Red Feather Lakes Dispersed Camping

Home to one hardware store, a post office, three general stores with an adjacent petrol station each, some garden gnomes and fairies, and fantastic rustic mountain scenery, Red Feather Lakes is a location that gives off an air of mystique.

For starters, one of the most common ways of driving or walking around this village is to follow the Gnome Road (also known as Elf Lane). The initial reaction you’ll probably have when visiting this place will be awestruck – thanks to all the beautiful nature that surrounds this area.

In this guide, we’ve listed and reviewed the best camping spots in the Red Feather Lakes area.

Also, we’ll talk about the best season for camping here and recommend some essential equipment that might come in handy if you’re visiting this place. 

Overview 

At first glance, you may notice the many gnomes, trolls, goblins, and fairies occupying the foliage and trees on either side of the main street. At second glance, you might notice a pixie made out of clay looking at you quizzically from behind a nearby bush. There are Halloween-ready dwarf witches with cauldrons, a flower growing out of them, and a familiar garden gnome that someone put a pair of sunglasses on – you name it.

There’s also a T-rex toy with another pair of sunglasses on for good measure.

There’s no shortage of creativity on the part of the few but merry inhabitants of Red Feather Lakes.

Anyway, while the folks who live in this area and are used to it may feel the need to add cheeky figurines to spice things up (which they’re successful at, by the way), a newly-arrived visitor will indeed find this general area enchanting enough as it is.

Surrounded by the Roosevelt National Forest, this area provides ample ground (and water) for almost every outdoor activity, whether camping or hiking, trekking, horseback riding, bird watching, golfing, and more.

Perhaps the most famous pastime you can engage in this area would be fishing – given the large number of scenic lakes situated in this area. You can check out the Colorado Fishing Atlas to learn more if you want to find the best fishing spots using an interactive map. 

Best Dispersed Camping Areas Near Red Feather Lakes

As you will see, many of these locations are near some sort of body of water or near a road, so you must adhere to the USFS rules and regulations regarding where you can set up a campsite.

Creedmore Lakes

Wildflower at Red Feathers Lakes
  • Map
  • Toilets: no
  • Visitor frequency: moderate
  • Potable water availability: no

Made up of three separate small lakes, the Creedmore lakes dispersed camping area is what many people fantasize about when they think of Red Feather Lakes camping. What you get here is tranquil nature, awesome and beautiful scenery, and several great campsites where you can pitch your tent.

One thing that this otherwise attractive camping area notably lacks, however, would be the roads. The closest you can get to this place in a vehicle is the Forest Road 180C. Once you’ve reached the end of this road, you can park in the small dirt clearing and continue toward the lake on foot.

To be precise, there are roads leading directly to the lakes, but the trouble is that they are on private property. The idea is to bypass this personal property by walking past the closed-off parts on foot to reach the lakes. You should know, of course, that this is not exactly a small distance, so you may have to walk for a while until you get to the camping areas.

Once you do get there, you will be rewarded with a fantastic view of the lake and of the local scenery. Also, this place is relatively quiet, and the individual campsites are far away, so you can have a peaceful camping experience.

Regarding where you can camp at the lakes, the general rule is not to get closer to the water than 100 feet. This Red Feather Lakes dispersed camping restrictions map can be a starting reference point where you can see where you can and cannot camp.

Manhattan Road

Red Feather Lakes Village Sign
Photo by Jeffrey Beall via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)
  • Map
  • Toilets: no
  • Visitor frequency: moderate
  • Potable water availability: no

Composed of large campsites that give you enough space for some cozy camping, even though this area is popular and generally full of people, the Manhattan Road is a must-visit for anyone headed for Red Feather Lakes town.

Need some bottled water? Have you solved all of your Sudoku sheets and crossword puzzles? Head for the town, right past the gnomes and the T-rex with goggles on, and you’ll restock on everything you need in no time. The village is only five miles away, which is partially why this series of campsites are so well-frequented and beloved by visitors all year round.

