The BEST Winter Camping in Colorado (10+ Best Sites)

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As summer and fall wind down, most Colorado campers put their camping gear in the garage and get set to enjoy skiing, snowshoeing, or just cozying up next to the fire. But it doesn’t have to be this way!

Colorado is home to an incredible variety of winter camping destinations. From backcountry sites, to developed campgrounds, yurts, and even hot springs, there is something to suit everyone. Grab your coziest blanket and your thickest pair of wool socks, because we’re about to introduce you to some seriously cool (pun intended) camping destinations that will have you falling in love with winter camping in Colorado.

The following list has our 10 favorite destinations for winter camping in this great state!

In this Guide

Tent in the winter in Colorado

Colorado Winter Camping Destinations

The following are our 10 favorite places for winter camping in Colorado. These include two of the state’s National Parks, as well as a few backcountry sites, a yurt camping destination, and even some camping near a hot springs.

White Ranch Park

Camping Option: Walk-in/Snowshoe-in tent sites
Permits needed:

For a great introduction to the joys of backcountry winter camping, the Sawmill Campground at White Ranch Park near Golden, CO is a great place to start. It’s a short hike in from the trailhead, and you’re not likely to need snowshoes, although micro-spikes could be helpful depending on conditions.

The 10 campsites at Sawmill are all hike in, so you’ll need to pack in all of your own gear and supplies, including water. Unfortunately, there are no campfires allowed at White Ranch Park, so plan to keep warm in other ways.

This is our favorite first-time winter backpacking destination given that it is close to Denver, a short hike in, and easy to get back to your car should the experience end up not being for you.

You will need to secure a permit to camp in White Ranch Park, which is easily done online in advance.

Map of the Sawmill Campground at White Ranch Park.
Map of the Sawmill Campground at White Ranch Park. Map credit JeffCo Open Space

Cherry Creek State Park

Camping Option: Tent & RV Camping
Permits needed:
Reservation required

Cherry Creek State Park, located just southeast of Denver, is another great option for those looking to dip their toes into the winter camping scene. However, unlike White Ranch Park, Cherry Creek State Park is perfect for those with an RV or who are looking for a car camping experience.

The large campground reduces capacity during the winter months, with only the Abilene Loop available. There are 16 sites here, so you can rest assured that it will be a much quieter experience than summer camping near this popular reservoir.

Reservations are mandatory, and can easily be made online through the Colorado Department of Parks & Wildlife webpage. In addition to the camping fees you’ll also need to pay a park entrance fee.

You’ll have easy access to amenities, park trails, and good facilities here and can also enjoy winter temps that are typically much warmer than the high-country!

View of the reservoir at Cherry Creek State Park during a winter camping trip.
Enjoy mild winter camping conditions at Cherry Creek State Park.

Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Camping Option: Tent, RV, Backcountry, Yurt
Permits needed:
Reservation required

One final option for those looking for winter camping options along Colorado’s Front Range is Golden Gate Canyon State Park. This gem of a destination is located in the mountains west of Denver, and features a huge variety of winter camping options to suit any preference. This includes backcountry tent camping, RV sites at a developed campground, and our personal favorite, heated yurt camping.

Here is a quick breakdown of each option:

  • Backcountry tent camping: 20 sites are available year-round. Snowshoes may be necessary depending on the conditions.
  • Developed Campground: Camping is available only at the Reverend’s Ridge Campground during the winter months. Flush toilets and potable water available.
  • Yurts: Our personal favorite, there are two yurts available for winter camping in the park. These feature bunk beds, propane heat, some basic furniture, and counter to prepare meals.

As with all of Colorado’s State Parks, reservations/permits are required year-round to camp at Golden Gate Canyon, but are easily made online in advance.

Brainard Lake Recreation Area

Camping Option: Backcountry
Permits needed:
None required from Oct 15 – April 15

If you’re ready to take your winter camping to the next level and focus on a backcountry outing, the perfect place to start is the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Part of the larger Indian Peaks Wilderness, Brainard Lake features a popular winter trailhead for snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and backcountry skiing.

You can park at the Brainard Gateway Trailhead (no fees/permits needed) before snowshoeing or skiing further in. Once you are in the wilderness area, camping is permitted anywhere that is at least a 1/4 mile away from a developed recreation site. Developed recreation sites include trailheads, parking areas, picnic areas, etc.

You can snowshoe/ski for as long as you like before setting up camp, but Lake Isabelle is a popular destination for winter camping. Be sure to check in with the Forest Service and Colorado Avalanche Information Center for current avalanche conditions before heading out.

Colorado National Monument

Camping Option: Tent & RV Camping, Backcountry
Permits needed:
None required, but reservations are recommended

For a different winter camping experience from the areas we’ve already covered, pack up your car and head to the western edge of the state, where stunning winter camping exists at Colorado National Monument. As locals call it, “The Monument”, has both backcountry and developed camping available year round.

The developed Saddlehorn Campground remains open year-round and has access to heated restrooms with flushing toilets and running water, making this ideal for those who don’t want to hassle with freezing toilets.

In the backcountry, snow tends to melt quickly, making this an easier backcountry expedition to plan compared to some of the higher elevation options. However, if you venture into the backcountry you’ll want to be prepared to snow, ice, and be sure to check conditions before setting out!

