The BEST Dispersed Camping Near Glenwood Springs

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Glenwood Springs, Colorado makes for a perfect summer getaway. Take a soak in the famous hot springs, explore downtown, or venture off on one of the area’s renowned trails. Regardless of your chosen adventure, you’re sure to have an incredible time in Glenwood Springs. For the campers out there you’ll be pleased to learn that there are several good options for free, dispersed camping near Glenwood Springs.

This Glenwood Springs dispersed camping guide aims to make your life easy, but providing our top picks for dispersed camping in the area. Whether you’re pulling a trailer, roughing it in your Jeep, or just looking for some easy, riverside camping, we’ve got you covered.

So pack up your tent, load your trailer, and get ready to find your perfect Glenwood campsite.

Glenwood Springs Dispersed Camping Guide

The Basics

The following sections contain all the must know information you need to plan a successful dispersed camping trip near Glenwood Springs, CO. This includes everything from when to camp to what to bring.

This is the essential info before you head out!

For more information check out our complete guide to dispersed camping in Colorado here.

When to Dispersed Camp Near Glenwood Springs

Located in Colorado’s central mountains, Glenwood Springs experiences cold, snowy winters, and beautiful warm summers. Your best bet for camping will be during the peak summer months from May – September.

This will be highly dependent on the previous season’s snowfall, so be sure to check with the relevant Ranger District for the most up to date conditions before heading out.

If you’re camping in a trailer or RV you can likely extend the season a bit longer, although that is highly variable depending on the year. During May and September, you can expect colder nights and shorter days, so be sure to come prepared.

Hanging Lake, Colorado
Explore beautiful Hanging Lake when dispersed camping near Glenwood Springs.

 

What to Bring

Planning for a dispersed camping trip near Glenwood Springs require more preparation than simply staying in a developed campground. You’ll be setting up in remote wilderness, and will need to be prepared to be self-reliant.

As such, while we’re sure you’ll already have the essentials like a great tentsleeping bags, and camp chairs,  below are some of our favorite items specifically for dispersed camping near Glenwood Springs:

  • Map: A good map is essential to making sure you are on public land, exploring the area, and learning more about your surroundings. Depending on where you plan to camp, there are two excellent maps covering the Glenwood Springs area:
    • Flat Tops South: This covers the southern portion of the Flat Tops, north of Glenwood Springs
    • Carbondale/Basalt: This map cover the area around Carbondale and Basalt, south of Glenwood Springs.
  • Coleman Camping Stove – This classic piece of gear is perfect for cooking up deluxe campsite dinners.
  • Portable water container – Most of the camping areas included in this guide do not have dependable water access. As such, a portable water container is essential.
  • Cooler – Keeping food and drinks cool is critical when camping. We can’t recommend Yeti enough!

 

Permits and Fees

One of our favorite things about dispersed camping is the lack of need for any permits or fees to be paid. Dispersed camping near Glenwood Springs is no different, and none of the dispersed camping areas in this guide require a permit or have any associated fees.

However, be aware that regulations often change, and it is best to check with the local National Forest Ranger District to confirm your plans. For Glenwood Springs, we recommend contacting the White River National Forest Supervisor’s Office, located in Glenwood Springs.

 

Fires

Seasonal fire restrictions and fire bans are very common in the areas surrounding Glenwood Springs. It is critical that you check and obey any and all fire restrictions. The surrounding wilderness has seen several devastating wildfires in recent years, including the Grizzly Creek fire, so please only have a campfire if it is allowed.

You can check fire restrictions at this website before heading out.

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 under control at all times, especially in areas where wildlife could be present or when you have other campers nearby.

Remember to pack out pet waste.

Other Considerations

  • Environmental Impact: The Glenwood Springs area grows more popular for dispersed camping every year. Several nearby areas have had dispersed campsites closed due to overuse and environmental impact. As such, it is important to leave your campsite in better condition than you found it. Please always practice Leave No Trace camping.
  • 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. Luckily, there are a variety of camping areas to suit your needs whether you have 4WD, or simply a small passenger vehicle.
  • 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.

 

Dispersed Camping Near Glenwood Springs, CO

The following list contains the 6 best dispersed camping areas near Glenwood Springs, Colorado. If you’re looking for additional camping opportunities in the area, your best bet is to use the White River National Forest Motor Vehicle Use Maps. They contain detailed maps on where dispersed camping is allowed, notated by two dots along a given road.

Access the White River NF MVUMs here.

In addition, the Glenwood Springs dispersed camping map below gives an overview of each site’s location with a full description included in the following section. Enjoy!

 

Four Mile Road Dispersed Camping

Distance to Glenwood Springs: 17 miles
Restrooms: 
No
Water: 
No
Crowds:
Moderate
Map

Four Mile Road offers great dispersed camping near Glenwood Springs. Situated southwest of town, and close to the town of Carbondale, you’ll enjoy beautiful, wide open views from this area. Although there aren’t many trailheads directly accessible from the dispersed camping area, you’ll be close to tons of hiking and biking opportunities.

From Glenwood Springs, you’ll head south out of town on Highway 117 – be sure you’re not on Highway 82! Continue on 117 for approximately 14 miles before campsites begin to appear. There are also several small spur roads off of Four Mile Road that offer quieter and more secluded campsites.

