Coordinates: 40°09’57.0″N 105°27’28.7″W
As we left the stifling heat of Denver, we set our sights on finding a free camping spot closer to Rocky Mountain National Park. We have a self-sufficient rig, so we often look for wild camping that does not offer amenities (restrooms, water, electricity, etc). If you’re planning to visit the Rocky Mountain National Park this summer and can handle a night or two without amenities, we have the perfect spot for you.
We found dispersed camping on a small loop just off of South St. Vrain Drive (Route 7). This is about 40 minutes from the most popular entrance to the Rocky Mountain National Park, which is close to Bear Lake Road and Trail Ridge Road. The drive from this camping area to the national park is very scenic.
As far as we can tell, the road with this dispersed camping doesn’t seem to have a name. As you take a right off Route 7 from the north, the dispersed camping is immediately to the left. If you’re coming from the south, we recommend you skip the first turn the loop offers and instead turn left at the top of the loop. The end of the loop road narrows and is right next to private property. There is also private property on the back end of this camping area so look for signs.
As you can see from the overhead photo, there are many paths to take your rig down and park at this dispersed camping zone. In the bottom right of the picture, there is a bigger clearing and this is one of the only spots for a big rig. Our 23 foot bus fit in quite a few spots but a car would give you even more options as you can move further into the woods. Although we had a good number of options, getting our bus to the spot in this picture took a little time and coordination as there were some low-hanging branches and big rocks/roots jutting out of the ground.
We spent 4 nights at this campground including a weekend and never had more than a couple of well-distanced neighbors. Given that campgrounds in this area are largely all reserved through the end of the summer, we were stoked to find this easy, nearby option. The stars were great, the bugs were minimal, and the street noise was not too loud and died down at night.
Rocky Mountain National Park Timed Entry, Summer 2021
Currently, the RMNP is giving permits to visitors to enter the park during certain times. If you don’t have a permit, they will not let you enter. The permits become available every so often but sell out very quickly. If you aren’t able to get your hands on one of these permits, here’s how you can still visit the national park:
Bear Lake Road: Open to all without permits before 5am and after 6pm. This is just one road in the entire national park but it is the most popular. Unless you’re a very early riser, we suggest going after 6pm when crowds have died down.
The Rest of The Park (including Trail Ridge Road): Open to all without permits before 9am and after 3pm. This is much easier to accommodate as long as you can get to the park before 9am, then you’ll have the whole day to explore! Despite the popularity of Bear Lake Road, Trail Ridge Road is where you will see most of the incredible panoramic views. If you can only do one thing in the park, this should be it.
Colorado Rocky Mountain Wildflowers
Our Bat Experience
We had to share this story. On our second night at this camping area, a couple of friends from Denver came to camp with us. We were sitting in our folding chairs when something flew by and our friend said, “I think a bat just flew into your bus.” Our other friend: “It might have been a bird.”
Kara went to take a look and only a couple feet into the bus, a bat flew frantically over her. Travis joined and we found the bat on our bookshelf, climbing towards us. This guy was a cutie. We just watched him and enjoyed his presence until he decided to fly again and cruise right out the window.