The Best Dispersed Camping Near Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs is the second-largest city in the U.S. state of Colorado and, as such, has quite a lot to offer. From checking out the charming downtown to exploring the Air Force Academy to summiting Pikes Peak, there’s a ton of activities for everyone. 

But the greatest thing about this city is that it’s one of the country’s best places for those in love with dispersed camping. In other words, Colorado Springs is surrounded by a stunning wilderness that is dotted with some truly amazing dispersed camping areas. 

However, finding a dispersed camping area that suits your particular needs can be challenging. Have no worries – I’m here to help you out. In this article, I’ll provide crucial info on the best camping spots around Colorado Springs as well as some general advice on dispersed camping. Read on! 

An Overview of Colorado Springs Dispersed Camping

Colorado Springs

While it may sound like a leisure activity, dispersed camping actually requires a bit of preparation. Choosing one of the areas described down below is not enough – you also need to know when is the best time of the year to go there and what you should pack for your trip. 

For that matter, make sure to read this part of the article first. Here, I won’t only cover the “when to go” and “what to pack” topics, but also tell you everything you need to know about seasonal fires near Colorado Springs, pet allowance in the nearby camping areas, fees and permits required to camp in them, and other vital considerations. 

When is the Best Time to Camp Near Colorado Springs? 

Colorado Springs in fall

Situated along the Southern Rocky Mountains, Colorado Springs sits only 12 miles away from the majestic Pikes Peak. One of the reasons why this city has a longer camping season than many other places in Colorado is due to the fact that it sits at an elevation of just over 6,000 feet. 

But still, a lot of the dispersed camping areas found in the vicinity of Colorado Springs are situated in the foothills that surround this city. In other words, those planning to camp here should do so during a specific time period – between April and October. 

This period is about two months (on each end) shorter for camping areas located at higher elevations. As you can already guess, the reason behind this is that they hold snow significantly longer than the low-elevation zones. 

The last thing worth mentioning here is that folks who decide to spend time in the wilderness around Colorado Springs in their RVs don’t have to worry about this that much – they can easily extend their camping season. 

What Should I Pack for Dispersed Camping Near Colorado Springs? 

Campers in Colorado

While it’s certainly not as demanding as, say, thru-hiking, dispersed camping still requires careful planning and preparation. The only way to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience out there in the backcountry is by packing up the right gear. 

After all, those who engage in dispersed camping simply can’t use the amenities found in developed campgrounds, as there usually aren’t any. For example, Mount Herman Road, which is the first dispersed camping area on my list, has no vault toilets or access to water. 

While you surely already have the essentials – your camp chairs, your sleeping bag, and, of course, your tent – here are some other items you may want to consider bringing with you on a dispersed camping trip near Colorado Springs: 

  • Camping stove – It goes without saying, but the best camping experience is the one spiced up with succulent dishes. Fortunately, making these while camping is quite easy – all you need is a good, portable stove. 
  • Portable water containers – As I’ve already said, a lot of the Colorado Springs dispersed camping areas on my list have no access to clean water. You will, therefore, have to bring as much clean water with you as possible. If you need a water bottle for camping and hiking, check out Hydro Flask or soem of these Hydro Flask alternatives.
  • Portable toilet – Out of all places on my list, only the Manchester Creek dispersed camping area has access to vault toilets. If you decide to pitch your tent in any of the other zones, your best bet is to bring a portable toilet with you. 
  • Cooler – The delicious campsite-cooked meals I mentioned above are best when accompanied by refreshing drinks. And to keep your drinks fresh and cool, make sure to bring a cooler. 
  • Map – While it’s true that we live in the age of online maps, you should still pack a detailed physical map of the Colorado Springs dispersed camping area you’ll be camping in. That’s because the cell phone service in the wilderness that surrounds this city can be quite spotty. 
  • Bug spray – Nothing can ruin a dispersed camping adventure as quickly and easily as mosquitoes can. To keep these annoying pests at bay, get yourself a good bug spray and bring it with you on the trip. 
  • Water filter – In some of the dispersed camping areas mentioned below, you will be able to filter water from the nearby creeks. However, I would still recommend bringing as much clean water as possible and using that water instead. 