Another reason why this particular area is so popular is its proximity to several fantastic fishing, hiking, and boating locations. You can set up a tent along this Manhattan Road and veer off the campsite for a while to go on a short fishing expedition.

As far as the availability of potable water and other amenities is concerned, you must bring your food and water because you won’t find any nearby.

Prairie Divide Road

Wildcat Canyon
Photo by via Ndołkah Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)
  • Map
  • Toilets: no
  • Visitor frequency: busy
  • Potable water availability: no

Representing another roadside series of campsites that are a short trek or drive away from the town of Red Feather, the Prairie Divide Road can be an excellent option for anyone looking for a camper-friendly place to pitch their tent. Necessities such as bottled water, chocolate bars, and toilet paper are only a few minutes away.

There are ten campsites in total, and all are situated on the east side of the Prairie Divide Road itself. Scattered along the Wildcat Canyon, these sites make for a picturesque area representing a lovely photo op and a camping ground.

The Columbine Creek, which runs quietly along the campsites as it follows the Prairie Divide Road, makes this particular area even more beautiful. As for the town of Red Feather itself, it’s only about three miles away to the north, so if you’re in a good mood – simply walking there can be a great way to breathe in the fresh air of this scenic area and refill your batteries. (And also replenish your supplies.

To get to this place, take the Fire House Lane/179, just northeast of the town, and then turn left to get to the Prairie Divide Road.

Pingree Road

Poudre River
  • Map
  • Toilets: no
  • Visitor frequency: busy
  • Potable water availability: no

Pingree road is yet another road on this list that offers fantastic camping spots and some beautiful nature surrounding them.

Located just south of Red Feather town, accessing this road from the village is a piece of cake. (Alternatively, you can access this area from Fort Collins.) The entire area along this road represents one massive dispersed camping opportunity, and the camping spots start almost immediately after you turn off Highway 14.

Within the first mile, you will immediately find several large camping areas where you can park your rig. Expect these spots close to the highway to be the busiest, though, so aim to arrive there early.

Alternatively, you can venture further down this road to find more awesome camping spots. The thing is, however, the further you go down this road, the rougher it becomes. So, while the camping spots farther down are still pretty good, you will need a high-clearance vehicle (possibly a 4×4, too) to get to the perfect locations.

If you’re into hiking or fishing, you can pack your tackle along with your tent or RV when heading here because the Poudre River is in the vicinity of this camping area, and there are some great fishing spots here to check out. Also, activities such as rafting and kayaking are readily available to anyone interested.

Last but not least, besides the water-related activities, this area is also well known for excellent hiking trails that can double as biking trails if you’re into off-roading.

Lost Lake

Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests
  • Map
  • Toilets: no
  • Visitor frequency: moderate
  • Potable water availability: no (you can fetch and filter some from the Lost Lake, though)

If the name ‘Lost Lake’ makes you think of adventure and uncovering mysterious and breathtakingly beautiful locations – your hunch is 100% correct.

Out of all the roadside camping spots on this list, the Lost Lake area is possibly the most tough-to-reach one. In addition to requiring a high-clearance vehicle, this camping area is also the most remote from Red Feather town compared to the other campsites.

Once you reach this campground, the first thing that will greet you will be fantastic scenery and some excellent hiking trails.

To get to this place, you’ll need to go down a couple of the roads we already mentioned in the passages above. Starting from Red Feather town, head west down the Red Feather Lakes Road and turn right on County Road 67J. Then, continue down the Prairie Divide Road until you get to Creedmore Lakes Road and turn left. About a mile later, you will find the Lost Lake Road and the dispersed campsites.

An important note: Some of this area’s territories are private, so check this Forest Service official map before pitching your tent. 

The Best Season for Camping

Red Feathers Lakes in summer

Camping in the Red Feather Lakes general area is possible all year round. Whether you’re interested in navigating the village’s narrow streets, checking out the snow-covered gnomes during the winter, or enjoying the fresh and succulent forest air in the summer, Red Feather Lakes will be there to explore.

