Category: Blue Mesa Reservoir

The Complete Guide to Camping at Blue Mesa Reservoir

The Blue Mesa Reservoir, located in Colorado’s western mountains, is spectacular place to plan a camping trip. Occupying over 9,000 acres, the reservoir is Colorado’s largest body of water. Blue…

The Blue Mesa Reservoir, located in Colorado’s western mountains, is spectacular place to plan a camping trip. Occupying over 9,000 acres, the reservoir is Colorado’s largest body of water. Blue Mesa Reservoir sits within the Curecanti National Recreation Area and is managed by the National Park Service. Planning a Blue Mesa Reservoir camping trip is the perfect way to experience this incredible landscape.

The reservoir features tons of camping options including NPS run campgrounds located all along the nearly 20 mile length of Blue Mesa Reservoir, boat camping options, nearby RV and car camping sites, and even some free dispersed camping.

No matter what kind of camping experience you’re after you’ll be able to find the perfect campground at Blue Mesa Reservoir.

Keep reading to get all the details to plan your perfect camping trip at Blue Mesa Reservoir. 

Blue Mesa Reservoir Camping Guide

 

Blue Mesa Reservoir Campgrounds

The Blue Mesa Reservoir is over 20 miles long starting just west of Gunnison, CO and extending all the way west to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Along this length you’ll find dozens of camping opportunities from the NPS operated sites along the reservoir shores to amenity rich RV campgrounds nearby.

Blue Mesa’s developed campgrounds are located along both the northern and southern shoes of the reservoir, as well as the various tributaries that feed into it. Those who are interested in reaching their campground by boat will have four campgrounds to choose from in addition to backcountry camping sites available along the south shore of Blue Mesa Reservoir.

The map below gives you a general sense of where each of the developed campgrounds are located at Blue Mesa Reservoir as well as their relation to the surrounding area. 

For a map of boat campgrounds at Blue Mesa Reservoir check out this section below. 

 

Blue Mesa Reservoir Campground Map

Map of campgrounds at the Blue Mesa Reservoir. Map credit NPS. Click to enlarge.

 

In addition to the overview map shown above we’ve also created an interactive map with all of the campgrounds included in this guide displayed.

Campgrounds with a green tent icon are the developed campgrounds at Blue Mesa,  the blue camper trailer icon represents RV campgrounds near the reservoir, and finally the red tent icon represents car camping options.

Enjoy!

 

Reservations

Of the ten developed campgrounds at Blue Mesa Reservoir, only the Elk Creek, Lake Fork, Stevens Creek, and the two group campsites are reservable in advance. All other campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.  .

To make a reservation at any of the reservable campgrounds at Blue Mesa Reservoir visit Recreation.gov, below.

Make a camping reservation at Blue Mesa Reservoir here.

Camping at Blue Mesa Reservoir and in the Curecanti National Recreation Area is very popular during the summer peak season, so we highly recommend making a reservation well in advance if at all possible. If  you’re hoping to land one of the first-come, first-served campgrounds during peak season be sure to arrive early as they are very difficult to snag!

What to Bring

Preparing for a Blue Mesa Reservoir camping trip involves more than deciding which campground 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.

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 camping at Blue Mesa Reservoir:

  • Coleman Camping Stove – This camping classic is perfect cooking up campsite dinners.
  • Pop-up canopy – The sun in Colorado can be extremely strong. We recommend bringing a portable shade structure like this one.
  • Portable water container – These portable water containers are a life saver.
  • Cooler – A good cooler is essential to any camping trip. We can’t recommend Yeti enough!
  • Blue Mesa Reservoir Map – An essential for any trip, a good map is a must. This excellent National Geographic map includes Blue Mesa Reservoir and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

 

When to Camp at Blue Mesa Reservoir

Only the Elk Creek Campground at Blue Mesa Reservoir is open year round. All other campgrounds are generally open starting in mid to late-May through the end of October. Campers will find that peak season for camping at Blue Mesa Reservoir generally runs from Memorial Day through Labor Day, though those who plan a trip just outside of those dates will find great weather as well.

The winter months bring very cold temperatures to this part of Colorado, and nearby Gunnison is often one of the coldest places around! For that reason, we only recommend winter camping at Blue Mesa for the heartiest and well-prepared campers out there!

Keep reading to learn about all of the developed campgrounds at Blue Mesa Reservoir.

 

Developed Campgrounds at Blue Mesa Reservoir

Elk Creek Campground

Number of Sites: 160 sites
Fee: Loop C: $16/night / Loops A & B: $16/night +$3/night if reserved, Loop D (electric sites) $22/night +$3/night if reserved.
RVs: Yes, Loop D features electric hookups
Reservations: Recommended during summer months. Click here to reserve.
Season: Open year round. Most services/facilities only open during summer months.

Elk Creek Campground, Blue Mesa Reservoir

The Elk Creek Campground. Photo credit NPS.

 

The Elk Creek Campground is the largest and most popular campground at Blue Mesa Reservoir. Located near the midpoint of the reservoir along the north shore, Elk Creek is well located for those who value convenience as it is just a short distance from the Elk Creek Visitor Center, Pappy’s Restaurant & Pub, boat ramp, and marina.

The campground is the only one at Blue Mesa that features electric hookups, so it is especially popular with RV campers. There are 160 campsites here, distributed between four loops. The electric sites are all located in Loop D, while Loops A and B feature walk-in tent sites adjacent to the reservoir.

Amenities at the Elk Creek Campground include drinking water, flush toilets, and showers, all of which are available during peak season.

Reservations can be made in advance for site in Loop A, B, and D, with D, while Loop C sites are all available on a first-come, first-served basis. It is highly recommended to make an advance reservation during the summer months, and especially so on holiday weekends. Reservations can be made via Recreation.gov below:

Click here to reserve your campsite at the Elk Creek Campground

 

Map of the Elk Creek Campground at Blue Mesa Reservoir

Elk Creek Campground Map. Map credit NPS.

 

Lake Fork Campground

Number of Sites: 90 sites
Fee: Lower sections: $16/night / Upper & Middle Section: $16/night + $3/night if reserved.
RVs: Yes, but no hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve. 
Season: April through mid-October

Lake Fork Campground

The Lake Fork Campground. Photo credit NPS.

 

The Lake Fork Campgrounds sits on the far western edge of Blue Mesa Reservoir. Situated along the reservoir’s southern shore, this is one of the larger campgrounds at Blue Mesa.

The campground is split into an Upper, Middle, and Lower section, all of which can accommodate RVs. For those tent camping, there are several walk-in tent sites available in in the Upper section of the campground. Lake Fork isn’t the most idyllic campground as it is almost entirely asphalt, but you’ll have great views and great water access here.

Amenities at the Lake Fork Campground include drinking water, flush toilets, showers, and a dump station, all of which are available during peak season.

Reservations can be made in advance for the campground via Recreation.gov below:

Click here to reserve your campsite at the Lake Fork Campground

 

Map of the Lake Fork Campground

Map of the Lake Fork Campground. Map credit NPS.

 

 

Stevens Creek Campground

Number of Sites: 53 sites
Fee: Loops A & C: $16/night +$3/night if reserved / Loop B: $16/night
RVs: Yes, but no hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve. 
Season: Open from late-May through late-September

Stevens Creek Campground

The Stevens Creek Campground. Photo credit NPS.

 

The Stevens Creek Campground is located on the eastern edge of Blue Mesa Reservoir and is the closest campground to the town of Gunnison. Situated on the reservoir’s northern shore, Stevens Creek has 53 individual campsites available.

There are three loops at the Stevens Creek Campground, A, B, and C, all of which are able to accommodate RVs. All of the sites have great views as well as access to water during the summer months, vault toilets, picnic tables, and fire grates. There is also a boat ramp at the campground, making this a popular place to camp for boaters.

Advance reservations are available for Loops A and C, while all of the site in Loop B are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Reservations can be made in advance for the campground via Recreation.gov below:

Click here to reserve your campsite at the Stevens Creek Campground

 

Cimarron Campground

Number of Sites: 21 sites
Fee: $16/night
RVs: Yes, no hookups available. Medium sized RVs recommended.
Reservations: All site first-come, first-served.
Season: May through mid-October

Cimarron Campground, Blue Mesa Reservoir

The Cimarron Campground. Photo credit NPS.

 

The Cimarron Creek Campground does not sit directly on the Blue Mesa Reservoir, but rather is located west of Blue Mesa along Cimarron Creek. The campground sits just off Highway 50, about 30 minutes from the town of Montrose and has 21 campsites.

All of the campsites feature picnic tables, fire grates, and have access to vault toilets. Water is available from late-May through mid-September. This is a great campground for railroad lovers as it is located at the site of an old railroad town and features several informative exhibits.

All campsites at Cimarron Creek are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

 

Ponderosa Campground

Number of Sites: 28 sites
Fee: $16/night
RVs: Yes, no hookups available. Medium sized RVs recommended.
Reservations: All site first-come, first-served.
Season: May through mid-October

Campsite at the Ponderosa Campground

A campsite at the beautiful Ponderosa Campground. Photo credit NPS.

 

The Ponderosa Campground sits on the far northern edge of the Blue Mesa Reservoir along the Soap Creek Arm of the reservoir. The campground has a much more remote feel than other options, as you’re several miles from the main highway here.

You’ll enjoy beautiful views from the campground’s 28 sites, each of which is equipped with a table and fire pit. As with most campgrounds at Blue Mesa, water is available at the campground during the summer months.

Sites at Ponderosa can accommodate both tents and medium size RVs and are all available on a first-come, first-served basis.

 

Dry Gulch Campground

Number of Sites: 9 sites
Fee: $16/night
RVs: Yes, no hookups available. Medium sized RVs recommended.
Reservations: All site first-come, first-served.
Season: May through mid-October

Dry Gulch Campground

The Dry Gulch Campground. Photo credit NPS.

 

The Dry Gulch Campground is located along Highway 50, just east of the Elk Creek Campground and Visitor Center. With only 9 campsites, Dry Gulch is a great option for those looking for a quieter camping experience near Blue Mesa Reservoir.

The campsites are tucked into a lovely grove of Cottonwood trees which provide some great shade during the warmer summer months. You’ll have access to vault toilets and potable water during the summer here, while each site features a picnic table and fire ring. Tents and medium-size RVs are easily accommodate at Dry Gulch.

All of the campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis at Dry Gulch. We recommend getting there as early as possible during summer weekends as it does tend to fill up.

 

East Portal Campground

Number of Sites: 15 sites (10 tent-only)
Fee: $16/night
RVs: Not recommended.
Reservations: All sites first-come, first-served.
Season: May through mid-October

East Portal Campground

The East Portal Campground. Photo credit NPS.

 

The East Portal Campground is not a great option for those looking to explore Blue Mesa Reservoir, but it is located within the Curecanti National Recreation Area so is worth including in this guide. Situated along the Gunnison River, this small site features 15 total sites, 10 of which are tent only.

To access the East Portal Campground you’ll have to go through Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, so be prepared to pay the entrance fee. All of the sites are first-come, first-served and have access to water and vault toilets.

A great option for those looking to explore both the Blue Mesa Reservoir and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

 

East Elk Creek Group Campground

Number of Sites: 1 group site (up to 50 people)
Fee: $53/night
RVs: Yes, no hookups available.
Reservations: Required. Click here to make a reservation.
Season: May through mid-October

East Elk Creek Group Campsite, Blue Mesa Reservoir

The East Elk Creek Group Campground. Photo credit NPS.

 

The East Elk Creek Campground is a large, group campground located just north of Highway 50 near the Elk Creek Visitor Center. There is a single campsite here that can accommodate groups of up to 50 people.

The campground is situated in a secluded grove of cottonwood trees and makes the perfect spot for a family reunion, birthday camping trip, or any other special occasion. There is a covered picnic pavilion as well as several smaller picnic tables and fire grates.

