I can only think of one time that Ryan and I camped in a campground. Ryan being a native of Colorado that did a lot of outdoor camping growing up with his dad and as a boy scout – campgrounds weren’t a thing that he had much to do with. For me, the Kansas girl without mountains at her disposal growing up – campgrounds by the lake were our go to if we weren’t camping on our property. The first time Ryan suggested we go camping somewhere other than a campground I was a little confused and wondered if that was even legal. Lo And Behold – it’s totally legal in certain places.
It’s called Dispersed Camping and it’s wonderful.
There are only certain places you can do that and the National Forest is one of them. National Parks – you cannot – but National Forests you absolutely can. If campgrounds are your thing, that’s totally fine and National Forests have some fee area campgrounds for you too. For us though, there is a thrill about driving around the forest finding the perfect spot for our visit. You typically have no neighbors, your dogs don’t have to be leashed, you don’t have to worry about your kids crying and bothering the neighbor’s camping experience. It’s wonderful.
For this camping trip we went to Routt National Forest which is right outside of a tiny little town called Gould. You take Hwy 14 from Fort Collins straight west into the mountains a couple hours. You run right into the town of Gould on the Scenic Cache La Poudre By Way. Once you enter Gould you are going to take Jackson County Road 21 south. If you are looking for the sign though, you’ll likely miss i t- like we did – because it’s covered by trees.
Instead, look for the brown sign with Aspen Campground and Pines Campground on it. Take that road right past the Pines Campground and into the Routt National Forest. Stop at the entrance of the campground you’ll be able to find a map showing you all the places you can camp for free via dispersed camping.
Our first night we headed in on route 740 and hit 780. There was a magical spot right by the river but it was taken. After venturing up a bit, we decided the terrain was a bit much for having a pop-up camper attached so we made our way back down. We ventured down route 740 again and found a fantastic spot in the fork of 760 and 740, right after 770’s turn off. It was large and perfect.
We settled in for the night but it had major ATV traffic. The neighboring campers decided it was a good idea to use their ATVs and dirt bikes throughout the night through and around our campsite. We have nothing against motorized fun but it was not what we were hoping for this camping trip. We packed up the next morning and went on our way to find a new spot.
We settled on a spot in the nook of 792 just before it curves north east. It was so perfect. There was a little ATV traffic but nothing like before. Our site nestled in with two trails right on our camp and two across the road. We finished our four days there. Route 792 is what we highly recommend if you are looking for a quiet camp experience in Routt National Forest.
So to recap: If you are looking for a motorized experience and community hit 740 to 760 towards Teller City. If you are looking for quiet hit 792. Aspen Campground has a little store if you need things like ice, basics, or fishing worms, too. So you aren’t totally without anything, if the idea of that freaks you out.
Around our campsite on 792 there were some excellent paths to hike that didn’t allow motor vehicles. We hiked one a day and thoroughly enjoyed exploring. There are the set paths and hidden off shoots, as well. Throughout the trails there is a ton of moose, elk, and deer tracks and droppings. Unfortunately the amount of flies and mosquitoes were higher than other places in Colorado we have camped and explored. With a good bug spray you should be in the clear!
We highly recommend camping at the Routt National Forest if you are looking for some great camping in Northeastern Colorado! I’ll be sharing about our Fishing experience at Ranger Lakes soon, as well as, where to do some excellent moose watching (and our experience!). Once I do, I’ll link back into this post so you can continue to hop along our experience from post to post!