Twin Lakes Colorado Free Dispersed Camping Area

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Twin Lakes dispersed camping area really showcases the best of Colorado’s high country. From pristine alpine lakes to towering peaks to colorful Aspens, there’s no shortage of beautiful scenery and fun things to do in this pocket of paradise near Leadville. Perhaps best of all, you can camp for free in the nearby Pike-San Isabel National Forests. You might even be lucky enough to snag a site with incredible views of the lakes and the mountains beyond.

In this post, we cover all of the need-to-know information for dispersed camping in the Twin Lakes area, plus our best advice on what to bring with you and how to find the perfect campsite. Let’s get started.

Twin Lakes Dispersed Camping Area Guide

Location & Overview

The Twin Lakes dispersed camping area is located about 20 miles south of Leadville, and just three miles from the town of Twin Lakes and water access. The South Mount Elbert trailhead and the Colorado Trail are both within a few minutes of the camping area. The Twin Lakes dispersed area is a perfect basecamp for peak bagging, hiking, fishing, or exploring the nearby mountain towns of Leadville and Buena Vista.

To get there, 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 righthand side of the road. You’ll need to drive back a short ways on a dirt driveway to reach these sites. You can also continue to the upper part of CR24 (past the Lakeview Campground) or along FR122 (Lily Pond Road) to explore additional campsites with increasingly nice views as you head uphill. Be advised that the road becomes more rugged the further back you go, and may have snow well into the summer season.

You can use the Google Street View below to get a sense of the area and road conditions. This shows the upper portion of CR24.

This map shows the location of the first few campsites along CR24.

What Are the Campsites Like?

There are tons of campsites in the Twin Lakes dispersed area. Some sites are tucked into the trees and more shaded, while others have wide open views but are more exposed. For the most part, sites are pretty close together and do not provide a lot of privacy. However, the views and the proximity to excellent recreation in the surrounding area more than make up for it! Although there are many campsites, this popular area fills up on summer weekends. It’s a good idea to get there early to secure a spot.

Although there are no formally marked sites along CR24, the adjacent jeep tracks, and Lily Pond Road, established sites have been carved out and are easy to spot by the dirt driveways leading to them, fire rings and/or lack of vegetation. It’s important to camp in established sites to minimize environmental impacts. Most sites are flat, although they can be a bit rocky. Van and truck campers will be just fine, but the area is not suited for larger rigs. You won’t find any picnic tables, bathrooms, or other amenities as this is true primitive camping. Many sites have amazing views of Twin Lakes.

This video gives a good sense of what campsites look like in the Twin Lakes dispersed area.

Rules & Regulations

The Twin Lakes dispersed area is in Pike-San Isabel National Forests and all of the general dispersed camping rules apply. These include the following important guidelines:

  • Camping is permitted for up to 14 days within a 30 day period
  • Pack out all trash and abide by Leave No Trace principles
  • Only camp in established sites
  • Properly dispose of human and pet waste
  • Discharging firearms is not permitted within 150 yards of campsites, roads, or recreational sites
  • Check for current fire restrictions before heading out
  • Secure all food and scented items away from bears
  • Pets are welcome and should be kept on a 6 foot leash

Permits are not required for camping in the Twin Lakes dispersed area. Additionally, camping is not allowed along the shores of Twin Lakes except in developed campgrounds. Be sure to head up CR24 and into the National Forest before setting up camp.

Download Our FREE Dispersed Camping Cheat Sheet

Our free printable cheat sheet outlines how to find the perfect dispersed campsite for your next trip.

Leave No Trace Dispersed Camping

One of the most important considerations when dispersed camping is to follow Leave No Trace principles. The wilderness here is fragile and it is our responsibility to minimize our impact and keep these areas open and beautiful for future campers.

Here are the seven principles of Leave No Trace camping:

  • Plan Ahead & Prepare: Have an idea of where you’d like to camp and always be sure you are camping in an area that allows dispersed camping.
  • Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces: Never camp on fragile ground or create a new campsite.
  • Dispose of waste properly: Pack out all of your trash and bury human waste away from water sources. Ideally, carry out human waste or use a portable toilet.
  • Leave what you find: Never take anything from your campsite. (Other than trash of course!)
  • Minimize campfire impacts: Remember to check for current restrictions before starting a campfire.
  • Respect Wildlife: Properly store food at all times and be aware of the area’s wildlife.
  • Be considerate of Other Visitors: Pack out your trash, don’t be loud, and leave your campsite in better condition than you found it.

You can read more about the seven principles of Leave No Trace camping here.

Mountains near Twin Lakes Colorado, with blue skies above.
Hiking near Twin Lakes.

Cell Service, Amenities, and More

Cell service is spotty in the Twin Lakes dispersed camping area, with some of the higher up sites getting a strong signal, while other sites don’t have any signal. AT&T and Verizon tend to be the strongest, and T-Mobile is a little less reliable.

Camping near Twin Lakes is a true wilderness experience and you shouldn’t expect to find much in the way of amenities. Be sure to bring enough water, bury human waste (or use a portable toilet), and pack out all trash. If you need to refill water, you can do so in the town of Twin Lakes. Come ready to be self-sufficient and you’ll have a wonderful experience!

What to Bring

As we mentioned above, there are no amenities at the Twin Lakes dispersed camping area, so it’s important to pack in everything you’ll need.

While we’re sure you’ll already have the essentials like a great tentsleeping bags, and camp chairs,  below are some of our essential items :

  • Shade canopy– Not all sites at here are shaded, so it’s a good idea to bring your own shade structure.
  • Coleman Camping Stove – This classic piece of gear is perfect for cooking up deluxe campsite dinners.
  • Portable water container – There is no water source in the camping area, so a good portable water container is a must.
  • Cooler – Keeping food and drinks cool is critical when camping. We can’t recommend Yeti enough!
  • Portable toilet – Easier than digging a hole in the hard packed desert ground and infinitely more luxurious!
  • Map – We prefer downloadable GPS maps via the Gaia GPS app. You can get 20% off your annual membership here.
Dispersed Camping Checklist

Our dispersed camping checklist has everything you need.

Want to know the essentials for your next camping trip?

Our dispersed camping checklist has all the camping essentials plus specific items for dispersed camping.

Have a Great Trip!

That’s it! Hopefully we’ve provided all of the information you need to plan a great dispersed camping trip at the Twin Lakes dispersed camping area.

Be sure to let us know in the comments below if you have any questions and be sure to tell us about your trip!

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