The campground can accommodate both tents and RVs and has potable water available. Reservations are a must for the East Elk Creek Group Campground and can be made via Recreation.gov below:

Click here to reserve the East Elk Creek Group Campground

 

Red Creek Campground

Number of Sites: 2 sites (1 individual and 1 group site)
Fee: Individual site: $16/night | Group site: $28/night
RVs: Yes, no hookups available. Max length of 22′
Reservations: Individual site is first-come, first-served. Group site requires reservation. Click here to make a reservation.
Season: May through mid-October

Red Creek Campground, Blue Mesa Reservoir

The Red Creek Group Campsite. Photo credit NPS.

 

The Red Creek Campground at Blue Mesa Reservoir is located on the reservoir’s northern shore along Highway 50. Here you’ll be approximately 20 miles west of the town of Gunnison.

The Red Creek Campground features two campsites, an individual site as well as a group site that can accommodate up to 20 campers. The group campsite here is more secluded, while the individual site feels more like just a pull-off on the road. Red Creek can accommodate both tents and RVs, although RVs longer than 22′ are not recommended.

There is potable water available here during the summer months and both sites feature picnic tables and fire grate.

The individual campsite at Red Creek is first-come, first-served, while reservations are required for the group site and can be made below:

Click here to reserve the Red Creek Group Campsite

 

Gateview Campground

Number of Sites: 6 sites
Fee: FREE
RVs: Not recommended.
Reservations: All site are first-come, first-served.
Season: May through mid-October

The perfect campground for those seeking a bit of seclusion during their visit to the Blue Mesa Reservoir, the Gateview Campground features just 6 tent-only campsites at the far southern end of the reservoir. Gateview sits on the Lake Fork Arm of the Blue Mesa and feels far from the main body of water.

The six sites at Gateview are tent-only and have access to vault toilets and potable water.

All sites at the Gateview Campground are first-come, first-served.

 

Boat Camping at Blue Mesa Reservoir

In addition to the developed campgrounds listed in the section above, you are also able to camp along the shores of Blue Mesa Reservoir via boat. There are both established boat-to campground as well as backcountry camping available at Blue Mesa.

Read more about boat camping at Blue Mesa Reservoir in Curecanti National Recreation Area on the NPS website here.

The four established boat-to campgrounds at Blue Mesa Reservoir are shown on the map below and also outlined with brief descriptions.

Map of boat to campsites at Blue Mesa Reservoir

Blue Mesa Reservoir Boat-to campgrounds. Map credit NPS. Click to enlarge.

 

Turtle Rock Campground

Number of Sites: 3 sites
Fee: Free
Amenities: Vault toilets, tables, fire grates

The Turtle Rock Campground is located just east of the Elk Creek area and is a popular boat-to campsite. There are three sites here that all feature picnic tables and fire grates. A vault toilet is also available.

Cebolla Campground

Number of Sites: 2 sites
Fee: Free
Amenities: Vault toilets, tables, fire grates

The Cebolla Campground is located on the south shore of Blue Mesa Reservoir along the Cebolla Arm of the reservoir. There are 2 sites here which include picnic tables, fire grates, and a vault toilet.

West Elk Campground

Number of Sites: 2 sites
Fee: Free
Amenities: Vault toilets, tables, fire grates

The West Elk boat-to campground is located on the northern shores of Blue Mesa near the West Elk Creek inlet. The NPS recommend mooring boats along the western shore here to avoid submerged timber.

Lake Fork Campground

Number of Sites: 2 sites
Fee: Free
Amenities: Vault toilets, tables, fire grates

The Lake Fork Campground sits midway down the Lake Form Arm of the Blue Mesa Reservoir’s southern shore. The campground has two sites with vault toilets, picnic tables, and fire grates.

 

Backcountry Camping at Blue Mesa Reservoir

In addition to the four established boat-to campgrounds listed above, you are also permitted to backcountry camp in specified areas along Blue Mesa Reservoir. Permitted backcountry camping areas include most of the south shore of the reservoir as well as Red Creek Island.