Check out our wild camping checklist for more information.

Permits and Fees Required for Dispersed Camping Near Colorado Springs 

The biggest benefit of dispersed camping is quite obvious – it’s the kind of camping that is almost always completely free and which typically requires no fees or permits of any kind. 

Camping in this part of Colorado is no different. At the time of writing, pitching a tent in any of the zones described in this article required no special permits. Nevertheless, it’s always a good idea to contact the local field office – or just do a quick online search – before actually heading to your area of choice. 

Camping or parking in any of the USFS or BLM lands included in this article requires no fees either. For the most up-to-date information on this topic, give the Pikes Peak Ranger District a call. 

What Should I Know About Seasonal Fires Near Colorado Springs?

In the Southwestern United States, seasonal fire restrictions are a common occurrence, and the same goes for the Colorado Springs region. 

Therefore, it is extremely important that every outdoor enthusiast heading to this area for camping checks the current fire restrictions. For most up-to-date info on this matter, visit this website – here, you will find out everything you need to know about fire bans on BLM and USFS lands in the state of Colorado. 

If having a campfire is allowed in the dispersed camping area you’ll be spending time in, make sure to put it out completely before leaving the place. Also, always put out your campfire when leaving the campsite for a day hike. 

Are Pets Welcome at Colorado Springs Camping Areas?

Dog in Colorado Springs

A lot of outdoor enthusiasts – campers and trekkers alike – love taking their pets with them on backcountry adventures. If you count yourself among them, you’ll be pleased to hear that yes, pets are allowed in all camping zones mentioned in this article. 

You will, however, have to keep your pet under control while spending time in any of the Colorado Springs dispersed camping areas. You’ll have to prevent your pet from coming into contact with wildlife or other campers, so keep it leashed at all times. 

If you’re planning to pitch your tent in a camping area situated at a high elevation, make sure to protect your animal from extreme temperatures. Finally, always pack your pet’s waste – this practice is one of the pillars of the “leave no trace” policy. 

Other Important Considerations 

  • Water – First things first – the water. As I’ve already mentioned a couple of times throughout this guide, many of the dispersed camping areas located around Colorado Springs have no access to water. 

You will, therefore, have to bring as much of it with you as possible. In some places, you’ll be able to filter water from the nearby creeks, but bringing a sufficient amount of clear water with you in portable containers is always a preferable solution. 

  • Access – In this guide, I will let you know everything about the conditions of the roads that lead to these camping zones. Fortunately, many of these places can be accessed by regular passenger cars without too much trouble. 

Some, however, can be reached only by high-clearance 4WD vehicles. Regardless of where and how you choose to go, I would recommend using your best judgment while driving there. These roads can be quite bumpy and treacherous, so be very careful and don’t forget that no camping spot is worth risking your life for. 

  • Environmental impact – Due to the fact that most of the camping zones listed in this article are quite close to Colorado Springs, they are sometimes packed with campers, especially when compared to camping areas located further afield. 

For that matter, try to be a good neighbor while spending time in one of these places and be mindful of other campers. More importantly, respect the wilderness and advise others to do the same thing as well – minimize your impact on the environment and try to leave the campsite in the exact state you found it. 

  • Cell phone service – Another thing you’ll have to keep in mind is that the mobile phone reception in the wilderness that surrounds this city can be pretty bad. While it’s not as spotty in places that are closer to Colorado Springs, your best bet is to just assume that you won’t have any cell phone service at all. 

Before setting out on your dispersed camping adventure, tell your loved ones or friends where you are headed and when they can expect you to return. Also, don’t forget to download all the necessary maps on your device and make sure you’ll be able to use them offline. 

  • First-come, first-served – This one is a no-brainer – the best camping spots are always taken by those who get there first. This is especially true during summer when there are far more dispersed camping enthusiasts around Colorado Springs than during the shoulder seasons. 

So, if you’re planning to pitch your tent in one of these camping zones during a summertime weekend, your best bet is to arrive there a few days earlier. To secure a good weekend camping spot, I would recommend arriving there on a Thursday morning. 

