Historic Leadville, Colorado is a true mountain town gem. Known as the highest incorporated city in North America, Leadville is situated at a stunning 10,200 feet above sea-level. All that elevation means you’ll have access to some of Colorado’s best wilderness in the surrounding area. We think one of the best ways to visit is to plan a free, dispersed camping trip near Leadville, CO. You’ll get to enjoy some of the area’s highlights, including the State’s highest mountain at Mt. Elbert, the beautiful Turquoise Lake, and miles upon miles of hiking trails.
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 Leadville, CO in one easy to read guide.
Keep reading to find your perfect campsite!
Leadville, CO Dispersed Camping Guide
- The Basics
- The 9 Best Dispersed Camping Areas Near Leadville, CO
When to Camp Near Leadville, CO
Given Leadville’s high altitude, the best time for dispersed camping in the surrounding area is June – September. This will of course depend on the weather and how much snow the winter brought. Depending on conditions, you may be able to camp in the surrounding area as early as May and often as late as October. Should you plan a trip during the shoulder season be prepared for cold and even snow!
What to Bring
Preparing for a dispersed camping trip near Leadville 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
- 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 of the Leadville area.
- 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 the major benefits of dispersed camping is that it rarely requires any specific permits or fees.
At 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 Leadville Ranger District for the most up to date information.
Seasonal fire restrictions and fire bans are common in the wilderness areas surrounding Leadville. 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.
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.
- Elevation: This is definitely the high-country! Many of the dispersed camping areas near Leadville, CO are at 10,000 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 Leadville. Some of the areas are quite remote, although options closer to town, Twin Lakes, and Turquoise Lake may have a signal. It is best to sssume you won’t have service and plan accordingly (download maps ahead of time, let other know where you’re going and when you’ll be back, etc).
- 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. Not all are accessible by 2WD vehicles, and conditions can quickly change due to weather and usage. Use your best judgement when navigating mountain roads, as no campsite is worth jeopardizing your safety for!
- 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: Store all food, trash, and other scented items in your car to avoid attracting bears and other wildlife. Bears are highly active is this part of the State!
- Leave No Trace so that others can enjoy these beautiful places, too.
Dispersed Camping Near Leadville, CO
The following list contains what we consider the nine best dispersed camping areas near Leadville, 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!
Heading over Independence Pass? Check out our Dispersed Camping near Aspen Guide.
County Road 48 near Turquoise Lake
Distance to Leadville: 4 miles
County Road 48 just south of Turquoise Lake is the closest dispersed camping area to Leadville. This is a popular camping area, so expect neighbors and be sure to leave no trace if you do camp here. You’ll be well located to explore Turquoise Lake as well as the Mt. Massive Wilderness Area. Views of Mt. Elbert from the camping area are also stunning.
To reach the dispersed camping area here head west on 6th Street from central Leadville until it dead ends into County Road 4. Turn north on County Road 4 and continue until you get to the junction with County Road 48. Proceed a short distance on CR48 to find the dispersed camping area, with sites on both sides of the road.
The road is gravel and should be passable by most vehicles and rigs.
Turquoise Lake Dispersed Camping (FR 105A)
Distance to Leadville: 10 miles
Although there is no dispersed camping permitted in the Turquoise Lake Recreation Area, there are ample opportunities to pitch your tent for free in the surrounding wilderness. In addition to County Road 48, described above, there is also excellent dispersed camping available on Forest Service Road 105A above Turquoise Lake.
This area is best suited for those with 4WD and high-clearance as the road up can get quite rough. However, for those who are prepared you’ll enjoy a beautiful hilltop campground overlooking the lake.
To get here take County Road 4 along the southside of Turquoise Lake. Stay on CR4 (also known as Hagerman Pass) until you get to the intersection with Forest Service Road 105A. From here, head up the road until you reach the camping area.
West Tennessee Creek
Distance to Leadville: 9 miles
North of Leadville along Highway 24 is the West Tennessee Creek dispersed camping area. This is a good option for those hoping to camp near the top of Tennessee Pass or who want easy access to the Colorado Trail. Don’t expect any big views here as most of the camping options are located in dense forest. However, that provides a bit of privacy that can be hard to find at other dispersed camping areas.
To get here, simply head up Highway 24 until you reach County Road 19, where you’ll turn west. From here continue on until you reach Forest Road 131 & 100, where you’ll find campsite on both side of the road. The road is well-maintained, so access shouldn’t be a problem for most vehicles.