You can view areas where backcountry camping is permitted on the map here.

For those planning to backcountry camp at Blue Mesa, be sure to follow these regulations:

  • Do not camp within 1/2 mile of bridges, public roads, or other campsites.
  • Limit your stay to less than 14 nights.
  • Always practice Leave No Trace principles.

 

Camping near Blue Mesa Reservoir

For those who arrive to find all of the campgrounds at Blue Mesa Reservoir full or who are just looking for some different options, there are plenty of nearby campgrounds.

From RV campgrounds with full hookups to great car camping and free dispersed camping on adjacent BLM/USFS land the you’re sure to find something that suits your needs.

 

RV campgrounds near Blue Mesa Reservoir

The following are our recommend RV campgrounds near Blue Mesa Reservoir. Keep reading to find your perfect RV campground.

RV Camping

 

Blue Mesa Recreational Ranch

Number of Sites: 317 sites
Fee: Varies by site and hookups.
RVs: Yes, full and partial hookups available
Reservations: Recommended.
More information

Blue Mesa Recreational Ranch is a massive RV campground located north of Blue Mesa Reservoir along Highway 50. You’ll find over 300 sites here that can accommodate just about any rig and hookup requirements.

The amenities at Blue Mesa Recreational Ranch are top notch and guests will enjoy access to two swimming pools, a fishing pond, WiFi and cable tv, and even a well-equipped game room.

This is a great option for those looking for more to do when compared to a typical NPS campground.

 

Oasis RV Resort

Number of Sites: Plenty!
Fee: $35 – $59/night depending on site and hookups.
RVs: Yes, hookups available
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
More information

The Oasis RV Resort is located along Highway 50 on the north shore of Blue Mesa Reservoir, just west of the Stevens Creek Campground. This popular campground can accommodate all sizes of RVs as well as tent-campers at the sprawling campground.

Guests at Oasis RV Resort can enjoy access to an on-site dog park, laundry facilities, cable tv, and a well-stocked general store.

 

Mesa Campground

Number of Sites: 118 sites
Fee: $29 – $88/night depending on site and hookups.
RVs: Yes, full hookups available
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
More information

The Mesa Campground is located east of Blue Mesa Reservoir, near the town of Gunnison, CO. This is a great campground if you’re planning on exploring Hartman Rocks in addition to the Blue Mesa Reservoir.

The campground features 118 sites and can accommodate large RVs and tent campers alike. Amenities at the Mesa Campground include laundry facilities, WiFi, fire pits, and an excellent clubhouse.

 

Gunnison KOA Journey Campground

Number of Sites: Plenty!
Fee: Varies by site and hookups.
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
More information

Located just 10-15 minutes from Blue Mesa Reservoir, the Gunnison KOA Journey Campground is perfect for campers looking for the convenience and amenities that come with KOA campgrounds. This is a smaller KOA compared to many, but that adds to the charm and the amenities are still top notch.

Campers will enjoy access to a shaded pavilion area, WiFi, and small shop selling essentials.

Keep in mind that the Gunnison KOA is located very close to the Gunnison airport so you can expect a bit of noise!

 

Blue Mesa Outpost

Number of Sites: 10 RV sites
Fee: $42 – $52/night depending on site.
RVs: Yes, max length of 45′
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
More information

The Blue Mesa Outpost is your best option for RV camping along the southwest section of Blue Mesa Reservoir. Situated just off Highway 50 on the western end of the reservoir, the campground has incredible water views. Blue Mesa Outpost is a small campground, with just 10 RV sites as well as room to accommodate a few tent campers.

The campground features fire pits, laundry facilities, and BBQ grills.

 

Car camping sites near Blue Mesa Reservoir

If you’re looking for car camping sites near Blue Mesa Reservoir, you’ll have many great options to choose from. We have included your best bets below and you’ll also have good luck at any of the campgrounds included in the RV section above.

Keep reading to learn more.

