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Ah, Telluride. From festivals to fly fishing, there’s always something awesome to do in this iconic mountain town. Tucked into a box canyon in the pristine San Juan Mountains, Telluride is the perfect place to experience the best of Colorado’s beautiful landscapes. And what better way to savor every minute than sleeping under the stars? Not only will dispersed camping near Telluride save you money and give your greater flexibility, it will allow you to fully immerse yourself in this incredible area. 

In this post, we’ve shared all of the best places for dispersed camping within an hour of Telluride so you can find your perfect campsite.

 

In This Post…

 

 

The Basics

 

When to Camp Near Telluride, CO

The best time for dispersed camping in the Telluride area is from May through October. The higher elevations (above 10,000 feet) can hold snow well into the summer, so it’s best to plan your trip to those areas for June-September. The fall months bring beautiful changing colors, but be prepared for chilly nights and mornings.

 

What to Bring

Preparing for your Telluride camping trip 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.

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 near Telluride, CO:

  • 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!
  • Water Filter– When you’re dispersed camping near a river, lake, or stream, it can be nice to filter your water instead of having to pack it all in.

 

Permits and Fees

There are no permits or fees required to camp in any of the BLM or Forest Service areas described in this post. As some areas gain popularity, they could change over to a permit system in the future, so it’s always best to double-check before setting out.

Some of the camping areas are located within or adjacent to a designated Wilderness Area. Check ahead of time, as each of these areas has specific restrictions that apply. This map shows the boundaries of the Wilderness Areas near Telluride.

 

Overhead view of the Telluride Valley

 

Fires

Seasonal fire restrictions and fire bans are common in the wilderness areas surrounding Telluride. 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

Pets are welcome at all of the dispersed camping areas included in this post. 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 dispersed camping areas near Telluride are at 9,000 feet or higher. Bring warm gear and a sturdy tent to prepare for the extreme weather conditions that are common in these areas.
  • Cell Phone Service: Reception is spotty at best in most of the dispersed camping areas near Telluride. Assume 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!
  • 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.
  • Leave No Trace so that others can enjoy these beautiful places, too.

 

Yellow aspen trees in front of snowy mountains near Telluride

Fall comes early in the high mountains near Telluride!

 

 

The Best Dispersed Camping Areas Near Telluride, CO

 

Alta Lakes

Distance to Telluride: 14 miles
Restrooms:
Yes
Water: 
No, but can be filtered from the lake. 
Crowds: 
Busy
Managed by: Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest
Map

Alta Lakes lives up to its reputation as one of the most beautiful places in Colorado, and a night under the stars here is an unforgettable experience. There are about 20 dispersed campsites in the area surrounding the lakes. Most sites are pretty well spaced out, allowing for privacy and spectacular alpine views. There are some additional sites located along the road up to the lakes. Although it’s just over a dozen miles from Telluride, it takes close to an hour to reach the camping area on the narrow, rugged road. Keep an eye out for historic buildings at the Alta Townsite on the way up. Due to the conditions of the road, it’s best only attempted by 4WD vehicles and not recommended for RVs and trailers.

 

Priest Lake

Distance to Telluride: 14 miles
Restrooms:
Yes
Water: 
No, but can be filtered from the lake. 
Crowds: 
Busy
Managed by: Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest
Map

This small and pretty dispersed camping area is located just half an hour from Telluride. Among the 9 total dispersed sites, a few are walk-in sites. These sites require a bit more effort, but also provide more privacy. Priest Lake, a scenic alpine pond, is the focal point of the area and a popular fishing spot. Hikers, bikers, and horseback riders will enjoy exploring the nearby Galloping Goose Trail. The road to Priest Lake is accessible by most vehicles, although trailers are not permitted at the camping area due to a lack of parking spaces. The developed Matterhorn Campground, just down the road from Priest Lake, has showers and firewood available.

 

Caddis Flats

Distance to Telluride: 18 miles
Restrooms:
Yes
Water: 
No, but can be filtered from the river. 
Crowds:
Moderate
Managed by: BLM (Uncompahgre Field Office)
Map

This free BLM campground has just three “official” sites, but there is plenty of room for additional campers in the large gravel lot and tucked into the adjacent woods. It is located right along the San Miguel River, and even those camping in the parking lot can score a lovely spot along the water. There is a hand-carry boat launch on site. Caddis Flats is located just off CO 145, which makes it convenient to access but also means that there is some road noise during the daytime hours. The area can accommodate rigs and trailers of all sizes, provided its not too crowded.

