dispersed camping options in the area we recommend reaching out to the White River National Forest & Aspen-Sopris Ranger District. They oversee much of the public land surrounding Aspen and are always a great source of local knowledge for dispersed camping in the Aspen area! We also have dispsered camping guides for these nearby areas:

Dispersed Camping Near Leadville, CO

Dispersed Camping Near Buena Vista, CO

In addition, the USFS publishes a motor-vehicle use map that shows where dispersed camping is allowed. You can find the most up to date version here.

Lincoln Creek Dispersed Camping

Distance to Aspen: 11 miles
Restrooms: 
No
Water: 
No
Crowds: 
Busy
Map

The Lincoln Creek Dispersed Campground has 22 individual campsites and is just 20 minutes from Aspen. This is a very popular place to camp, so be sure to get there as early as you can, especially on weekends. The campsites are tucked back of Lincoln Creek Road, and a few even have direct creek access. Note that there is a five night limit on camping here that is strictly enforced. Also, be sure not to park/camp on Lincoln Creek Road itself as you are very likely to get a ticket!

To get here, head up Independence Pass from Aspen until you reach Lincoln Creek Road. Turn off here and follow Lincoln Creek Road for a short ways before turning off to your right where the campsites are located.

The road is rough, and 4WD is recommended.

Independence Pass near Aspen

Located at the base of Independence Pass, the Lincoln Creek Dispersed Campground is very close to Aspen.

 

Portal Campground

Distance to Aspen: 17 miles
Restrooms: 
Vault toilets available
Water: 
No, but may be able to filter water from Grizzly Reservoir
Crowds:
Moderate
Map

Continuing up Lincoln Creek Road from the Lincoln Creek Dispersed site described above will bring you to the Portal Dispersed Campground. This free, Forest Service campground has five dispersed campsites located right next to Grizzly Reservoir. While there is no drinking water here, there are two vault toilets. You’ll be at a very high altitude camping here, which gives access to some great day hikes, fishing opportunities, and offroading!

The road is rough up to the Portal Campground, so you will definitely want a 4WD vehicle with high-clearance.

Follow the directions described in the section above and stay on Lincoln Creek Road for another 6 miles to reach the Portal Campground.

 

Pearl Pass & Castle Creek Dispersed Camping

Distance to Aspen: 16 miles
Restrooms: 
No
Water: 
No, but you may be able to get water from Castle Creek. 
Crowds: 
Moderate
Map

Pearl Pass Road offers seven dispersed campsites situated along the beautiful Castle Creek. This is a great camping area for those looking to hike Castle Peak or explore some of the beautiful surrounding wilderness. Although the area is popular, you’ll find it much less crowded than the nearby Maroon Bells Wilderness. Pearl Pass is a popular 4×4 road, and you can even connect all the way to Crested Butte!

The road to the dispersed camping area is rough, and 4WD with high clearance is a must for anyone looking to camp here.

To get to the Pearl Pass dispersed camping area head up Castle Creek Road from the roundabout west of Aspen. Take Castle Creek Road for approximately 14 miles and past the historic ghost town of Ashcroft. Keep right at the junction and on to Pearl Pass Road. Drive a little over a mile up Pearl Pass and be on the lookout for the campsites.

A car drives to Pearl Pass dispersed camping near Aspen

 

 

Woody Creek (Forest Service Road 523 & 534)

Distance to Aspen: 13 miles
Restrooms: 
No
Water: 
No
Crowds: 
Light
Map

Just west of Aspen you’ll find the small town of Woody Creek and it’s legendary tavern. We highly recommend a visit if you’re in the Aspen area, and even better there are a few good dispersed campsites in close proximity. The camping areas are located north of Highway 82 in the National Forest along Forest Service Roads 534 and 523. You won’t find any amenities such as water or bathrooms, but these sites tend to be much less crowded than any of your other options.

To get there, take Lower River Road (County Road 16) west of Woody Creek and be on the lookout for a sharp right turn that goes steeply up the mountainside. This is Forest Service Road 534 and you’ll need to follow it up toward the Triangle Peak Overlook. Once in the National Forest, dispersed camping is available on Road 534, or a bit further up along Forest Service Road 523.

4WD and high-clearance are recommended for driving these roads.

 

Sayres Gulch

Distance to Aspen: 32 miles
Restrooms: 
No
Water: 
No, but water may be available from South Fork Lake Creek
Crowds:
Light
Map

The Sayres Gulch dispersed camping area is quite a trek from Aspen. However, given the limited options for dispersed camping in the area we thought it would be good to include. This is a primitive camping area along Forest Service Road 382. The sites are not typically crowded, so this is a good place to go to escape the hustle and bustle of Aspen.

To get there, head to the top of Independence Pass before turning south on Forest Service Road 391. Take Road 391 for approximately 1.8 miles before turning off onto Forest Service Road 382. You’ll find campsites almost immediately at this point. The road is fairly rough to get here so 4WD is recommended.

You’ll be on the east side of Independence Pass if you camp here and close to Twin Lakes. If you’d like to keep exploring the area you can also find good dispersed camping near Leadville. Nearby Buena Vista also has excellent dispersed camping options.

 

Have a great trip!

That’s it!

We hope we’ve provided all of the information you need to plan your Aspen, CO dispersed camping trip, and we know you’ll find the perfect campsite for your upcoming adventure! Be sure to let us know in the comments below if you have any questions and be sure to tell us about your trip!