Blue Mesa Adventure Pods

Number of Sites: 5 ‘Adventure Pods’
Fee: $129/night
RVs: N/A
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
More Information

A unique car camping option at Blue Mesa Reservoir is to stay at the Blue Mesa Adventure Pods. The Adventure Pods are located within the Elk Creek Campground, although aren’t operated by the National Park Service. These simple structures sleep between 2-3 people and a few allow pets.

Your stay in a Blue Mesa Adventure Pod includes two paddle boards, two drink tokens at the Marina, a bundle of firewood, and access to a picnic table and fire ring.

A one of a kind experience!

 

Soap Creek Campground

Number of Sites: 21 sites
Fee: $14/night
RVs: Yes, no hookups available.
Reservations: All sites first-come, first-served.

The Soap Creek Campground is a USFS campground located north of the Blue Mesa Reservoir along Soap Creek Road/Forest Service Rd #824. The campground features 21 campsites that are all available on a first-come, first served basis.

As with most USFS campground you’ll get some basic amenities like vault toilets and hand pump water. There is also a horse corral at the campground for equestrian users.

 

Red Bridge Campground

Number of Sites: 7 sites
Fee: $5/night
RVs: Yes, no hookups available.
Reservations: All sites first-come, first-served.
More Information

The Red Bridge Campground is located south of Blue Mesa Reservoir off of Highway 149. This isn’t the most convenient campground for visiting Blue Mesa Reservoir, but it does sit in a beautiful location along the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River.

There are seven campsites here along with a simple vault toilet. Keep in mind that there is not potable water at the Red Bridge Campground, so we recommend bringing all that you’ll need for your trip.

 

Free dispersed camping near Blue Mesa Reservoir

Your final option for camping near Blue Mesa Reservoir is to find a free, dispersed campsite on adjacent US Forest Service or BLM land. This part of Colorado is full of public lands that offer incredible free camping opportunities.

If you have any questions about the dispersed camping options outlined below be sure to reach out to the BLM offices that oversee the specific areas, shown below:

Red Creek Road

Red Creek Road intersects with Highway 50 on the northside of Blue Mesa Reservoir. Head north along the road until you reach the USFS gate. After this point you’ll find several dispersed campsites as the road weaves its way through the National Forest.

Soap Creek Road

Located on the northern shore of Blue Mesa Reservoir just past the Ponderosa Campground you’ll find a few free dispersed campsites along Soap Creek Road. You’ll pass most of these before getting to the developed Soap Creek Campground described in the section above.

Hartman Rocks

The Hartman Rocks area is located between Gunnison and the Blue Mesa Reservoir. This area is popular with mountain bikes, hikers, and all sorts of other outdoor enthusiasts.

 

Blue Mesa Reservoir Camping Must Know

The following sections contain all the basic information you need to ensure you have a great time camping at Blue Mesa Reservoir. Before we dive in, there are a few important regulations to note:

  • Pets must be leashed at all times.
  • Fires are only permitted in the fire grates provided at the campgrounds.
  • 8 people max per campsite.
  • No more than 14 consecutive nights at a single campground during a 30 day timeframe.
  • Always store your food in your car or in an animal proof container.
  • Always practice Leave No Trace principles.

Where to get supplies

Preparing for your Blue Mesa Reservoir camping trip involves more than just finding the perfect campground. you’ll also need to be sure you have all the supplies you need before heading out. Luckily, Blue Mesa Reservoir is well served by a few adjacent towns that have all the services you could possibly need.

You’ll find your best options to stock up on camping supplies near Blue Mesa Reservoir below:

  • Gunnison, CO: Located immediately to the east of the Blue Mesa Reservoir, Gunnison is likely your best bet for finding any last minute camping supplies. This lovely town features grocery stores, liquor stores, plenty of outdoor shops.
  • Montrose, CO: Located to the west of Blue Mesa, Montrose is likely to be the most convenient option for those staying on the west end of the reservoir or who are also exploring Black Canyon of the Gunnison. You’ll find grocery stores, gas stations, outdoor shops, and anything else you might need here.

 

Have a great trip!

That’s it!

We hope you’ve found all of the information on Blue Mesa Reservoir camping in this post helpful 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 or had a great time out camping!

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