Category: Colorado National Monument

Guide to Camping in Colorado National Monument

From the top of its sheer cliff faces to the depths of its red rock canyons, Colorado National Monument is breathtaking on so many levels. This national treasure protects many…

From the top of its sheer cliff faces to the depths of its red rock canyons, Colorado National Monument is breathtaking on so many levels. This national treasure protects many thousands of acres of quintessential southwestern landscapes, including sweeping plateaus and towering sandstone monoliths. You can take in the scenery while cruising along the famous Rim Rock Drive, exploring one of the monument’s many great hiking trails, climbing its unique rock formations, or simply enjoying a picnic.

Regardless of how you choose to spend your days in Colorado National Monument, the very best way to spend your nights is camped out under the stars in your tent or RV.

Colorado National Monument and the surrounding areas have plenty of options for camping. From the developed Saddlehorn Campground located inside the national monument to its many backcountry options, you’ll have tons of great campsites to choose from. Beyond the borders of Colorado National Monument, there are several great campgrounds and dispersed camping areas nearby.

Birds eye view of Fruita Canyon taken from Rim Rock Drive in Colorado National Monument
Views from the famous Rim Rock Drive. Photo courtesy of NPS.

In This Post

Misty clouds in a canyon in Colorado National Monument
Colorado Monument is beautiful in any weather. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Colorado National Monument Campgrounds

Campers looking to spend the night inside Colorado National Monument have two great options. Those looking for convenience and comfort will enjoy the established Saddlehorn Campground, while those seeking adventure and solitude should consider pitching a tent in the backcountry. We’ve covered everything you need to know about both options in this section.

Saddlehorn Campground

Number of Sites: 79 sites
Fee: $22/night ($11.00 for seniors and access pass holders)
RVs: Yes, max size 40′
Reservations: Available for A and B Loop sites. Click here to reserve.
Season: A Loop sites are open all year. B and C Loop sites are open late-March through Mid-October.

The Saddlehorn Campground is conveniently located just four miles past the West Entrance of Colorado National Monument, near the town of Fruita. The 79 sites are arranged in three loops.

Click here to see a map of the Saddlehorn Campground

The A Loop is open year-round. It can be reserved six months in advance for the summer season, and is open on a first-come, first-served basis in the winter months (no services available during that time). The B Loop is open during the summer months (typically late March through mid-October) and sites can be reserved up to six months in advance. If not reserved in advance, sites in the A and B loops are available on a first-come, first-served basis, but may be used for one night only. The C Loop can be reserved for group camping, or used on a first-come, first served basis for individuals.

RVs are welcome at the Saddlehorn Campground, and there are some pull through sites in the A and B loops. There are no hookups at the campground.

During the summer months, flush toilets and drinking water are available at the Saddlehorn Campground. Each site offers a picnic table and charcoal grill. Sites #5 and #70 are accessible for people with disabilities. Nearly all of the sites offer spectacular views of the surrounding red rock scenery.

Campers sit at a picnic table at the Saddlehorn Campground in Colorado National Monument
Campers enjoying the beautiful surroundings at the Saddlehorn Campground. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Backcountry Camping in Colorado National Monument

If you would prefer to get away from the bustle of the campgrounds and enjoy more solitude in the wilderness, Colorado National Monument offers plenty of great options for backcountry campingExperienced and adventurous campers can sleep out under the stars in the spot of their choosing, provided they follow a few important rules and regulations. This option allows campers to hike on or off trail and pitch their tent nearly anywhere in the monument.

Most backcountry campers will choose to explore one of these incredible backcountry trails.

If you’re considering Backcountry Camping in Colorado National Monument, it’s imperative you know some key information.

You CANNOT Camp in the following areas:

  • Within .25 mile of developed areas and roads
  • Within 150 feet of any trail
  • Inside any streambed

Also, keep in mind:

  • Water sources are virtually nonexistent in the backcountry. You should plan on carrying at least a gallon per person per day in the summer months. Never drink from any natural water source without filtering first.
  • You are camping in bear country. Use proper techniques for securing food and other scented items that might attract bears.
  • Campfires are not permitted in the backcountry. Gas or alcohol camp stoves may be used for cooking.
  • Groups may not exceed 7 people.
  • Individual trips are limited to seven nights, and you can’t camp more than 14 nights total per calendar year.
  • Always abide by Leave No Trace Principles

Permits are required for Backcountry Camping in Colorado National Monument. Permits are free and can be picked up from the Saddlehorn Visitor Center upon arrival. Click here for visitor center opening hours.

