Free Camping through Colorado

For 12 days Chris and I slept in our truck and camped for free while exploring Colorado. I am not going to say every spot was amazing or ideal but when you try your best to save money on lodging you become willing to make it work.

Free Camping in Kansas

Our first spot was on our drive out to Colorado.  We left home on Tuesday at 2:30 PM after work from Louisville, KY. We managed to almost make it to Topeka, Kansas.  We stopped at 11:00 PM at the Topeka Service Area. It is located in the middle of the Kansas Turnpike. This is the only toll road we hit on our travels. It costs $3.00 each way.  This is the perfect place to rest/sleep. It’s quite a busy stop, lots of truckers were parked, and even several vehicles. The more people equals safer in my opinion.

We chose to sleep upfront instead of the truck bed and this was a terrible decision in late June. We had not drove far enough west to benefit from a drop in humidity which resulted in a hot sticky sleep. We had several moments during the night where we started the truck and ran the A/C. So be aware that areas in Kansas can still be quite hot at night through the summer.

Free Camping in Colorado Springs.

Our first real spot in Colorado! We arrived in Colorado Springs at Noon on Wednesday. We had plenty of time to find a spot. After tons of research using , this seemed to be the only spot in town. We drove down Old Stage Road and parked at a pull off.  The first night I was nervous. I was not sure if legally you can park here overnight. We had no ‘real’ problems the first night. There was a lot of traffic on that windy gravel road, especially at 2:00 AM.  My anxiety from the night before faded away when I awoke to birds chirping and the smell of pine.

We stayed here one more night. This evening started out well. I cooked some Asian stir-fry and we sat watching the sunset cast over the mountain tops. Night fell and we crawled into the truckbed with the dogs. 3 hours later (1:00 AM) cars kept blasting past going up and down the mountain pass. All night we could hear gravel being upturned and cars drifting into the corners. Eventually a truck stopped. I could hear it halt right next to our truck. Panicked, I grabbed Chris’ arm and laid very still. Unsure what to do I closed my eyes. They shined a light into the truck and then quickly pulled away. I soon realized it had been a Ranger. No knock on the window, no note on the windshield, just a light warning. Here I was, laying wide awake and staring at the ceiling wondering if they would return. After that incident, we decided not to return for our third nights sleep in Colorado Springs.

Our last night in Colorado Springs I had a meltdown. The only free spot in town was sketchy and unpredictable. Being new to boondocking I may have over thought our sleeping predicament. I looked for a Walmart we could sleep at, none in town allowed overnight camping. The Bass Pro Shop was too far away and our acquaintance in town was not getting back to me. I sat back in my chair and cried. Why was I crying? Was I already exhausted from mountain biking? Was it the one beer I had at Pub Dog? Chris quickly came up with a solution. (He is always saving the day). 15 miles out of town we headed to a Truck Plaza. Not my perfect solution but it worked. It wasn’t the cleanest looking stop nor the safest so we chose to sleep in the front seat just in case. So overall, it is tough to sleep comfortably and legally in Colorado Springs for free. Honestly, next visit here I will pay for camping. 

Free Camping at Mt. Shavano Trailhead.

We headed West through Salida, CO and drove into the woods off 285. If you could make it anywhere to camp for free this is my favorite spot during the trip. Do you want to feel like you are in the middle of the woods surrounded by mountains? Then this is your spot.

Type Mt. Shavano and Tabeguache Peak Trailhead into your GPS. This will take you straight to the trailhead and if you drive right past it there are several amazing free camping sites. Most even have a fire ring. All vehicles should be able to make it. You drive down a gravel road and if you drive like us (super slow) it will take you 30 minutes to get to the spot. The view there is beautiful. Check out the picture below of the how perfect the view is from the clearing.

We only saw a few other people come and go but once dusk hit all vehicles disappeared. This is a must spot. We stayed here 2 nights but I wished for more. We knew after one day of biking and on day of hiking we had to move on. There were more mountains to see.

Free Camping at Buena Vista.

We headed North towards Leadville but had to swing into Buena Vista. Too many people from Colorado Springs told us we had to check this place out. It’s a small town an hour from where we had camped the night before. Buena Vista is a very easy place to free camp. There is plenty of Public Bureau of Land Management areas.

We stayed at Elephant Rock which is a camping area in the Four Mile Recreation Area. It sits right along the Arkansas River and only 3 miles from Main Street. It’s basically a dirt/gravel lot with different camping areas. There is even plenty of room for RV’s and campers.

The only downside to this campsite is the lack of privacy. Without tree barriers, it was quite difficult to use the restroom. We luckily have a pop-up shower.  Other than that the view is amazing and you can walk down to the Arkansas River. We only stayed here one night. It was quiet and peaceful.

Free Camping in Leadville. 

After a great sleep in Buena Vista we headed to a one of our favorite hotspots in Colorado; Leadville. We slept off County Road 48 right before you get to Turquoise Lake. This spot is only 3 miles from town and has so many spots. Plenty of room for RV’s, campers, and trucks.

This spot is awesome! There are quite of people camping here but you don’t even know. They are so many trees and large meadows that you rarely see other campers.

Besides the large space, you are very close to town and the lake. We slept here two nights and both morning we went into town for coffee at City on a Hill  Coffee & Expresso. It’s the only way to wake up in the mountains.

Free Camping in Breckenridge.

Our last free camping spot. We ended our trip in the first place we fell in love with; Breckenridge. Using again, we found a spot on Boreas Pass Road. This was another lucky catch. The view was worth the uncomfortable drive.

The drive up was not as bad as I think now. The unknown was the scariest part. We drove up the mountain and jumped onto a gravel road. Not knowing at some point we would be able to turn around we kept driving looking for a spot.  We finally found a pull off large enough to turn around and park.  The small camping space was worth the view.

These spots are near the edge and can be dangerous with pets if they are left of leash. We did not venture too far down Boreas Pass Rd. but are told there are other large spots that are even suitable for tents.

This was the perfect spot for our last night in Colorado. Only 10 minutes from Main Street and plenty of nature to indulge in. You are also close to several trailheads including Bald Mountain.

Looking back on our trip I can say that free camping was worth the extra stress. Without hunting for spots we would have never found such beautiful and serene places in Colorado.

Thank you for reading, “Free Camping through Colorado.” I hope that this helps inspire you to free camp and to explore outside your comfort zone. If you have any questions or even spots you have found in Colorado that are amazing comment below! See you all in the mountains!


Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *