The US Forest Service has one concern other than protecting nature and that is the safety of its visitors. Sky scrapping mountains, limited bugs and unlimited outdoor activities make Colorado one of the best camping states. To camp in the vast Rockies involves nature and freedom with the less than aforementioned laws and regulations we are expected to abide. Instead of clouding up a picturesque vision of your camping trip, we clarify the basic camping rules for Colorado State Parks.
Colorado State Parks manages forty-two parks throughout the state and hosts everything from remote backcountry sites to convenient “glamping” sites with pressurized water, electrical connections and many more amenities. Whether you decide to avoid or join the crowds, different rules will apply to each type of camping and in some cases, for each State Park. Therefore, it is recommended to familiarize yourself with the State Park’s regulations or call the Park Ranger’s office before heading out on your next camping trip.
Colorado Camping Rules
Duration at Campgrounds
While camping on Colorado State Park grounds, there is a 14-day maximum stay allowed per park, during any 45 day period. In other terms, this may be 14 consecutive days or 14 days spread throughout a 45-day trip. It is important that the person whose name appears on the reservation, understands they are the sole responsible party for the condition of a campsite upon departure.
One camping unit with up to 6 people is allowed per campsite. A violation of this regulation may result in the responsible person being required to purchase an additional campsite if it’s available, or the reservation may be terminated and the appropriate fees will be refunded. Colorado State Parks define a camping unit as, “the maximum combination of camping equipment allowed in one campsite.”
The allowable combinations are:
- One passenger vehicle and two tents
- One motorized vehicle towing a camping trailer and one tent (if space allows)
- If space permits, one additional passenger vehicle and/or motorcycle may be parked at a campsite
Colorado has had tumultuous wildfires in the last few years requiring avid campers to regularly check the current fire bans and restrictions before lighting up. If fires are permitted in your camping area, the fire must be built in designated areas only. If you are in the backcountry, try to use preexisting fire pits and camping spots to avoid further damage to natural resources.
A vehicle pass is required for all vehicles entering a Colorado State Park. Vehicle fees are separate from camping fees and they usually accept cash only. A towed vehicle pass is intended for a vehicle that is towed in by a motorhome. The motorhome is required to have a paid pass as well and the towed vehicle pass is issued at no charge to a vehicle towed or carried in by a motorhome.
Pets are welcome at most Colorado State Parks but they must be kept on a six-foot leash and be tamed at all times. Be sure to pick up after your dog and failure to do so will result in unwanted fines. Some cabins and yurts allow pets for an additional $10 per night fee.
Minors (Under 18yrs of Age)
If you are under 18 years of age, a parent or guardian must accompany the minor. In some cases, the Park Manager may approve the stay of a youth. For more questions, please call the park directly and ask for the park manager.
Guns and Weapons
While visiting Colorado State Parks, you may carry a weapon. However, in addition to state laws, you must comply with Federal Regulations pertaining to the use of a firearm on Nation Forest System lands. A firearm may not be discharged in the following National Forest areas:
- Within 150 yards of a residence, building, campsite, developed recreation site, or occupied area.
- Across or on a Forest Development road or an adjacent body of water, or in any manner or place whereby any person or property is exposed to injury or damage as a result of such discharge or into any cave.
Some forests or districts have additional restrictions on discharging a firearm. You are advised to check with authorities in the areas you will be visiting since state and federal parks have different gun laws and regulations.
Some Colorado State Parks do not have campsites available for reservations during the off-season and only allow camping on a first-come, first-served basis. Be aware, the majority of campgrounds are completely closed with no access during the off-season. Only cabins, yurts, and a limited number of campsites are available for reservation during the winter.
Injured While Camping
Do not rely on cell phones while out in nature since reception is variable in mountainous areas. Always let another person, who is not joining the trip, know your plans for departure and arrival in case an emergency occurs. When possible, travel in groups since the others can assist and get help if one member of your party gets hurt.
CORSAR (Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue) Card
The CORSAR card replaces what was known as the Colorado Hiking Certificate. Money generated from the sales of these cards going to the Colorado Search and Rescue Fund, which provides reimbursement for expenses incurred during search and rescue missions. The cost is $3 for a one-year card or $12 for a five-year card. A list of CORSAR Card Vendors is available by contacting the Colorado Department of Local Affairs at (970) 248-7310