A wooden trail sign in front of a dirt trail in Colorado National Monument
There’s a wealth of great backcountry trails and camping options in Colorado National Monument. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Colorado National Monument Camping Basics

Reservations, Permits, and Fees

It is a very good idea to reserve your spot at the Saddlehorn Campground ahead of time, as it can get quite busy during the summer months, especially weekends and holidays. Reservations can be made up to six months in advance for sites in the A and B Loops. Visit recreation.gov to reserve your campsite.

Permits are required for backcountry camping in Colorado National Monument. Permits are free and can be picked up from the Saddlehorn Visitor Center upon arrival. Click here for visitor center opening hours.

All visitors must pay an entrance fee when visiting Colorado National Monument. Campers staying at the Saddlehorn Campground will pay an additional fee per night. Backcountry camping is free in Colorado National Monument.

What to Bring

Preparing for your Colorado National Monument camping trip involves more than deciding which campground best fits your needs. There’s 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 in Colorado National Monument:

Fires

Wood fires are not permitted anywhere in Colorado National Monument. Visitors staying at the Saddlehorn Campground or using one of the monument’s designated picnic areas can use the charcoal grills provided. Gas and alcohol camp stoves are allowed throughout the monument. If camping outside the monument, be sure to check local regulations and seasonal fire bans for more information before you go.

Wildlife

Colorado National Monument’s diverse landscapes host a multitude of unique ecosystems. The semi-desert ecosystem is home to a wonderful range of species. Some notable fauna include desert bighorn sheep, and several dozen species of birds, including red-tailed hawks and golden eagles. While the chance to see wildlife in their native habitat is certainly an unforgettable experience for those lucky enough to witness it, there are some precautions to keep in mind when spending time in Colorado National Monument.

Rattlesnakes: Watch your step when exploring the trails in Colorado National Monument, as it is a habitat for the midget-faced rattlesnake, which is poisonous. These snakes, like most snakes, are not particularly aggressive, so keep your distance and they’ll leave you alone.

Mountain Lions: Mountain lions occasionally pass through Colorado National Monument, although it is incredibly rare to encounter this elusive big cat. That being said, they can be dangerous to humans and it’s important to know what to do if you cross paths with a mountain lion. Learn more about mountain lion safety here.

A bighorn sheep stands on a rock in Colorado National Monument
Desert bighorn sheep are on of the monument’s most majestic animals. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Pets

If you bring your pet to Colorado National Monument, you must follow these regulations:

  • Pets must be on a leash at all times.
  • Pets are allowed within campgrounds, on park roads, and in picnic areas.
  • Pets are not allowed in park buildings, on trails, or in the backcountry.
  • Do not leave your pet unattended in your vehicle. Temperatures can get extremely hot in Colorado National Monument.
  • Always properly dispose of pet waste.
  • Properly documented and trained service animals are permitted to accompany individuals with disabilities anywhere members of the public may normally go within the park.

Where to Get Supplies

Colorado National Monument is a vast area with no supplies or services available within the park (with the exception of a few snack items at the visitor center). This means it is extremely important that you enter the monument well-stocked on food, water (if there’s none available at your destination), gas, and any other necessities you may need while camping.

Visitors entering Colorado National Monument through the West Entrance can get supplies in the nearby town of Fruita. The most convenient place to get food and other supplies is the City Market, located just a five-minute drive from the West Entrance of the monument. There are a handful of gas stations off Highway 340 on the way into Colorado National Monument.

Visitors entering Colorado National Monument via the East Entrance should stock up in Grand Junction. The Alta Convenience is the closest option for snacks and gas, but there are several grocery stores, gas stations, and other services a bit further in town.

Close up of a person lighting a blue camp stove
Make sure you bring your camp stove, since there are no fires allowed in Colorado National Monument!

Campgrounds Near Colorado National Monument

If you’re seeking an established campground with modern amenities, there’s a plethora of great options within a 30-minute drive of Colorado National Monument. Another perk of these campgrounds is that many of them are close to the shops and services in one of the areas charming towns.

Fruita is a small, outdoorsy town that is just minutes from the monument’s West Entrance. Grand Junction is the region’s biggest metropolis and has a lovely downtown and plenty of services. Finally, Palisade is a bit further from Colorado National Monument, but its wine and agricultural scene make it an attractive place to set up camp. We’ve also included a couple of out-of-town campgrounds for those seeking a more rugged experience.

If you’re looking to check out any of the other Colorado National Parks or National Monuments, but sure to take a look at our other camping guides below:

Low clouds in Monument Canyon
Monument Canyon is easily accessed from the West Entrance. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Campgrounds in Fruita, CO

Bookcliff Campground (Highline Lake State Park)

Number of Sites: 32 sites
Fee: $28/night (3/1-10/31) or $14/night (11/1-2/28) + park entrance fee
Site Type(s): RVs (Site lengths vary, but some can accommodate big rigs. No hookups) Tents
Reservations: Required. Click here to reserve.
Season: Open all year.