The village is located at an elevation of 8,000 feet, giving it a unique climate. The hot weather season lasts only about three months – June, July, and August. These are also the best camping months if you’re looking for a camping experience free of sweaters, mini hot stoves, and other cold-time amenities.

Come September, it’s still not Eskimo-style anoraks, but nights do get chilly, and the first snows of the winter season might sneak up on you and spice up the surrounding scenery in the morning.

Red Feather Lakes winter camping is not for those faint of heart, given the cold nights, frozen ground, and snowfall. (You might need an extra-thickly coated sleeping bag, though.) It’s still pretty doable, but having some cold-weather camping experience points under your belt would undoubtedly be a perk. 

For more cool camping spots in Colorado, see our guide to dispersed camping near Colorado Springs and our guide to free camping near Telluride.

Permits & Fees

Car camper at red feather lakes

Whether you’re in it for fishing, mountaineering, or capturing a photo of a bespectacled gnome or two en route to your campsite – you can do it all with no permit required. There are no fees involved for visiting this place, either.

This area belongs in its entirety to the Roosevelt National Forest. The folks in charge of the Lake region, in particular, would be the Canyon Lakes Ranger District representatives.

Now, it’s important to note that all the dispersed camping areas in this location are free of charge and accessible. That said, not all camping locations in this area are dispersed campsites. Some of them are developed recreational campgrounds and require special permits and reservations. 

The Red Feather Lakes area is bustling with activity all year round. To help out their visitors, the officials at the ranger district mentioned above regularly update a unique map, which you can find on their official website.

Some of the activities here include river & stream fishing, mountain climbing, backpacking, birdwatching, scuba diving, gold panning, windsurfing, snowmobiling, and many more. (Many of these depend on the season.)  

Regarding rules of dispersed camping in this area, the few existing regulations mainly refer to the vicinity of roads and water sources. Typically, dispersed camping is allowed within 300 feet of most forest service roads.

To get a better idea of where to find these dispersed camping spots, you may want to study some of the Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forest MVUMs (Motor vehicle use maps).

Wildfires & Other Considerations

Wildlife at red feathers lakes

Representing without a doubt the most significant natural disaster peril in the entire Colorado region, you should be aware of wildfires when camping in the Red Feather Lakes area. 

To prevent forest fires that can devastate vast stretches of territory, you must always check the newest update on the current campfire regulations issued by the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Another consideration before heading out to a camping spot within this region would be potable water. Many people mistakenly think that finding water in this area is a piece of cake since there is a lake nearby wherever you decide to pitch your tent around this region.

That said, the water from natural sources such as lakes, streams, and creeks is not entire ly safe to drink. It might be, but no one can guarantee the water’s quality, so bringing a filtration gadget with you is a must if you mean to procure your water this way. Alternatively (and this is the better option), getting bottled water with you is the best overall solution.

If you’re about to go camping at a location as high up as the Red Feather Lakes general area, you should bring warm, cozy clothes, insulated sleeping bags, and a mini stove.

Other than that, the equipment you’d need is the same as any other camping location (other than perhaps some fishing tackle). Also, if you’d like to take part in any of the many activities available in this region, bringing your own bikes, gold-prospecting sieves and equipment might be a good idea.

Last but not least, the Red Feather Lakes being a busy camping region also means it is unfortunately somewhat polluted by the large volumes of irresponsible campers. For this reason, the authorities overseeing these camping grounds encourage newly-arrived campers to observe the Leave No Trace camping principles. This way, you both preserve the surrounding nature, and the other visitors can enjoy the campsites.

Conclusion

Evergreen trees, small lakes dispersed over a mountainous area with clean air, and plenty of opportunity for fishing, kayaking, horseback riding, you name it – that’s what the Red Feather Lakes camping experience is all about. Throw in a couple of cheeky garden gnomes and the lively town of Red Feather, and you have a place that looks and feels as if it came straight out of a fairy tale.

Even if you prefer to stick to camping alone and skip the many activities available in this area, you’ll still have a blast of a time simply breathing in the clean air and observing the scenery of this enchanting place. 

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