Nestled in the heart of the San Juan Mountains, Telluride, Colorado, has been a frequent waypoint on my many camping adventures. From the echoing silence of the high-altitude passes to the gentle hum of the town’s bustling festivals, Telluride offers a unique blend of wilderness and culture. This is more than just a guide; it’s a reflection of countless nights under the stars, campfires with fellow adventurers, and the discovery of hidden gems in this mountainous region. Within an hour of this former mining town, there are 20 standout camping spots that capture the essence of the Colorado outdoors. Whether you’re seeking the serenity of a secluded lake or the convenience of a town-side campground, this list has you covered. Dive in to explore the best of what the Telluride area has to offer.
If you’re looking for outdoor opporunities, check out these nearby activities:
Located right in the heart of Telluride, the Town Park Campground offers a unique blend of natural beauty and urban convenience. Campers can enjoy the scenic views of the surrounding San Juan Mountains while being just a short walk away from Telluride’s vibrant downtown. Amenities include restrooms, showers, and potable water. The nearby Bear Creek Trailhead offers a popular hike leading to a stunning waterfall. Additionally, the campground’s proximity to the town’s festivals, such as the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, makes it a sought-after spot during event weekends.
Pro tip: This campground is in high demand and sells out almost as soon as dates are released. If you’re interested in staying here, make sure you book your site well in advance!
Situated along Highway 145 south of Telluride, Matterhorn Campground serves as an excellent base for exploring the Lizard Head Wilderness. The campground is equipped with potable water, restrooms, and individual fire rings. Nearby, the Lizard Head and Cross Mountain trailheads offer hikers a chance to explore the rugged beauty of the San Juan Mountains. The dense forest setting provides a serene backdrop, making it a favorite among those seeking a peaceful retreat.
Located a bit south of Telluride, Sunshine Campground boasts picturesque views of Sunshine Peak. The campground offers basic amenities such as potable water and restrooms. Its elevation provides cooler temperatures, making it a preferred spot during the summer months. Nearby, the Wilson Mesa Trailhead gives hikers access to a network of trails showcasing the region’s diverse flora and fauna.
Perched near the ghost town of Alta, this primitive campground offers an authentic backcountry experience. Amenities are limited, but the breathtaking views of the surrounding peaks more than compensate. The on-site Alta Lakes provide ample opportunities for fishing, stand up paddleboarding, and kayaking. For those interested in history, the remnants of the Alta ghost town are a short hike away, offering a glimpse into the area’s mining past.
Note: This campground fills up quickly on weekends, so get there early and have a back up plan in case all the designated sites are full.
Surrounded by a dense canopy of aspen trees, Woods Lake Campground offers a tranquil camping experience. The shimmering Woods Lake is a stone’s throw away, providing a great place for fishing and paddleboarding. While the campground has potable water and restrooms, its standout feature is the network of trails leading from the site. The nearby Navajo Lake Trail is particularly popular, leading hikers through lush meadows and alpine landscapes. This campground is first-come, first-serve only, so get there early. There are 41 campsites, so it’s slightly larger than other nearby campgrounds.
Priest Lake Campground is a no-frills site that offers a genuine outdoor experience. Located close to Telluride, it provides campers with easy access to the Galloping Goose Trail, a historic rail trail that’s perfect for hiking and mountain biking. The campground itself is nestled by the serene Priest Lake, making it an ideal spot for those who enjoy lakeside camping. While it doesn’t boast a plethora of amenities, its proximity to nature and basic facilities, including pit toilets, make it a favorite among those seeking a more rustic experience. There isn’t potable water available directly at the site, so campers should come prepared with their own supply or a reliable water filter.
Set in a stunning natural amphitheater, the Amphitheater Campground offers panoramic views of the surrounding San Juan Mountains. This campground is equipped with several amenities, including potable water, restrooms, and picnic tables. Its unique location provides a sense of seclusion while still being conveniently close to Telluride, and the campground’s elevation ensures cooler temperatures, making it a refreshing summer retreat.
Situated near the breathtaking Molas Pass, Little Molas Lake Campground is a gem in the San Juan Mountains. It was voted the “Most Scenic Campground in Colorado” by AAA! The campground offers basic amenities, including pit toilets, but there’s no potable water, so campers should bring their own. The proximity to the Colorado Trail makes it a popular spot for hikers and backpackers. The views of the surrounding peaks reflecting off the lake at sunrise and sunset are truly mesmerizing.
Located near Silverton, South Mineral Campground might be a bit of a drive from Telluride, but it’s well worth the journey. This campground is the gateway to the famed Ice Lakes Trail, a must-visit for any hiking enthusiast. The campground itself is equipped with picnic tables, fire rings, and vault toilets. A stream runs through the area, providing a potential water source with purification. The vibrant wildflower meadows and towering peaks make this a top choice for nature lovers.
Last Dollar Road is not just a camping spot but an experience in itself. This scenic drive, especially resplendent in the fall with golden aspens, offers dispersed camping opportunities along its length. While amenities are sparse, the panoramic views of the San Juan Mountains are unparalleled. Several trailheads dot the route, inviting adventurers to explore further. There’s no potable water available, so campers should come prepared. The road can be challenging in parts, so a high-clearance vehicle is recommended.
Lizard Head Pass is renowned for its dispersed camping opportunities on its east side and the iconic view of Lizard Head Peak. The pass sits at a high altitude, providing campers with crisp mountain air and starry night skies. While there are no formal amenities like restrooms or potable water, the natural beauty and hiking opportunities more than compensate. The Lizard Head Trail and Cross Mountain Trail are in close proximity, offering hikers challenging routes with rewarding views. Campers should be well-prepared, practicing Leave No Trace principles to maintain the area’s pristine condition.
Cayton Campground is a picturesque site nestled along the banks of the San Miguel River. This campground is particularly favored by anglers, given its proximity to the river, which teems with trout. Amenities at Cayton include picnic tables, fire rings, and vault toilets. While there’s no potable water available directly at the site, the river can be a source if you have a reliable water purification system. Nearby, the Galloping Goose Trail offers hikers and mountain bikers a scenic route through the San Juan Mountains.
Situated along the San Miguel River, Illium Campground is a haven for water enthusiasts. The gentle sounds of the river provide a calming ambiance, making it a favorite for relaxation. Amenities include fire rings, picnic tables, and vault toilets. While there’s no designated potable water source, the river can be used with proper purification. All sites are first-come, first-serve and they fill up quickly.