Located about twenty minutes driving from the monument’s West Entrance, the Bookcliff Campground is a great place to camp and enjoy Highline Lake State Park. The 32 sites offer plenty of shade and nice views of the surrounding area. Most of the sites can accommodate RVs, with pull-through and back-in options available. There are also three tent-only walk-in sites that provide a bit more privacy. Campground amenities include bathrooms, hot showers (extra fee), fire pits, picnic tables, laundry facilities, and a dump station. Leashed pets are welcome.

Monument RV Resort and Campground

Number of Sites: Varies
Fee:
 $35-52/night (RV), $29/night (tent)
Site Type(s):
RVs, Tents, Cabins
Reservations: 
Recommended for peak season.
Season: 
Open all year.

While this RV park may not be the most scenic, its proximity to Colorado National Monument can’t be beat. Located less than five minutes from the West Entrance of the monument, this campground is a great basecamp for all of your outdoor adventures. Keep in mind there is an extra fee for groups larger than two. Amenities include restrooms, picnic tables, wifi, propane, dump station, laundry, a playground, pool, and an exercise room.

James M. Robb Colorado River State Park, Fruita Section

Number of Sites: 57
Fee:
 $36-41/night (RV w/hookups), $22/night (tent)+park entrance fee
Site Type(s):
RVs, Tents, Walk-in Tents
Reservations: 
Required. Click here to reserve.
Season: 
Open all year, but some services closed from 11/1-4/1

This campground offers a beautiful riverside setting that feels close to nature, while also being walking distance from the shops and restaurants in town. Full hookup sites can accommodate RVs up to 50′ long. This is a popular campground that books up quickly, so make your reservation as far in advance as possible! Amenities include flush toilets, coin-operated showers, picnic tables, fire rings, drinking water, laundry, and a dump station. Leashed pets are permitted.

Click here for a map of the campground.

A close up of orange and yellow flowers on prickly pear cacti in Colorado National Monument.
The Old Gordon Trail is easily accessed from the monument’s East Entrance, and has beautiful seasonal blossoms. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Campgrounds in Grand Junction, CO

Junction West RV Park

Number of Sites: 70 sites.
Fee:
 $45-55/night (RV), $35/night (tent)
Site Type(s):
RVs, Tents, Cabins
Reservations: 
Recommended for peak season.
Season: 
Open all year.

This is another clean and convenient option, located just 15 minutes from the West Entrance of Colorado National Monument. While it doesn’t necessarily provide a “close to nature” kind of experience, it does offer plenty of great amenities for the whole family. These include restrooms, wifi, laundry, a playground, and a convenience store.

Moondance RV and Campground

Number of Sites: 49 sites
Fee: $20/night (Tent), $40-50/night (RV)
Site Type(s): RVs, Tents
Reservations: Not required, but can be made by calling 970-245-0769.
Season: Open all year.

This no-frills campground is conveniently located halfway between the East and West entrances to Colorado National Monument, meaning you can access either entrance within a 15-minute drive. There are 27 large RV sites with full hookups, as well as space to accommodate 22 tents. Amenities include bathrooms, showers, wifi, a pet area, and laundry facilities.

Grand Junction KOA

Number of Sites: 80 sites
Fee: $32-35/night (Tent), $50-65/night (RV)
Site Type(s): RVs, Tents
Reservations: Recommended.
Season: Open all year.

Campers love the clean facilities, shady pitches, and plentiful amenities at this reliable KOA. The campground is just a few miles from downtown Grand Junction and less than 15 minutes from the West Entrance of Colorado National Monument. Amenities include restrooms, wifi, laundry, a pool, dog walk, game room, and a snack bar.

RV Ranch at Grand Junction

Number of Sites: 146 sites
Fee: $40-55/night (RV), $65/night (Cabins)
Site Type(s): RVs, Cabins
Reservations: Recommended for peak season.
Season: Open all year.

This is a clean, well-maintained RV park that is located about twenty minutes from either entrance of Colorado National Monument. 50 amp, 30 amp, and water/electric only sites are available, as are a selection of cozy cabins that can sleep 2-4 people. Unfortunately, they do not accommodate tent campers. Amenities include restrooms, laundry, fire pits, a swimming pool, and propane sales.