 

Alta Lake at sunrise, Telluride

A chilly morning at Alta Lakes.

 

 

Fall Creek Recreation Site

Distance to Telluride: 15 miles
Restrooms:
No
Water: 
No
Crowds:
Moderate
Managed by: BLM (Uncompahgre Field Office)
Map

Located less than 30 minutes from Telluride on easy paved roads, this is a nice and convenient camping area. There are a handful of sites- most are small and suited for tent campers, but there is one large area that can accommodate RVs and trailers. There are fire rings and a covered picnic area, and the lovely Fall Creek is just across the road from the campsites. Limited cell phone service may be available.

 

Lizard Head Pass

Distance to Telluride: 15 miles
Restrooms:
Yes
Water: 
No
Crowds:
Busy
Managed by: Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest
Map

Lizard Head Pass is a popular dispersed camping area just 25 minutes from Telluride. There are about a dozen sites spread out in a open meadow with incredible views of the surrounding mountains. The Lizard Head Wilderness Area is one of the most beautiful and rugged in this part of Colorado, and it has several great hiking trails and three 14’ers within its boundaries. The dirt road to the pass is a bit rough and may pose difficulties for large RVs or low-clearance vehicles. There is no cell phone service in the area.

 

Last Dollar Road

Distance to Telluride: 14 miles
Restrooms:
No
Water: 
No
Crowds:
Moderate
Managed by: Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest
Map

If you can make it up the rugged road to this gorgeous dispersed camping area, you’ll be rewarded with views of aspen forests and iconic peaks. Last Dollar Road has lots of great dispersed campsites dotted along both sides of the road. There’s also parking lot lower down on the road (closer to Telluride) that may be more suitable for RVs. The Alder Creek Trail connects to Last Dollar Road. This is a challenging hike that provides access to the pristine Mount Sneffels Wilderness Area.

Last Dollar Road, Telluride dispersed camping

Big views from Last Dollar Road.

 

 

Silver Pick Road

Distance to Telluride: 10 miles
Restrooms:
No
Water: 
No, but can filter from the river. 
Crowds:
Moderate
Managed by: Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest
Map

This camping area is really just a small dirt parking area right off Highway 145. It can accommodate a few class B or C motorhomes and/or tent campers. It is located right along the San Miguel River, making for a pretty setting and easy water access. The Silver Pick Road camping area is less than half an hour’s drive from Telluride and accessible by all vehicle types. It is close to lots of great hiking opportunities, including the Rock of the Ages Trailhead.

 

Elk Creek Road (FR 645)

Distance to Telluride: 17 miles
Restrooms:
No
Water: 
No
Crowds:
Moderate
Managed by: Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest
Map

If you continue past the small camping area on Silver Pick Road to Forest Road 645 (Elk Creek Road), you’ll find several more dispersed campsites located on both sides of the road. These are ideal for those climbing one of the peaks accessible from the Rock of the Ages Trail- Mt. Wilson, Wilson Peak, and El Diente Peak. This handy map shows all of the dispersed campsites along Elk Creek Road. Keep in mind that camping is prohibited at the trailhead.

 

Lower Beaver Recreation Site

Distance to Telluride: 27 miles
Restrooms:
Yes
Water:
Yes
Crowds:
Busy
Managed by: BLM (Uncompahgre Field Office)
Map

This is a free BLM-run camping area located right along the San Miguel River. Since there are just a handful of sites and room for a few RVs in the main parking lot, the campground fills up quickly during the peak season. It’s a great option for those seeking a few luxuries, like toilets, picnic tables, and drinking water, while still enjoying a free and simple camping experience. There’s a hand-carry boat launch on site.

 

Road with mountains and fall colors in the background, Telluride, CO

 

Have a great trip!

That’s it!

We hope we’ve provided all of the information you need to plan your Telluride, 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!

And if you’re looking to explore more of this beautiful region, be sure to check out these other dispersed camping posts:

The 10 Best Dispersed Camping Areas Near Silverton

The Best Dispersed Camping Near Buena Vista, CO

The BEST Dispersed Camping Near Steamboat Springs

The Best Dispersed Camping Near Lake City, Colorado