The road is generally passable by most vehicles, although the further back you head the rougher the road gets. There are no toilets or water available in this area, so you’ll need to come prepared to be self-sufficient and be sure to pack out all of your trash.

 

Forest Service Road 602/Transfer Trail Dispersed Camping

Distance to Glenwood Springs: 6 miles
Restrooms: 
No
Water: 
No
Crowds:
Busy
Map

FR602, also known as the Transfer Trail is a 4WD road that runs north of Glenwood Springs into the Flat Tops Wilderness Area. Dispersed camping is allowed along the length of the road once you enter the National Forest. Keep in mind that this is a very rough road, so is really only suitable for high-clearance 4WD vehicles. It is very popular with the ATV crowd as well.

There are tons of off-shoots from FR602 that allow you to find a quieter campsite, and there are even a few lakes that you can camp near. Be sure to come prepared, as access to this wilderness if difficult and you won’t want to be driving back to town for something you forgot!

To get here from downtown Glenwood Springs take 6th Street north out of town, where it will eventually turn into the Transfer Trail. Continue on until you cross into the National Forest and campsites begin appearing. The snapshot from the Flat Top Motor Vehicle Use Map below gives you a sense of how many possibilities exist for dispersed camping in this area, notated by two dots adjacent to the road.

 

Map of dispersed camping near Glenwood Springs
The Flat Top area north of Glenwood Springs offers tons of dispersed camping opportunities! Click to enlarge.

 

Coffee Pot Road Dispersed Camping

Distance to Glenwood Springs: 33 miles
Restrooms: 
No
Water: 
No
Crowds:
Moderate
Map

Coffee Pot Road offers stunning views and great dispersed camping near Glenwood Springs. You’ll be on the other end of Glenwood Canyon here, but still just 30 some miles from town. Coffee Pot road leads into the Flat Tops and ultimately connects with the same road system that the Transfer Trail, described above, leads to. Be sure to check out the Deep Creek Overlook for some incredible views!

This is a good option for those coming from the east, as you’ll get off I-70 a bit sooner and avoid having to drive through the Canyon.

Although the road is passable for most trucks/SUVs, it can get very windy and exposed in places. Be sure to drive carefully and take your time as you make your way up. Also of note is that there are several pullouts along the route that have been used as campsites, but are not within the National Forest boundary. Please be sure to consult the MVUM to ensure you are legally camped!

There are no services along Coffee Pot Road, so be prepared to bring everything you need and always practice Leave No Trace camping.

 

Lyons Gulch Boat Launch Camping

Distance to Glenwood Springs: 22 miles
Restrooms: 
Yes
Water: 
No, but may be able to pull from the Colorado River
Crowds:
Moderate
Map

Although not a formal dispersed camping area, the Lyons Gulch Boat Launch/Campground offers an excellent free camping option near Glenwood Springs. This BLM campground has five campsites situated right along the Colorado River with access to a vault toilet from May 15th – November 15th.

Campers love this location for the easy river access and shady sites. However, this is a very popular spot during the summer so be sure to arrive early if you’re hoping to grab a campsite!

Lyons Gulch is located east of Glenwood Springs, north of the Dotsero exit along I-70. Simply exit the highway at Dotsero and then head north along Colorado River Road until you see the camping area on your right.

 

Lyons Gulch Camping near Glenwood Springs
Lyons Gulch sits right along the Colorado River. Photo credit BLM.

 

Coal Creek Road

Distance to Glenwood Springs: 30 miles
Restrooms: 
No
Water: 
No, put may be able to pull from Coal Creek
Crowds:
Moderate
Map

Coal Creek Road offers some beautiful creek-side dispersed camping near Glenwood Springs. Although closer to the town of Carbondale, you’re still less than 30 miles from Glenwood and these sites are well worth the drive. Situated along a well-graded gravel road, there are 4-5 pullouts where camping is permitted in close proximity to Coal Creek.

This area is also less crowded compared to many of the other dispersed campsites in the area, so you have a better shot at securing a quiet site. Be sure to check out the historic town of Redstone when you’re in the area!

There are no services along Coal Creek Road, so be prepared to pack out all of your trash. Given the riverside location of these campsites, it is essential to practice leave no trace camping here.

 

Buford-New Castle Road

Distance to Glenwood Springs: 30 miles
Restrooms: 
No
Water: 
No
Crowds:
Moderate
Map

Another option that is less than 30 miles from Glenwood Springs for dispersed camping is Buford-New Castle Road. The main road that traverses the Flat Tops, you’ll find tons of dispersed camping opportunities along its length. The road is only for 4WD vehicles with high clearance, so no RVs or sedans!

The beauty of Buford-New Castle Road is that it gives you an opportunity to explore a vast wilderness area and find the perfect campsite for your needs. This is a remote part of the State, so please be sure you come prepared!

Access from Glenwood Springs is straightforward. Simply take I-70 to the New Castle exit and head north on Highway 245. Take a right at the fork signed for West Elk and Buford, which will put you on Buford-New Castle Road. Continue until you enter National Forest, where dispersed camping is permitted.

Dispersed camping near Glenwood Springs

 

Have a great trip!

That’s it!

We hope we’ve provided all of the information you need to plan a dispersed camping trip near Glenwood Springs, 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!

Looking for other great dispersed camping in Colorado? Be sure to check out our other guides below:

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