The biggest appeal to winter camping in this part of Colorado is that temperatures tend to be a bit warmer than the Front Range and mountains, with high temps regularly in the 40s and 50s during the winter. However, always come prepared as the cold/snow can still set in at any time!

Winter in Colorado National Monument

Tennessee Pass Yurts

Camping Option: Yurts
Permits needed:
Reservation required

For a winter “glamping” experience in Colorado we highly recommend you check out the Tennessee Pass Yurts, located on Tennessee Pass (obviously) between Minturn and Leadville. These are what we would consider luxury winter yurts, complete with log furniture, a wood stove, all bed linens, dining area, and a propane cooktop.

As you’ll see if you go to make a reservation, these yurts aren’t cheap, and they book out for the year incredibly early.

However, if you’re able to secure a reservation you won’t be disappointed. Miles of snowshoe, cross-country ski, and backcountry ski trails are right at your doorstep for outdoor adventures.

If you want to up the luxury even more, you can have the friendly staff provide a unique dinner, breakfast, or other meal for your special occasion. Get a sense of what a night in the yurts in like in the video below:

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Camping Option: Tent & RV Camping, Backcountry
Permits needed:
Free wilderness permit required for backcountry camping

If you want to test your mettle and camp in one of the coldest places in Colorado, then look no further than Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. You’ll have multiple options for camping here, with the semi-developed South Rim Campground open year round as well as backcountry camping on the closed South Rim Drive past Pulpit Rock Overlook.

For the developed South Rim Campground, Loop B stays open year-round and does have electrical hookups available. However, the water is turned off and the restrooms are closed, so you’ll need to be self-sufficient.

If you are even more adventurous, you can camp in the backcountry along South Rim Drive once you are past the Pulpit Rock Overlook. To do so, you’ll need a free wilderness permit as well as the experience and equipment to ensure a night in what are likely to be freezing temperatures.

Winter campers can enjoy some of the finest stargazing in all of Colorado here, as well as access to the least-visited National Park in the state during the least-visited months!

Rocky Mountain National Park

Camping Option: Tent & RV Camping, Backcountry
Permits needed:
Free wilderness permit required for backcountry camping

Heading closer to the Front Range and to Colorado’s most popular National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park offers several options for winter camping. You can either pitch or park at the developed Moraine Park Campground (closed until summer 2024), or venture to one of the many backcountry campsites that remains accessible during the winter.

The first options, camping at the Moraine Park Campground, is likely to appeal to those who want a central base to explore more of the park, without the hassle of a backcountry trip. While portions of the campground stay open during winter, water service is turned off.

If you’re more adventurous and looking to head into the backcountry, RMNP has a list of backpacking sites that remain open during the winter months. You’ll need to secure a wilderness permit to camp here and be prepared for ever changing conditions.

Glenwood Canyon Resort

Camping Option: RV Camping
Permits needed:
Advance reservation recommended

For winter camping in your RV, our favorite spot in the state is the Glenwood Canyon Resort tucked between I-70 and the Colorado River just a few minutes from Glenwood Springs. You won’t find any tent or van camping available during the winter here, but for those with a fully equipped RV or trailer, sites with full hookups are available year-round.

Besides the tranquil location next to the Colorado River, you’re also a short drive to Glenwood Springs, where you can enjoy a winter soak in their famous hot springs.

This is also a great place to camp if you’re skiing at Sunlight or any of the Aspen mountains. While you’ll have a bit of a drive to the ski areas, it sure beats having to pay the astronomical prices for winter lodging in Aspen!

Winter scene in Glenwood Canyon

Dinosaur National Monument

Camping Option: Tent & RV Camping, Backcountry
Permits needed:
None required, but reservations are recommended

Spanning the border between Utah and Colorado, Dinosaur National Monument is one of the most remote places for winter camping in the state. You’re likely to have the entire place to yourself when you venture to this beautiful and archaeologically rich national monument in Colorado’s northwest corner.

Most of the campgrounds at the monument are open year-round, although you won’t find any services such as running water or restroom facilities open. You’ll also need to contend with snow, as the roads can become impassable during storms.

For a true wilderness winter camping experience, venturing into the backcountry at Dinosaur National Monument is also a possibility. However, this is only for very experienced winter campers who are properly prepared.

Winter Camping Preparation & Must Know

Winter camping, especially in Colorado, comes with some extra preparation and gear compared to your typical summer camping trip.

Check out some of our top gear picks to make your trip more comfortable:

  • Four season tent: If you’re camping in a snowy, cold environment, a four season tent is an absolute must. This version from REI offers a great value.
  • High insulation sleeping pad – You’ll typically want a higher R-value (warmer) sleeping pad for winter camping. This version from Exped is sure to keep you warm.
  • Hand warmers – Sometimes the simplest items have the biggest impact. A few pairs of hand warmers can make all the difference on your winter camping trip.
  • Wool Socks – Keeping your feet comfortable and toasty is essential for any winter camping trip. We recommend the wool mountaineering socks from Darn Tough.

In addition, give the video from Outside Magazine below a watch for essential tips on winter camping:

Have a great trip!

That’s it!

We hope we’ve provided all of the information you need to plan the perfect winter camping trip in Colorado 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!

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