5 Free Campsites In The Central Rocky Mountains
Every boondocker has their favorite out-of-the-way free campsites. Sometimes it is nice to shake things up and try a new spot. There are several websites out there that help adventure-seekers find good free sites, such as RV LIFE Campgrounds and Freecampsites.net.
Most public lands (USFS or BLM) offer free dispersed camping as well, although some established campgrounds on public lands do have a use fee. Here are some new ideas to try for your next outing.
Be sure to check to make sure that your particular rig can access these campgrounds, as some are fairly remote or cannot accommodate longer rigs. Also, keep in mind that free campsites often also mean limited or no services, so plan accordingly.
1. Twin Lakes, Leadville, Colorado
Sitting at the base of Colorado’s tallest mountain, Mount Elbert (14,433 ft), Twin Lakes is located on County Road 82 west of Highway 24 about 20 minutes south of the mining town of Leadville. The lakes are remnants of glaciers that carved the valleys, leaving behind moraines of boulders and rock debris that dammed the melting ice waters to form the lakes.
The Colorado Trail winds through the scenic area on its route between Denver and Durango. Dispersed camping sites and campgrounds are located off of County Road 82, providing travelers with plenty of opportunities to enjoy this beautiful area.
2. Cottonwood Lake Campground, Afton, Wyoming
This campground offers 18 first-come campsites in the Salt River Mountains (Bridger-Teton National Forest) about 20 minutes from the town of Afton.
The free campsites enjoy partial shade from the pine and aspen forest. The campground includes three small corrals and hitching posts for those camping with horses. Fishing is available along the nearby creeks and Cottonwood Lake.
3. Soldier Meadows, Gerlach, Nevada
Dispersed camping in the Soldier Meadows area, about 20 minutes north of Gerlach on County Road 34, is managed by the BLM as part of the Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Additionally, the area is highly geothermal, which lends to multiple primitive hot springs pools.
The two larger pools are privately owned, but for a small fee can be used by visitors. Since all-natural hot springs can vary in temperature significantly throughout the year, be sure to use caution before taking a plunge.
This is a remote, rugged area in northwestern Nevada, and vehicles that have a high clearance are recommended.
4. Stony Campground, Philipsburg, Montana
This scenic campground has free campsites about 30 minutes west of Philipsburg off of Rock Creek Road (FS Road 102). Fishing is available on both Stony Creek and Rock Creek near the campground. Explore the hiking or biking trails and old roads that climb into the Bitterroot Mountains.
Explore cliff dwellings with self-guided tours, overlook scenic canyon lands, and learn about the historic people who called this area home.
The Sunset View Campground is located near the Visitor Center between Betatakin Canyon and Fir Canyon. Canyon View Campground is also located in the National Monument and free of charge.
And many more throughout the West. Get a BLM map and inquire at their local headquarters. But as the author pointed out, many primitive camp areas are hard to reach. You may need to hike ahead of your rig to make sure you can turnaround before you commit!
It would be helpful to have an address and GPS coordinate. Also difficulty getting to sites with a RV and maximum length. I do appreciate your article as it led to campgrounds to check out
Alan Johnson says
What is this term boon docking, I guess that is the only type of camping I have done all my life. It was only in scouts where we went to state campgrounds. The only reason I ever plug the camper in to AC power is for my wife to run the air conditioning. As for refrigeration it is 110 and we never use it, bring a cooler with some frozen 1 gallon milk jugs, last 3 days. In michigan you can camp anywhere on state or federal land as long as further than 1 mile from a campground. A 2 wheel drive pickup becomes an atv if you have a towstrap and a 2 ton come along decent tires and jack.
Gerlach, NV and Soldier Meadows are about 80 to 100 miles NNW of Reno, NV and are not by any stretch of the imagination part of the central Rocky Mountains.
Apparently Soldier Meadows has been closed since 2018, unless they are not updating their Facebook page.
Joe Hunnings says
The NFS website for Cottonwood Lake says the campsite sites are first-come/first serve but $10/night.
#4, Stony Campground in MT is tent only.
#5 Campgrounds in Navajo Nat’l Monuments are closed until further notice as of 10/1/20