The Best Areas for Dispersed Camping Near Colorado Springs 

Mount Herman Road 

Mount Herman, Colorado
Photo by Chris Waits via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
  • Crowds: Moderate
  • Water: No
  • Restrooms: No
  • Distance to Colorado Springs: 26 miles 

The very first Colorado Springs dispersed camping area I’ll be taking a look at is Mount Herman Road. This particular zone is situated west of the town of Monument and to get there, you’ll have to drive for about 45 minutes from downtown Colorado Springs. 

As its name suggests, this place is an ideal destination for all those wishing to summit Mount Herman. This is the most prominent of all peaks that overlook the aforementioned town of Monument and a mountain that offers breathtaking views of the Front Range.  

Besides the spectacular scenery that awaits at the end, another great thing about this hike is how few people do it, even though it’s not that difficult at all. If you decide to summit Mount Herman, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll have most of the mountain for yourself. 

When it comes to the campsites themselves, they are located along Forest Service Road 320, which is much better known as Mount Herman Road. Start looking for a good camping spot about 6 miles after passing the point where the pavement turns into a dirt road. 

Rampart Range Road 

Rampart Range Road
Photo by Glenn Harper via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
  • Crowds: Moderate
  • Water: No
  • Restrooms: No
  • Distance to Colorado Springs: 26 miles 

Next up is the Rampart Range Road, which is just as far away from Colorado Springs as the Mount Herman Road mentioned above. Its official name is Forest Service Road 300 and it takes about 45 minutes of driving to get there from downtown Colorado Springs. 

Leave the city via U.S. Highway 24 and keep driving until you get to the town of Woodland Park, which is known as the “town above the clouds”. Upon entering the town, turn right onto the Rampart Range Road. You will see the first campsites right after you pass the Rainbow Gulch trailhead. 

There’s a lot to see and do at this place. First of all, the Rampart Range Road provides unforgettable views of the Front Range and Tarryall Mountains, the prairie, and, of course, Pikes Peak. Secondly, it offers an abundance of mountain biking opportunities – here, you’ll find plenty of challenging trails to test your dirt bike. 

Although there are reports of regular passenger cars making it up to this dispersed camping area, I would recommend using a 4WD vehicle. This is because the road is unsecured, very exposed, and features some pretty steep parts. 

Manchester Creek Road 

Nature around Colorado Springs
  • Crowds: Busy 
  • Water: No
  • Restrooms: Manchester Creek Trailhead has vault toilets 
  • Distance to Colorado Springs: 31 miles 

Located approximately 31 miles from Colorado Springs, the Manchester Creek Road is among the most popular dispersed camping areas in the vicinity of this city. One particularly good thing about this place is the great condition of the roads that lead to it – those with regular passenger vehicles will get here very easily. 

However, this definitely isn’t the best destination for outdoor enthusiasts looking for peace and quiet. While it’s true that the campsites situated around Manchester Creek Road are very nice and clean, the whole area is quite crowded and often frequented by noisy ATVs. 

To get to this place, you will first have to head west to Divide and then turn north onto the Manchester Creek Road. Keep driving north until you reach County Road 5 and then take a left. There, you will see an abundance of campsites starting right after the Manchester Creek Trailhead parking area. 

Besides the noise made by the ATVs and dirt bikes, another disadvantage of this camping area is that it has no access to water. You can, however, easily take care of this problem by bringing as much clean water with you as possible (use portable canisters). 

Seven Lakes Road 

Lake in Colorado
  • Crowds: Moderate
  • Water: No, but you can filter some from the creek 
  • Restrooms: No
  • Distance to Colorado Springs: 52 miles 
  • Map

Situated on Forrest Road 376 to the west of the city, this dispersed camping zone sits in the shadow of the majestic Pikes Peak. There are lots of camping areas along the forest road all the way to Mason Reservoir. 

However, out of all places on my list, this one is the furthest away from Colorado Springs (52 miles). Moreover, there isn’t a great way to reach it from the city. To get to Seven Lakes Road, you’ll have to drive at least an hour and a half from downtown Colorado Springs. 