People picnicing at  the Devil's Kitchen area in Colorado National Monument
The Devil’s Kitchen Picnic Area and hiking trails are just minutes from Grand Junction. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Campgrounds in Palisade, CO

Palisade Basecamp RV Resort

Number of Sites: 71 sites
Fee:
 $40-84/night (RV), $22-48/night (tent)
Site Type(s):
RVs, Tents, Cabins
Reservations: 
Recommended for peak season.
Season: 
Open all year, although some services not available in winter

Some campers will find it worthwhile to travel a bit further from the monument to enjoy a stay at this deluxe campground. Palisade Basecamp is a sprawling accommodation that offers a variety of sites with views of the river and surrounding vineyards. The campground is about a half hour’s drive from either entrance of Colorado National Monument, although there are a handful of nice biking and hiking trails within a couple miles of Palisade Basecamp. Prices vary depending on your travel dates, and extended stay discounts are available. Amenities include restrooms, wifi, laundry, a pet area, a pool, and a general store.

A close up of peaches at a market
If you’re visiting during harvest season, you can’t miss Palisade’s famous peaches!

Further Afield

Mud Springs Campground

Number of Sites: 14 sites
Fee:
 $10/night
Site Type(s):
RVs (no hookups, max length 30′), Tents
Reservations: 
First-come, first-served
Season: 
May-October

Those looking to have a more rugged camping experience while still enjoying some creature comforts will certainly enjoy the Mud Springs Campground. The campground is located southwest of Colorado National Monument, and you’ll actually drive through the monument to reach it (approximately 40 minutes from the East Entrance). The road to Mud Springs Campground is quite steep and can be a bit rough at times, but the elevation gained makes this an excellent (and much cooler) option for summertime camping. Amenities include vault toilets, drinking water, picnic tables, and fire rings. The Glade Park Store is about 20 minutes away and sells some basic supplies and snacks. Pets are welcome.

North Fruita Desert Campground

Number of Sites: 35 sites
Fee:
 $20/night
Site Type(s):
RVs (no hookups, max length 30′), Tents
Reservations: 
First-come, first-served
Season: 
May-October

This very rustic campground is located about 35 minutes from Colorado National Monument in a peaceful desert setting. The primary draw to the North Fruita Desert BLM area is the great mountain biking trails, many of which can be accessed directly from your campsite. Keep in mind that there’s no water or shade available at this campground, and the road to get here is very rough. Amenities include vault toilets, picnic tables, and fire pits. Leashed pets are permitted.

Silhouette of a mountain biker in the desert
The North Fruita Desert Campground is a mountain biker’s paradise!

Dispersed Camping Near Colorado National Monument

BLM- Rabbit Valley

Number of Sites: Varies
Fee:
 Free
Site Type(s):
RVs, Tents
Reservations: 
First-come, first-served
Season: 
Open all year

Rabbit Valley is a popular and convenient place for dispersed camping near Fruita. It is located within the BLM-managed McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, which offers plenty of great hiking, mountain biking, and motorcycle/ATV riding. It’s about 30 minutes from the West Entrance of Colorado National Monument. When you turn off I-70, you’ll first see a large gravel parking lot. This is typically used for larger RVs. If you continue along the road, you’ll see several marked and numbered dispersed campsites. There are no amenities at the sites, but there are toilets near the entrance and the nearby Fruita Visitor Center has water, a dump station, and trash/recycling facilities. Keep in mind that you may only camp in designated dispersed sites (marked by signs), and you are required to bring a portable toilet and fire pan.

Those looking for a developed campground can stay at one of Rabbit Valley’s three free options: The Jouflas Campground, the Knowles Overlook Campground, or the High North Campground.

BLM-18 Road

Number of Sites: Varies
Fee:
 Free
Site Type(s):
RVs, Tents
Reservations: 
First-come, first-served
Season: 
Open all year

The North Fruita Desert BLM area is known for being a mountain biker’s paradise, but it’s also a great dispersed camping option for anyone wanting proximity to Colorado National Monument and the surrounding area. There is a developed campground within the mountain biking trail system, but those looking for dispersed camping should look for signage indicating the free camping area along the dirt road just south of the main mountain biking trailhead. Be advised that the first mile along the road is very rough and may prove difficult for low-clearance vehicles and RVs. As you continue along the road, you’ll see numerous dispersed sites for a few more miles. While there are no amenities in the dispersed camping area, there are toilets at the mountain bike trailhead nearby. Pets are permitted in the 18 Road camping area.

View from inside of a tent looking out towards a desert landscape

Have a great trip!

That’s it!

We hope you’ve found all of the information in this post helpful and we know you’ll find the perfect campsite for your upcoming adventure in Colorado National Monument! Be sure to let us know in the comments below if you have any questions and tell us about your trip!

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