in Camping / by Tal Nimrodi

It’s pretty well known around the #vanlife community that ski towns aren’t the friendliest when it comes to camping, or using any of their services, andVail is no different! big signs  warning “no RV parking/oversized vehicles allowed” greet you as you enter town. But, with so many beautiful places to visit and activities to take part in,, you really don’t want to miss out just because on the surface of things it’s not an obvious camping destination. That’s why we’ve put together a handy guide to the 5 best camp spots an hour outside of Vail. 

Sylvan Lake

Sylvan Lake, CO

A State Park mostly known for its fishing, but to be honest, it’s lovely to explore via a paddle board, by foot, or bike, even if you didn’t bring a rod and tackle. Renting paddleboards, canoes, and kayaks are available from May until September. The 42 acre lake is for non-motorized boats only, so it’s quite calm if you are looking for a quiet getaway. There’s no cell service , so you will definitely be disconnected from the rest of society!

The campsite costs 28$ a night not including the 9$ fee to enter the park. Campers are required to make a reservation prior to arrival through cpwshop.com or by calling 800-244-5613.

Deep Creek Recreation Site

Deep Creek

Deep Creek, aka Coffee Pot Road, is a beautiful area on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land, meaning it’s free of charge and definitely first come first serve. 

The Deep Creek area has 5 sites with picnic tables and fire rings right along the creek. Camp at designated marked campsites only. To keep the place clean, please pack out human waste or use the vault toilet a bit farther up the road. No cat holes are allowed due to the proximity of the creek to the sites.

If you are already in the area, there’s a hike you definitely don’t want to miss. After being closed for over a year due to flooding, Hanging Lake is now open.  You must acquire a permit, but this 1.5 mile steep hike is worth it! After the hike you can head over to the hot springs at Glenwood springs to rejuvenate. 

Rifle Falls State Park

Rifle Falls

This park is more like an hour and a half from Vail, but it’s well worth it! waterfalls, caves, and overhanging rock walls surround the many hiking trails available to explore. The park is most known for its central feature- a triple 70-foot waterfall flowing over a travertine dam on East Rifle Creek. Rifle Falls State Park has thirteen drive-in and seven walk-in campsites along the south side of  East Rifle Creek.

You must obtain a pass to enter the park, and during the summer months it does get pretty full, so be sure to call the visitor center first. 

The Holy Cross Wilderness

Holy Cross

Located in the White River National Forest and San Isabel National Forests, this area boasts wild camping and lots of hiking trails. Most likely if you are in this area you know that Colorado is known for all its peaks over 14,000 feet, many of which are located nearby. The actual Mount of the Holy Cross rises above 14,000 feet and has difficult terrain which many people have described as a hard hike but well worth it. 

Piney Lake

Piney Lake

Also within the White River National Forest, Piney Lake is a gorgeous spot, great for kids and adults alike. A perfect high altitude respite for those hot summer days, take a swim or sneak away for some world class catch and release fishing. Getting to the lake requires about 10 miles (around 45 minutes) on dirt road, but it’s possible with 2-wheel drive. Several campsites equipped with fire rings are situated next to the Piney Lake Ranch.

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