But still, those willing to make the trip to this area are guaranteed to be rewarded with some pretty unforgettable sights. The nearby Cathedral Park, on Gold Camp Road, has attracted climbing enthusiasts with its beautiful granite slabs for decades. 

Camping along the Seven Lakes Forest Road will give you that “in the middle of nowhere” feeling, but keep in mind that this dispersed camping area has no access to clean water. You can, however, filter some from the nearby Middle Beaver Creek. 

Rule Creek Trail 

Woodland Park, Colorado
Photo by Ken Lund via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
  • Crowds: Moderate
  • Water: No
  • Restrooms: No
  • Distance to Colorado Springs: 29 miles 

Next up is the Rule Creek Trail, one of the best Colorado Springs dispersed camping options for folks with larger trailers – some of the campsites found in this area are very spacious. It is located northwest of the aforementioned town of Woodland Park, some 45 minutes away from Colorado Springs. 

The very first camping spots you’re going to bump into don’t have much shade – they are located in an old burn area. If having a nice tree cover is important to you, you’ll simply have to continue down the Rule Creek Trail – whose official name is Forest Service Road 357 – and you’ll find some well-shaded campsites further down the road. 

Getting to this dispersed camping area is all but difficult. All you have to do is head north from Woodland Park via Highway 67 and then take two lefts – at the Painted Rocks Road and at the Rule Creek Trail itself. The not-so-shaded camping spots I mentioned above will appear right after you take the second left. 

Make sure to come here well-prepared – there are no vault toilets or reliable water sources. The area is only moderately-crowded during the summer months and stands as a great choice for those looking for some peace and quiet in the wild.

If you are interested in hiking Colorado, check out our post on the dispersed camping areas near Silverton and our post on dispersed camping near Telluride. We also have a guide to dispersed camping near Buena Vista and the Blue Mesa Reservoir in Colorado.

North Rampart Road 

Mountains in Colorado Springs
  • Crowds: Busy 
  • Water: No
  • Restrooms: No
  • Distance to Colorado Springs: 26 miles 

Unlike the dispersed camping area I described above – the Rule Creek Trail – this one is not a good choice if you’re looking to get away from the noise. That’s because the North Rampart Road is an incredibly popular destination for off-roading enthusiasts and is often populated by folks with dirt bikes and ATVs. 

This particular camping zone is situated 26 miles away from Colorado Springs, just north of the Rampart Range Road. In fact, this is the northern section of the Rampart Range Road and one that is far rougher than its southern end. 

For that matter, I would recommend using a high-clearance or 4WD vehicle for reaching this place. And, just like in the case of many other camping zones listed in this article, there is no water or other amenities at the North Rampart Road – it’s very important that you come here well-prepared. 

I would also recommend visiting the local USFS office to get your free MVUM – Motor Vehicle Use Map, especially if you’re planning to do some off-roading here. If any of the routes are not shown on this map, they are not open to motorized use.  For more cool camping destinations in Colorado, see our post on dispersed camping in Estes Park.

Rainbow Falls Road 

  • Crowds: Busy 
  • Water: No, but you can filter some from the creek
  • Restrooms: No
  • Distance to Colorado Springs: 30 miles 

The very last Colorado Springs dispersed camping area in my guide is yet another one that’s very busy during the summer months. What is more, this one is also quite popular with ATV enthusiasts and people using other off-highway vehicles – it’s not the best choice if you’re looking for solitude in the wild. 

But if you don’t mind the noise, you’ll be pleased to know that there are some absolutely amazing dispersed camping spots along the Rainbow Falls Road. In addition, reaching this place is quick and easy and it takes only 45 minutes of driving from Colorado Springs to get here. 

To get to Rainbow Falls Road, you will need to leave Colorado Springs via U.S. Route 24 and head northwest to the town of Woodland Park. Once you get there, switch onto Highway 67 and simply drive north until you reach your destination – it will be on your right, some 9 miles away from Woodland Park. 

Unfortunately, a lot of the campers tend to leave their trash here – don’t be one of them. Pack out all of your waste and leave your camping spot in the same state you found it. 

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