Distance to Leadville: 9 miles
Restrooms: No, although there are vault toilets at nearby trailheads.
Water: No, although creek access is possible.
Halfmoon Creek is a popular spot for dispersed camping area in the Leadville area. The road is the main access for those hiking Mt. Elbert, so expect it to be busy on summer weekends. However, if you can tolerate a few people this camping area is convenient with relatively easy access. The road here parallels the Halfmoon Creek and some sites have direct creek access, a major plus.
Getting here is straightforward as well, simply take Highway 24 south from Leadville before turning west on CO-300 towards Turquoise Lake. From here take a right on Halfmoon Rd (CR11) and take it approximately 4 miles into the National Forest. Campgrounds are then located on both sides of the road.
Forest Service Road 130
Distance to Leadville: 10 miles
Forest Service Road 130 is located southwest of Leadville in the shadow of Mt. Elbert. This is a convenient option for camping near Leadville, although don’t expect a full wilderness experience given the proximity to Highway 24. There is no water and no restrooms here, so be sure to pack out all of your waste. You’ll have good access to Mt. Elbert and Twin Lakes from here.
To get to the dispersed camping area, head south on Highway 24 from Leadville before turning west on County Road 10 and then shortly after veer right onto FR130. From here, it is a about 1.5 miles to the National Forest where you can camp.
The road can be rough at time, so higher clearance vehicles are recommended.
Twin Lakes Area Dispersed Camping
Distance to Leadville: 20 miles
Often referred to as the Twin Lakes North Area dispersed camping, this is a great option for those looking to camp near the beautiful Twin Lakes outside of Leadville. While there is no dispersed camping permitted directly next to the Twin Lakes, this is about as close as you can get. This is a popular spot for those hiking Mt. Elbert or doing some boating, so be sure to arrive early on summer weekends.
To get here, take Highway 82 towards Independence Pass and turn north on Lake County Road 24. Continue on CR24 for less than a mile before campsites begin to appear on the right-hand side of the road. Be sure to stop before getting to the developed Lakeview Campground.
The road is passable for most vehicles.
Distance to Leadville: 23 miles
The Willis Gulch dispersed camping area near Leadville takes you up the start of Independence Pass. This gets you further from town, but also reduces the number of people a bit. The camping area is located right off Highway 82, so expect some traffic noise. However, you’ll also be close to the Willis Gulch trailhead and other hiking trails.
To get here, head up Independence Pass (Highway 82) past Twin Lakes and you’ll find the pull out on the left hand side of the road. Given the area is just off the highway, all vehicles should have no trouble camping here.
If you’re heading to Aspen from here there are also tons of great dispersed camping options there too!
Clear Creek Reservoir (CR 390)
Distance to Leadville: 21 miles
Restrooms: Vault Toilets available near the lake.
Water: No, although water may be filtered from Clear Creek.
There are lots of great dispersed campsites near the beautiful Clear Creek Reservoir, which is located about halfway between Leadville and Buena Vista. A primitive campground on the west side of the reservoir has approximately 20 free sites, while those seeking more solitude can find great dispersed sites along Clear Creek.
To get here, head south on Highway 24 toward Buena Vista before turning west on CR390 for Clear Creek Reservoir. You can’t miss the main camping area west of the lake, and to reach the dispersed sites, continue west on County Road 390 past the reservoir for a few more miles. Pay close attention to signage, as some of the area is private property and therefore not suitable for camping.
The area has tons of great hiking, fishing, and 4WD opportunities, plus there are some very cool ghost towns to explore nearby. The road to access the campsites can be a bit rugged at times, but most passenger vehicles should be able to navigate it.
If you’re looking for dispersed camping near Buena Vista, CO, check out our guide here.
Homestake Reservoir Road
Distance to Leadville: 20 miles
The road to Homestake Reservoir features several excellent dispersed camping areas near Leadville. Immediately after turning off the highway you’ll find the Blodgett Campground, a free undeveloped campground with 5-6 sites. If you continue on the road a short distance past here you’ll also find more traditional dispersed sites that offer a bit more privacy.
This is a great location up Tennessee Pass and has good access to the Colorado Trail and Camp Hale historic area.
The campsites are located immediately west of Highway 24 on Homestake Road (CR710). Most rigs and cars can reach the Blodgett camping area, although the road gets rougher the further back you travel.
Have a great trip!
We hope we’ve provided all of the information you need to plan your Leadville, 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!