We’re not too far away from river season here in Colorado! After the spring snow storms begin to melt, we will be blowing up boats, donning drysuits, and sending it into those icy fresh waters. With the beginning of rafting season approaching, this also marks the beginning of summer camping. Colorado has some amazing riverside campsites that you can drive, walk, bike or raft into. Make your time in the backcountry one to remember and fall asleep to the calming sound of a river on your next outing.
It is highly recommended to camp on the river via raft! There’s an amazing one-of-a-kind experience waiting to be had on overnights. The sensation of falling asleep on a Paco pad under the stars with the rush of the river and the inevitable guitar strumming as a lullaby is one everyone should experience. There are many different types of campsites along our Colorado rivers. There are some you pay for and some you do not, some have luxuries such as bathrooms, some have hot springs, and even a few that have live music throughout the summer. Check out the following five Colorado campsites to plan your next river adventure.
5. Ruby Mountain Campground – CO Parks & Wildlife, Pay by Site
Ruby Mountain is on the most popular campsites on the Arkansas River for many reasons. The highlight of this place is its excellent river access right in the middle of the wilderness. There are also several backcountry trails that lead into this campsites neighbors yard, Browns Canyon National Monument. The remoteness of this campsite is great to see the stars. With 22 sites, it is not the most isolated campsite ever, but getting a spot is easier than a dispersed area. Be sure to make your reservation in advance and don’t miss the takeout!
4. Stateline Rapid Campsite – Dispersed, Free
The Dolores River is one of the best kept secrets of Colorado. The temperament of this river makes its season non existent some years, but for the few weeks out the years it does run it is amazing. Navigate your way through tight canyons with rapids up to Class III on the Dolores. There are different multi day sections on this river, but a guide-favorite is Gateway, CO to Dewey Bridge, UT. There are a couple of great dispersed camping sites after getting through Stateline Rapid, a Class IV at high water over a mile long. These campsites along the river are at the mouth of the canyon.
3. Rancho Del Rio – Private, Pay by Site
Rancho Del Rio is an amazingly unique little “resort” located right on the banks of the Upper Colorado River. This slice of heaven has 16 tent sites, 12 RV sites, 13 other types of lodging like cabins. There is a little convenience store which is a great luxury in the middle of Colorado. You can access Rancho Del Rio by car, but that’s no fun. Take on a day stretch from Pumphouse to Rancho in the late afternoon and meet some new friends at this lively spot. This place is a little eccentric with many types of boaters stopping by camp to sing a tune or drink a brew or two.
2. Ansel Watrous Campground – State Forest, Pay by Site
The Ansel Watrous Campground is another fantastic riverside campsite. There are 17 tent sites available here and if you have an RV, you’ll have to try another destination due to this one not being accommodating. The beauty of the Poudre River and these sites in the Poudre Canyon and accessibility to the river is reason enough to come here but the piece de resistance is this campsites location! Have you ever been to a Red Rocks show and wished your tent was nearby to create a more festival feeling? If so, you are in luck! The Ansel Watrous Campground is only 0.9 miles away from the Mishawaka Amphitheatre. This outdoor music venue that is like a mini, more remote Red Rocks Amphitheatre and a great summer weekend getaway.
1. Radium Hot Springs – Dispersed, Free
Our #1 camping spot is a great one, the Radium Hot Springs. Up river from Rio Del Rancho are some of the last primitive hot springs in Colorado. This is mostly due to them being washed out during higher water. The best way to camp here is to raft in and snag a spot alongside the river. The hot springs sit right on the beach line. A short steep hike leads to views of the canyon and a few more campsites. This campsite is quite popular, so be sure to camp on weeknights for a more private, relaxing experience, or head up there on the weekend to make many new friends.
Colorado has some of the best whitewater in the country, not to mention beautiful places to wake up. These are some of our favorites, and we hope this inspires you to get out there this year. Feels like this is up your alley but a little ambitious? Go with a guiding outfitter to make your first rafting overnighter a dream!’
- Plenty of water
- Bug Spray
- Land Activities like cornhole, croquet, spikeball etc.
- Toilet paper
- Trash bag
If you’re in need of some items and don’t want to make the purchase before your private river trip, Colorado River Rentals has all the gear to make your overnight experience a great one. Call today to figure out what your packing list may be missing!